The NBA is a star-driven league. Yes, it's still a team sport, but the teams with the most stars have dominated recently.
Over the past four seasons, it's been the Golden State Warriors against LeBron James' team in the finals, and James has made it there eight straight times overall. Now that James is in the Western Conference with a struggling Los Angeles Lakers squad, it'll be a shock if he makes it nine in a row.
The league may be top-heavy and even predictable come playoff time, but All-Star Weekend should still be a blast. And for the second year in a row, the All-Star squads were picked in a playground-style draft, with LeBron and Giannis Antetokounmpo as captains.
2019 NBA All-Star Game
When: Sunday, February 17, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
TV and Live Stream: TNT and TNTDrama.com
Western Conference Starters
LeBron James, F, Los Angeles Lakers
Kevin Durant, F, Golden State Warriors
Kyrie Irving, G, Boston Celtics
Kawhi Leonard, F, Toronto Raptors
James Harden, G, Houston Rockets
Western Conference Reserves
Anthony Davis, F, New Orleans Hornets
Klay Thompson, G, Golden State Warriors
Damian Lillard, G, Portland Trail Blazers
Ben Simmons, G, Philadelphia 76ers
LaMarcus Aldridge, F, San Antonio Spurs
Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Bradley Beal, G, Washington Wizards
Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat
Eastern Conference Starters
Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks
Steph Curry, G, Golden State Warriors
Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
Paul George, F, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kemba Walker, G, Charlotte Hornets
Eastern Conference Reserves
Khris Middleton, F, Milwaukee Bucks
Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets
Blake Griffin, F, Detroit Pistons
Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
D'Angelo Russell, G, Brooklyn Nets
Nikola Vucevic, C, Orlando Magic
Kyle Lowry, G, Toronto Raptors
Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas Mavericks
James and Durant Together
James selected Kevin Durant with the first pick, and KD has made it clear he no longer wants to be viewed as the league's second-best player.
"I'm tired of being second," he told Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins. "I'm not going to settle for that. I'm done with it."
The implication, of course, is that many basketball pundits still view 34-year-old James as the best player in the NBA.
Durant has been critical of James in the past, and he's hungry to prove he's the better player. Yet James didn't hesitate to scoop up his new conference rival at the top of the draft.
"What else is he supposed to do?" Durant asked of James' selection.
Realistically, the media would probably be reading more into this if James' first pick wasn't Durant.
A Knicks Preview?
Unsurprisingly, James also selected former teammate Kyrie Irving. James took him last year too, even after the Cleveland Cavaliers traded him the previous offseason.
What's interesting, though, is that Irving and Durant will be playing together, and there has been buzz about the two heading to the New York Knicks this coming offseason.
"Kevin Durant is going to the Knicks," one Eastern Conference executive told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today earlier in the season.
Meanwhile, ESPN's Marc Stein said the following on Stephen A. Smith's podcast: "The Knicks and the Nets, both New York teams, have believed quietly for a long time that they're going to have a shot at Kyrie Irving in free agency."
Durant and Irving have player options next season and will all but surely opt out. Perhaps both won't even strongly consider the Knicks, but fans can dream.
One Last Show for Wade
Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki were named as special roster additions and made up a two-player final round. James had the first pick, and Wade—a former teammate and close friend—was the obvious choice.
We'll almost certainly get a memorable moment between Wade and James, and this will likely mark Wade's last All-Star Game, as he's announced his intention to retire after the season.
However, one fellow All-Star thinks Wade might have another season or two in him.
"It seems like he's got a lot more in the tank," Steph Curry told reporters after playing the Miami Heat. "That's what I told him after the game."
Wade—a 13-time All-Star—still has his moments, and casual fans will get one last chance to see him in the spotlight.