The Only Guide You’ll Need for March Madness 2018

773b17629f714a1b80f19b999bd9faa4-220px-2018_ncaa_mens_final_four_logoHere we are at the end of another college basketball season. Or the start, depending on your level of commitment. I won’t judge. Not too hard, at least. Either way, the NCAA Tournament is starting tonight. Yes, the play-in games count. What better way to warm up? Diving in to the deep end of basketball heaven on Thursday without whetting your appetite first is dangerous to your health. Without prior exposure, getting hit with the same four commercials all day can bury you. You can get used to tuning in to TruTV, even though Tournament games have been on TruTV for at least six years now, so you’re really a giant idiot if you have to ask what TruTV is in 2018 (instances like this make me wonder if I’m the weirdo for retaining information and knowing every channel I’ve ever tuned into). You can slowly expose your body to the terrible food and drinks you’ll endlessly consume over the long weekend. The First Four are a necessary step in the March Madness process, regardless of how bad the games wind up being.

Last year, I gave you a rundown of all 68 teams in the field. Everything you needed to know in one sentence. Why change anything now? Unlike the selection show executives, I see no point in messing with a winning formula. I’m here to guide you in your bracket creation. Need a refresher on who’s in the field? Forget who’s good? Stuck on a pick and need some inspiration? Look no further. With UConn sitting at home for a second straight year, my thoughts on this year’s field are unclouded by bias. It’s time to attack the bracket with a zeal unknown to mankind in pursuit of perfection. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

East Region

  1. Villanova– If Big East games weren’t stuck on FS1 I bet more people would respect Nova.
  2. Purdue– Imagine thinking Purdue was going to do anything in the tournament?
  3. Texas Tech– They’re my annual “All-In on a random team” team, which means they’re out in the first round.
  4. Wichita State– In 2018 PC culture, the fact that Wichita State is able to remain the Shockers is absolutely astounding.
  5. West Virginia– Huggins is making the Final Four this year, I can feel it in my bones.
  6. Florida– Honestly don’t think I watched one second of Florida hoops this season.
  7. Arkansas– Honestly don’t think I watched one second of Arkansas hoops this season.
  8. Virginia Tech– It’s divine March Madness law that Virginia Tech play in the 8-9 game every year.
  9. Alabama– This bracket is a little too SEC heavy for my taste.
  10. Butler– People forget Gordon Hayward almost hit that half-court shot that one time.
  11. St. Bonaventure/UCLA– Not enough colleges have brown jerseys.
  12. Murray State– I still remember being in a random Applebee’s in New York City that time they won on a buzzer beater in the first round.
  13. Marshall– If McConaughey’s there, look out.
  14. Stephen F. Austin– Hey, kind of like Stone Cold Steve Austin, right? Get it?
  15. Cal State Fullerton– How many state universities does California have, 10,000?
  16. LIU Brooklyn/Radford– There are four play-in games. Two of them are in this bracket. This annoys me.

Midwest Bracket (I don’t care if you have it in the same podunk midwest arena, for the love of God call it the North region)

  1. Kansas– Think I could suit up for Kansas and they’d still win the Big 12.
  2. Duke– *sigh* Duke’s probably winning the title this year.
  3. Michigan State– Might have two future NBA All Stars and might lose first round.
  4. Auburn– Auburn stiiiiiiiinks.
  5. Clemson– Trying to figure out the reasoning behind Clemson and Kentucky being the same seed.
  6. TCU– Such a nondescript team.
  7. Rhode Island– Everyone saying Dan Hurley is the next UConn head coach so I’m rooting for whatever result will prevent that from happening.
  8. Seton Hall– Love me some pirate mascots and also Sam Dalembert.
  9. N.C. State– They won the title in ’83, so you know they’ve got the mental makeup to go deep.
  10. Oklahoma– Quite possibly the most fixed selection of all time.
  11. Arizona State/Syracuse– I already know Syracuse will somehow win a couple games purely because they have absolutely no business being in the field whatsoever.
  12. New Mexico State– A popular upset pick, which means they’ll lose by 25.
  13. Charleston– I’m just gonna come out and say it- there’s too much maroon in the bottom of this bracket.
  14. Bucknell– Bison are one of the great American animals, they need more mascot representation.
  15. Iona– I don’t know why, but I always picture Iona’s campus as a big cathedral but they worship Satan instead of God.
  16. Penn– I’m just glad Harvard didn’t make it.

