The 2020 NBA All-Star game right around the corner (Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. to be exact). Two weeks ago, the starters for the game were announced, with LeBron James (Leading vote-getter) and Giannis Antetokounmpo selected as captains for their respective conferences. Last week the reserves were posted, sparking the usual debate over surprises (Kyle Lowry), snubs (Devin Booker), and wanna be snubs (Bradley Beal). Just like the past two seasons, the starting lineups and bench will be selected by the two captains via a playground-style draft live on Thursday, Feb 6 (7 pm on TNT), just hours after the trade deadline. Last season, Team LeBron edged out Team Giannis, 178-164 in Charlotte.
The NBA announced recently the plan to change the format. Per NBA.com’s release, “In the 69th NBA All-Star Game, Team Giannis and Team LeBron will compete to win each of the first three quarters, all of which will start with the score of 0-0 and will be 12 minutes long. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the game clock will be turned off and a Final Target Score will be set.
The Final Target Score will be determined by taking the leading team’s total cumulative score through three quarters and adding 24 points – the 24 representing Bryant’s jersey number for the final 10 seasons of his NBA career. The teams will then play an untimed fourth quarter and the first team to reach the Final Target Score will win the NBA All-Star Game.
For instance, if the cumulative score of the first three quarters is 100-95, the Final Target Score would be set at 124 points. To win the NBA All-Star Game, the team with 100 points would need to score 24 points in the fourth quarter before the team with 95 points scores 29 points, and vice versa. With no minimum or maximum time on the clock in the fourth quarter, the NBA All-Star Game will end with a made basket or a made free throw.”
With LeBron James edging out Giannis Antetokounmpo in total votes received, I’ll be leading with him picking first and alternating from there. Obviously this is an educate guessing exercise based on the captains relationships with the players below, as well as overall team needs. The draft consists of two rounds. The first round is selecting based off the starters pool, while round two is picking from the reserves. Here’s last year’s draft recap for reference. The final rosters will be at the bottom of the post. Without further ado, let’s get to it…
ROUND ONE – STARTERS
Team LeBron: Anthony Davis – PF, Lakers
I wouldn’t be totally surprised if James went with Luka Doncic, as he has been having one of the best seasons of any player this year, but it just makes too much sense for him to pick his running mate in Los Angeles. James essentially tampered for half of last season when talking about playing with Davis, and even selected him as his first reserve pick last year while Giannis called it “tampering”. James and Davis have helped put the Lakers back on the map, and the duo have incredible chemistry in the pick and roll game, reading each other very well. This should be a no-brainer.
Team Giannis: Luka Doncic – PG, Mavericks
With James taking Davis as the first pick, Giannis has the easy choice of selecting the 20-year-old wunderkind from the Dallas Mavericks. It makes sense for several reasons. For one, Doncic is having the best season of any kid under the age of 21 ever, averaging nearly 29/9/9 a night while putting himself in the MVP discussion. Second, his pass-friendly playing style fits right in with Giannis. I mean, can you imagine those two running a pick and roll. Defenses would have no clue what to do. Third, I have a feeling Giannis will take as many foreign-born players as he can, since he had all four (Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Ben Simmons, Nikola Vucevic) on his team last year. Expect to see a few crowd-pleasing alley-oops between these two if they end up together.
Team LeBron: Trae Young – PG, Hawks
James is one of the great facilitators of all-time, and has been playing de facto point guard for the Lakers this season, but even he would like to take a load off during the All-Star game. Enter Trae Young. I thought about James taking Kawhi Leonard (as he did last year), but with Leonard playing for the rival Clippers after leading the Lakers on in free agency last July, I’m betting the two teams don’t mix this time around. Back to Young, he is one of the most exciting offensive players in the league, capable of running pick and roll while also pulling up from 30 feet. The All-Star game is about high-powered offenses, little defense and constant shooting, so Young makes sense to go high in a game where he checks all those boxes.
Team Giannis: Kawhi Leonard – SF, Clippers
As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, draft ‘em in the All-Star game the following year, right? Close enough. Leonard was a man on a mission last year, terrorizing anyone in his quest for a second title, including Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks. The two have a mutual respect of each other from that series, but most importantly Giannis will pick him to put him on LeBron, as the two are crosstown rivals in Los Angeles. Leonard famously led the Lakers on during free agency before orchestrating a way to get him and Paul George to the Clippers, causing the Lakers to miss out on other key free agents. This pick will only add to the not-so-subtle drama and awkwardness between Leonard and James.
Team LeBron: James Harden – SG, Rockets
Nothing too fancy here. Harden and James are pretty good friends off the court, and LeBron did draft him last season. Harden has been in the midst of a slump (29.2 ppg on just 35.8% FG over his last 13 games), but is still one of the most lethal one-on-one players in the league. At various points in the ASG you see guys go one-on-one against each other for fun, and Harden knows how to entertain.
Team Giannis: Pascal Siakam – SF, Raptors
We’re picking back up with the international theme for team Giannis. Siakam has missed some time, but has taken another huge step forward with his game this season as the number one option in Toronto. This pick makes sense to help give Team Giannis extra shooting, length and pairs Siakam with him former teammate in Leonard. All-Star games are about friends playing with each other, so it’s only natural to pair the two best players from the 2019 champions back together.
Team LeBron: Joel Embiid – C, Sixers
Two reasons for this pick,. First, there’s no way Joel Embiid can be the last pick of the first round. He;s just too good, even with his injuries and inconsistent effort this year. Even with all the issues in Philadelphia, Embiid is averaging around 23/12/3 a night. That can’t go unnoticed. Second, AD has always stated his desire to play power forward instead of center unless he absolutely has to. Embiid fills that void here, as he can start at center while David slides to the four spot. Even in an All-Star game, James will worry about keeping his teammate happy.
Team Giannis: Kemba Walker – PG, Celtics
Poor Kemba. Picked as the last starter again, just like last year. Thankfully, this is more a case of the players above being supremely talented than it is him not being deserving. Walker has fit in seamlessly with the Celtics and no longer has to carry the load as he did in Charlotte. He’s a great spot-up shooter, which is something Team Giannis needs in the starting lineup, as Giannis and Doncic aren’t the best of shooters.
ROUND TWO – RESERVES
Team Giannis: Khris Middleton – SF, Bucks
Team LeBron: Dame Lillard – PG, Blazers
Team Giannis: Jimmy Butler – SG/SF, Heat
Team LeBron: Chris Paul – PG, Thunder
Team Giannis: Bam Adebayo – C, Heat
Team LeBron: Donovan Mitchell – SG, Jazz
Team Giannis: Brandon Ingram – SF, Pelicans
Team LeBron: Nikola Jokic – C, Nuggets
Team Giannis: Russell Westbrook – PG, Rockets
Team LeBron: Ben Simmons – PG, 76ers
Team Giannis: Damontas Sabonis – C, Pacers
Team LeBron: Jayson Tatum – SF, Celtics
Team Giannis: Kyle Lowry – PG, Raptors
Team LeBron: Rudy Gobert – C, Jazz
Final Roster Predictions
Statistics are accurate as of Feb 5.
Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com.