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Team Kevin vs. Team Shea: A 2019 NBA All-Star Game Draft

Picking this year’s rosters so LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo don’t have to

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Kevin O’Connor: Shea Serrano is my enemy, which is why when the editors asked me if I wanted to do a pretend All-Star Game draft column against someone, I said “Yes. Shea.” So this is the inaugural Team Shea vs. Team Kevin All-Star Draft. We’re going to draft the players in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game to determine who can assemble the superior team.

Our rules are the same as they will be for All-Star captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo when they choose their teams on Thursday. It’s simple:

  • We’ll alternate picks in each round, selecting from the pool of 24 players, regardless of their conference or position.
  • LeBron will get the first pick in real life since he was the leading vote-getter, and I think it makes sense to give Shea the first pick here since he’s old as hell, just like LeBron. Shea will select first in the first round (starters) and third round (legacy), just like LeBron will—since they’re both old as hell.
  • That means I’ll get the first pick in the second round (reserves).

Sound good, Shea?

Shea Serrano: No, Kevin, it does not sound good. Because what’s even the actual point here? What do you mean when you say, “We’re going to draft the players in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game to determine who can assemble the superior team”? How are we defining “superior”? Are we trying to create a team that can beat the other team in an actual game of basketball? Are we trying to create a team that is the most interesting philosophically? Are we trying to create a team that is the most chaotic? What are we doing here?

Kevin: The point of the actual All-Star Game is—well, uh, I’m not sure what the point of it is other than recognizing the game’s best players and entertaining fans. But you bring up a fair concern, so let’s give this exercise some structure:

  • The “superior” team will be determined using a standard head-to-head nine-category fantasy basketball scoring system.
  • Each team will be awarded a point for the following statistical categories: the most total points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals; the fewest total turnovers; the highest field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and free throw percentage.
  • If a player doesn’t play in the game, we will be awarded the points from his replacement.
  • The person with the most category wins is the champion.

Now are we good?

Shea: God, you are such a basketball nerd. You can pick your team based on your little nine-category fantasy basketball scoring system or whatever. I’m going to pick mine based on which players are the coolest and most interesting.

Kevin: Great. You get the first pick.

Shea: And we’re working under the premise that I already have LeBron on my team, right?

Kevin: Yes, and I already have Giannis. Are you ready now?

Shea: Well, if that’s the case, then I’ve already won this thing. Because no player in the NBA is as cool, or as interesting, or as influential as LeBron James. Also, I’m not calling my team “Team Shea.” You can keep yours as Team Kevin if you want, since you’re the one who came up with that. But I’m changing mine. We are no longer Team Shea. We have a new name now. A real name. A good name. Before I tell you it, though, I want you to click this video below and let it play for the full time. Wait until it’s done before you read the next sentence:

We are, heretofore, THE ALPHA OMEGA MURDER DOGS OF JUSTICE AND PAIN.

And you’re Team Kevin.

Lol.

Round 1: Starters

1. THE ALPHA OMEGA MURDER DOGS OF JUSTICE AND PAIN: Kyrie Irving

Since Anthony Davis isn’t available until the second round, and since the only thing I want from my team is to create some fodder to get the internet worked up, I’m asking LeBron to make sure our first pick is Kyrie Irving.

They’ve been separate for a year, and it’s clear that Kyrie misses having LeBron to lean on, and it’s clear that LeBron would like to have him alongside him in Los Angeles, and it’s also clear that Twitter and Reddit would go fucking nuts if it happened. So that’s the pick. Also, I’m going to ask LeBron to post something on Instagram after he picks Kyrie like, “It’s good to be back in the same jersey with Kyrie. We actually went out to dinner the other night and talked about things. We got some cajun food. Big things coming.” Let’s just go ahead and burn this whole shit to the ground immediately.

2. Team Kevin: James Harden

Kevin: How very considerate of you to leave us with a player who is out for blood this season: James Harden. This bearded fellow has scored 30 or more points in 26 consecutive games, and is averaging 36.3 points, 8.1 assists, and 6.8 rebounds. The most points in an All-Star Game is 52 (set by Davis in 2017) and for assists it’s 22 (Magic Johnson, 1984)—would it really be that much of a shock if Harden broke either of those records? It seems like after every Rockets win, Harden talks about how he wants to seize his place in NBA history and win another Most Valuable Player award. You can bet he’s gonna use every move he has to put on a show on the All-Star stage.

3. THE ALPHA OMEGA MURDER DOGS OF JUSTICE AND PAIN: Steph Curry

Shea: So just to be clear here: Your first pick in this thing where we each want to build a team that’s fun and exciting and entertaining is the guy who has pushed assists and ball movement to the edge of extinction? Oh, man. That’s the second-worst pick you could’ve made here, Kevin. (I’m not going to say who the first-worst pick is because I already know that you’re going to end up picking him.) I mean, look, sure: If we’re just talking about out-and-out best players in the league, then James Harden is somewhere up in that top three or four. But this isn’t that. This is a whole different thing.

