A new NBA All-Star Game format has arrived in 2018. Teams are no longer separated by conference. Instead, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors chose their teams in secret from the pool of players selected by a combination of fans, players, media members and coaches.
Even though the game has increasingly moved away from defensive intensity and overall effort, the new format offers some intrigue. Will the fact that captains selected their teams impact the way the stars play on Sunday?
Let’s take a look at the rosters for Team LeBron and Team Stephen. Then we’ll discuss some key storylines with the rosters that merit watching on Sunday.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans**
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Goran Dragic, Miami Heat*
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons*
Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder*
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets*
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers**
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks**
John Wall, Washington Wizards**
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
James Harden, Houston Rockets
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Al Horford, Boston Celtics
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Note: * denotes injury replacements and ** denotes originally selected players who are being replaced. Dwane Casey, coach of the Toronto Raptors and Team LeBron, will select DeMarcus Cousins’ replacement in the starting lineup.
Key Storylines to Watch
Will Russell Westbrook’s Ankle Injury Affect His Intensity and Impact?
Over the past few years, Westbrook has established himself as a constant threat for All-Star Game MVP honors. The Thunder point guard’s past three appearances in the midseason exhibition have yielded totals of 113 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists, nine steals and two MVP awards. He’s gotten those numbers in a total of just 66 minutes, too.
Westbrook is probably the most electrifying athlete in the NBA. Every year, he takes it upon himself to thrill fans with thunderous slam dunks and quick-trigger three-point shots.
However, Westbrook is dealing with a left ankle injury. Per ESPN’s Royce Young, the superstar’s status for the Thunder’s game Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers was still in question.
Knowing Westbrook’s competitive spirit, there’s little doubt that he suits up at Staples Center on Sunday for Team LeBron. However, there’s a chance that he tones down his effort a bit. There’s no reason to risk re-injury in an exhibition game, even with the increased monetary prize for winning this year.
Will Team Stephen’s Shooting or Team LeBron’s Athleticism Win Out?
Both of these teams are stacked. Neither team has actual weaknesses. However, looking down the roster, it’s clear that both squads have major strengths. For Team Stephen, it’s three-point shooting. For Team LeBron, it’s explosiveness that should manifest itself in lots of dunks, blocks and up-and-down play.
For Team Stephen, Curry, Harden and Thompson are first, second and fourth in the NBA in made three-pointers per game, respectively. Lillard is tied for sixth and Lowry is ninth. The 2016 Western Conference All-Stars’ record of 80 three-pointers attempted in a game is in danger with this group.
Meanwhile, Team LeBron has athletic firecrackers like James, Durant, Davis, Westbrook, Drummond, George and Oladipo. All will attack the rim with ferocity and use every inch of their substantial vertical leaps to finish in transition and jump for rebounds and blocks.
So which team’s strength will prove to be more effective? The amount of defensive resistance each squad offers will play a big role here.
Will There Be Any Drama on Team LeBron?
Besides actual on-court strengths, a notable storyline from the rosters is the interpersonal dynamics. Team Stephen has Joel Embiid, who frequently gets into playful feuds on Twitter. However, the roster as a whole seems free of potential clashing. Having the Warriors’ established trio of Curry, Green and Thompson and their chemistry should help.
Team LeBron’s personality dynamics could be a little bit more complicated. The conflict between James and Irving contributed to the latter’s trade request from the Cavaliers last summer. The Durant-Westbrook feud has gone on since Durant bolted from the Thunder to the Warriors two offseasons ago.
They are the four main players for Team LeBron. James, Irving and Durant are starters, while Westbrook is the reigning NBA MVP and has two All-Star Game MVPs to his name from 2015 and 2016.
Yes, these players are all adults. But that doesn’t mean they’re immune to petty spats. The interpersonal conflicts between players on Team LeBron could affect the team’s cohesiveness.
Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com
via Bleacher Report – NBA http://ift.tt/yO6Sgr
February 13, 2018 at 10:23PM