The idea of reformatting the All-Star game to resemble a pickup game, with two elected captains picking sides, has been floating around for a while. With the NHL actually instituting an All-Star draft this year, AGR felt inspired to properly explore the possibilities of such a draft. Bill Simmons has been intermittently mentioning it for years, and even took a crack at how it might have worked out this year in his latest mailbag. Simmons ultimately declared it wouldn’t add any entertainment value to this year’s contest, but that may come down to his odd choice of making Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant the hypothetical captains. If the selection of captains came down to a fan vote, or even a vote amongst elected All-Stars, it’s far more likely that Kobe and LeBron James would get the honors. And then things get very interesting.
Whereas Wade is one of the most congenial members of basketball’s elite, LeBron is a polarizing figure even within the NBA community. The league’s emerging stars look to him as their alpha dog. But he’s received plenty of criticism from vets and ex-players who think he’s rocked the boat a bit too much without paying his dues. Someday I’d love to read a book about the various rivalries, feuds, and friendships that have developed among today’s generation of stars. An All-Star draft, particularly with LeBron and Kobe making the picks, would be a glimpse into that world.
Following the format used for last month’s NHL All-Star Game, with the home team’s superstar conveniently being granted the first pick, here’s how we speculate things might shape out. The only added wrinkle is that this draft occurs behind closed doors, since we’d want to know the real, spin-free reasons for our captains’ selections. TheCornerThree was for Kobe the night while SlickMilicic filled in for LeBron. Here’s how it went down:
Kobe: There are lots of good players to choose from with the #1 overall pick, but I have to take #1 Pau Gasol. I’d love to motivate Pau to improve upon his sluggish play of late by passing up on him, but embarrassing my teammate on his home floor would be too harsh for the softie Spaniard. It’s only fair to Pau and the fans of LA to get him on my team while I can. Gasol is mine.
LeBron: Now I’m in a tight spot because Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade happen to be 2 of my best bros and 2 of the top 5 basketball players in the universe. But I can’t pass up a teammate of mine, especially with the whole world watching. And I know what D-Wade and I can do in a transition-oriented game. So #2 Dwyane Wade is my guy. Even if that turns this into Heat-Lakers II and me getting booed every time I touch the ball. That might happen even if I pick Jerry West.
Kobe: Luckily for me, LeBron, you obviously dosn’t know basketball well enough to outdraft me. I have the championships to prove it and those championships taught me two things: 1) I’m the freaking man. 2) A good big man helps, somewhat. I know I’m the King of Clutch, but Shaq wasn’t terrible. And there’s only one real center in this draft–#3 Dwight Howard. Given that he’s the two-time reigning DPOY and that I’m a two-time reigning champ, it seems like destiny. Give me the real Superman (take that Shaq!).
Kobe: Typical LeBron, valuing friends over wins. I think I’ll take a point guard with some winning experience. #5 Deron Williams has always matched up well with Paul, and having personally played against D-Will in the playoffs several times, I can attest that he’s a winner. Give me a winner over a friend any day of the week.
LeBron: Getting feisty there, Kobe. Need I bring up the events of Christmas 2010? Friends and wins aren’t mutually exclusive, not that you know much about getting along with teammates. Anyway, I need size, but even I think it would be lame to take Bosh here. I’ll take another buddy, and one I know you’d like to be playing with. Give me #6 Carmelo Anthony and his newfound rebounding prowess. Maybe I can find a diplomatic way to force him into playing as a stretch 4 so I don’t have to.
Kobe: Melo and rebounding prowess used in the same sentence? This chump is dumber than I thought. Bron–are you aware that the majority of possessions in basketball aren’t fast breaks or pure 1-on-1 isolation plays? That’s all your team is built for. Anyway, I need a small forward. Too bad he took Melo. Wait a tick! There’s a small forward on the board who’s better than Melo in just about every way…#7 Kevin Durant! Plus, he’s humble and selfless–two qualities I value in my teammates (I still hate you, Shaq). KD35 will fit right in with my team.
LeBron: I’m building a smallball team to exploit your team’s main weakness, which is that you’re like 40 years old. And this is an All-Star game…good luck getting Dwight and Pau to huff and puff down the court. We’re going 7 seconds or less. Speaking of which, I could use some outside shooting. Gimme #8 Dirk Nowitzki.
Kobe: You’re right, I have some big men that might struggle to keep up. And it’s no secret that Dwight gets in foul trouble at times. Luckily for me, if I draft someone like, say for instance, #9 Blake Griffin, I solve all my problems. The Rim Reaper is another big man to replace Dwight, he can run the floor, he’s the best dunker and alley-oop finisher, and he’s a fan favorite on his home court. Don’t tell me I don’t know the nuances of All-Star Games–I have 3 ASG MVPs, young buck.
LeBron: Well there goes my last hope of gaining good will with the crowd. Guess I might as well go for broke. #10 Chris Bosh is looking at me with puppy eyes. He’s the pick.
