After many years with the same format, the NBA is looking to change things up for its annual All-Star contest. The revamp won’t make any changes as to how a selected All-Star earns his spot in the game — ten players will be voted in by fans, players, and the media, while the coaches will still select the reserves — but then things get very interesting.
For the 2018 game in Los Angeles, the top two vote getters will be named captains of the two competing All-Star squads. They’ll then get to pick the players they want on their teams, without regard for conference affiliation. As the NHL discovered a few years back — go figure the NHL was first on something — having the players pick teams is a potent way to produce all kinds of fun.
But how, you naively ask. Well, if you’re going to pick players, that means someone, someone from the remaining 22 players in the game (besides the captains), will have to be picked last. Hoo boy, what drama.
For the Raptors, this could be trouble. Both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will presumably be in the discussion again for the All-Star game. Could either of them be picked last? An early guess: no. Both men got onto Team USA for the last couple international tournaments, which suggests a certain level of trust. And it feels, at a base level, like neither of them will be the quote unquote worst player in the game. (And if, say, LeBron is the “East” captain, don’t you think he’d let Kyrie sweat it out for a bit?)
In Lowry’s case, his ability to generate a great plus/minus, make others look good, and play the kind of sharp basketball that teammates love, should make him a shoe-in to avoid being the last man standing.
DeRozan’s case is modestly tougher. His game is more idiosyncratic, his place in the rankings of the elite slightly more insecure. I think most NBA players love DeRozan for being a cool, chill guy, and for also developing a footwork game that is the envy of the league (including players as significant as Kevin Durant). There’s also the strong LA connection at play here — DeRozan is a staple at workouts in the city, he was born and raised in Compton, and it feels unlikely his All-Star pals would hang him out to dry like that in his home town. We gotta believe!
In any case, we’re still a ways away from the 2018 NBA All-Star game, so we’ll table these concerns for now. Today, let’s just applaud the NBA and the Player’s Association for changing things up a bit and having some reckless fun.
And as an added bonus, both All-Star teams will be playing in the game for charity. Each squad will select a Los Angeles-based charity or national organization with donations heading off to help support their work and efforts. That’s cool.