The NBA All-Star Game has become a bore. Sure, the highlight-reel dunks are fun to watch, but the game itself has no energy, with players refusing to play defense and not wanting to exert too much effort or risk injury.
Commissioner Adam Silver attempted to remedy the problem by revising the team selection to involve two captains, the highest vote-getters, drafting their teams that will face off on Feb. 18. The process added a new layer of intrigue to the All-Star Game and will hopefully drive up ratings.
Stephen Curry and LeBron James were the two team captains, and they drafted their teams in secret; the teams were revealed, but the order of players drafted was not. The draft also could have been televised to create more storylines in the NBA, creating mini-rivalries and beef between players and even teammates. These added storylines could drive up excitement and competition in the All-Star Game.
For example, former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be reunited on Team LeBron. It also allows players to play with people they would not otherwise get a chance to. Within the teams, players can also use the All-Star Game as a sales pitch to prospective free agents.
However, there is another way the All-Star Game can improve even more. Bill Simmons, founder and CEO of The Ringer, proposed an alternative format. He suggested they create five teams, selected by five captains, and then they proceed to play games of pickup basketball.
This is a great idea. Players love to compete, and pickup basketball is the purest form of basketball competition. In a pickup setting, players might be more likely to compete, and with five teams, they would be on the court for less time, thus decreasing their odds of getting injured. Throw in a cash prize for the winning team to further incentivize them, and the All-Star Game might become competitive again.
In this hypothetical format, here is a possible draft of five teams:
- Team LeBron
- LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Goran Dragic
- Team Curry
- Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Paul George, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker
- Team Giannis
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Al Horford, Kyle Lowry
- Team Harden
- James Harden, Kristaps Porzingis, Jimmy Butler, Victor Oladipo, Andre Drummond
- Team Durant
- Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan, Joel Embiid, Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge
Team LeBron looks like the favorites in this format. They have the best player in the world, an interior presence and versatile big in Davis, a shooter in Beal, and the reigning NBA MVP in Russell Westbrook.
Team Curry would also have five capable shooters and be a fun team to watch, Team Harden would have a nice blend of size, shooting and skill players, Team Durant would be led by length and athleticism, and Team Giannis would have great shooting and versatile, skilled forwards.
Ultimately, the NBA needs to discover a way to renew the competitive atmosphere to the All-Star Game. Experimenting with new formats and organization of teams is necessary. The new format is a nice change, and it will soon be determined whether or not it is successful. If not, Adam Silver and the NBA may need to keep trying.
(Bonus: I am picking Team LeBron to win this year’s All-Star Game.)