Kobe: Not sure who to take now. When in doubt, I pick the player that will conflict the least with me. And despite our longstanding team rivalry, my game won’t ever conflict with #11 Tim Duncan. He only shoots 11 or 12 times a game and is a proven winner, so I know he’ll allow me to win and preserve my individual glory. He’s the perfect mix between Pau and Shaq that I never had.
LeBron: Gotta respect that choice. I’m not about to announce it to the world, but the Bulls’ torrid run of late has me wondering what kind of damage I could’ve done running alongside #12 Derrick Rose. I’ll take the one guy I’m not sure I could close on for a chase-down block.
Kobe: I’m good on my bigs, and since you just took a backup point guard, maybe I’ll strengthen my wing in the meantime. That means #13 Manu Ginobili. He’s unselfish, he wins games, and works well with Duncan. Plus, as an Argentine, he respects my worldliness.
LeBron: True. Maybe you can call out plays in Italian. I feel like I could use another inside presence. #14 Amar’e Stoudemire might be a worse rebounding option than Kevin Love, or even Russell Westbrook, but few big men can pour in points with such little effort. And seeing as “little effort” will be a theme of his particular contest, I’ll go with New Jeruz.
Kobe: This is awesome. You are taking all the guys I don’t want. Incidentally, did you just mention #15 Russell Westbrook? As in the guy that’s been my new teammate KD’s sidekick for three years, including in Istanbul? I’ll take that dude. Not to mention, seeing as he’s from Long Beach and played at UCLA, he’ll be right at home. He’s a hoppin’, rim-rockin’ energizer bunny. Shotty.
LeBron: I’m guessing you won’t take much issue with me picking #16 Ray Allen either. Remember his feud with you? That was weird. I definitely remember that year’s All-Star game, when Mr. Shuttlesworth hit five 3’s. He’s the best shooter on the board, and while everyone tries to make it out like I have a personal rivalry with the Celtics, I respect what that group has accomplished. I don’t always appreciate KG and Paul’s yapping, but everybody loves the Jesus.
Kobe: It’s painful to do this, but I need another small forward and there is only one good one left–#17 Paul Pierce. I might hate him with every atom in my body, but at least he’s from LA. He’s also a winner, one that’s particularly good at beating you. In fact, he did it last year. Ain’t that The Truth. Zing!
LeBron: Getting into relatively slim pickings here. I like my team’s speed, but there still looms a possibility that Howard can catch the ball wherever he wants and manhandle my front line. #18 Al Horfordis quietly having an absolute monster of a year, and he’s definitely my best bet to neutralize that threat.
Kobe: You won’t grab a rebound this game. Promise. I’m taking #19 Kevin Love, the best power forward named Kevin in the game (I said it, KG). I’m banking on some Bruin-to-Bruin connections between Russell and K-Love. I mean, look at what they did against Iran this summer. Just imagine: Kevin grabs a rebound, and in midair, heaves a full-court outlet pass to a streaking Westbrook, who in midair, catches and flushes the rock in one sexy motion. I just orchestrated the alley-oop of the century (well, except for this one).
LeBron: #20 Kevin Garnett might be a bully, but I was 10 years old when he was drafted. Hell, I grew up watching him. And as a student of the game, I feel strange seeing KG still standing there like he’s the fat kid in gym class. And needless to say, I’d rather go to battle with him than against him.
Kobe: I want to and don’t want to take Rondo for so many reasons. On the plus side, he won’t shoot, he’s a winner, and he’d finish the even split of the four Celtics that I have been secretly trying to arrange this entire time. On the other hand, Rondo is devious and defiant enough to corroborate with his fellow Celts to sabotage the game to steal the thunder away from me on my own floor. #21 Joe Johnson makes me instinctively mutter “Eh, I guess,” but I’ll play it safe and go with the veteran.
LeBron: Since I’m stuck with this pick, I’m not sure what to say about #22 Rajon Rondo. Besides “I didn’t really want him.” Tough stretch for the guy, getting cut from the FIBA World Championships team and now this. Maybe someone will buy him a car he won’t ever drive.
Kobe: Oh, he’ll drive. It’s not like he has a jumper anyway! And just for good measure, Dwight will be there when he does. Game over.
TEAM KOBE TEAM LEBRON#1 Pau Gasol #2 Dwyane Wade #3 Dwight Howard #4 Chris Paul #5 Deron Williams #6 Carmelo Anthony #7 Kevin Durant #8 Dirk Nowitzki #9 Blake Griffin #10 Chris Bosh #11 Tim Duncan #12 Derrick Rose #13 Manu Ginobili #14 Amar’e Stoudemire #15 Russell Westbrook #16 Ray Allen #17 Paul Pierce #18 Al Horford #19 Kevin Love #20 Kevin Garnett #21 Joe Johnson #22 Rajon Rondo Which team would win? Which picks made sense and which didn’t? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.