Commence the hand-wringing.
Every single NBA season the fans vote for the All-Star Game starters, and every single NBA season there is plenty of complaining to go around about said vote.
Which starting lineup is better?
This year’s biggest red flag among the fans’ selections was the inclusion of Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference starting lineup. It’s not that Bryant isn’t an All-Star caliber player, but he has played a whopping total of six games this season.
While it is easy to criticize Bryant’s inclusion, at the end of the day the All-Star Game is simply for entertainment purposes. Pau Gasol told Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles why he doesn’t see an issue with Bryant as a starter:
Pau on the Kobe All-Star conundrum: "Kobe's Kobe. There's only one of him and people want to see him."— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 24, 2014
The rest of the starting lineups that will be joining Bryant are as follows:
The eastern conference All-Star starters! pic.twitter.com/AioSFzIu69— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) January 24, 2014
The western conference All-Star starters! pic.twitter.com/6TZGdB8WxV— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) January 24, 2014
The game doesn’t actually mean anything for the 2013-14 season at large (wouldn’t it be ridiculous if the All-Star Game decided something like home-court advantage in the NBA Finals?), but the players will still want to win against their talented peers.
With that in mind, what’s the biggest advantage each lineup has over the other?
Eastern Conference: Explosiveness and Athleticism
Perhaps the fans knew exactly what they were doing when voting for the Eastern Conference All-Stars.
All-Star Games are supposed to be about entertaining the crowd, and the East's starting lineup will do just that. All five players in the rotation are more than capable ball-handlers, can shoot the three and blow past their defenders off the dribble.
Oh yea, they can dunk too.
A dunk contest between LeBron James, Paul George, a healthy Dwyane Wade and even Carmelo Anthony would be worth the price of admission alone. They will have Uncle Drew himself in Kyrie Irving leading them in transition and ideally throwing up alley-oops all game. There will undoubtedly be plenty of SportsCenter-worthy highlights coming from this East roster.
The Western Conference starters are going to have serious trouble keeping up with the horses on the East side.
Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant won’t necessarily struggle with the athleticism on the floor (working under the giant assumption that Bryant actually plays), but Kevin Love and Blake Griffin might. Sure, Griffin is one of the most athletic players in the league, but he doesn’t have the speed that the Eastern Conference starters do.
Look for transition baskets all game for James and company.
Western Conference: Size and Shooting
The flip side of all that athleticism for the Eastern Conference is the lack of a single true big man in the starting lineup.
The Western Conference won’t be as equipped to exploit that as it would have with Dwight Howard starting, but Love, Griffin and perhaps even Durant (as long as he isn’t matched up against LeBron) will have size advantages down low.
That means that the West should theoretically enjoy a large rebounding advantage, especially with Mr. Double-Double himself in Love racking up boards. Love was thrilled to be included in the starting lineup, as he told ESPN:
I was hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, and knowing the worst was I was going to still probably end up in the All-Star Game (as a coach's pick) and represent the West and the Wolves and the Twin Cities. Right now, I'm very happy…It means a lot. It doesn't go unnoticed. The fans have been so great this year not only to me, but to the rest of the team. Everybody's had my back and had the team's back so much. It really means a lot.
The post game will also be an option, although, let’s be honest—there isn’t going to be much backing down on the block at an All-Star Game.
That is why the most pertinent advantage the West has is its shooting.
That’s not to suggest the East can’t shoot because those five absolutely can, but with Durant and Curry in the same backcourt the West can put on a three-point show all game.
Durant has been an absolute scoring machine since Russell Westbrook went out with injury, and Curry may be the best pure shooter in the entire NBA. If one or both gets hot, it will be difficult for the East’s lineup to keep up even with all the transition opportunities that should be available.
Even Love is a capable three-point shooter.
With both teams holding different advantages, incredible offensive firepower and the lacking defense that we always see in All-Star Games, expect plenty of points to go around. We wouldn’t have it any other way.