TNT’s Inside the NBA has been wildly successful for years because of the show’s perfect mix of talent. There’s the no-holds-barred candor of analyst Charles Barkley, the brilliance of Ernie Johnson Jr., the playfulness of Shaquille O’Neal, and the occasional salient point from Kenny Smith.
No topic is seemingly off limits, especially when Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook shoots off the top of the backboard or when talk turns to the San Antonio Riverwalk.
Occasionally, however, TNT’s crew misses the target on a topic it is trying to address.
TNT’s crew unveiled the NBA All-Star starters with just one surprising pick
TNT used part of Thursday’s broadcast to reveal the starters for the NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland on Feb. 20. Kevin Durant and LeBron James are the two captains who will draft the two teams. From the Eastern Conference, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Trae Young, and DeMar DeRozan were chosen as starters. Reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic, Stephen Curry, Ja Morant, and Andrew Wiggins will represent the West.
Wiggins was the biggest surprise selection in a vote where the results came from fans (50%), NBA players (25%), and NBA media (25%), according to NBA Communications. While Wiggins has been solid for the 36-13 Golden State Warriors, Chris Paul and Devin Booker had significantly stronger cases. Their fourth-quarter brilliance is a big reason why the Phoenix Suns sit atop the league at 38-9.
Charles Barkley and TNT’s crew agreed on some All-Star reserves, whiffed on a few others
TNT’s crew attempted to predict how NBA coaches will vote while filling out the All-Star rosters with the starters are announced next week. NBA coaches will pick seven reserves in the East and Western Conferences in the coming days. In a perfect world, the NBA will someday soon expand those rosters to 15 players on each side, but that’s a topic for another day.
On Thursday night, Charles, Kenny, Shaq, and Ernie agreed on many no-brainer picks from the two conferences.
The most agreement came in the Western Conference. The TNT group all picked Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Luka Doncic, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and new Inside the NBA addition Draymond Green.
In the East, there was less agreement. The group predicted that Cleveland point guard Darius Garland, Chicago guard Zach LaVine and Boston swingman Jayson Tatum should be in Cleveland.
The rest, however, is where the drama, silliness, and whiffs came.
Jared Jeffries? Kenny Smith has clearly ‘Gone Fishin’ with one of his All-Star reserves picks
It’s one thing to miss on a pick and leave a more deserving player off your All-Star ballot. It’s another matter altogether to nominate a player who hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since 2013.
That’s what Kenny Smith did when he jotted down former NBA journeyman Jared Jeffries instead of Memphis big man Jaren Jackson Jr. Naturally, the TNT crew had some light-hearted fun with the gaffe. Charles Barkley playfully said, “Jared was like, ‘I’m going to the All-Star Game.’ ^” Here’s to hoping that TNT brings Jeffries onto the set in Cleveland at the All-Star Game in a few weeks for what would be comedy gold.
Barkley also thought that Jackson Jr. should be in the NBA All-Star reserves for helping Memphis compile a 33-17 record. Karl-Anthony Towns was the final pick for O’Neal and Johnson.
In the East, Barkley and O’Neal wanted the feel-good story of the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers honored, and they included Jarrett Allen among their reserves. Smith and Johnson, however, opted for Charlotte leading-scorer Miles Bridges.
The TNT crew erred in failing to properly honor the Miami Heat, the leaders in the East with a 31-17 record. Tyler Herro, the leading candidate to win the Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player awards, was on three ballots, but O’Neal picked Domantas Sabots off the 17-32 Indiana Pacers. Smith left Heat superstar Jimmy Butler off to include Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball.
As for Brooklyn superstar James Harden, three analysts from the TNT team picked him to their reserves roster. Barkley wanted to acknowledge the stellar play of Toronto point guard Fred VanVleet (21.7 PPG and 7.0 APG), and put him ahead of Harden. Barkley’s disdain for the Brooklyn Nets allowing Kyrie Irving to be “Half Man, Half a Season” likely played into this decision. But not even Contrarian Chuck would take VanVleet over Harden if he were an NBA GM.
As usual, the TNT crew got it mostly right and agreed on several picks. However, there were a few whiffs, namely in how they failed to recognize the sustained greatness of a Miami Heat team deserving of at least two All-Star slots. All in all, that’s not so bad from a TNT crew that never fails to provide plenty of laughs.
Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.