Last night, the starters for the 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte were announced, and rather than me type them out, I'll just show you:
My initial reaction is that the NBA got it 100% right. Changing the voting format to a 50-25-25 split between fans, players, and media (respectively) a couple years back ensures that fans get to see their favorite stars while certain players can get rewarded for their first-half performances. If it was strictly left up to the fans, Derrick Rose and Luka Doncic would be starting in place of (MVP) James Harden and (MVP-candidate) Paul George; both scenarios would be equally absurd, and if that were to have gone down, the fans should've been stripped of their vote or had it weighted significantly less. Thankfully that didn't happen, and the media and players were able to effectively even it out. Aside from Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard, the NBA's top performers are going to be featured in the starting lineups, and both teams are littered with potential MVP candidates (Harden, Giannis, Kawhi, Embiid, George) and all-time greats. To make the weekend even more littered with legends, it's taking place in Charlotte, home of (the second-greatest player ever) Michael Jordan's Hornets. What are the odds LeBron gets MJ to do some kind of sit-down with him? Maybe an impromptu All-Star packed episode of "The Shop"?
Last season the NBA implemented an All-Star Draft in which the leading-vote getter from each conference was named captain, and the captains would select from a pool of the remaining starters and reserves to make up their respective teams. LeBron and Steph were the captains last season and did their draft behind doors. After outcry from fans about wanting to see the draft go down live, the league announced that this years' would be televised live on TNT (February 7). After becoming the highest vote-getters, LeBron and Giannis were named captains for the West and East, another win for the league. They're arguably the two most recognizable players in the NBA, and their international appeal is off the charts. Fans are going to turn on TNT in droves to watch this draft, and it's no-doubt going to be a mega-hit for the league and I'm sure it's going to become a mainstay. Good for Milwaukee, too, they're a small market team and this should bring more exposure to them, even though they've gotten so much more media attention between Giannis' emergence and the team's success.
On January 31, the coaches will select the reserves and fill out the remaining All-Star spots. There's so much speculation around who's going to get in and who's going to get snubbed, but that would require a hell of a lot of energy to figure out my picks right now, so I'll wait until the coaches do it. I will say this: as of late, D'Angelo Russell is quickly becoming one of my favorite players and he should be named an All-Star. The Nets are in playoff contention for the first time since the Paul Pierce-KG days, and they should be rewarded for being the 6th seed out East. Russell is really coming into his own as a leader and scorer, and the Nets should use some of their vast cap space this offseason to re-sign him; if they don't, somebody like the Suns will.
The speculation leading up to the reserves announcement should be fun for the next week, and with the way All-Star Weekend is shaping up, I'm actually excited to watch the Game for the first time in a few years.