NBA All-Star Weekend is just around the corner, and you know what that means: time to debate the validity of the all-star rosters! And this year is no different, with the added wrinkle that there is a legitimate argument to be made that the reigning, back-to-back MVP should come off the bench this year because half-human half-cyborg Russell Westbrook could average a triple double for the entire season.
But that’s part of what makes this season so fun. Even if All-Star Weekend isn’t your cup of tea -- even if you think the game itself is nothing more than a real-life NBA Jam -- the event itself gives us time to reflect on the season so far while taking stock of the current state of the league.
As a reminder, here are the real starters for this year’s All-Star Game:
EAST: Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo
WEST: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant
This is already a great crop of talent, and although they may all not be the top 10 players in the NBA, the ones who aren’t are very close (okay, well, maybe not you DeMar).
But what would the all-star starters look like if we used NBA 2K17 ratings? Excluding historical players, I sorted everyone by overall rating and, by using the same backcourt/frontcourt breakdown that the NBA used, here’s what your starters would look like:
By Overall Rating
EAST: John Wall, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo
WEST: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant
HONORABLE MENTION: Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving are tied with Wall as all three are rated 89 overall
Eight out of the 10 players remain the same -- nine, if you factor in the three-way tie. You can debate for hours on many different ratings within the game, but this goes to show that there is a method to the madness and that 2K spends a great deal of time ensuring players are properly rated.
2K’s West starting lineup is what we should have gotten in real life. And it’s not even that Steph doesn’t deserve to start -- it’s that Russ does. Plus, who wouldn’t like to see him share the court with KD for a couple of awkward minutes in the first quarter? And, hey, with James Harden in there, it’s a 2011-2012 Oklahoma City Thunder reunion!
The East is obviously more my opinion that John Wall should be the starter out of the three, and I’ll even go a step further in putting Thomas ahead of Irving in the three-player power rankings here. Regardless, you can’t go wrong here. Wall gives you the best defense out of the three, but these also happen to be three of my favorite to use in the game. Kyrie, for his ridiculous handles and deadly range. Wall, for his speed and ability to attack the basket. And Thomas, because playing with him is reminiscent of using Allen Iverson back in the day, but with much better range.
Now, let’s switch gears from traditional lineups. What if we made all-star teams based on other ratings within the game?
By Three-Point Shooting
For instance, let’s take a look at what the starters would be for each team using the 3PT grade in NBA 2K17. For these lineups, we are going to ignore frontcourt/backcourt designations and just go with the top five from each conference. Here’s where we land, with honorable mentions for those who are tied with the least-highest rated starter(s):
EAST: Khris Middleton, Jerryd Bayless, Kyle Korver, Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving
WEST: Stephen Curry, Joe Ingles, Danny Green, J.J. Redick, Mike Conley
HONORABLE MENTION: Steve Novak, C.J. McCollum, Nick Young
First of all, how did Klay Thompson not even make honorable mention? Aside from Steph, and probably Redick, it's hard to find anyone who shoots it better from deep in the West (especially when factoring in three-point makes over the last three years). There is certainly a case to be made that he's the second-best shooter in the league today.
Bayless is a curious inclusion here. It’s unclear why he’s rated so high in three-point percentage. He’s only played in a handful of games this year, and while he lit it up last year, his career percentage is 37 percent. That’s not a bad number, but it comes with just over 400 three-pointers made in his entire career.
Ingles is the other name that will raise some eyebrows. It would make sense for Klay and McCollum to be rated higher, but Ingles is at least shooting 45 percent from deep this season, his third in the NBA, and has gotten better each year -- starting with 36 percent his rookie year and 39 percent last year.
The starters from both conferences would definitely give us an epic three-point contest at All-Star Weekend. Curry, Redick, Irving and Korver would likely be the favorites to win it all. Although, I imagine Swaggy P would try to figure his way into the contest to try and snatch the crown from the NBA’s elite. He is Swaggy P, after all.
The East lineup is led by Kyle Korver. He is shooting 43 percent for this season and his career as a whole, which includes an incredible three-season stretch from 2012 through 2015 when he shot an incredible 47 percent from downtown. Lowry hovers around 36 percent for his career, but he’s shooting a career-best 42 percent this season. Irving and Middleton round out the lineup with career averages around 39 percent.
But overall, I think the West puts together a better lineup of three-point shooters. We’ve covered Steph, Ingles and Redick, but don’t sleep on Danny Green or Mike Conley. This is Green’s sixth season of a full workload (he took a combined 74 FGA his first two seasons), and excluding last year’s blip of 33 percent from long range, he’s shot 41 percent or better from deep each year. Conley is at 38 percent for his career, with a significant percentage boost coming from his 40 percent effort this year with almost six attempts per game.
The All-Star Game is famous for featuring all offense and virtually no defense. And while this has always been the case, it seems like over the past decade the players have figured out ways to play even less defense during All-Star Weekend. So what if we used NBA 2K17 to take the starting lineups in the opposite direction, looking only at defensive ratings?
For these two lineups, I took the two players with the best interior defense and three players with the best perimeter defense. Here is where we landed:
EAST: Al Horford, Andre Drummond, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, Avery Bradley
WEST: Marc Gasol, Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Allen, Chris Paul
HONORABLE MENTION: DeAndre Jordan, John Wall
As a Pistons fan, it breaks my heart to point out that Andre Drummond has an A+ grade in interior defense despite not really being a good defender. Drummond is a lot of things, but the anchor of good defensive NBA team is not one of them. Now, Drummond is one of the most athletic bigs the game has ever seen, so you could argue he absolutely has A+ potential defense (cut to Stan Van Gundy angrily nodding).
His frontcourt partner is a no brainer. Casual NBA fans might scoff, but Horford is well known in NBA circles as someone who can do it all despite flying under the radar. The rest of the lineup is rounded out with LeBron James (severely underrated as a defender, maybe because he takes many plays off in the regular season), Jimmy Butler (one of the best perimeter defenders in the game today), and Avery Bradley (ditto, though down a bit this season in that department).
The West clearly has an advantage here. Jordan shares an A+ with Gasol, hence his move to "honorable" mention. Draymond and Kawhi have had arguments for who is defensive player of the year for the past three seasons. Tony Allen has zero offensive game, yet has remained a constant in NBA rotations for his entire career, which goes to show you how good of a defender he is. Chris Paul is in the LeBron camp, where they are so good offensively that people overlook their efforts on the defensive end.
How fun would it be if the starting lineups featured the 10 fastest players in the NBA, regardless of position? I think it could be really, really fun? Here’s what that would look like:
EAST: John Wall, Derrick Rose, Kent Bazemore, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo
WEST: Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Durant, Andrew Wiggins
People might laugh at the injury-prone Derrick Rose’s inclusion here, but he was absolutely one of the fastest players in the league before injuries derailed his career. He’s clearly not the same player he was a few seasons ago, and definitely not as fast, but he is still pretty fast. Top 10 is debatable, but he’s not out of place here if we're going by the video game. Same with Bazemore. Fast? Absolutely. Top ten? Probably only when he doesn't have a ball in his hands.
As for LeBron, John Wall and Giannis? I could watch YouTube clips of these three, along with Westbrook, running fast breaks for hours on end. Throw KD and Wiggins in there and the court might explode from all of the heat.
Tyreke and Steph are certainly not at the top of my list when I think of fast players, but such is the case in 2K17. In short, this would be a fun game to see play out, especially if you turned fatigue off. Just make sure you put on a pot of coffee before you do.
What about you guys? What alternate all-star lineups can you come up with based on NBA 2K17’s ratings? Let us know in the comments!