2019 NBA Offseason Pickup All-Stars
The best part of the NBA offseason—other than the draft, free agency and some blockbuster trades, of course—comes when viral videos pop up of players adding ridiculous new moves to their arsenals or hitting 108 consecutive shots in some (slightly edited) footage.
These players are affectionately known as the offseason's pickup All-Stars.
Absolutely no rules exist when selecting these players. They could be established NBA All-Stars seriously adding important elements to their games, past-their-prime vets turning back the clock or even non-basketball celebrities temporarily looking like they belong in the league.
All are fun to watch. Almost none translate to the regular season.
Thanks to some conveniently located cameras, these are your 2019 pickup All-Stars.
Point Guard: Ben Simmons
Every summer, Ben Simmons works on adding a three-point shot. This summer is most definitely the one in which he finally does, right?
The Philadelphia 76ers' All-Star point guard was captured nailing pull-up threes in some open runs, shooting with confidence and little to no hesitation.
If this is indeed sustainable, Simmons could become one of the best players in the entire conference.
Already putting up 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.4 steals on 56.3 percent shooting last season, Simmons is indeed just a reliable jumper away from taking a gigantic leap. He made an All-Star team at age 22 without one, but he could permanently secure his spot on the Eastern Conference squad by becoming even an average three-point marksman.
As it stands, Simmons has yet to make a triple in the NBA, attempting just 17 of his 1,958 shots (0.87 percent) from outside the arc.
Even if the jumper isn't totally ready, we're likely to see Simmons fire away from deep far more often now that he's already secured a five-year, $170 million max contract.
A 6'10", 230-pound point guard who can already defend, pass and score from the inside now adding a long-range missile? That's one hell of a start for our offseason All-Stars.
Shooting Guard: James Harden
Already one of the most dazzling players to watch in the entire league, James Harden continues to expand his bag of tricks.
While it may be the combination of boredom and creativity, the 2017-18 MVP is now shooting fadeaway three-pointers off one leg. Seriously.
When you average 36.1 points per game, who's really going to tell you no?
Harden is coming off the seventh-highest-scoring season of all time, trailing only campaigns by Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. While he certainly didn't need to make any changes to his offensive game, pulling off a one-legged fadeaway would allow him to harness yet another unguardable shot.
For all the hate Harden can receive as a ball-dominant player, it's easy to forget he's averaged 8.4 assists over the past five years, including an NBA-best 11.2 in 2016-17. He'll gladly share the ball as needed, even if he can turn defenders into barbecue chicken at any moment.
Perhaps Harden should be dedicating his offseason to improving his overall conditioning and working on defensive drills. But let's be honest. Watching him shoot off one leg is way more fun.
A pickup squad starting with future three-point champion Ben Simmons and a flamingo-legged Harden?
Small Forward: J. Cole
Wait, Ben Simmons, James Harden and...J. Cole?
As previously stated, offseason pickup teams have no rules.
Cole has proved he can hang with NBA bodies in these open runs, showing some transition talent and the ability to splash a three when given space. It's not as if he magically transformed into a basketball player overnight, either.
Cole tried out and was cut from his high school team during his freshman and sophomore years, relying more on natural talent and less on developing his craft. It wasn't until his junior year that he finally started to ball out, as he told Sports Illustrated's Bryan Armen Graham in 2013:
"That was the first time I started working like a real basketball player: a thousand shots a day, sprints, minute drills, one-on-one full court with the star player on the team, every day, literally, for the entire school year then the entire summer. Then I also sprouted up to 6-foot-2. By the time next season came around, I made the team. By the time I was a senior, I was finally starting. I wasn't the star player, far from it, but my growth was so quick that by the time I was a freshman in college I had the talent of someone that should have at least been on the bench at a D-I school."
With talented passers like Simmons and Harden already on board, we'll need Cole's catch-and-shoot ability, a skill 135 seconds of phone footage definitely confirms he possesses.
Defense may be an issue, but this is a pickup team. Cole should fit right in.
Power Forward: Carmelo Anthony
Tired of seeing Carmelo Anthony, Hoodie Melo or "just lost 20 pounds" Melo destroy NBA players summer after summer when you know it won't translate to the regular season?
Yeah, me neither. You're damn right we're putting Anthony on the pickup All-Stars, even if it may be the last team he's ever a part of.
You get it all from summer Melo in these clips: the pull-up three-pointers, spin moves to the basket and contested mid-range jumpers that make coaches and analytics gurus cringe.
While some may claim Anthony's only shot to stay in the NBA is as a spot-up shooter and defender, you'll find absolutely none of that here. Melo is on a mission to destroy everybody in that gym, no matter his field-goal percentage.
At the very least, Anthony is showing teams he's in good playing shape and would be ready to attend training camp if called.
For now, we'll take Melo on a team with Simmons, Harden and J. Cole, making this one of the most entertaining squads around.
Center: Dwight Howard
On a pickup team loaded with scoring, we'll need someone to protect the rim and grab every rebound in sight. Someone like this summer's version of Dwight Howard.
While not technically playing any real pickup of note this offseason, a shirtless Howard did spend some time at Venice Beach throwing down dunks reminiscent of his time with the Orlando Magic.
Even though Howard claims to lose 20 pounds nearly every summer, this year's claim actually seems legit. He was listed at 265 pounds with the Washington Wizards last season and, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, lost 25 pounds and should be playing closer to 240.
He's 33 now, but it looks like the weight loss has added spring to his vertical as he shows no signs of the various injuries from previous years.
Who cares if the kid he's rejecting is half his height and just started the third grade? The instincts that made Howard a three-time Defensive Player of the Year are still there.
Howard should agree to play for our pickup squad at a reasonable price, as well. He's yet to see a dime from the Los Angeles Lakers and will only be making $14,490 every day he's on L.A.'s roster, starting on Oct. 21, per ESPN's Bobby Marks.
As will be the case with the Lakers, we'll need Howard to commit to a role of cleaning the glass and providing interior defense while limiting his shot selection to alley-oop dunks and nothing more.
Simmons, Harden, J. Cole, Anthony and Howard have all enjoyed tremendous social-media summers. If nothing else, their displayed skills should at least translate well to a fictional All-Star pickup team.