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Even at just age 29, James Harden is slowly becoming part of the "old guard" in the NBA.
Even at just age 29, James Harden is slowly becoming part of the "old guard" in the NBA.
Photo by Eric Sauseda

The Easy Fix To Make This the Best NBA All-Star Game Ever

The 68th edition of the NBA All-Star Game is coming up on Sunday, February 17, but perhaps even more highly anticipated than the game itself is the second edition of the playground-style draft of all of the players named to the All-Star team, which this year will be, thankfully, televised.

Credit NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who clearly heard the outcry from fans over NBA players being wussified enough to want to keep the draft private. They kept it private last year, and yet the results still partially leaked out, including which players were taken the latest in said draft. So if it's going to leak out anyway, why not televise it and make a buck?

I have no idea what the television execution is going to look like, but if there aren't cameras on individual players throughout the process (so I can see Russell Westbrook looking super salty, if he slides to the middle of the reserve portion of the draft), then the league is doing it wrong.

The change to the format of the game, from simple East versus West to the players being named to the game by conference then thrown into two pools — starters and reserves — for selection by the two captains (the two leading vote getters, Giannia Antetokounmpo and LeBron James), was done to add some juice and effort to a game that had turned into a glorified walk-through-with-dunks. It seemed to work last season, as the defensive intensity was noticeably better than the previous few iterations of the game.

However, I have an idea that I think could take the effort to a whole new level later this month, and it's spawned from the age range of the starters for both sides. For reference purposes, here are the two groups of starters as selected by fans, players and media:

EASTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS
Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, MIL (captain)
Kawhi Leonard, F, TOR
Joel Embiid, C, PHI
Kemba Walker, G, CHA
Kyrie Irving, G, BOS

WESTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS
LeBron James, F, LAL (captain)
Kevin Durant, F, GSW
Paul George, F, OKC
James Harden, G, HOU
Steph Curry, G, GSW

As you may or may not notice, the West is made up largely of older players and the East is made up of younger players. In fact, there is a clear delineation between the two starting units — the starters for the West were all drafted in or prior to 2010, and the starters in the East were all drafted in or after 2011. So we have an "old blood" versus "new blood" thing working!

Trust me, if you've spent any amount of time on Twitter, then you know nothing motivates us old folks more than putting young whippersnappers in their place! So let's get both captains to agree to keep the starting lineups exactly as they are. That's easy.

Now, the two captains need to pick the reserves, so here are the reserves selected to the game, along with the year in which they were drafted:

EASTERN CONFERENCE RESERVES
Ben Simmons, G/F, PHI (2016)
Khris Middleton, G, MIL (2012)
Nikola Vucevic, C, ORL (2011)
Bradley Beal, G, WAS (2012)
D'Angelo Russell, G, BKN * (2015)
Kyle Lowry, G, TOR (2006)
Blake Griffin, F, DET (2009)
Dwyane Wade, G, MIA ** (2003)

WESTERN CONFERENCE RESERVES
Nikola Jokic, C, DEN (2014)
Russell Westbrook, G, OKC (2008)
Klay Thompson, G, GSW (2011)
Damian Lillard, G, POR (2012)
Anthony Davis, F/C, NOLA (2012)
LaMarcus Aldridge, F, SAS (2006)
Karl Anthony Towns, C, MIN (2015)
Dirk Nowitzki, F, DAL ** (1998)

* Russell was selected as an injury replacement for Indiana's Victor Oladipo.
** Wade and Nowitzki were added to their respective rosters on an exemption from Adam Silver, with both presumably retiring after the season.

Ok, so now we need to divide these reserves up so there are eight on each side, with the old blood on Team LeBron and the youngsters on Team Giannis. Let's start with the obvious Team LeBron additions — Nowitzki (1998) and Wade (2003) are older than dirt compared to most of the guys in this game. They are clearly Team LeBron. The other obvious ones for LeBron are Lowry (2006), Griffin (2009), Westbrook (2008), and Aldridge (2006).

We need two more on Team LeBron to even out the sides, so since the 2011 draft is sort of the dividing point, let's add the two 2011-drafted reserves — Nikola Vucevic and Klay Thompson — to that team. It's appropriate enough in that Thompson, with three rings, feels more like an "old guard" guy, and honestly, who cares about Vucevic?

So, my solution for maximum effort exerted in the NBA All Star Game is the following alignment with the two rosters:

TEAM GIANNIS STARTERS
Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, MIL (captain, 2013)
Kawhi Leonard, F, TOR (2011)
Joel Embiid, C, PHI (2014)
Kemba Walker, G, CHA (2011)
Kyrie Irving, G, BOS (2011)

TEAM GIANNIS RESERVES
Ben Simmons, G/F, PHI (2016)
Khris Middleton, G, MIL (2012)
Nikola Jokic, C, DEN (2014)
Bradley Beal, G, WAS (2012)
D'Angelo Russell, G, BKN (2015)
Karl Anthony Towns, C, MIN (2015)
Damian Lillard, G, POR (2012)
Anthony Davis, F/C, NOLA (2012)

TEAM LeBRON STARTERS
LeBron James, F, LAL (captain, 2003)
Kevin Durant, F, GSW (2007)
Paul George, F, OKC (2010)
James Harden, G, HOU (2009)
Steph Curry, G, GSW (2009)

TEAM LeBRON RESERVES
Russell Westbrook, G, OKC (2008)
Klay Thompson, G, GSW (2011)
LaMarcus Aldridge, F, SAS (2006)
Dirk Nowitzki, F, DAL (1998)
Kyle Lowry, G, TOR (2006)
Blake Griffin, F, DET (2009)
Dwyane Wade, G, MIA (2003)
Nikola Vucevic, C, ORL (2011)

Bam. Old lions versus young lions. Thank me later, Adam Silver.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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