If you want a scorer who’s got a chance at breaking that scoring record, you need a guy who turns into a full-on circus act when he takes over a game. You need a guy who can, almost instantly, turn an entire arena into his own personal hype section. You need a person possessed of such magic that his jumpers feel less like jumpers and more like compliments for your eyes. Who you should’ve picked was Steph Curry. That’s who I’m picking here.

4. Team Kevin: Kemba Walker

Kevin: I was thinking of taking Steph, knowing that you believe Harden is uncool, but I didn’t want to risk it. It’s also Steph’s homecoming in Charlotte, but the player representing the team hosting the All-Star Game is the one who usually gets heavy minutes and lots of shots—that’s why I’m picking Kemba Walker.

5. THE ALPHA OMEGA MURDER DOGS OF JUSTICE AND PAIN: Kevin Durant

Shea: That’s the first-worst pick, haha. And listen, it’s not that Kemba isn’t talented or exceptional, because he absolutely is both of those things. But the All-Star Game is about star power. Kemba, while a basketball nightmare, has the least star power of every other available starter here today.

Also, I don’t think James Harden is uncool. I’m very on the record about thinking he’s cool. It’s just that all the situations he’s most useful in (the most impressive of which being: starring on a team where he is responsible for creating everything and doing everything) do not apply during the All-Star Game.

Also-also, do you think Kemba Walker is more beloved in Charlotte than Steph Curry? There’s no chance.

Also-also-also, I was 100 percent sure you were going to pick Kemba Walker here, which is hilarious given that Kevin Durant, the most effortlessly lethal scorer the NBA has ever seen, is still available. Give me him. Give me the unguardable two-time Finals MVP and one-time league MVP while you take the …

[Checks info.]

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… the 2011 Big East Tournament MVP.

6. Team Kevin: Joel Embiid

Kevin: Enjoy your past accolades. They mean nothing in this exercise. My team is littered with try-hards who have the heart and hunger to make a statement on the national stage. Nobody tried harder in last year’s game than Joel Embiid.

Only two players have logged more than one block in the past five All-Star Games: Embiid and Draymond Green. Embiid can help win the blocks category, and not hurt elsewhere (he also had 19 points, eight rebounds, one assist, and one steal in last year’s game). Now I’m excited to see whether you take Kawhi Leonard, the player who stabbed you in the heart.

7. THE ALPHA OMEGA MURDER DOGS OF JUSTICE AND PAIN: Paul George

Shea: Nope. You can have Kawhi. Because you’ve once again made a mistake. Embiid will be fun in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, sure, but nobody turns on the All-Star Game to watch someone get a block or bang around down low. We watch it for the fireworks. We watch it for the show. We watch it for the theatrics. We watch it to see the guards go fucking bonkers. That’s why my final starter is going to be Paul George, a dark-horse MVP candidate and also a guy I can trust to show up to the game with an exceptional haircut, which is far more important than whatever dorky stat you’re going to try to use to justify picking Embiid above George. And that means this year’s last-place pick is ...

8. Team Kevin: Kawhi Leonard

Kevin: It’s Leonard who’s ultimately responsible for starting our rivalry. When the Spurs were on the playoff bubble last season, I wrote an article about how a potential rebuild was imminent. It was a warning to you, so you’d be prepared for a tough summer. The mere suggestion of the end of the Spurs dynasty divided us. It’s OK. Leonard turned his back on you, and now he’s going to help me defeat you.

Round 2: Reserves

Shea: So to recap here, your starting five is Giannis Antetokounmpo (a gem, but you defaulted your way into him so I’m not giving you credit for being insightful here), James Harden (perhaps the most polarizing superstar in the league), Kemba Walker (the only guy who, after you say his name, you have to say, “Yeah, man. Charlotte’s still in the NBA”), Joel Embiid (fun, but he’s never played more than 63 games in a season), and Kawhi Leonard (a highly skilled piece of cardboard). Meanwhile, my starting lineup is LeBron James (possibly the greatest basketball player to have ever lived), Kyrie Irving (the best ball handler on the planet), Steph Curry (literally the greatest shooter of all time), Kevin Durant (an unstoppable mega force), and Paul George (he has been a total bully these past few weeks). This is such a blowout, Kevin. As such, I’m instituting a new rule for the second round.

Rather than just picking one player at a time, we’re going to pick three players at a time. I’m doing it because the stakes are lower in this round and also I’m so far ahead of you already that I’d like to speed this thing up, same as how teams winning in a blowout sit their starters for the fourth quarter and don’t call any timeouts. Go ahead and make your picks.

9, 10, and 11. Team Kevin: Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard

Kevin: This is a bad decision for you, but a smart editorial decision. Anthony Davis is a no-brainer pick here. Don’t try to make me offer him to you via trade, either. Unlike in real life, he’s not available. The Lakers offered Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, and a first-round pick for Anthony Davis, according to Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner from the L.A. Times. I reported similar terms on Friday’s episode of The Ringer NBA Show, and I think if the Pelicans are able to siphon three or four first-round picks from the Lakers, it’d be a pretty dang strong haul. The Pelicans are expected to counter-offer early this week, the L.A. Times added. You didn’t get to pick him for LeBron here, but maybe by the time the All-Star Game is being played, they’ll be wearing the same uniform.

