The new NBA All-Star Game format will see each conference’s leading vote-getter assemble a lineup from proficient veterans and newcomers alike.
The NBA has announced the 24 players who’ll be All-Stars this season, but we still don’t know which players will be playing for which team. That mystery will be solved Thursday, when the league announces the rosters after captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry make their selections in a secret draft.
Despite calls from fans, coaches and even some players for the league to televise the draft — or at least make the pick order public after the fact — the league hasn’t budged from its stance that the All-Star draft will be conducted in private. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun.
Using the same rules that James and Curry will follow when they draft, we’ve picked our teams from the pool of players to recreate what might be happening behind closed doors. For those unfamiliar with the rules of the draft, here’s a quick refresher:
As the top vote-getter among the starters, LeBron James will serve as one captain and will have the first overall pick.
Stephen Curry, the top vote-getter from the Western Conference, will serve as the other captain and pick second.
The picks will alternate until all eight players voted in as starters by the fans, media and players have been selected.
When the draft moves on to picking from the reserves, the order will reverse. Curry will pick first, followed by James.
The captains do not need to meet any positional quotas when filling out their rosters. Curry himself has joked that he might pick nothing but guards.
Since James and Curry are a bit busy with games Tuesday night, we turned to our writers to step in for them and make their draft picks. Chris Forsberg will play the role of Curry, while Kevin Arnovitz will act as James and make the first overall pick.
On to the draft!
Drafting the starters
Arnovitz: An All-Star Game MVP in 2012, Durant has a rightful claim as the best player on the board. And a team that can feature either LeBron or KD for 48 minutes should be indomitable. Durant said Tuesday morning about potentially playing against Curry, “I’m prepared to switch out on Steph in the pick-and-roll, force him to the rim and block his shot.”
Forsberg: Tasked with defending a LeBron/Durant combination, Team Curry needs Antetokounmpo’s length and motivation to shine on a big stage. More importantly, Curry ensures he doesn’t get dunked on by the Greek Freak two years in a row.
Arnovitz: We’re not going to let a little grudge get in the way of exhibition basketball, are we? Shot-making is king in the All-Star Game, and Irving is the game’s best virtuoso finisher.
Forsberg: Curry probably doesn’t desire to see Harden on the other side of the ball again this season (well, at least until the Western Conference finals). Adding six-time All-Star Harden gives Team Curry serious scoring firepower in the backcourt.
Arnovitz: The NBA is hosting a game that requires no practice and is fueled by showmanship? Sounds like a job for one Joel Embiid.
Forsberg: Somehow the guy who scored 52 points at All-Star Weekend last year, shattering the game’s all-time scoring record, is still on the board.
7. LJ: DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Pelicans
Arnovitz: There’s enough love in the frontcourt of Team LeBron for both Joel Embiid and Boogie Cousins, and we hope a couple of high-low specials.
Forsberg: Playing in New Orleans last season helped fuel Davis’ scoring outburst; now Team Curry will hope a little home-field advantage can inspire Compton native and USC product DeRozan.
Drafting the reserves
9. SC: Draymond Green, F, Golden State Warriors
Forsberg: Team Stephen has to take a Warrior here and elects to beef up the defense with a primary LeBron antagonizer.
10. LJ: Klay Thompson, G, Golden State Warriors
Arnovitz: Three years ago this week, Thompson dropped 37 points in a single quarter, which is a near-perfect résumé item for an All-Star Game.
Forsberg: With Durant on the other side and having been snubbed a starting spot, the reigning league MVP has no shortage of motivation to show out in the All-Star Game.
Arnovitz: This is the year I fell in love with Beal’s step-back jumper and various other stylings. The man is primed for an All-Star showing.
Forsberg: Unicorn in L.A.! Curry and Porzingis can search Staples Center for a good spot to trade circus shots before the game.
Arnovitz: For sheer stage presence and shot-making, Lillard is as fun as any player in the league. After a two-year hiatus, he’ll be raring to go.
Forsberg: Team Stephen welcomes Love with open arms and no finger-pointing. They do mention how weird it is that LeBron picked Kyrie but not Love.
Arnovitz: We pledge our faith that medical technology will improve Butler’s sore knee, and have him bulldozing, hesitating and attacking at full force in Los Angeles.
17. SC: John Wall, G, Washington Wizards
Forsberg: With all the hurt feelings in the Wizards’ locker room, maybe it’s best that Wall and Beal are on opposite sides and have an opportunity to prove who’s the best guard in Washington.
18. LJ: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Arnovitz: The multifaceted big man loves his numbers. He’s come to the right place.
19. SC: Al Horford, C, Boston Celtics
Forsberg: Horford doesn’t put up gaudy scoring numbers like most in this game, but Team Stephen can run its offense through him and watch him showcase his point guard-like passing skills.
Arnovitz: The mystery guest of the 2018 All-Star Game, Oladipo had a strong case as an Eastern Conference starter and is a nice pickup as the field thins out.
21. SC: Kyle Lowry, G, Toronto Raptors
Forsberg: Toronto would (politely) rage if word got out that both Lowry and DeRozan were default final picks among starters and reserves. Team Stephen prevents that issue by snagging a heck of a player to cap an already loaded backcourt.
Arnovitz: If the Spurs big man represents the bottom of the barrel in an All-Star selection process, it’s fair to say that the NBA in 2018 is in a very good place.
Arnovitz: Our Team LeBron is a juggernaut propelled by a few essential features: This generation’s most transcendent wing players, versatile big men who can do it all on the offensive end, and wily shot-making guards who unload without a conscience. On top of that, LeBron and Kyrie are reunited, and it feels so good.
Forsberg: With LeBron and Durant on the opposite side, Team Curry embraces its underdog status but quietly believes it has the perfect balance of talent to compete. Even beyond an embarrassment of MVP-caliber riches in a backcourt that features Curry, Harden, and Westbrook, there’s elite defensive talent coming off the bench in Green, Horford and Davis. More than anything, Team Curry has the motivation needed to excel under the new format.