For years, the NBA All-Star Game was a clash between conferences. The superstars of the East would go head-to-head with the West for ultimate bragging rights. But recently, the league scrapped that idea in favor of holding an All-Star Draft.
Although this will be the fifth year of the NBA All-Star Draft, there might be some questions as to how everything shakes down. From voting to team construction, just how will the All-Star Game process work leading up to the main event on Feb. 20 in Cleveland?
A combination of fans, players, and media select NBA All-Stars
Before you can have an All-Star Draft, you need All-Stars. Previously, the starters were chosen purely by fan vote, with coaches filling out the remainder of the roster. That process has been altered slightly.
Since 2017, fan voting has only counted for 50% of the player selection process. The players’ votes make up another 25%, with the final 25% awarded to media members. The voting begins on Christmas Day and lasts through the fourth Saturday in January, which this year is Jan. 22.
Once voting closes, the top-two backcourt players and top-three frontcourt players with the most votes in each conference will become All-Star Game starters. As for the rest of the roster, NBA coaches vote for the reserves in their respective conferences, selecting two guards, three frontcourt players, and two wild cards. They are not allowed to select anyone from their own team.
In the event of a tie, precedence will be given to the player with more fan votes. That happened last year with Western Conference voting after Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic was second in the fan vote and third among players and media, while Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard was third, second, and second respectively. Due to receiving more fan support, Doncic drew the start.
Two captains will select their teams during the NBA All-Star Game Draft
After the All-Stars have been announced, what’s next? Since 1951, the East and West met on the court for a thrilling exhibition. But in 2018, the league decided to shake things up.
Now, the top vote-getters from each conference serve as All-Star captains. When this experiment began five years ago, the captains were LeBron James and Stephen Curry. The two superstars alternated picks until all 22 All-Stars on the draft board were accounted for.
There is a process for how the draft selection goes. The two captains must pick amongst the eight starters (four from each conference) first. Once they are off the board, the coach-selected reserves are selected one at a time.
James has been a captain every year under the new format. The only other players to receive captain honors are Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo in both 2019 and 2020, and Kevin Durant last year.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant might be All-Star captains once again
With voting set to come to a close, All-Star rosters will be announced on short notice. That includes the captains, although we already have an idea as to who those might be.
Based on the NBA’s third and final voting returns, LeBron holds a slight edge over Curry as the West’s vote-leader. The Los Angeles Lakers star has over 6.8 million votes to Curry’s 6.0 million. While not insurmountable, it looks increasingly likely Team LeBron will exist for the fifth year in a row.
Out East, Durant and Antetokounmpo are in a neck-and-neck race for the captaincy. The Brooklyn Nets star has just under 5.5 million votes, while the Greek Freak sits around 5.1 million. DeMar DeRozan is the only other player remotely close, so it’s safe to say either KD or Giannis will serve as the other captain.
As far as starters go, all of the above players should be in the opening lineups in Cleveland. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid are two other players with healthy voting leads, leaving little doubt as to whether they’ll be starting or not.
Whether we see Team LeBron, Team Durant, Team Giannis, or whoever else, you will see an impressive collection of the best players the sport has to offer.