South Region

  1. Virginia– So, so, so boring, but also good.
  2. Cincinnati– If you win the American Conference tournament but no one watches, did it really happen?
  3. Tennessee– I can’t be the only one surprised that they were randomly good this year.
  4. Arizona– Haven’t seen anything this under-seeded since the first time I tried playing Farming Simulator. Bada-bing!
  5. Kentucky– “I know I only recruit highly touted one-and-done guys so we’re young by design, but you can’t blame me, we’re a young team!”- John Calipari after they lose.
  6. Miami– If The Rock has eligibility left, they might make a run.
  7. Nevada– As Greg Gumbel would say, you gotta watch out for all the Wolfpacks out there.
  8. Creighton– Just assume they have a white senior with 2,000 career points.
  9. Kansas State– Starting to feel like I didn’t watch enough college basketball this year because I have literally no opinion on so many teams.
  10. Texas– If they make a run, is Texas Officially Back?
  11. Loyola-Chicago– My sources tell me they play stifling D, which is the first step towards a Cinderella run.
  12. Davidson– Wish college Steph was still around.
  13. Buffalo– Western New York needs something good to happen, just once.
  14. Wright State– Hey, uhh, more like Wrong State, amirite?
  15. Georgia State– Ludacris went to Georgia State.
  16. UMBC– I’m salty they beat UVM, but they also have a fellow Curran on the roster, so I think I’m on-board.

West Region

  1. Xavier– The least-confident one seed in recent memory, which means they’ll win the title.
  2. North Carolina– Kind of forgot they won last year.
  3. Michigan– B1G playing in NYC a week early is the worst thing to ever happen to college basketball.
  4. Gonzaga– The Official Brian’s Den 2018 Champion Pick.
  5. Ohio State– It’d be funny if they played Michigan in the Elite 8. Because they’re rivals, you see.
  6. Houston– Is Houston Street (the New York street, not the closer) being pronounced differently than the city of Houston the most needlessly New York thing of all time?
  7. Texas A&M– Ampersands need to make a comeback.
  8. Missouri– If Mike Porter, Jr. is really all that, Xavier’s getting screwed 2nd round.
  9. Florida State– Always underwhelming in the tournament.
  10. Providence– SMH, the FBI’s investigating the NCAA and aren’t indicting the headquarters of the- BRIAN’S LAWYER HAS ADVISED HIS CLIENT TO REFRAIN FROM MAKING ANY INFLAMMATORY REMARKS FOR HIS OWN SAFETY.
  11. San Diego State– Is San Diego State guilty of appropriating Aztec culture?
  12. South Dakota State– I, for one, am tired of the stranglehold the Dakotas have over American athletics.
  13. UNC-Greensboro– They’ve got a pretty cool logo.
  14. Montana– Have to imagine Montana is a fertile basketball recruiting ground.
  15. Lipscomb– Apparently Lipscomb is in Nashville? Who knew?
  16. NC Central/Texas Southern– Calling it right now- Texas Southern’s making the Final Four.

NBA All Star Saturday Predictions


Nothing quite like NBA All-Star Weekend. I’m pretty sure I went into this last year, but it’s pretty much always been a huge part of my life, and Saturday Night is the crown jewel. Watching the random specials on TNT starting at like 5 pm bleeding into the actual show at 8 is a time honored tradition in the Brian’s Den. Unfortunately, my All-Star Weekend viewership is taking a bit of a hit this year. For the first time since like, 2005 I had to miss the Celebrity Game (without Tom Cavanagh there’s nothing to miss) and most of the Rising Stars. I’m seeing Black Panther tomorrow, which may turn into an all day affair if the crowds are still absurd. But I’ll always make time for All-Star Saturday. This is a challenging time in my life (nothing bad. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’ll get to it later) and I feel great having the Dunk Contest be my rock in the storm. Anyway, I’m never too busy to lend my prognosticating skills to All-Star Saturday, so let’s dive right in.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge


Joel Embiid, Buddy Hield, Al Horford, Lou Williams, Andre Drummond, Spencer Dinwiddie, Lauri Markkanen, Jamal Murray

Love me a good corporate sponsorship, especially one with a company as forward thinking as Taco Bell. I may just go out and get some Nacho Fries before the event kicks off. Taco Bell, Live Mas. As far as the actual event goes, got to go Horford, here. Why? Because I’m a Celtics fan, that’s why!

