Ben Golliver and Michael Pina open with the news that the NBA has officially announced its All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7. From there, they break down the biggest roster debates for both the Eastern and Western Conferences. Should James Harden start over Bradley Beal? Julius Randle or Domantas Sabonis? Zach LaVine or Ben Simmons? Is there room for Trae Young? Should Jerami Grant, Nikola Vučević and Gordon Hayward all get snubbed? In the West, should Anthony Davis be included despite his injury? Is there a case to include Mike Conley? How many Jazz players deserve to make the cut? Did Michael really leave off both Chris Paul and Devin Booker? Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram?
Ben Golliver: I think we do face this AD dilemma. So he's obviously deserving if he's healthy, he might be sitting the next couple of weeks. So his games played number is going to look pretty strange by the time they actually play the All-Star Game. And yet usually we do this selection process based on the start of the season to whenever you have to actually make your picks, which is coming up here. So he's going to be missing a couple of games before the end of that cutoff. I think the best, fairest, most equitable solution here is to select Anthony Davis, assuming that he's going to be injured until the rest of the first half of the regular season, give him his All-Star nod for the history books, for his personal résumé. And then just also use that as a cheat code to bring in an extra injury reserve, you know what I mean? So you can get one other guy taken care of. And so to me, that's the cleanest solution. So if you select AD, then you get to have a 13th All-Star and then it gets a lot easier. What do you think, Michael? Should we?
Michael Pina: I agree, that's a great idea.
Golliver: So we're doing that. Maybe you won't anger the Suns fans if you could kind of handle this thing properly. I'm giving you a second chance. So to me, Luka no-brainer, Anthony Davis is in, Paul George is in, Rudy Gobert is in. Let's talk about the Jazz. Gobert is in for sure, we could both agree. I think they've got to have two spots no matter what. If you have this high-performing of a team, this consistent of a team during a year where nobody else is consistent, we have to reward that winning. And it comes down to Mitchell versus Conley, you picked Mitchell. What is the argument for Mitchell over Conley? And why didn't you try to get both of them in there? Why don't you prioritize getting three Jazz players?
Pina: I tried so hard and I lost a little bit of sleep over it. I looked at Jordan Clarkson's numbers. It was a dark time for me.
Golliver: We need some defense in that game. What about Royce O'Neale? You know, nobody really commits on the defensive end. Could we fit Royce O'Neale into the 2021 All-Star challenge?
Pina: Let's give Derrick Favors a spot while we're here, just a true king.
Golliver: Derrick Favors could be an assistant coach for the Western Conference. We could do that, just bring him along.
Pina: I pick Donovan Mitchell because in my opinion, I think he's their best player, I really do. I think that Rudy Gobert might be their most important player. And strategically and schematically.
Golliver: I think Rudy is their best player man. But you could say Donovan is the most talented. I'll go there. But Rudy is having a major, major impact this year.
Pina: Oh yeah, no question. He has a major impact every year. Utah's defense is good every year because Rudy Gobert plays for their team. They paid him a ton of money for a reason. I don't discount anything that he does that doesn't even show up statistically. Like I understand why his screens are important, I get the put-backs. I understand his ability to drop and pick-and-roll and let everybody stay at home on the three-point line, and that is foundational to their success. I get all of that for sure. For me, Donovan ... [compared with Gobert] ... if Rudy ups your floor, Donovan raises your ceiling. And sometimes, especially when I look at the Utah Jazz, I need someone to raise their ceiling if they want to win the championship. Does that make sense to you?
Golliver: It does, and I would agree. I also think, though, that they could get by and win an awful lot of games without Donovan this year. I just feel like Rudy is the more irreplaceable piece. So that's why I would have him as the no-brainer selection. I mean, they've actually shown the ability to win games without Donovan and without Mike Conley. It's really, really hard between those two guys. Let's say they had to go for a month without Mitchell or without Conley. Which way do you think they survive better? Like, how are they winning more games because of that, to me, is also really, really close. As you mentioned, the advanced stats absolutely love Conley’s impact, I think his shared minutes with Rudy Gobert have been a big-time positive driver of their success. He is handling the ball and shooting the ball quite well, and yet they have still won without him during this current stretch. And Mitchell hasn't missed as much time I don't believe. But they've won with him out as well. Who do you think is harder to replace? And that might be a tiebreaker here. Is Mitchell harder to replace?
Pina: I think Mitchell is harder to replace, because Conley has missed their last six games. And let me just read you the outcomes of those games. The first one was at Indiana, they won by eight. Next, their home against Boston, they win by 14. Next home against Milwaukee, they win by 14. Next time against Miami, they win by 18. Next, against Philly, they win by 11. Next they're in Staples Center, against the Clippers, they win by 18.
Golliver: Well, all that shows is that the Eastern Conference is terrible, which I already knew. And the Clippers game, they did beat them without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. But that is frankly, that's really damning for the top of the Eastern Conference. They just smoked all those teams, and that's like the top five seeds in the east, basically.