It’s that time of the year again, folks! We’re in for another wild weekend of basketball. As always, we’ll be warmed up with two days of celebrity hoops, young NBA up-and-comers getting their shine, and various competitions before the main event on Monday.
The draft format will continue for the sixth consecutive year. It’s back to Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis again, with ‘The Greek Freak’ Giannis Antetokounmpo aiming to finally get an All-Star Game win over ‘The King’ LeBron James following two losses in 2019 and 2020. Also, having been made permanent in 2021 and now in its fourth year of implementation, note that the Elam Ending will be the scoring format.
In this piece, the Ballers.PH crew will be giving out predictions for the highly anticipated match-up. With the actual draft happening just hours before the game, we did a mock draft ourselves.
Let’s take a peek at the pool of All-Stars:
- LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (captain)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (captain)
- Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
- Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers
- Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks
- Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
- Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
- Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (replaces Kevin Durant as starter)
- Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies (replaces Stephen Curry as starter)
- Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz (replaces Zion Williamson as starter)
- Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
- Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
- DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
- Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers
- Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
- Julius Randle, New York Knicks
- Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
- Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
- Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
- Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings
- Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (injury replacement)
- Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (injury replacement)
- De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings (injury replacement)
Now, let’s go to the draft. Since Giannis is sitting at 0-2 against LeBron, we gave him the first pick:
Ballers.PH Mock Draft – Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis
|Team Giannis||Team LeBron|
|Round 1||Luka Doncic||Nikola Jokic|
|Round 2||Joel Embiid||Jayson Tatum|
|Round 3||Donovan Mitchell||Kyrie Irving|
|Round 4||Damian Lillard||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander|
|Round 5||Jaren Jackson Jr.||Ja Morant|
|Round 6||Tyrese Haliburton||Paul George|
|Round 7||Jrue Holiday||Pascal Siakam|
|Round 8||Anthony Edwards||De’Aaron Fox|
|Round 9||DeMar DeRozan*||Jaylen Brown*|
|Round 10||Bam Adebayo||Julius Randle|
|Round 11||Lauri Markkanen||Domantas Sabonis|
*As of this writing, it’s still unclear if Jaylen Brown (face) and DeMar DeRozan (thigh) are available for the game.
Finally, the roundtable questions. Read on!
Question 1: Which team will win the game?
Carlo: I feel like LeBron’s team has a slightly more well-rounded mix of talent, so I give them the slight edge, but there’s a couple of straight-killers like Luka Doncic (it’s fair to point out that he’s still getting his legs back) and Damian Lillard on Team Giannis. Since he’s finally feeling better, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lillard put on a Curry-esque performance.
Gio: LeBron isn’t LeGM for nothing so I expect him to come out with a win thanks to a team he can pick without the constraints of a salary cap and a resistant trade partner. More than knowing what he needs, he selects on familiarity and with some big shotmakers in the pool, he will eke out a win and continue his Undertaker-esque winning streak in All-Star games.
Aldo: Team LeBron for me–LeBron, Jokic, and Sabonis are going to have a field day with Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and the rest of their team as the recipients of their passes. If the game gets close late, George and Brown should have no problem shadowing Doncic over the course of the home stretch.
JE: I’m with Gio on this. LeGM is at his absolute element and we’ll see it again – him being 6-0 in the All-Star since the draft format was introduced is Exhibit A. I think we’ll see a similar roster with our mock, where he drafts the best player available – though it’ll likely include his boy, Kyrie Irving – and some first-timers so he can have a better feel for their game. I expect LeBron to get another W again.
Question 2: Who will win MVP?
Carlo: If Luka Doncic was coming in fully healthy, I’d pick him. But I’m going with the two captains to be the most likely to win MVP.
Gio: I would love to see Donovan Mitchell win MVP just to show Utah what they miss. I’m sure he’s more than happy to be with the Cleveland Cavaliers but he wouldn’t mind putting up a ton of points in a game where there will be a ton of points. The other thing is… will Mitchell receive a warm reception or one like that of Kobe Bryant during the 2022 All-Star Game in Philadelphia?
Aldo: LeBron James. While the Los Angeles Lakers are unlikely to win the championship this season, James still managed to further his legacy after he became the league’s all-time leading scorer earlier this month. Winning the All-Star Game MVP for the fourth consecutive time to tie Kobe Bryant, whom the award was dedicated to last year, and Bob Pettit would put the cherry on top of James’ historic month and only strengthen his case in the Greatest of All Time debate–something that he clearly cares about.
JE: I see Jayson Tatum getting it. It feels like he has a chip on his shoulder since he’s the best player on one of the top teams in the league yet he has fallen off the MVP ladder. If it goes the way we mocked, he’ll be going against his head coach, Joe Mazulla, and I’m sure he’ll love it and look to attack his coach’s defense.
Question 3: Which first-time All-Star are you most excited about?
Carlo: De’Aaron Fox, because I’m a Sacramento Kings fan and I think he’s been snubbed too many times. He’s been killing the league as the most clutch player in the NBA this season, and I can’t wait for him to showcase his skills in front of a large audience. A close second is Tyrese Haliburton, who Kings fans will always love.
Gio: Anthony Edwards. I’m curious to see if he’ll get a bigger role in the game given he’s one of the younger ones and of course, a first-timer. His shotmaking could erase any deficit, especially in a game where the defense picks up in the final quarter.
Besides that, he’s on the path to stardom and seems to have a great personality too. A guy like him should benefit from this experience since he’ll be able to see where he is individually and take what he can moving forward.
Aldo: Lauri Markkanen. He’s the only representative of the host Utah Jazz and the oldest first-timer (He’s seven months older than his 2017 NBA Draft classmate De’Aaron Fox) among this year’s group. His first five years in the league were quite pedestrian and no one would have ever thought that he would ever become an All-Star as recently as the beginning of this season. More importantly, I’m curious to see if he will rise to the occasion or look like he’s just happy to be there.
JE: There’s three of them: Anthony Edwards, Lauri Markkanen, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. I hope all can showcase what they can do – Edwards is super explosive, Markkanen has come alive after getting held back in Chicago (thanks, Jim Boylen), and Shai is quite possibly the next big-time scorer in the league.
Question 4: It’s year 6 of the draft format. Is it still interesting or should the NBA go back to the classic East vs. West showdown?
Carlo: Honestly, I much prefer the old format of East vs. West. I feel like it creates a bit more of a rivalry because you’re representing your city and conference. The draft format is kind of fun, but it still feels more like a gimmick to me.
Gio: The East versus West showdowns of back then will be classics, but this new format of having a same-day draft sure makes things a lot more exciting. There are those who feel that this is a nod to the blacktop format where players pick their teams while there are quarters that enjoy a more relaxed setup that takes them back to their days at the park playing ball.
On a more practical note, the draft format helps avoid the awkwardness when it comes to the trades moving players across teams and conferences. Ideally, the squads are more balanced with some unpredictability on the side.
Aldo: I’m a fan of the draft format. It makes the game more interesting and adds a bit of motivation for those players who think they were snubbed. It’s nice to see the thought process of the respective team captains too. Aside from that, I’m all for a competitive All-Star game and I think that any additional variable that adds a bit of uncertainty, just like this one, should be welcomed with open arms.
JE: Like many other things, it has its pros and cons. East vs. West has a better feel because it’s the more traditional “our side versus yours,” but oftentimes, it becomes underwhelming when one conference (usually the West) gets loaded with talent. The draft format, on the other hand, is instantly more interesting because we can expect that there’s a better sense of parity. One possible downside, however, is there’s less room for the low-tiered All-Stars to steal the spotlight since teams are always stacked.