New NBA All-Star draft format allows for unique inter-conference player dynamics


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Giannis Antetokounmpo was the top-voted player in the East.

As of 2018, the NBA went away with traditional Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference All-Stars to a pick-up style game, where two captains picked between the 24 players voted in by fans, coaches and selected personnel.

Lakers forward LeBron James and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo were the top-voted players in their respective conferences, and by achieving that feat, they are captains of their respective teams. Once captains are named, they go into a pick-up game style selection and live-draft the remaining players. The first four picks for each team have to be players voted in as starters by the fans.

James and Antetokounmpo had to pick between Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, Hornets guard Kemba Walker, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Rockets guard James Harden, Thunder forward Paul George, Warriors forward Kevin Durant, Warriors guard Stephen Curry and 76ers center Joel Embiid.

James received the first selection of the draft and took Durant and followed by choosing Irving, Leonard and Harden to round out his starting lineup. Antetokounmpo went with Curry in his first selection and rounded out his starting five with Embiid, George and Walker.

Antetokounmpo opened the reserve selection round by picking his teammate forward Khris Middleton from the Bucks, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, 76ers guard Ben Simmons, Pistons forward Blake Griffin, Nets guard D’Angelo Russell, Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. Antetokounmpo clearly went for the larger frontcourt during his selection process in nabbing five bigs.

As for James, he went on to select Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, Warriors guard Klay Thompson, Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and Wizards guard Bradley Beal.

However, it was reported James traded Westbrook for Simmons shortly after the selection show.

James also had intriguing selections consisting of Irving, Leonard, Davis and Thompson — all players who are either soon-to-be free agents or have been linked to the joining the Lakers for the past six months.

James has strong ties with all four players, as they have all played on the USA Olympic Team. James also has a history with Irving, as they both helped bring a ring to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. One can only imagine that James has his eyes on these four players and plans to convince them on joining him in LA to form a super-team. This could be an early start to his recruiting process.

This year will also include two extra slots for future Hall of Famers Dwayne Wade and Dirk Nowitzki. Although they weren’t voted in by the fans, NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, added both to the pool of players since they both are most likely retiring after this season.

James would go on to select his best friend and Heat guard Wade to complete his team, and Antetokounmpo selected Mavericks center Dirk Nowitzki. Originally, James had drafted Simmons as a reserve while Antetokounmpo selected Westbrook. 

With these teams finalized the clear advantage on paper goes to James, even with a smaller starting five compared to  Antetokounmpo’s bunch. With three of the top five wings in the NBA on the same team and with James’ ability to play positions one through five, the team is set up very nicely to blow this one wide open.