Pick: Al Horford


JBL Three-Point Contest


Eric Gordon, Devin Booker, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, Wayne Ellington, Tobias Harris

I’m old enough to remember when this was the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. Smh these millennials don’t know how good they have it. This feels like a weak field, even though it’s really not. Probably because Steph Curry isn’t here and Wayne Ellington and Tobias Harris are. Oh, well. Although I’m a big Dunk Contest stan, the three-point is more consistently entertaining. A bad three-point is infinitely better than a bad dunk contest. So, I’m sure this will wind up being pretty good, especially if Klay gets it going. Which he will.

Pick: Klay Thompson


Verizon Slam Dunk


Victor Oladipo, Donovan Mitchell, Larry Nance, Jr., Dennis Smith, Jr.

I’m also old enough to remember when it was the Sprite Slam Dunk. R.I.P. old corporate sponsorships. Gone, but not forgotten. Apropos of nothing besides dreams of past Sprite Slam Dunks, the 2005 Dunk Contest might be the most underrated ever, both because of Josh Smith’s seemingly forgotten brilliance and the most “I wish Twitter was around for this” moment of my lifetime, Chris Andersen’s never-ending barrage of misses:

How about Magic declaring the Dunk Contest Back way back in 2005! Crazy that it’s been Back so many times since then. I’m actually pretty hyped for this year’s contest. Lot of freaky athletes here. I think any of the four could win (that’s what you call #analysis) but I’m going Dennis Smith, Jr. because I think he can jump the highest (more #analysis). Has there ever been a Dunk Contest with two juniors?

Pick: Dennis Smith, Jr.


NBA Trade Deadline Wrapup


Another trade deadline came and went in the NBA today, and, predictably, there was a flurry of moves. Most of which involve the Cavaliers, but we can get to that. After all, it’s not every day someone like Noah Vonleh gets traded for the rights to Milovan Rakovic. That kind of deal among the league’s power players can shake up the pecking order in the NBA for years to come. My various sources have confirmed that there were, in fact, other trades made, so might as well break down the big and small.

Cavs Trade For An Entirely New Roster

These Cavs moves made me sad. Not because they suddenly righted the ship or can now beat the Warriors or Rockets (they don’t), but because this might finally end the season-long drama. Just kidding. Kevin Love is still on the roster, after all. LeBron can’t help himself, and yelling at George Hill will be a lot easier than yelling at Isaiah Thomas (short rant on Isaiah: I hope he vows to never speak to LeBron again after this. I don’t know if you heard, but he was actually on the Celtics last year and was traded. He wasn’t happy, can you believe it? He made a big stink about literally everything this season and has been statistically the worst player in the NBA. I don’t know why he thought he was more influential than LeBron or why he’s telling the Lakers he won’t be coming off the bench, as if he’s been so much better than Alex Caruso or whoever the hell the Lakers have starting at point guard with Lonzo out, but I hope that hypocrite tells the media every step of the way how bad the Cavs did him, even though his own shitty play and shitty attitude is the reason the wanted him out of town in the first place. Whatever. Good luck with your Brink’s truck this offseason!). What do all of these moves do? Well, they inject some much needed athleticism for one. George Hill is essentially the anti-Isaiah: plays good D, hits open 3s, and is completely milquetoast. I assume they view Jordan Clarkson as an upgrade over Dwyane Wade, which, at this point in their careers, he is, but if LeBron was frustrated with Isaiah how will he not get frustrated at taller Isaiah? Dumping D-Rose and Jae Crowder are additions by subtraction, and Larry Nance and Rodney Hood will probably kill the Celtics in the playoffs. Despite the in-fighting and absolutely terrible play, I never fully committed to believing the Celtics would beat the Cavs, simply because I just assumed LeBron would figure out a way to get to the Finals again. Now I know the Cavs will beat the Celtics, because even getting marginally better than the shitshow they were last night was going to be enough as long as you have LeBron. So not only will they make the Finals now, they might even win a game! Can’t wait for the Wade “I’m Coming Home” video.

Pistons Trade Willie Reed to Chicago for Jameer Nelson

Jameer Nelson is eternal.

Magic Trade Elfrid Payton to Suns for 2nd Rounder

Elfrid Payton STINKS and has stupid hair. Boom, roasted.

