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NBA All-Star Game 2018: Full Team LeBron vs. Team Steph Rosters and Predictions

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2018

LeBron James and Stephen Curry will captain opposing teams in this year's NBA All-Star Game.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry will captain opposing teams in this year's NBA All-Star Game.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Over the last two years, the All-Star Game has featured worse defense than a matchup of NBA 2K novices.

After scoring an absurd 196 points in 2016, the Western Conference ended the highest-scoring showcase in All-Star Game history with a 192-182 triumph. Nobody expects (or wants) a 79-75 snoozer like the 1953 exhibition, but how about a little defense? The trend is rapidly deteriorating; no team had ever cleared 160 points before 2014.

The NBA enacted some changes in hope of improving the annual contest. For the first time, conference loyalty will take a hike in favor of rearranged rosters drafted by captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry. As highlighted below, there's also more money on the line. 

Let's look at both teams and predict how these changes will impact next Sunday's All-Star Game in Los Angeles, California.

       

Team LeBron

Starters

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics

DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans**

      

Reserves

LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Goran Dragic, Miami Heat*

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons*

Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder*

Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets*

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers**

Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks**

John Wall, Washington Wizards**

           

Team Stephen

Starters

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors 

James Harden, Houston Rockets

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

     

Reserves

Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Al Horford, Boston Celtics

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

     

Note: * denotes injury replacements and ** indicates selected players who were replaced.

      

All-Star Game Predictions

Winning Bonus (Slightly) Increases Quality of Play

Klay Thompson and Paul George are now playing for a $100,000 winner's bonus.
Klay Thompson and Paul George are now playing for a $100,000 winner's bonus.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The All-Star Game is a half-hearted pickup affair played by the world's biggest stars, and that's just fine. Why should James treat a rare off weekend as a career turning point? Yet fans from every sport complain about All-Star exhibitions lacking a championship intensity despite watching the harmless fun anyway. 

In light of recent lackadaisical displays, the league will financially incentivize participants to play some defense. According to ESPN.com's Chris Haynes, each player on the winning team will receive $100,000 while everyone from the losing side will net $25,000.

Although a grand haul for just about anyone who isn't a world-class athlete, a skeptic will wonder if multi-millionaires will dismiss this payout as a penance. Perhaps not. All-Star guards Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson, who both have hopes of vying for a title later this year, told Haynes that the enhanced victory payout matters.

"That'll certainly make it more interesting," Irving said. "That's a huge difference."

"I think it will help, for sure. That's a lot of money," Thompson said. "It will definitely help."

Let's not go overboard and expect an intense showdown befitting the NBA Finals. The bonus, however, should prevent either squad from pushing 200 points and provide a noticeable fourth-quarter effort boost. 

       

Team LeBron Drama Steals Spotlight

Former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates Kyrie Iriving and LeBron James will play in the same All-Star Game lineup.
Former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates Kyrie Iriving and LeBron James will play in the same All-Star Game lineup.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Even if players bother standing in-between opponents and the basket, numerous viewers will still care more about a pair of former allies joining forces.

Anthony Davis scored 52 points last year, but his record-setting tally did not garner as much attention as Kevin Durant feeding Russell Westbrook an alley-oop. Since James selected both past MVP winners, the former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates will unite again.

With an injured DeMarcus Cousins unable to compete, Westbrook also represents the best candidate to slide into the starting lineup. A Durant-Westbrook collision course still wouldn't be the unit's most intriguing reunion.

Months after Irving pushed his way out of Cleveland, James drafted his former Cavaliers co-star. In an interview on TNT's Inside the NBA, James called the stirring selection an "easy choice":

NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT

"Important to have my teammate alongside me." @KingJames (#TeamLeBron) and @StephenCurry30 (#TeamStephen) break down their 2018 #NBAAllStar selections. https://t.co/mjFkv0HBTt

It's also possible he had no other choice. James and Curry divvied up the remaining eight designated starters before getting access to the reserves, so it's easy to see the Warriors superstar avoiding the only other starting point guard.

Fans may never know due to the NBA's unpopular decision not to televise the draft. Regardless of the process, will James and Irving have a moment like Westbrook and Durant shared in 2017?

Even if bad blood remains, four of the NBA's best players will still produce plenty of sparks.

      

Team Stephen Exploits Health Advantage

Harden and Curry will form a formidable backcourt against an injury-depleted Team LeBron.
Harden and Curry will form a formidable backcourt against an injury-depleted Team LeBron.Bill Baptist/Getty Images

A bigger problem for James' squad: Four of his picks—including Cavaliers teammate Kevin Love—have since suffered significant injuries.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver cared little about James' tactical size advantage when tabbing replacements. Despite losing Love, Cousins and Kristaps Porzingis, the captain received just one new big man in Andre Drummond.

An unnecessary rule also hurt his alternatives. Had the league realized that it was no longer necessary to contain swaps within the conference, Nikola Jokic or Chris Paul would grace James' bench instead of Goran Dragic.

No All-Star team since Mr. Burns' softball squad has suffered as many misfortunes. The string of bad luck has led onlookers to believe Team LeBron is cursed. While some fans would have liked to see Ben Simmons join the squad, Bleacher Report's Dan Favale joked about the rookie passing up the opportunity for his safety:

Dan Favale @danfavale

NBA: we're happy to say you've been named as an All-Star injury replacement to Team LeBron Ben Simmons: yeah i'll pass

Team Stephen, on the other hand, currently stands at full strength. That includes MVP favorite James Harden, an offensive maestro who could easily post 35 points and 10 assists in this environment if so inclined. The starting lineup also contains two young athletic anomalies in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid.

If properly motivated, the group is constructed to win. Thompson, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler and Al Horford offer defensive tenacity in games that count. While everyone fixates about the Celtics and Cavaliers, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have led the Toronto Raptors to a 38-16 record with the Eastern Conference's highest average point differential (8.1)

Injuries to Team LeBron erased his opponent's size woes. Curry and Harden will pile up the points early, but a healthier bench will make the difference in a tight victory. 

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