2020 All-Star Game Preview: The Players
Photo via VAVEL

The NBA All-Star game has been a forever-long tradition dating way back to the 1951 season, a much simpler time for basketball. The Washington Capitols went bankrupt 35 games into the season, ‘Tri-Cities’ was still a franchise and the Rochester Royals were NBA Champions with just one All-Star.

Since then, many developments have been made in order to improve the game, more recently the inclusion of captains and the removal of the East v West but also an extension of the number of players in the game, up to 24 from 20.

This has been combined with the new rules that have been put in place just this year to honour the shockingly tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant. 

The All-Star game has truly reached a point where the entertainment  is inclusive of all NBA fans, even naming lockdown specialist Rudy Gobert as a reserve for those who are fans of incredible defense.

The All-Star game has always prided itself on the top level talent entering this event, and this year is no different, especially with offenses being better than ever.

The Coaches

Team Giannis- Nick Nurse (Toronto Raptors)

Even though Milwaukee have far and away the league's best record, Mike Budenholzer is ineligible to coach again after manning the bench in last year's game, but Nick Nurse is a worthy replacement without a shadow of a doubt.

Nurse has received a lot of praise in regards to his play-calling tactics, most famously in his team's come from behind win against the Dallas Mavericks, in which he used a high school tactic to overcome a 20+ point fourth quarter deficit.

The Raptors are currently sitting pretty as the second seed in the East, recently having won a 15th straight game on their way to having one of the league's most surprising win totals, at 40-14.

Team LeBron- Frank Vogel (Los Angeles Lakers)

The notion that Frank Vogel is undeserving of any praise in regards to the Lakers' success is built entirely out of spite and oversight, as Vogel is not only a great coach, but he is a perfect fit for the Lakers.

He has created a Lakers defensive unit which is impressively powerful and they are certainly no slouches offensively under his leadership. 

The Lakers have the best record in the West and second best in the NBA going into the All-Star break and they have established a serious title hope.

Team Giannis Starters

Point Guard- Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)

Second year sensation Trae Young is one of the players to watch at this year's game. Able to shoot from anywhere past half court, don’t be surprised to see the Oklahoma product throw up some usually ill-advised jumpshots that won’t look out of place in a game such as this. 

But as much as his shooting may bring back memories of a prime Steph Curry, his passing is just as great, cracking the NBA Daily Top 10 many a time with a pretty dime or an outrageous assist. 

He is a fan favourite for his flashy offensive talent, and even though his defense is impressively bad it is the case for many participants at All-Star Weekend. One thing's for certain, Trae Young is out to put on a show in Chicago.

Point Guard- Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)

Standing at just 6 feet tall, Kemba Walker was never meant to make it this far in basketball. But there is a point in which talent outweighs height and Walker has definitely reached that point.

His ball-handling skills are a downright blur as well as being one of the league's quickest players, meaning he can take almost anyone off the dribble with comfortable ease. While he may not have too many highlight reel ankle-breakers, watching him handle the ball live is borderline mesmerising and he will be putting his ability on full display tomorrow.

His insane shooting talents round out his offensive game nicely, but it should be noted that he becomes the second straight player who is a complete no-show defensively.

Power Forward- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

Incredible player, but a terrible GM has been the word going around in regards to Giannis, and the criticism does have some truth behind it. In saying that, it is unlikely that the All-Star Draft was of high priority for the former and likely future MVP.

It should go without saying that a 6 foot 11, 242 pound freak of nature is fun to watch, but his guard-like ball skills make him the most exciting person on whatever court he steps foot on.

He is the perfect modern combo forward who is practically unguardable when at his best, along with the ability to lock down the opposing team's best player on the other end.

Power Forward- Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors)

As 27th picks go, Pascal Siakam would be firmly in the upper echelon. After his MIP season last year, he has followed it up with an equally improved campaign which has taken the Raptors to even greater heights than in last year's regular season.

His explosiveness is oftentimes underrated when talking about his excitement factor, as he ignites crowds using his advantageous physical features.

His long arms and lengthy steps can create highlight plays and even simpler buckets which will be appreciated in the ASG.

Center- Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Even a down season cannot keep Embiid off of the All-Star starter list, as the two-way Center has had to struggle around a non-shooting lineup that still hasn’t truly worked out what their pecking order is.

His post play is unlike any others we have seen for a long time, with such a perfect blend of power and finesse. He has a smooth post jump-shot and 3-point range to go along with it, which could lead to some very interesting shot selection from the 7-footer.

He provides a very good defensive impact along with his offense, and his defense will prove key on Anthony Davis when it all comes down to it.

Team LeBron Starters

Point Guard- Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

Following a junior campaign which saw him named Rookie of the Year, Luka has more than surpassed his sophomore expectations, being firmly set in the MVP race and now having been named an All-Star starter for good measure.

Keep an eye out for Luka's inside game when watching, especially his floater, which has been one of the biggest reasons behind his growth. His flashy passing style may wow you, but the fundamentals behind his game can be even more beautiful to watch. 

Expect to see some long bombs from deep out of Luka, especially using his Harden-like step back. At just 20 years of age the Slovenian sensation will be a mainstay at All-Star weekend for years to come, and his first of many is an exciting prospect.