Knicks Acquire Emmanuel Mudiay in 3-Team Trade

Remember when Mudiay was a top prospect? Feels like 100 years ago. Guy’s terrible, but the Knicks are gonna Knick. I assume D-Rose will get bought out and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Knicks tried to get him back (please, Wolves, don’t do it! I feel like J.R. telling Jeff Hardy not to jump off a 20-foot ladder onto a table. Think of your roster’s livelihood!). They just live for picking up bad players who are past their prime. Mudiay didn’t even have a prime, that’s how bad he’s been. Doug McDermott sent to Dallas where he can presumably learn how to be a good white NBA player from Dirk. Devin Harris is somehow still in the league and getting traded.

Pistons Trade Brice Johnson to Grizzlies for James Ennis


Heat Trade Okaro White to Hawks for Luke Babbitt

Damn. This is the one that had the internet buzzing big time when it happened. Luke Babbit, multi-time All Star and future Hall of Famer, traded straight up for Okaro White. Crazy. Yet to be seen how the Heat will adjust to such a ball-dominant player, but trust Erik Spoelstra to figure it out. Don’t be surprised if this pushes the Heat into a top three seed in the East.

That’s pretty much it. Aside from the Cavs completely blowing it up, not a ton of trades, and certainly none involving the elite players. No Tyreke Evans trade, no DeAndre Jordan trade, Lou Williams re-signed. Warriors, Rockets, and Celtics stand pat. LeBron didn’t waive his no-trade clause. The Lakers cleared out cap space to sign LeBron Paul George next year. Gonna be an exciting end of the season, and you can be sure the Cleveland drama is far from over.

The Eagles Being Obsessed with LeBron vs. MJ Has Me More Confident in the Patriots than Ever


source– The Philadelphia Eagles watch tape and look at statistics. They check for tendencies, scout the advanced numbers, see how things change when the fourth quarter comes around. And they do it all in order to prepare for … near-daily locker-room arguments about LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

“Heated. Heated, every single time,” said wide receiver Torrey Smith. “We come with stats. This is not just barbershop talk—I have looked up statistics plenty of times. The numbers favor my argument—he’s better in every single category except points per game. LeBron makes his teammates better, he plays on worse teams, and obviously he’s made it to a lot of Finals, even if he doesn’t win them all.”

When I visited the Eagles locker room during the regular season, I saw the arguments in action. I asked if the Eagles argued about hoops often, and I was told no—they just argue about Jordan vs. LeBron, nearly every day. As James continues to contend for MVPs and NBA titles well into his 30s, the debate has developed into an international hot topic. Prince Harry discussed it with Barack Obama—who is on Jordan’s side, though that may have something to do with his Chicago sports fandomPretty much every player in the NBA, past or present, has weighed in by now. NFL locker rooms are fairly boring places, but I have not seen a non-football argument as intense and involved as this one.

Alright, I keep saying it, but the buildup to this Super Bowl has been capital b Boring. I’m searching high and low for anything at all to talk about. I’m leaving no stone unturned and working my fingers to the bone trying to find an NFL storyline. Yeah, I could talk Alex Smith, but who cares? (On the surface it’s a fine, intermediary move for a solid QB, but signing him to 4 years $71 million guaranteed is a startlingly bad decision) All I want to do is discuss the greatness of the Patriots, but there’s just nothing new. I was about to just write “Why Tom Brady Should Win MVP, part 2.” But then this story came to my attention, and I might as well just start typing up the celebratory “Pats Win the Super Bowl Yet Again,” because there’s NO CHANCE the Patriots are going to lose to a team so concerned with debating MJ-LeBron.

Here’s where all the football purists and old school talking heads are nodding in agreement. “Yes, no one can win if you aren’t taking football 100% seriously 100% of the time. No distractions allowed.” That’s not what I’m saying. It’s good for players to have outside interests; conversations like this can build camaraderie and don’t affect practicing at all (although it’s not a coincidence you never hear about Pats’ players getting into these debates, hmmmmm). The real reason I’d be shaking in my boots if I was an Eagles’ fan is the fact that they’re still debating Mj vs. LeBron! That’s a 2016-17 argument. No one cares anymore, or, more specifically, no one cares in the months outside of May-July. The Patriots are at the forefront of the NFL. Every cutting edge scheme, every revolutionary strategy, the Pats not only have it mastered but they’ve mastered how to counteract it. And they’re playing a team who’s main concern is a debate from 8 months ago? Yikes. The Pats are all about the future and going forward. The Eagles are stuck in the past. Progress stops for no man, folks, and it would seem the Patriots are clearly going to be on the right side of history. I wonder when the Eagles will start asking how many holes a straw has. Next training camp? Maybe not until preseason. By then the Pats will have set their sights on number 7. It really just sums up the difference between the two franchises. What else can you expect out of a team from Philadelphia, though? Always five steps behind.

