The traditional Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format has been scrapped for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game.
This time around, leading vote-getters (and team captains) Stephen Curry and LeBron James picked their squads in a playground-style format from the pools of players selected to compete in this year's contests.
Therefore, it will be Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen on Sunday. Here's a look at the TV schedule, latest odds, rosters and predictions.
The 67th NBA All-Star Game begins at 8 p.m. in the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. TNT will televise the event, with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
Per Stephen Campbell of OddsShark, Team LeBron is a 3.5-point favorite, with an over/under total of 346 points.
Team LeBron Roster
Dwane Casey, Toronto Raptors
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans#
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**
**injured, will not play
#injured, replacement starter not announced
Team Stephen Roster
Mike D'Antoni (Houston Rockets)
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
James Harden, Houston Rockets
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
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
The NBA All-Star Game has always been a high-scoring affair, but in recent years, defense has become optional (or completely non-existent) as the game was treated as a glorified dunk and skills contest.
This trend was no more obvious than in 2016 and 2017, when the Western Conference scored 196 and 192 points, respectively, in high-scoring victories over the East.
The game sorely needed a revamp following that last contest, so the game moved to a new format. Furthermore, players have an added incentive to win, as the winners will each receive $100,000 (up from $50,000 last year). Losers won't go home too unhappy thanks to their $25,000 checks.
The logical response is whether players who have multi-million dollar contracts and endorsements would go hard for an extra $50,000. However, reaction to last year's All-Star Game was less than positive, and an extra $50,000 isn't an easily ignorable figure, even for millionaire players.
For his part, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal believes that the extra money will incentivize All-Stars to tighten up on defense, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington:
Boston Celtics big man Al Horford also thinks that the game will be different this time around, per ESPN's Chris Haynes (h/t Scott Sargent of Bleacher Report): "I think guys will definitely take the game more seriously. In the last couple of years, the games haven't been good, and we're all aware of that...I think guys are going to come out and compete...we're going to be diving for loose balls out there."
Ultimately, the combination of pride and extra money should be enough to turn this game into a more competitive affair on both ends of the floor. It's hard to fathom this game taking a complete 180-degree turn (i.e. tough defense for 48 minutes and a game closer to an NBA norm of 200-plus total points rather than near 400), but expect better play this year.
As for the winner, Team LeBron looked to have the significant edge after the rosters were revealed in January. The reasons are numerous, but the fact that they had 2016-17 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook coming off the bench is the biggest one.
Otherwise, it would have been hard for Team Steph to defend James, 2013-14 MVP Kevin Durant and the monster New Orleans Pelicans frontcourt of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
However, Team LeBron players suffered a rash of serious injuries in the weeks leading up to the All-Star Game. Cousins and New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis suffered season-ending leg injuries, Cleveland Cavaliers Kevin Love suffered a broken hand and Washington Wizards point guard underwent a knee scope.
Their replacements are certainly talented in their own rights, but it's hard to consider Team LeBron a heavy favorite.
That being said, look for James' team to come away with a close victory. Any lineup that features James, Durant, Westbrook and Anthony Davis is going to be near-impossible to stop. Team Steph's reserves are deeper than Team LeBron's, and it's possible that could be the difference if Curry's squad ends up winning here.
However, the bet is on James' side to take the victory in what will prove to be a successful and lasting format change.
Score: Team LeBron 155, Team Curry 150