Game: Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis

Date & Time: Sunday, February 16, 2020, 8:00 PM

Location: United Center, Chicago, IL

TV Channel: TNT

With a tribute to Kobe Bryant in mind, the NBA is changing the All-Star format in hopes of a more competitive atmosphere.

Changes to All-Star Game format

After years of struggling to conduct an All-Star Game that is competitive, the NBA has decided to change it up this season. In hopes of cultivating an entertaining 4th quarter, the format for the game has changed, with a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant in mind.

In the 69th edition of the NBA All-Star Game, each of the first 3 quarters are considered their own game. The score begins at 0-0, and will be played for 12 minutes each. The 4th quarter will then be untimed, with a target score in mind for each team. With Kobe Bryant on the forefront of the league’s mind, the target score will be the highest scoring teams total through 3 quarters, plus 24 points, the number Kobe wore for most of his illustrious career.

Example:

The score after 3 quarters stands as this:

Team Giannis: 147

Team LeBron: 135

The target score will be the higher total (Team Giannis’ 147), added by 24. In this example, the 4th quarter score will be 171. This quarter will be untimed, and the first team to reach the final score will be deemed the victor. This gives added incentive to each team to play out the final quarter with passion, and will give the trailing team a much better shot at a comeback, knowing the score they will need.

Rosters

Contiuning a tradition started in 2018, the league has adopted a playground-style draft for the All-Star Game. Each conference is given a representative (highest vote-getter), and is considered the team captain. That captain then drafts his own roster. This year’s captain’s are, you guessed it, the Lakers LeBron James, and the Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo. Here’s how representative drafted:

First Round (Starters)

  • Anthony Davis (Team LeBron)
  • Joel Embiid (Team Giannis)
  • Kawhi Leonard (Team LeBron)
  • Pascal Siakam (Team Giannis)
  • Luka Doncic (Team LeBron)
  • Kemba Walker (Team Giannis)
  • James Harden (Team LeBron)
  • Trae Young (Team Giannis)

Some first impressions of these picks. First, it’s clear LeBron is the superior GM to Giannis. The decision to select Joel Embiid over Kawhi Leonard has me scratching my head, as well as the Kemba Walker over Harden decision. Another thing to note. Both of these starting lineups are the exact same lineups that there would be if the league didn’t do away with the conference format. The starters are East vs. West, just not by design. Digging deeper, let’s look at the 2nd round picks (Benches).

Second Round (Bench)

  • Khris Middleton (Team Giannis)
  • Damian Lillard (Team LeBron)
  • Bam Adebayo (Team Giannis)
  • Ben Simmons (Team LeBron)
  • Rudy Gobert (Team Giannis)
  • Nikola Jokic (Team LeBron)
  • Jimmy Butler (Team Giannis)
  • Jayson Tatum (Team LeBron)
  • Kyle Lowry (Team Giannis)
  • Chris Paul (Team LeBron)
  • Brandon Ingram (Team Giannis)
  • Russell Westbrook (Team LeBron)
  • Donovan Mitchell (Team Giannis)
  • Domatas Sabonis (Team LeBron)

As you can see, both players considered their personal ties in this round, as Giannis started this round by selecting teammate Khris Middleton. LeBron went to the well as well, taking long-time friend and coveted teammate Chris Paul later on. With the rosters now announced, the question is this: Which team is better?

I think on paper, it’s clear the Team LeBron has the better team. With his starting 5 including all of the West starters, their are superstars all across his roster. His bench is rounded out with a versatile big in Nikola Jokic, and his best pick, especially in this format, may very well be Damian Lillard. Rounding out his bench with Ben Simmons, who I believe may be the player who’s game fits the All-Star game the best, will give Team LeBron stars at every turn.

The Game

In year’s past, this game has almost been like a celebrity game, with neither team caring too much about the final outcome. Since the addition of the draft, some players have entered the game with “chips” on their shoulder, as they feel they should’ve been drafted higher than their current slot.

However, I believe this year’s edition, it will be much more competitive. Part of this is still due to the draft format, but an added motivating factor will be the 4th quarter, and a set target score. To add on top of that, the tribute to Kobe Bryant, one of the most competitive to ever play the game, will make players play harder to honor Mr. Bryant.

NBA All-Star Game Betting Lines

  • Team LeBron is currently -150 on the ML
  • Team Giannis is currently +130 on the ML
  • No over/under or spread line has been posted yet

NBA All-Star Game Prediction

I think I’ve made it clear throughout that Team LeBron has the more talented team. However, in a setting like this, talent doesn’t always win out.

The X-Factor to me will be 3-point shooting, as there will be a ton of attempts taken in this game, and whichever team can take better advantage of their looks will come out on top. Looking at both rosters, they each have players that can fill it up from distance.

On Team LeBron’s end, James Harden and Damian Lillard can hit 3’s for days. On the opposite end, Trae Young and Kemba Walker have the firepower to keep Team Giannis close.

In the end, I think Team LeBron simply has too much talent to lose this game. In the 4th quarter, where the going gets more competitive, give me a closing lineup of Doncic-Harden-LeBron-Leonard-Davis over any combination in the league. For that, I’m taking Team LeBron at the ML being given.

Posted in NBA