How To Fix NBA All-Star Weekend

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All-Star weekend is a bit of fun. The ‘best’ players through the first half of the season play an increasingly high scoring, defenseless exhibition game. The up-and-coming youngsters of the league are pitted against one another in what is generally an even more high scoring, defenseless exhibition game (although last year’s Rising Challenge was quite competitive down the stretch.)

Sandwiched in-between those two events are a skills challenge that only requires basic fundamentals, a shooting contest that only lasts for 11 minutes (with plenty of filler time spent on ads, talking and more ads) and a dunk contest that alternates between “holy fuck!“and Chris Anderson.

The highlight of Saturday night lately has been the 3pt contest, although the Dunk last year was insanely fun. But this generally results in the best part of the weekend being Saturday night, rendering the All Star game a bit hollow. The lack of competition over the past few years has made the game feel like Meatloaf instead of Fillet Mignon.

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Every year there are deserving names that never get the call up to the NBA’s showcase event. Selecting players for a limited roster – especially when allowing so many voices to determine selections – means that someone deserving always misses out. Half the fun of All Star is nitpicking over who got left off, then watching them go on a rampage after the break to prove everyone wrong.

What if there was a way to get those snubbed players involved, and reinvigorate the All Star Game at the same time? What if there was a way to generate genuine competition, possibly create more rivalries, and make the All Star Game matter without effecting things like Home Court Advantage, Playoff Seeding or anything else? What if the All Star game didn’t have to be anti-competitive, predictable and ultimately un-newsworthy?

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This far-fetched idea is based on David’s plan to basically let an All Snubbed team have a crack at the actual All Star teams. Using this as the basic premise, I have upped the stakes and let my imagination run wild. Indulge me, as I save All Star Weekend and make it absolute must see basketball.

First, instead of just 1 team, we will have 2; an East and a West. Next, we will let the non All Star Players vote for a Player Captain for each conference. They cannot vote for anyone from their team, and they must use a 3-2-1 criteria to select who is most deserving. Most votes gets the nomination. The Media will vote for the coaches for each team in similar fashion. The Captain and Coach will be responsible for selecting the remaining ‘snubbed’ players. The only rule is you can only have 1 teammate. For example, Damian Lillard is selected as a Captain, he would have to choose between CJ McCollum and Evan Turner (tough choice…).

This would add so many different levels of saltiness, it would feel like you drank sea water. The Media get to nominate a coach they think is deserving of some praise whilst flying under the radar. The Players vote for who they think was screwed over and that player gets to pick who to go to ‘war’ with; 9 player teams will be selected from the available player pool.

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Next up, the format. We will extend All Star weekend by one day to allow for the following adjustments:

  • Rising Stars game will now be played on the Thursday night.
  • Friday night will feature one 40min game (10min quarters) and will have either the East Actual vs East Snubbed, or West Actual vs West Snubbed. The second game will go on Saturday night.
  • All Star Saturday events will be moved to the following: Skills to Thursday during halftime of the game, Dunk Contest to Friday before the game and Three Point will stay on Saturday.
  • The winners of these matches will then meet on Sunday to play off for the All Star Game Trophy.

Now, how will this make anything better from a competition stand point? Here are the stakes:

  • No major changes for USA v World Challenge, but throw in $1 million prize money for the winners.
  • For the All Star Tournament, the winning team gets $2 million. If the winning team is one of the Snubbed teams, then the prize is doubled to $4 mil.
  • The big one: If a Snubbed team beats the All Star Team, they replace them as “All Stars” in the history books for that season. Since All Star appearances are important for Hall of Fame, contracts, etc this would be a big deal for the players. Imagine if LeBron has his streak of 14 straight All Star selections snapped because he lost a play-in game to Joel Embiid and Bradley Beal?
  • Since there are only 9 players on the snubbed team, 3 players would be allowed to retain ‘All Star status’, as voted by the referees from the contest.

Upping the stakes should result in better competition, which should result in better basketball. Can you imagine how hard the snubbed team would play? Can you think of the rivalries that could be born from the bragging rights winning would provide? Can you picture Boogie Cousins trying to play nice with the officials to stay in consideration for an ‘all star’ spot despite losing to an inferior team?

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So, assuming this ridiculous idea comes to fruition, let’s have a look at the potential rosters for the East and West All Snubbed Teams.

WEST – Captain: Lillard / Coach: Snyder

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EAST – Captain: Embiid / Coach: Spoelstra

The obvious omission here is Chris Paul. If he wasn’t injured then he would be a lock for the main roster. Whilst he would be voted near unanimously to be the Captain, his injury means we would still need 9 players. Therefore Lillard gets the mantle. From there, you can see how each roster takes it’s shape.

For the East, Embiid leans heavily on Spoelstra for guidance (he is only a rookie after all). Whiteside and Dragic make the cut as catalyst for the surging Heat. Beal is having a career year and is just as important to the Washington rejuvenation as Wall has been. Melo, Parker and Batum are having solid years and offer flexibility for defending the small Eastern Conference squad, whilst Bradley is the designated guard stopper and third back court ball handler. Embiid goes with Porzingis as his final pick, because you need someone who can do this.

On the West, Lillard’s fingerprints are all over the roster. Three current or former teammates appear, with CJ a no brainer pick, Aldridge having another solid year and the underrated Matthews hitting his stride on both ends of the court after injury. Conley and Bledsoe round out the guard corps as attacking 2 way players who are having excellent years and always play Lillard tough in their 1/1 match ups. Harrison Barnes joins the fray to go toe-to-toe with his former teammates/coach and offer some flexibility to the line ups. Gobert is arguably the biggest snub in both conferences and is a lock, he will be out to prove a lot of people wrong. Towns provides a talented 3rd big to take on the bigger  group from the West.

Looking at both teams, the talent disparity is big but not insurmountable. It’s not hard to imagine either squad catching fire and ‘shocking the world’. More to the point, one could argue it would be more fun watching the play-in games than the actual All Star Game, unless of course one of the snub teams upsets an All Star Roster in the play-in games.

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There are some kinks to work out of course with this format. One potential issue would be what happens if injury strikes the regular roster? The solution is easy, Commissioner Silver picks a call-up just like normal. So in the event that a player is called in from the snub team, the captain would just have to select a new replacement.

The other issue is back-to-backs. One squad is going to have to play on Saturday and then Sunday, something the League is on record as being against. Again, the easy solution is to move the Saturday game to Thursday and place the Rising Stars Challenge on Saturday night, but I am partial to upping the stakes again here. Lets make it the conference that has the better head to head record against the opposite conference gets to play the Friday night, thus earning more rest. This will be based solely on the teams in the Top 8 of each conference at the conclusion of the day the Reserves are announced.  Since it is generally the top teams that have representation on the All Star teams, this seems relatively fair.

And there you have it. All of a sudden, All Star can mean something again to the players, without it having to effect home court in the playoffs and without messing too much with the schedule. Stakeholders get an extra 2 games to flood with advertising, generate ticket sales, create more uniforms for fans to buy, etc (are you ready for the State Farm All Star Tournament?). And best of all, the fans get a much more compelling basketball experience, featuring the best of the best players and real stakes. Isn’t that the point of All Star in the first place? Now to get the stars back into the Dunk Contest…

Predictions for the Tournament:

East Snub def East All Star 98-92 (C. Anthony 36, J. Embiid 27)
West All Star def West Snub 107-100 (S. Curry 24, J. Harden 23)
West All Star def East Snub 119-107 (R Westbrook 35, K. Leonard 19)

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