Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen. Who ya got? I don’t think we can say this enough (if for no other reason into shaming them to do the right thing next year) — the All-Star Game player draft should have been televised. It was not because the players union pushed back, saying there was not a consensus that it should be from players who could be involved, which is about as soft as it gets. Oh no, you were picked last, you’re one of the 24 best players in the game but you’re picked last in that group. The horror. The NHL did it and the players survived somehow. The NBA started down a road with the new format it then went halfway and it sucked the fun out of it. Do better next time.
Now, on to what about the teams.
LeBron drafted as his starters (they had to pick from that pool first) DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Kevin Durant (Golden State) and Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics). For the reserves, LeBron picked LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Kevin Love (Cleveland), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks), John Wall (Washington) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) as reserves.
Team Curry’s starters are Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) and James Harden (Houston Rockets). For reserves, Curry chose Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves), Draymond Green (Golden State), Al Horford (Boston), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto), Klay Thompson (Golden State) and Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota).
Here’s what we know: LeBron took Kevin Durant first. KD likes finally being picked No. 1.
So who ya got? How do you not choose Team LeBron — that starting five is insane. It’s the Monstars. LeBron and KD on the wings, Cousins and Davis inside (and both can hit threes), and Irving at the point? Good luck. And you have to love LeBron took Kyrie, and also reunited Durant and Westbrook. Off the bench, LeBron’s team can put out a Westbrook, Oladipo, Beal, Love, Porzingis lineup that could run and shoot with anyone.
Curry has shooting and athleticism, his starting five has Harden and the Greek Freak, and if this were the kind of game where anyone played any defense having Butler and Green on the second unit would be impressive.
In an actual seven-game series I’d take team LeBron without question. That team is dominant. In the defense-free zone that is an All-Star game, anything can happen. If Butler or Harden decide to go hard after the MVP, Curry could win the thing. But I’ll put my money on Team LeBron… and the over. Always the over in the All-Star Game.
2) De’Aaron Fox with an insane game-winning putback dunk. We haven’t had a lot of Sacramento Kings highlights in this space this season because, well, there hasn’t been a lot of Sacramento Kings highlights this season.
Thursday night, rookie De’Aaron Fox may have had the Dunk of the Year — at least the most meaningful one. Down one to Miami (in Miami) and with less than 10 seconds remaining, the Kings put the ball in the hands of Bogdan Bogdanovic in isolation at the top of the key (there was a meaningless screen by Fox in there), and he ended up with a 19-foot contested fadeaway that missed — but nobody put a body on Fox, who flew in from the weakside wing and made the play.
Damn, that’s good.
Miami has won a lot of close games this season, but those things tend to even out.
3) Russell Westbrook goes off for 46 vs. Wizards, while Kevin Durant has triple-double and Warriors drain 21 threes against Timberwolves. Some All-Stars were putting on a show Thursday night.
All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal went at it — Westbrook hat 46-6-6, while Beal dropped 41 despite getting kicked in the, um, kiwis by Steven Adams.
Westbrook was apparently motivated by the feeling he was picked last in the All-Star draft, although he was just listed last thanks to alphabetical order. Whatever the motivation, it was the full Russ on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Warriors were the Warriors against the Timberwolves. Golden State hit a season-high 21 threes, and LeBron’s No. 1 pick Durant celebrated with a triple-double of 28 points, 10 boards and 11 assists.