Alternate All-Star Game 2019: Team USA vs Team World
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I love NBA All-Star Weekend. Well, who doesn't, right? We have many of the best players and brightest superstars in the basketball realm all in one city over one weekend. It's always pretty awesome.
One thing I'd like to eventually see, however, is an All-Star Game -- the centerpiece -- where we have the best international talent go up against the best of the USA. In this day and age when there is a multitude of international basketball stars plying their trade in the NBA and actually making good cases to be among the true elite, I think it's high time the NBA try out this framework. It has worked in the Rising Stars Challenge, with the World vs USA format ongoing since 2015, and I am certain it'll be even bigger when it's done for the centerpiece All-Star Game.
Hypothetically, though, if we had a World vs USA All-Star Game now, these would be my picks based on their current performance in the season as well as the early All-Star Voting returns:
Luka Doncic - Kid's a baller. He was a baller when he was taking names in Europe, and he's a dayum good baller now that he's on the brightest stage of professional hoops in the world. He's just a rook, but he has 'All-Star' written all over him.
Giannis Antetokounmpo - The Greek Freak is among the league's leaders in a few categories, and he's the biggest reason for Milwaukee being the number one team in the season as of this writing. His being an All-Star is a foregone conclusion.
Joel Embiid - This Cameroonian big man should make his second All-Star Game easy. He's posting double-doubles on a nightly basis along with a sprinkling of assists and blocks, plus the Sixers are currently a top 4 East team. Sure as shooting.
Steven Adams - This Kiwi big man has become a fan favorite not least because he looks like Jason Momoa, but also because of his physical and steady presence as an interior anchor for OKC. He's a double-double guy without the fanfare and also shooting 60+% from the floor.
Karl-Anthony Towns - This Dominican Republic big man has had his share of ups and downs on the court and in the locker room, but we cannot deny his production and impact for a young Minnesota team still in contention for a top 8 spot in the West.
Nikola Jokic - The Joker for me is a top 10 player in the Association bar none. His combination of size, scoring, passing, and composure make him such a reliable player and one of the most fun Denver Nuggets to watch since maybe Melo's heyday.
Al Horford - Horford has seen better and more productive days, but he's still among the most dependable big men in the East, and he remains a big reason for Boston's hanging around among the top 5 teams in their conference. He's not a "Wow!" player, but he'll give you stability and experience.
Ben Simmons - Many guys are nightly double-double threats, but having nightly triple-double threats outside of Russell Westbrook is pretty rare. That's what makes Simmons so special. He's a rare gem that has been shining brightly for the Sixers and should make his first All-Star selection very easily.
Jeremy Lin - Yes, yes, scoff if you must, but hey, he's among the top 10 backcourt players in the East in terms of votes, and he's not half bad as a floor general for ATL, though the Hawks aren't exactly a playoff-bound team. Give Linsanity a shot. He may yet surprise you.
Jamal Murray - If Jokic is Denver's Joker, that makes Murray his... Harley Quinn? Seriously, though, Murray's stellar play has also been a significant factor in Denver's being a top tier team this season. Kid will be a potential superstar in the near future.
Buddy Hield - Some say the Kings have been overachieving, and Hield's shooting has been a good reason why. The Bahamanian sniper is making upwards of three triples per game, and I'd love to see him wax hot at All-Star Weekend.
Goran Dragic - I know this Slovenian super scorer is still in sick bay, but his numbers prove he's good enough to be an All-Star. When he's on, he's also exciting as hell to watch, and it would be utterly sublime to see him on the same team as Doncic in an NBA context.
LeBron James - No brainer. All-Star Game #15.
Paul George - OKC may be Westbrook's team, but they'd be nowhere without PG, who has been an absolute beast with nearly 27 points, 8 boards, 4 dimes, and 2 thefts per game. Hella good, yes? YES.
Kevin Durant - Steph Curry remains the face of the Dubs, but KD is their best player. No question. And the best player of the defending champions should be an All-Star. So obvious.
Kawhi Leonard - To me, Leonard is surely among the top 3 and maybe among the top 2 players in the East behind Giannis and arguably Embiid. The Raptors also have the highest win total right now of any East team, so the numbers speak for themselves.
Jayson Tatum - He's not on any sophomore slump. The former USA youth team star continues to be a major factor for the Celtics and remains one of the most dynamic players in the entire league. He's also the #4 vote-getter among the East frontcourt right now.
Anthony Davis - Davis, as of this writing, is the #1 player in the league in terms of simple player efficiency. He's crazy good, and though the Pelicans aren't exactly world-beaters, just by having Davis, they are always a threat to make it to the postseason.
Jimmy Butler - This former Bull and former T-Wolf has had his run-ins this season, but that's one reason he's so intriguing. It also helps that he puts up nearly 20 points per game and that he is among the top 5 frontcourt vote-getters in the East.
Blake Griffin - Just behind Butler in the East frontcourt voting is Griffin, who may have dropped from the collective consciousness of the casual NBA fan but remains one of the most entertaining players in the league. A Westbrook-to-Griffin fastbreak would be pretty awesome to watch.
Steph Curry - Steph is currently the top backcourt vote-getter in the West, and there's really no wonder why. His numbers continue to be hella good and is still among the most charismatic players in the entire league. Splash away!
Derrick Rose - Who knew D-Rose could still register around 19 points, 5 assists, and 2 triples per game, eh? I love his bounce back story this season, and so have the fans who have voted for him more than 2.7 million times.
Kyrie Irving - The Cs aren't having the season-to-remember they envisioned, but it's not Irving's fault. He's still among the most scintillating guards to watch, and his scoring prowess should be pretty amazing to watch alongside Curry and Harden.
James Harden - Aaand speaking of Harden, the Beard's being an All-Star shouldn't be a shocker, the Rockets' current struggles notwithstanding. I mean, 36 points, 9 assists, 2 steals, and 5 triples per game? He's a YouTube highlight reel come to life.
Russell Westbrook - Is anyone getting tired of Westbrook's averaging a triple-double? Not really, though he's not exactly making that many headlines right now. Still, the Westbrook Wow factor remains, and he is a great bet to make his 8th All-Star Game appearance.
Who'd win in this kind of All-Star Game? I think Team USA would probably lead all throughout, and then Doncic would team up with Dragic, Simmons, and Giannis for a jaw-dropping comeback leading to a Jeremy Lin dagger in the dying minute.
Hey, it could happen, right? Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction, after all.
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