UConn Men’s Basketball Being Investigated for Potential Recruiting Violations


ESPN– The University of Connecticut is the target of an NCAA investigation into its men’s basketball program.

University President Susan Herbst said in a statement Friday that the school will cooperate in a “thorough and transparent manner reflective of the model athletic and academic institution we continually strive to be.”

The university didn’t specify the allegations and said it would have no further comment, but would “address and respond appropriately as the inquiry moves forward.”

Hearst Connecticut Media, which first reported the investigation, cited unidentified sources saying the inquiry was related to recruiting.

Letttt’sssssssssssss goooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!! I know I should react differently to my alma mater getting dragged into a potentially serious recruiting scandal, but I can’t help it. I guarantee this is just another case of a player taking a bunch of money. Oh no, not that! How can I possibly live with the moral implications of supporting a team that pays the players that produce millions of dollars of revenue for the school? I’d never recover.

Listen, theoretically, cheating is bad. I don’t really care, personally, and literally every single college basketball and football team that’s worth anything gives the top level recruits bags of unmarked bills, but hey, if you want to feel good about yourself you can say cheating is bad. You know what’s definitely bad? Being barely over .500 in the American Conference and, barring some miracle, missing the NCAA Tournament two out of the last three years. Kevin Ollie SUCKS. His “offense” is grade-school level at best. No UConn player has actually gotten better in their time in Storrs since Shabazz Napier, who, you know, wasn’t coached by Ollie until his senior season. His excuse for every loss is that the team isn’t “tough enough.” He never takes responsibility for his terrible game-planning and in-game “strategy,” despite the fact that he’s the coach and it’s his job to put the team in position to win, thus making virtually every loss his fault. And while I understand how many injuries there have been this season and the limitations being stuck in the AAC puts on the recruiting pool, but it’s also his fault the roster is trash. It’s literally 100% his fault UConn basketball sucks, which it never should. Which is why this potential scandal pumps me up. I’ve seen that the state of Connecticut doesn’t really want to pay his buyout and another coach at the same time. Well, virtually every big time university puts in some kind of “rules violation clause” that allows them to dump a coach caught up in something like this, so we just have to keep our fingers crossed that whatever happened happened under his watch. I don’t even care who the replacement coach is, because any organism capable of independent thought would be an upgrade. A scandal like this also gets UConn’s name back out there. The R.J. Barretts and Zion Williamsons of the world aren’t thinking about a mediocre team in a mediocre conference with a mediocre roster with a less than mediocre coach. But when it’s confirmed that you get paid to play there? Now we’re talking. Now there’s some intrigue. Now they’re thinking, “well, I used to question why I would spend my one year in college on a remote campus in the middle of Connecticut that’s surrounded by farmland and becomes a giant wind tunnel in the winter, but now that they’ve given me $100,000 and a new car, I’m sold!” One and done guys don’t care about getting caught, and nor should they. Once the penalties have run their course, this little scandal can only help UConn return to relevancy. So please, NCAA, do your worst.

2018 NBA All Star Reserves


First off, I’d like to make it known that I am battling what appears to be the onset of a pretty nasty cold/flu, so it’s courageous that I’m even writing this at all. It’s true that not all heroes wear capes, because I’m certainly not sporting anything resembling one. Whatever- as we all know, pain is just weakness leaving the body. Better to get this sickness out of the way now so I come out of the woods stronger for the Super Bowl and All Star Weekend. Speaking of All Star Weekend, after last Thursday’s All Star starter revelation, the reserves are being announced tonight. I made my starter picks on Thursday as well, and keen-eyed readers will notice that I did not, in fact, get them 100% correct. I’m not too beat up about it since, in my mind, Embiid and Cousins were locks to make the team, anyway. So as long as my two guys still make it, the NBA can consider it water under the bridge. But, in the immortal words of Stephen A. Smith, you don’t want to make an enemy out of me. Put in Horford and Towns or else! Anyway, here are the only legitimate selections for the All Star reserves in 2017-18.


  • Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers– I imagine he’s got Most Improved locked up already, and well deserved. He’s singlehandedly made the Pacers decent (which, depending on your point of view, could actually be a bad thing), and could easily have been named a starter. He’s a stone cold lock.
  • Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors– I get that no one takes the Human Peach Emoji or the Raptors seriously, but there’s a reason they have the second best record in the conference. Yes, DeRozan is their best player, but Lowry is just as important. He’s one of the best point guard defenders in the league, knocks down 3s, is a tough rebounder, and just generally makes the team better. I’m not saying they’ll make the Finals or anything, but the 6 deserves two All Stars again.
  • Al Horford, Boston Celtics– Already covered.
  • Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks– He’s been iiiicccccccccceee cold lately, but the body of work is still there. Finally freed from the shackles of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps became the number one option on a team devoid of scoring. His field goal percentage isn’t great, but he’s also the only guy on the team that can even come close to creating their own shot on a regular basis. He also leads the league in blocks and is a 7’3″ person who handles the ball and shoots 3s. Plus, there would be a riot in New York if he wasn’t named.
  • Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons– I get that the team is terrible, but every East team is terrible so it’s okay. Drummond leads the league in rebounding and brought his free throw shooting from “worst in the history of basketball” to “just plain bad,” which means he can actually play the whole game now. Going back to the rebounding, I feel like everyone is just glossing over the fact that he’s getting 15 a game. 15 a game is pretty darn impressive, and the fact that he has to play with Reggie Jackson shouldn’t be held against him. Also, I don’t know if you knew this, but I went to UConn. At the same time as Drummond. It’s almost like we’re friends.
  • Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards– With John Wall having an injury-plagued and weirdly lethargic season, Beal finally makes his All Star debut after a couple years of being left on the outside looking in. Listen, the Wizards stink and I’m glad they stink, but don’t blame Beal. He’s been filling it up all season and playing better D than he ever has. He’s shooting a bizarrely low percentage from 3 for a guy with one of the three most perfect jumpers in the league, but that can’t keep him out.
  • Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers– If I could name Erik Spoelstra or the Heat’s Miami Vice jerseys to the team, I would. The Heat piecing together a top-4 record on the strength of a bunch of weird lineups and grit is one of the best stories of the year, but I just can’t see them having an All Star. Goran Dragic comes closest, but his numbers aren’t even his career best. So, I decided to give it to Simmons, because why the hell not? It’d be more fun to have another freak athlete generational passer in the game. He’s a rookie averaging 16-8-7. I’d call that pretty decent.


  • Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder– It’s somehow gone under the radar that he’s almost averaging a triple double again this season.
  • Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors– Second greatest shooter of all time having his best shooting season? Yes please.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves– Already covered.
  • Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors– Yes, all four Warriors make it. That’s what happens when you’re one of the greatest teams of all time. The reigning DPOY should probably win it again this year, and he’s the Warriors best passer. You don’t have to like him, but you have to respect him.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs– Somehow the Spurs keep on keeping on, and Aldridge turning back into Blazers Aldridge is the biggest non-Pop reason. He’s tying the highest offensive rating of his career and is in the middle of the West’s best defense. Without Kawhi, Aldridge is the annual Spurs representative.
  • Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves– I know I was staunchly anti-Jimmy in the offseason, but that was only in regards to the Celtics selling the farm to acquire him. But as long as a different team went all in on him, I like him. And, so far, I’d have to say the Wolves are pretty happy with their investment. He’s just a junkyard dog on both ends of the floor. I think he could play 3 games in one day. He’s changed the proverbial culture in Minnesota.
  • Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder– Apologies to Damian Lillard, who I genuinely feel bad for. If he was in the East or born five years earlier or later he’d have a million All Star and All NBA appearances, but, alas, he’s stuck being the fifth best guard in the West. He might make the team this year, but I like George. He’s shooting a career high 3 point percentage and, in my opinion, has been the best perimeter defender in the league this season. Aside from his low field goal percentage, PG can claim the prestigious honor of being the only player Russell Westbrook has ever made better.

