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Three Things to Know: Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen. Who ya got?

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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 James and Stephen Curry hopped on a conference call — how exciting! — and made their picks (then both said it should have been televised).

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.

Nikola Jokic’s All-NBA first-team selection shows his meteoric rise

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Just four years ago, Nikola Jokic was a second-round pick still playing in the Adriatic League. Just three years ago, he was battling a struggling Jusuf Nurkic to be the Nuggets’ main center.

Yesterday, Jokic made the All-NBA first team.

Jokic has risen incredibly quickly. Before this season, he had never even been an All-Star.

That makes Jokic the first non-rookie in NBA history to make an All-NBA first team without a prior All-Star season (including ABA All-Stars).

The No. 41 pick in the 2014 draft, Jokic is just the fourth second-rounder to make an All-NBA first team since the NBA-ABA merger. The others: DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol and Marc Price.

For most players not immediately deemed to hold first-round talent, it takes a while to build stature in the NBA. Jokic made the All-NBA first team in just his fourth season. That’s way sooner than Gasol (seventh season), Price (seventh season) and Jordan (eighth season):

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The Nuggets didn’t wait for this honor to make Jokic their franchise player. They gave him a near-max contract last summer, and by leading them into the second round of the playoffs, he triggered incentives to reach a max salary.

Denver has built a young supporting cast – mainly Jamal Murray and Gary Harris – to grow with Jokic. The Nuggets also signed veteran Paul Millsap, whose defense complements Jokic’s offensive-minded game.

So much is coming together so quickly for Denver, and Jokic’s honor is just the latest example.

Report: Trail Blazers sign president Neil Olshey to contract extension

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Just after a rumor emerged about the Wizards trying to hire Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

It’s nice to be wanted. It always adds leverage in contract negotiations.

Olshey has done well in Portland, building a winner around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after LaMarcus Aldridge left. But Olshey’s job will get harder now.

Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless each have another season on the expensive contracts Olshey gave them in the wild summer of 2016. That’ll inhibit flexibility this offseason.

Then, Lillard is set to sign a super-max extension that will take effect in 2021. As great as Lillard is, it’ll be difficult building a contender around someone projected to earn $43 million, $46 million, $50 million and $53 million from ages 31-34. There’s so little margin for error, especially if ownership is less willing to pay the luxury tax than the late Paul Allen was.

But Olshey has earned a chance to handle these dilemmas.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert hits super-max criteria for extension projected to be worth $250 million over five years

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Anthony Davis signed a max rookie-scale contract extension in 2015, between his third and fourth seasons. Based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time, the extension called for him to earn a higher salary if he was twice voted an All-Star starter or made two All-NBA teams during his first four seasons. Davis was voted an All-Star starter and made the All-NBA first team in his third season.

Unfortunately for Davis, he missed both honors his fourth year. The All-NBA and All-Star-starter tracks ran independently. Davis couldn’t qualify for a higher max salary by earning one of each.

That cost him $19,683,908 over the four pre-player-option seasons of his extension, which will end next year.

The current CBA’s more significant adjustments to super-max eligibility – changing the years for qualification, using Defensive Player of the Year instead of All-Star starter – obscured a minor tweak. The tracks now run together. A player can qualify with one Defensive Player of the Year and one All-NBA selection. He needn’t achieve two of one category.

So, Jazz center Rudy Gobert – who won won Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and made All-NBA this year – quietly became eligible to sign a super-max extension in the 2020 offseason. The extension’s highest-allowable value projects to be $250 million over five years. The first four years would follow the structure of the super-max Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are set to sign.

Newsflash: Gobert isn’t Lillard.

Gobert is elite defensively and underrated offensively. But paying him $50 million per year from ages 30-34 in a league overflowing with good centers? That’s a recipe for disaster for Utah.

But Gobert earned eligibility. That makes it harder for the Jazz to tell him they don’t deem him worthy. That tension is an unintended consequence of the super-max rules.

There is room for negotiation. In this case, Gobert’s designated-veteran-player extension must be for five seasons and have a starting salary between 30% and 35% of the 2021-22 salary cap. But his salary can increase or decrease annually by up to 8% of his first-year salary. The deal can be partially guaranteed.

Still, the lowest possible designated-veteran-player extension for Gobert projects to be $155 million over five years. If fully guaranteed, that’d be expensive for a player of his age. If not fully guaranteed, the Jazz would get savings only by waiving him, and that’d mean dropping the cheaper latter years.

Because he doesn’t have enough experience to qualify, Gobert can’t sign a super-max extension until the 2020 offseason. He met the award criteria, but a player must have seven or eight years of experience. Gobert just finished his sixth year. He’s also under contract for two more seasons – locked into salaries of $24,758,427 next season and $26,275,281 the following year.

So, there’s time to figure this out.

But this is the most uneasy super-max situation so far – unless Gobert just doesn’t insist on the money. Good luck with that.

Rumor: Wizards interested in Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey

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The Wizards struck out on luring Nuggets president Tim Connelly.

Washington’s next choice?

Ben Standig of NBC Washington:

As for the rumor mill, one name stands out: Neil Olshey.

Numerous sources told NBC Sports Washington of the Wizards’ interest in Blazers President of Basketball Operations

Olshey has done a good job in Portland. He drafted Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum then built a winner around those two after LaMarcus Aldridge left. Trading for and re-signing Jusuf Nurkic to a reasonable contract looks great. Olshey also overpaid Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe and Festus Ezeli, but many teams spent wildly in 2016. It was a weird summer.

The Wizards would do well to hire such a proven executive.

Would Olshey leave the Trail Blazers? Their ownership situation remains uncertain following the death of Paul Allen in October. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has demonstrated extreme loyalty to his executives.

Portland will also reportedly sign Damian Lillard to a super-max extension – a move that practically must be made, but one that carries massive downside risk. However, if he goes to Washington, Olshey would be trading uncertainty in Damian Lillard’s value on the super-max for certain negative value with John Wall on his super-max extension.

A couple years ago, Olshey signed his own extension through 2021. Maybe he’s ready to move on.

Or maybe he’s ready to use the Wizards as leverage for a raise.