If someone was in a coma for the last month, and you told them about the roster shakeups in the NBA, they simply would not believe you.
Kawhi Leonard is on the Clippers with Paul George? Kevin Durant is on the Nets with Kyrie Irving? Kemba Walker is on the Celtics? Russell Westbrook is on the Rockets?
The league has never seen player movement in an offseason like this before. With players traveling from one conference to another, teaming up with other stars, will the 2020 NBA All-Star game look different from previous years?
Guard: Kyrie Irving – This is a no-brainer. Irving will take the place of D’Angelo Russell in the Nets offense. Russell ran the second-most pick-and-rolls as the primary ballhandler in the entire league, so expect to see Irving running similar types of actions in which he can look to score or make a play for his teammate. With the absence of Kevin Durant for the entire season, the Brooklyn Nets are Kyrie Irving’s team. He will shoot 20 shots per game for the first time in his career and put up MVP-caliber scoring numbers on the board. The ball will be in Irving’s hands in crunch time with the whole world watching him in his new uniform.
Guard: Kemba Walker – Walker is going to have a solid season. Under Brad Stevens, he is going to get different looks than he got in Charlotte. He is going to have the ball less on offense and should see more catch-and-shoot opportunities next to Jayson Tatum and Al Horford. Despite his lowered usage rate, Walker will still be a 25-points per game scorer. He will lead the Celtics to a mid-tier seed in the East, starting in the All-Star game for the simple fact that there is a lack of talent at the guard position in his conference. Loved by fans and other players, Walker will start in his fourth All-Star appearance.
Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo – Well, duh. This is the reigning MVP of last season, in which he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. He could very well put up the same numbers next season and win back-to-back MVPs. What more needs to be said?
Forward: Jimmy Butler – Similar to Kemba Walker, Butler makes the starting cut simply because of his big name and the lack of talent in the East. While someone like Pascal Siakam or Khris Middleton could be more deserving, Butler has gained respect from fellow players and the media over the years, propelling him forward past other candidates. He will also put up bigger numbers than last year, without the likes of Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid taking touches away from him. We could see the return of the 2016 Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler, when he was the main option, scoring 23.9 points per game on a career high 16.5 shots per game.
Center: Joel Embiid – Joel Embiid is a sleeper candidate for the MVP next season. He is the first scoring option on the 76ers, a team with a ridiculously high ceiling both offensively and defensively. He averaged a double-double last season and will do the same again. Embiid will average more post touches a game than his previous three season, especially with a solid passer in Al Horford added to the team. He has also loved by fans, mostly for his humour Twitter personality, but has earned the respect of media members and his fellow players. He is a shoo-in to start in the All-Star Game.
Coach: Brett Brown – The Raptors have lost Kawhi Leonard. The Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic. The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. The top seeds in the East all got worse, except for the Philadelphia 76ers, who added Josh Richardson and Al Horford. If Philadelphia get off to a good start, they have a great chance of being the number one seed in the East, leading Brett Brown to coach in the All-Star Game.
Snubbed: Julius Randle – Enes Kanter called number one pick Zion Williamson “Julius Randle with hops.” He said it scornfully, but Kanter seemed to forget that Julius Randle is a very good player. Randle is coming off a career year in which he averaged 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game on 52.4 percent shooting from the field. Now, he will play in the Mecca of basketball at Madison Square Garden, where he is the best player on the Knicks roster. Randle will put up the numbers to make the game but will ultimately lose out on his first All-Star appearance because his Knicks will be in the race for the worst team in the league.
Guard: Stephen Curry – We have a chance to witness the real Stephen Curry again. Not the Curry that passes the ball to Durant in crunch time, but the Curry that won back-to-back MVPs. With Klay out for the first part of the season and a weak Warriors bench, it is going to be the Stephen Curry show in the Chase Center. He could average 30 points per game next to D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green.
Guard: James Harden – James Harden led the league in scoring last season for a reason. The whole Houston Rockets offense was tailored to fit his style, letting him isolate all game long against his opponents. Russell Westbrook will change some of that. Maybe he changes a lot of that and the Rockets struggle as a team. That won’t stop Harden from getting his shots up and putting up big numbers, regardless of the team’s struggles. He makes the starting cut, whether the Rockets are atop the West or spiraling out of control.
Forward: Kawhi Leonard – The reigning Finals MVP is a shoo-in to start in the All-Star Game. In his new Clippers threads, next to his fellow California native Paul George, Leonard will lead the Clippers to fight for the top seed in the West. Leonard has proven all he needs to prove. He has ended two dynasties. The weight is off his shoulders, and he can go out there and just play basketball and win games.
Forward: LeBron James – You knew this was coming. He’s going to be 35 and shows no signs of slowing down. James is going to average his 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists while in the spotlight in Los Angeles. With Anthony Davis at his side, he will lead his Lakers to be in the top-tier of the West. Not to mention, the fans love him. The media is amazed by him. The players respect him. Of course, LeBron James will start in the All-Star Game.
Center: Nikola Jokic – This was a tough decision. Will Nikola Jokic get enough of the fan vote to beat out the likes of Anthony Davis, who will shine in LA next to LeBron James? Ultimately, Jokic will lead the well-rounded Nuggets to the top seed in the West, putting his name in the MVP conversation. He may not look the part, but Jokic can be the first option on a championship team, with the ability to score down low but make creative passes to open teammates. He will average close to a triple double in the 2020 NBA season.
Coach: Mike Malone – The Nuggets are the most dynamic team in the West. They can score from the three-point line down to the basket, in transition or in the half court. They can lock you down on defense with the likes of Paul Millsap and Malik Beasley. They have the superstar in Jokic and the sidekick in Jamal Murray. The Nuggets also have a solid bench with a possible future star in Michael Porter Jr. Mike Malone made few changes to his team. They know each other and don’t have to adjust to each other, leading the team to sit atop the West at All-Star break.
Snubbed: D’Angelo Russell- With Klay Thompson out for a majority of the season leading up to the All-Star break, Russell will get a lot of touches. When Curry sits, Russell will be the focal point of the offense. He won’t make the cut simply because the West is too talented. There are almost twenty players in just the West you could make a case for. Russell will play well enough, and the Warriors will be in a playoff team. But he will be seen as Stephen Curry’s sidekick and nothing more.