On Tuesday the NBA announced changes to their all-star game selection process. While there will still be 12 players from each conference named all-stars, that player pool will now be merged, and two captains—the leading vote-getters—will draft rosters, much like the NHL has done in recent past.
Although more reform is needed to revive the annual exhibition weekend—including a much-needed injection of life into the dunk contest, Saturday night’s marquee event—the changes are welcome. With the playground pick-em process there should be a slightly higher element of pride on the court (players picked late trying to prove they should have been selected higher, for example). That the game is now being played for charity could be enough motivation to make the players a little bit more engaged, and hopefully on the defensive end.
But what could the actual rosters look like in the new format? Donnovan Bennett and I found out. Based on last season’s leading vote-getters, we determined the two captains would be Steph Curry and LeBron James. Donnovan made the picks for Curry’s team and I drafted for James. Our pool of 24 players was as follows:
Note: the West is stacked and so there are some notable snubs, while the last few players chosen in the East was equally tough to determine.
WEST: Kevin Durant, James Harden, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Kawhi Leonard, Karl-Anthony Towns, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Paul George, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler.
EAST: Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Hassan Whiteside, Kemba Walker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brad Beal, Gordon Hayward, Kevin Love, Joel Embiid, Goran Dragic.
And away we went. Team Curry won the coin toss and picked first.
Team Curry: Kevin Durant
Team James: Chris Paul
Team Curry: Klay Thompson
Team James: Russell Westbrook
Team Curry: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Team James: Anthony Davis
Team Curry: Paul George
Team James: John Wall
Team Curry: James Harden
Team James: Karl-Anthony Towns
Team Curry: Joel Embiid
Team James: Kawhi Leonard
Team Curry: DeMarcus Cousins
Team James: Kevin Love
Team Curry: Jimmy Butler
Team James: DeMar DeRozan
Team Curry: Hassan Whiteside
Team James: Kyle Lowry
Team Curry: Blake Griffin
Team James: Brad Beal
Team Curry: Kemba Walker
Team James: Goran Dragic
Team Curry: Gordon Hayward
Team James: Kyrie Irving
Team James draft summary: Well, this is awkward. LeBron can go one of two ways. One is to nip any Kyrie drama in the bud and choose him early. But after Irving spurred the King and his Cavaliers, there is enough bad blood for James to go the second route: pray Curry selects Irving, or embarass him by selecting him last. Curry or whomever ultimately drafts opposite LeBron should do exactly what they did here and force James into as awkward a situation as possible in the new format.
Irving aside, James pounced on the chance to finally run the floor and catch lobs from his close friend Chris Paul, who has always played in the opposite conference. He followed up that pick with a glut of intense, ultra-athletic freaks—Westbrook, Davis, Leonard, Wall, Towns—on a roster built to smother opponents, while also ensuring his teammate, Kevin Love, gets some, well, love and selected hometown favourite DeRozan to add to the mix and help get the crowd on his side.
Team James: Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, DeMar DeRozan, Brad Beal, Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns.
Team Curry draft summary: No matter if Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant are picked as captain one thing is certain, the name Russell Westbrook will not be uttered from their mouth. Nor will Kyrie Irving’s. Not because of his flat earth theory. More so to apply the maximum amount of awkward zone pressure on their biggest rival, LeBron James.
The Warriors will keep things copacetic by picking their Super Villain teammates first and foremost. Then Curry recruits pending sneaker free agent Giannis Antetokounmpo hoping to sell him on Under Armour, who Curry has an equity stake in. Then they gobble up a combination of former USA teammates and big men they can utilize in the role of JaVale McGee by just throwing up Nerf ball-type lobs to. Curry pays homage to his home state of Carolina late by taking Kemba Walker off the board, again putting the pressure on James to select a point guard in Kyrie. Ultimately, Team Curry is a facsimile of the way the Warriors play in exhibition format: “Threes and trees” is their mantra. A plethora of three-point shooting, rim-running bigs and a team that is all love with no internal beef. Sound familiar?
Team Curry: James Harden, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside, Joel Embiid.