Russell Westbrook treats the All-Star Game like it’s the NBA Finals, so give me that guy. I’m taking Damian Lillard partially because I’m banking on you not taking the player I am hoping falls to my next group of picks. Don’t steal my guy, Shea.

12, 13, and 14. THE ALPHA OMEGA MURDER DOGS OF JUSTICE AND PAIN: Klay Thompson, Nikola Jokic, LaMarcus Aldridge

Shea: [In an extremely Kevin O’Connor voice] “The Lakers offered Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, and a first-round pick for Anthony Davis, according to Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner from the L.A. Times. I reported similar terms …” I’m blowing the doors off your car in this race and you’re talking about trade terms and cap space and whatnot, Kevin.

Klay Thompson has proved himself capable of getting hotter than anyone else in the league faster than anyone in the league, so let me go ahead and grab him off the shelf. Nikola Jokic is the most entertaining big man playing today, so I’d like to order a big glass of him. And I’m going to go ahead and take LaMarcus Aldridge because he has spent the past season and a half force-feeding me the slander I lobbed at him during his first season with my beloved Spurs.

15, 16, and 17. Team Kevin: Ben Simmons, Karl-Anthony Towns, Blake Griffin

Kevin: I’ll never forgive you for taking Nikola Jokic, my favorite 7-foot, 250-pound point guard. Late Saturday night, Jokic made this pass that was better than any pass Tom Brady or Jared Goff made during Sunday’s Super Bowl:

I’m disappointed in myself for taking Lillard over Jokic, but thankfully you left me with Ben Simmons, whose game is tailor-made to put up big numbers. Maybe Simmons will even attempt a 3-pointer. Towns and Griffin also fill the box score. I’m happy with this haul. Allowing me to select six of the first nine reserves wasn’t such a good strategic decision, Shea.

18 and 19. THE ALPHA OMEGA MURDER DOGS OF JUSTICE AND PAIN: Bradley Beal, Khris Middleton

Shea: First, you should get “I’m disappointed in myself” tattooed on your forehead like Post Malone. Second, so you looked at your roster, saw that you didn’t have more than two real threats from 3, and also saw that you already had four point guards, and were like, “Let me get Ben Simmons while I can”? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. This is like the first time I played Fortnite and I thought it’d be a good idea to hide in the storm because nobody else was there, except it’s you making picks. I’m taking Bradley Beal and Khris Middleton, two very underrated flamethrowers, and you can go ahead and have all the remaining players because this is already way unfair.

20, 21, and 22. Team Kevin: Kyle Lowry, Nikola Vucevic, D’Angelo Russell

Kevin: Everyone on my team except Giannis and Simmons can shoot 3s. It was wasteful to select players that would primarily only shoot 3s in the All-Star Game, such as Thompson, when categories like blocks and rebounds must be won. Your confidence has turned into cockiness and now you’ve fed me the final three players. I’m willing to give you one more chance if you’d like to change your mind, otherwise I will happily take all three.

Shea: Pass.

Kevin: Big mistake. This is over. Good night. You’re taking Dwyane Wade to close this out, I’m guessing?

Round 3: Legacy Picks

23. THE ALPHA OMEGA MURDER DOGS OF JUSTICE AND PAIN: Dwyane Wade

Shea: Correct. It’s a nice little bit of symbolism here that the final pick I get to make is me selecting the guy who had the most statistically dominant performance in an NBA Finals in the entire and whole history of everything. Wade’s 2006 showing was more dominant than anything Jordan did, and more dominant than anything Kareem did, and more dominant than anything Wilt did, and more dominant than anything Duncan did, and more dominant than anything Shaq did, and more dominant than anything Kobe did, and more dominant than anything LeBron has done.

24. Team Kevin: Dirk Nowitzki

Kevin: It’s a nice little bit of symbolism that the final pick I get to make is me selecting the guy who led a team to one of the greatest upsets in an NBA Finals in the entire and whole history of everything. Nowitzki’s past accolades with the Mavericks don’t matter though. Neither do Wade’s. What matters is that Nowitzki is a better 3-point shooter than Wade, and in the All-Star Game he will be fed open, efficient spot-up jumpers. Nowitzki was the key to defeating LeBron and Wade in the NBA Finals, and on Sunday, he will be the X factor to lead my team to victory over you, LeBron, and Wade. Get ready for an upset.

Shea: “It was wasteful to select players that would primarily only shoot 3s in the All-Star Game.” —Kevin O’Connor // “What matters is that Nowitzki is a better 3-point shooter than Wade, and in the All-Star Game he will be fed open, efficient spot-up jumpers.” —Kevin O’Connor, a handful of seconds later.

FINAL ROSTERS

THE ALPHA OMEGA MURDER DOGS OF JUSTICE AND PAIN: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Paul George; Klay Thompson, Nikola Jokic, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Khris Middleton, and Dwyane Wade.

Team Kevin: Who cares? (Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Kemba Walker, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard; Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, Karl-Anthony Towns, Blake Griffin, Kyle Lowry, Nikola Vucevic, D’Angelo Russell, and Dirk Nowitzki.)