As you may well have noticed, things are a little bit different in this year’s All-Star game. Yes, Stephen Curry and LeBron James were once again the top vote getters, and yes we all voted by conference still — picking five starters each from the West and East — but in the actual game, conferences no longer matter. (Side Note: Let’s hope this is the first step towards having a #1-16 seeded tournament in the playoffs, ending the long standing tradition of having three or four teams from the Eastern Conference who just don’t belong in the postseason. Although, to be fair, the bottom of the East has been significantly more competitive this season than in years past.)
Instead of pitting the conferences against one another, the league decided to let Steph and LeBron pick their own teams. We’ll never know exactly the order in which everyone got drafted (although we know Durant went first overall, to LeBron), but either way the teams are now set.
In case you missed ‘em, here they are:
Starter: Kyrie Irving, G, Boston Celtics
Starter: Kevin Durant, F, Golden State Warriors
Starter: LeBron James, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
Starter: Anthony Davis, F, New Orleans Pelicans
Starter: DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Pelicans
Reserve: LaMarcus Aldridge, F, San Antonio Spurs
Reserve: Bradley Beal, G, Washington Wizards
Reserve: Kevin Love, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
Reserve: Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana Pacers
Reserve: Kristaps Porzingis, F, New York Knicks
Reserve: John Wall, G, Washington Wizards
Reserve: Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
Starter: Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors
Starter: James Harden, G, Houston Rockets
Starter: DeMar DeRozan, G, Toronto Raptors
Starter: Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks
Starter: Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
Reserve: Jimmy Butler, G, Minnesota Timberwolves
Reserve: Draymond Green, F, Golden State Warriors
Reserve: Damian Lillard, G, Portland Trail Blazers
Reserve: Kyle Lowry, G, Toronto Raptors
Reserve: Klay Thompson, G, Golden State Warriors
Reserve: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Reserve: Al Horford, C, Boston Celtics
Note: DeMarcus Cousins tore his achilles last night. Ugh. The NBA is stupid. Can’t we have good things? Cousins was having the best season of his life, and was about to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his professional career. He could have signed for all the money with any number of franchises, plus the Pelicans were poised to be one of the most fun teams in the playoffs. Dammit. Dammit all. We’ll have to see who gets the injury replacement nod from the commissioner.
So, beyond that horrible news, let’s break down the matchups (even though obviously starter/reserve designations on court will be much looser than in a normal playoff series, etc).
Kyrie Irving vs. Stephen Curry
Two of the league’s most exciting and riveting players match up once more, as the Curry vs. Irving circus continues year in and year out. Irving might have the better handle (but it’s cloooooose), while Curry most definitely has the purer shot. Being as this is an All-Star game, and it doesn’t actually matter, and being that Irving is totally wired to succeed in these types of showcases (he won the 2014 All-Star MVP), it would be easy to give the advantage to Kyrie. However, I think with the new format, Steph is going to want to protect his name, honor, and team, and could easily walk with MVP honors.
Advantage: Team Steph
Kevin Durant vs. James Harden
Lol, Ivan totally called this when he said a.) LeBron would pick Durant first overall in the draft, probably mostly out of pettiness so Curry couldn’t get him, and, b.) LeBron would force Durant to play out of position at shooting guard for the first time since Durant’s rookie season.
It’s a glorious move from LeBron, and we can’t wait to see Durant go hard against his Warriors brethren. I’m sure there will be a hefty amount of trash talk between the four Warriors All-Stars leading up to the game itself.
James Harden, meanwhile, is a fine player, but in no way shape or form is in the same league as Durant, even if the Finals MVP is playing out of position. But, again, with Boogie’s sudden injury, Durant may easily slide over in the lineup, depending on who gets the injury replacement call, etc.
Advantage: Team LeBron
LeBron James vs. DeMar DeRozan
Advantage: Team LeBron
Anthony Davis vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
In the same podcast where Ivan said LeBron would pick Durant and make him play shooting guard, I also said I’d take Giannis over Anthony Davis, and moreover, thought that Giannis was a better player than Davis.
It’s a bold claim, sure, but I’m gonna stand by it, purely out of spite.
Advantage: Team Steph
??? vs. Joel Embiid
So, here’s where it gets tricky. DeMarcus Cousins was (very deservedly) voted as an All-Star starter, and was picked by LeBron to pair next to Anthony Davis. The three other best centers in the All-Star game — Joel Embiid (who is starting), Karl Anthony Towns, and Al Horford — are all on Team Steph. In fact, Cousins was the only nominal “center” on LeBron’s team. I’m guessing Anthony Davis slides over and starts at the five, Paul George gets the injury replacement nod from Adam Silver, and then someone — say, LeMarcus Aldridge — slides into the starting four spot.
Either way, with Cousins out (again, F everything, this sucks), I’ve gotta give the advantage to Curry’s team.
Advantage: Team Curry
LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Kevin Love, Victor Oladipo, Kristaps Porzingis, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, (and probably Paul George) vs. Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson, Karl-Anthony Towns, Al Horford
Again, this is all going to get shuffled around. One of the players on Team LeBron will get shuffled into the starting lineup, and we still don’t totally know who Cousins’ replacement will be.
But, on first glance, who would you would you rather have on-court at the same time? Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Paul George, Kevin Love, and LaMarcus Aldridge? Or Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, and Karl-Anthony Towns? The second option would destroy the first option, right? Especially if they decided to play even a small amount of defense?
I know I’m biased because Team Steph also features the other Warriors, Klay and Draymond, but whatever, this is my (random meaningless) article about the (random, meaningless) All-Star game so I’ll go whichever way I want.
Advantage: Team Steph
I think Team LeBron is powerful, fast, strong, and willing, but in the end, the cohesiveness and shooting prowess of Team Steph will sway the outcome. Again, this game is purely for fun, and should distract us from our lives for a few hours at the very least. I’m guessing they set all sorts of new scoring records, and I think the new format should lend itself to a spirited, lively match.
Let’s do it. Let me know what you guys think in the comments.