The NBA’s first-ever All-Star draft took place Thursday, with LeBron James and Stephen Curry choosing up sides as part of a new format aiming to rejuvenate the game. The lineups were revealed on TNT. We tasked The Crossover’s resident NBA draft analyst Jeremy Woo with breaking down a slightly different kind of draft.
1) What are the teams?
Feast your eyes.
Starters: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins
Reserves: LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Kevin Love, Victor Oladipo, Kristaps Porzingis, John Wall, Russell Westbrook
Starters: Steph Curry, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid
Reserves: Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Al Horford, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson, Karl-Anthony Towns
2) Wait, how did this draft work again?
The idea was that the top vote-getters from each conference were captains, and then got to pick their teams regardless of conference to add a little spice to the whole All-Star Game thing. The first four selections had to come from the pool of starters. LeBron had the most votes, so he got to pick first from the starters, and then the picks alternated until Curry’s first pick of reserves, and then they alternated again.
3) Does this mean GM LeBron is a real thing?
Technically, yes. And on paper, LeBron looks like he actually won the draft (maybe chalk it up to his years of experience in Cleveland). “I got a lot of chemistry with AD and Boogie, me and Kyrie got some chemistry, and I think KD can fit into any system in the world,” James told Ernie Johnson as the lineups were revealed on TNT. He also ended up with a loaded reserve group, with Russell Westbrook, Kristaps Porzingis and John Wall headlining, and he made the tactically smart decision to draft Cavs teammate Kevin Love, whose public pinning under the bus through locker-room leaks has left him adrift, probably until the trade deadline.
Curry’s team is still pretty solid, but a little bit thinner. “I got a good history with DeMar and James playing on Team USA, Joel is obviously an All-Star for plenty more years, maybe one day that weekend he’ll take over my Twitter account and say some jokes for me or something,” he reasoned on the broadcast. Curry was probably smart to draft IRL teammate Draymond Green, and every player on his team is a pretty real threat from long distance. “(Warriors president of basketball ops) Bob Myers called me this morning asking what my algorithm was for ranking players,” Curry said. We are all still wondering.
4) So why wasn’t this on TV?
This matter has been explained on this website already, but it’s because players couldn’t agree, nobody wanted to anger some number of the NBA’s most visible players in one fell swoop, and some players were probably self-conscious about getting picked last. Curry and James seem to have been down to publicize their picks, but then again it’s hard to get too embarrassed about anything basketball-related when you’re Steph Curry or LeBron James.
5) I came here for real analysis. How did the draft go?
All right, so there are a few things we can reasonably deduce. LeBron and Steph were sworn to secrecy as Johnson goaded them on the broadcast. “This thing should have been televised,” James said. Then he dropped some breadcrumbs: “ When me and Steph was doing the draft, we started laughing very hard at one point, we can’t even tell you what part it was … but this should have been televised.” He added that they messed up each other’s draft plans multiple times.
So, remember how the rules work, and then put yourself in LeBron’s shoes—you have to think he’d take his first chance to break up the Warriors’ foursome and whisper seeds of discord into Durant’s ear after every impeccably placed All-Star dime (this could be us, Kevin). We can also assume that Curry by some similar logic would have drafted Durant with his first pick were he available, so I’m like 99% sure Durant went first.
Assuming LeBron took KD first, it then makes sense that Steph probably drafted either James Harden (gotta stay cozy with a Western Conference rival) or Giannis (someone has to guard Durant) next. We also know that Curry had the first pick among the reserves, so we know for absolute certain that he passed on the chance to draft Russell Westbrook. If you’ve ever read Macchiavelli or Sun Tzu, you can guess that Steph probably did this to prevent a scenario where James would be able to draft Draymond Green and Klay Thompson (and basically put himself on the Warriors). So that means his first reserve pick was …probably Draymond. And that means LeBron was able to pair Durant with Westbrook.
We also know that LeBron chose to draft Irving and Love, and he said that unnamed Cavs teammates had been ribbing him all week about what his plans were. “I just tried to pick the best available players,” James said. “To be able to team my backcourt with Kyrie is always special, Kevin Love, another weekend to bring back the memories we had when we were all together. It was an easy choice for me.”
There is also the dark, conspiracy-laden timeline where LeBron took fellow free-agent to be DeMarcus Cousins first for an All-Star game in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. I digress.
6) What superstar beefs do I need to care about this year?
The main thing to know about is Russell Westbrook’s backhanded commentary that doubled as a recruiting opportunity to keep Paul George. He made Damian Lillard mad with some pretty clear jabs, and also took a snipe at the Warriors for having four All-Stars. A noted All-Star game headhunter, Russ will be going against Dame in addition to three of the four Warriors, which might make this a fun subplot.
Unrelated, I think Giannis is too nice for Team Curry to properly execute a freeze-out of noted troll Joel Embiid. Oh well.
7) Wait, Victor Oladipo is on the team and Paul George isn’t?
Yes. The voting took place by conference. I put this in so Kevin Pritchard would share this story on Facebook (or at least in Pacers slack).
8) Why are the All-Star jerseys so bad?
Does this mean the court is going to be black and white too? Can they broadcast the game without color? Nothing pops like a classic All-Star jersey, and we were really hoping Jordan Brand would get this right the first time. Maybe there will be colorful shoes or something.
9) Which team is going to win?
The one with more players that care.
10) Are the new rules going to make the players care?
Eh … see you guys in Los Angeles.