West Has Edge at the All-Star Game
The 2017 NBA All-Star rosters have been flooded with some of the most fun players the league has had in years. We will see the best of the best square off against one another in New Orleans this weekend.
East is Lacking
In the Eastern Conference, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving represent the defending champion Cavaliers. Kevin Love would have been there as well if not for a knee injury that will sideline him through the break and possibly all of March.
Partially due to Love's absence, the East is loaded but small. No centers made the roster at all. In the starting lineup, James and first-time all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo are the "big men." The other three starters for the East are all guards. James and Giannis are essentially point-forwards, depending on your vernacular. It will be fascinating to see how this lineup survives and whether coach Brad Stevens can even play it very long after the opening tip.
On the bench, there isn't much more size to turn to. The seven reserves are made up of four point guards and three forwards. Carmelo Anthony, Love's replacement on the team, has always balked at playing power forward for the New York Knicks. Now, on the All-Star team, he is the closest thing his squad has to a center!
Monstrous Out West
Steve Kerr's Western Conference team is much longer and bigger. His rotations will not be nearly as important, at least in terms of basketball execution.
The West team will be starting with two seven-footers in Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis, along with three other players with quality size for their positions. With all of Durant, Stephen Curry, and James Harden in the lineup, it will be impossible for the East to double or cheat in off anyone. Ball-handlers for the West are going to have free rein of the paint because of such excellent spacing.
When Kerr turns to the bench, whenever that happens, he has a number of interesting wrinkles at his disposal. He has four centers on his bench: Draymond Green, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, and DeMarcus Cousins. Three of those four have three-point range, with Jordan being the only exception. That means he can play a center (or two) and still space the floor on offense. The West is simply a massive roster compared to the East.
Kerr also has the biggest All-Star storylines waiting for him. He can play four Golden State Warriors players all at once, with whomever as the fifth option. He can play five big men at the same time, with Durant or Green initiating the offense. Most importantly of all, he can play Durant and Russell Westbrook at the same time.
If specific lineups could be wagered on, this pairing would be off the board on sports betting sites. This is the move everyone is waiting to see. Will Durant and Westbrook be reunited? If they are, what will happen? There are three possibilities for the way this rivalry can turn. First, it's possible nothing happens. The two guys are out there but just play normally. Boring! Second, they could bury the hatchet and make up. Westbrook could throw repeated lobs to Durant and vice versa. It would be a reconciliation live during the All-Star game.
The third option is the most entertaining. What if they refuse to play nice? Westbrook never passes Durant the ball, no matter the game situation. Durant refuses to set screens for his team's point guard. This could get really ugly and very fascinating.
All eyes are on the All-Star game Sunday night. Since playoff series are always multiple games, this is the NBA's only chance to have a singular marquee game involving its best players. How the two sides matched up and what happened with the West's chemistry will be what everyone is talking about during the season's second half.