Shooting Guard- James Harden (Houston Rockets)

The league's leading scorer will look to spice up the event with his mega scoring prowess, hitting step backs and euro steps aplenty as he tries to prove he can function with other stars. 

But while his scoring is magnificent, he can pass as well, incredibly in fact. He is consistently on top of either the scoring or passing leaderboards, something that will continue for a fourth straight year this season.

Harden's defense isn’t too shabby either, especially defending big guys down low, something he has added to his game only recently.

Small Forward- Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers)

The reigning Finals MVP and 2 time Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) was an unsurprising selection for the starting spot in this year's contest as he continues to dominate the league with his unsmiling, robot-like energy.

’Board man', as he is aptly named, has terrorised opposing defenses by playing structured, emotionless basketball which has earned him another even more appropriate nickname, ‘The Terminator’.

His mid-range game is very prolific, and the structure comes with it's benefits, giving him a consistent finishing ability whenever need be.

Small Forward- LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)

King James needs no introduction. He has more All-Star appearances than the entire Eastern starting lineup, and it’s easy to see why. A 4x Finals MVP and 3x Regular Season MVP, LeBron has quite the resumé as his 17th season continues to roll along. 

One thing that hasn’t changed since his prime is his world-class finishing ability, still one of the best inside scorers in his age 35 season. The most interesting thing about LeBron's game has been his IQ and playmaking, which is at arguably the highest level of his career, even leading the league in assists through this point in the season.

LeBron will continue to produce the same type of All-Star show that he has for the last 16 straight years (which has included 3 ASG MVP's) in this year's event. 

Power Forward- Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)

One of LeBron's Laker teammates finishes up the starters, as Anthony Davis continues to impress as part of the Lakeshow, developing great chemistry with LeBron.

Described as a 7 foot Point Guard by many pundits due to his ball skills and ability to run an offense, Anthony Davis will leave you breathless with some of his plays for someone his size, especially his ferocious dunking ability and his three point shot.

His DPOY level defense has the ability to turn the game on it’s head, perhaps even more than his offensive game.

Team Giannis Reserves

Point Guard- Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)- 19.6 points, 7.6 assists

Don’t let the stats fool you, Kyle Lowry is All-Star worthy as a result of his unmatched heart and drive which has been a key to the Raptors success.

Shooting Guard- Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)- 24.3 points, 4.3 assists

The newly-discovered mid-range maestro makes his first All-Star appearance, and Mitchell having free creative license with his dunks isn’t something you want to miss.

Small Forward- Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)- 20.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists

Again the stats do not portray it, but Butler could’ve easily been a starter, leading the Miami Heat to a surprise season under his tutelage.

Small Forward- Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)- 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds

Giannis' sidekick Khris Middleton has the ability to get hot in an instant, as demonstrated by his 51-point outing with Giannis in street clothes not too long ago.

Small Forward- Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans)- 24.9 points, 6.4 rebounds

Ingram has been revitalised after being traded to the Pelicans, and has earned himself an All-Star appearance due to his much improved shooting abilities.

Power Forward- Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)- 15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists

In his first chance to be a starter, Adebayo has flourished, especially developing a playmaking knack and furthering his inside scoring.

Center- Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)- 15.6 points, 14.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks

The defensive menace Rudy Gobert is not someone you would expect to be in an All-Star game, but it is fully deserved, as the two-time Defensive Player of the Year has had a great season.

Team LeBron Reserves

Point Guard- Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)- 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 2.2 steals

The 6 foot 10 Point Guard is one of the most exciting players to watch, as although he doesn’t shoot, his ball skills and passing are incredible for his size.

​​​​​​​Point Guard- Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder)- 17.4 points, 6.7 assists

The 'Point God' as he is suitably nicknamed, has had an impressive season as the league's most clutch player along with one of it's most impactful ones.

​​​​​​​Point Guard- Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)- 29.5 points, 7.9 assists

It is a terrible shame that Lillard got injured before this event, as not only do we miss out on an All-Star performance from him, but the best scoring stretch of his career is halted.

Point Guard- Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)- 27.2 points, 8 rebounds, 7.2 assists

The former MVP has teamed up with James Harden in Houston, and while it was shaky at first, Westbrook has bounced back and looked like his MVP self over recent weeks.

​​​​​​​Shooting Guard- Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)- 26.4 points, 6.3 assists

Replacing Damian Lillard in the game is Suns star Devin Booker, who is one of the brightest young scorers in the league with an ability to score form all three levels.

Small Forward- Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)- 22.4 points, 6.9 rebounds

Tatum has finally taken the step that we all knew he could take, earning his first All-Star appearance with his buoyant scoring and leadership.

Power Forward- Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers)- 18.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists

Sabonis has taken a large jump since his sixth man role last year, getting many more minutes to work with and capitalising on them with great production.

Center- Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)- 20.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists

Jokic bounced back significantly after a poor start to the year, even eclipsing a lot of last season's production as he leads the Nuggets' charge in the West.

 

With all these superstars playing on one court, it’s no surprise the ASG gets 7 million viewers a year. Whether you’re watching for the stars or the highlights, there is plenty of entertainment for everyone.

VAVEL Logo