NBA All Star Starters Are Announced Tonight


So either they moved the date up to coincide with the earlier start of the season or I’m just getting old and senile and can’t remember things anymore, but it feels like they’re announcing the All Star Starters at least a week earlier than they normally do. Either way, it’s happening tonight. After years of stupefying fan voting results that drew a line in the sand between people saying “it’s a game for the fans, who cares?” and people with brains who pointed out that they use All Star Game starts and appearances when building Hall of Fame cases, so maybe it’s not a good thing that Yao is leading the fan voting after playing five games, the league finally scaled back the weight of fan votes and gave the players and coaches a say, too. And, of course, there’s this year’s new format: no more East vs. West. The top vote-getters from each conference will select their squads from the pool of All Stars (selected in the same process as always), with the voted-on Starters being divided equally to ensure that they, you know, start. In an atypically head-scratching move from the usually savvy NBA, the All Star draft won’t be televised. Huh? What’s the point of the draft if you can’t see it happening live? How is the NBA seriously going to pass up this chance for some easy ratings? If you got all the All Stars in a room and had (presumably) LeBron and Steph go back and forth taking guys, you’re telling me nothing TV-worthy would happen? What if Steph rigs it so LeBron has to pick Kyrie? Will Westbrook try and persuade his captain to avoid KD? Who’s getting picked last? If the NBA made this pay-per-view I wouldn’t hesitate to hand the NBA a blank check. Not televising this is an NHL-level move. Such a wasted opportunity, and it doesn’t sound like Adam Silver is in any hurry to change it. SMH. Anyway, here’s who should (not who will, but who should) be named as the ten starters tonight.


  • Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics– The good thing about doing this is that the cases for who should be starting pretty much build themselves. Kyrie’s numbers are pretty much the same as last year’s, but if you actually watch the Celtics play you know he’s gotten better. He’s trying on defense, meshing well in a new offense, and is always money in the clutch. He’s lead the Celtics to the best record in the East and will undoubtedly get voted as a starter.
  • DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors– If you told me in 2010 that DeMar DeRozan was about to be named to his fourth All Star Game, I would have said you were crazy. Guy just keeps getting better. His playmaking is at an all time high and he’s raised his 3-point shooting from Tony Allen level to “at least pretend to guard him out there,” which is a bigger leap than you might think. Raptors look better than ever, which means their playoff loss will be more disappointing than ever.
  • LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers– Is this guy any good?
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks– I’m lot lying when I say I spelled his name right on the first try and I’m very proud of it. For all the talk of “once he gets a jumper, watch out,” it’s beginning to look like he may not even need one.
  • Al Horford, Boston Celtics– I know I’m a homer, but Al deserves it. The haters and losers will say he’s only averaging 13 and 8, but they’re ignoring the career-best 3-point percentage and over 5 assists per game. He’s the ultimate glue player. Actually, he’s not even a glue guy. He’s like an epoxy guy. He fills in all the gaps for the East’s best team on offense and defense. He makes the offense go with his passing, positioning, and efficient shooting, and is the anchor of the conference’s stingiest defense. I’m sure Embiid will get the vote, and he certainly deserves a roster spot, but I think Horford has done enough as the most important player on the best team to earn a start.


  • Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors– I feel like people forget how good Steph is. If he makes his next five shots he’ll be at 50-40-90 for the season, and since he returned from injury he’s been scorching-magma hot. There are people who don’t think he’s one of the five best players in the league, remember that.
  • James Harden, Houston Rockets– So tempting to put Lou Williams here, but as long as Harden is healthy, the spot’s his. He’s played 35 games compared to 42+ for everyone else and is still third in the league in total points and shooting career high percentages from the field.
  • Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors– Absurdly efficient and one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year? Yikes.
  • Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans– You could really take either one of the Pelicans’ Big 2 here and I’d be fine with it, but I think Davis is just a little better. He’s scoring at will, ruthlessly efficient, and is third in the league in blocks. Plus, no one puts up absurd statlines quite like AD.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves– Absolutely impossible pick. Splitting the thinnest of hairs. I could easily be talked into putting Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins, or Draymond Green in over Towns, but, in my mind, KAT is still the number one pick in the “what young player would you build around” draft. He’s had one of the greatest starts to a career (offensively) of any big guy ever, and he has a career high offensive rating this year. He’s absurd. You know what else is absurd? He’s playing solid defense now, too. Jimmy Butler is rightly getting a lot of credit for turning the Wolves into a top four team in the West, but Towns continuing to evolve and improve is the real driving force behind the team. Put him in the All Star Game, already!