NBA All-Star Game as the ultimate pick-up game?

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NBA All-Star Game as the ultimate pick-up game?
Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks dunks against Brandan Wright #34 of the Dallas Mavericks on January 5, 2014 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images)
Paul George #24 of the Indiana Pacers drives to the basket and dunks the ball against the Washington Wizards in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Verizon Center on May 15, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dunks the ball against the Indiana Pacers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on May 24, 2014 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Eastern Conference goes up for a dunk during the 2013 NBA All-Star game at the Toyota Center on February 17, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Eric Gay/Pool/Getty Images)
Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat dunks against the Indiana Pacers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on May 26, 2014 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat dunks against the Golden State Warriors on February 12, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Raptors DeMar DeRozan slams a backward dunk during NBA matchup between Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets, on Sunday, December 16, 2012, at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Roy Hibbert #55 of the Indiana Pacers dunks over Shane Battier #31 of the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 17, 2012 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Joe Johnson #7 of the Brooklyn Nets attempts a dunk during a game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center on December 31, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)
Paul Millsap #4 of the Atlanta Hawks dunks against Jared Dudley #9 of the Los Angeles Clippers at Philips Arena on December 4, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls dunks against the Dallas Mavericks on February 28, 2014 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards goes up for a dunk against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 21, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a dunk against the San Antonio Spurs in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on May 25, 2014 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 15, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves dunks against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 18, 2013 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for the dunk against David Lee #10 of the Golden State Warriors on March 25, 2013 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors dunks against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 3, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trailblazers dunks the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans goes up for the dunk against the Los Angeles Clippers during an NBA game on March 26, 2014 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets dunks the ball during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 11, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets dunks over Wesley Matthews #2 and Robin Lopez #42 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on April 23, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 1: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers dunks against Chris Kaman #9 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 1, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks dunks against the Boston Celtics on March 17, 2014 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images)
Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs goes up for a dunk against the Orlando Magic at the TD Waterhouse Centre on February 3, 2002 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Fernando Medina/ NBAE/ Getty Images)
Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks the ball during the game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center on December 19, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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By JARED DUBIN
The Cauldron

There has been much talk this year of abolishing conferences due to an extreme imbalance in quality. The Western Conference is so head and shoulders better than the East - and has been for nearly 15 years now - that the inequity of it all has become a running joke. The solution, posit some, is to abandon the conference format altogether and have the 16 best teams in the league make the playoffs.

That may or may not happen in the coming years, but in the meantime, can we please get rid of the conference format for the All-Star Game?

Why, exactly, do we need one team for each conference? Just look at the crop of East frontcourt players this year, and let me know how many of them deserve to start the All-Star Game over, say, Marc Gasol, a legitimate MVP candidate who almost definitely won't start for the West. It's a near-guarantee that either James Harden or Stephen Curry, also MVP front-runners, won't start either, because Kobe Bryant's going to lead Western Conference guards in votes. How does that make sense?

Here's how it should work:

Keep the current voting structure, but integrate the conferences and let fans vote for any four guards and six front-court players. The 10 players with the most votes make the game automatically (but are not necessarily guaranteed to start), and then the coaches vote in the remaining 14 players - just as they do now.

Take that pool of 24 players, appoint as captains the two players with the most overall votes, and let them pick their teams on TV right before - or at halftime of - the Celebrity Game on Friday Night. It's the one night almost nobody wants to watch because that game is boring and terrible. The All-Star Draft would help turn All-Star Friday into a much bigger event.

In 2010, the NHL moved away from the East-West All-Star format and instituted a player draft conducted by the All-Star players themselves to determine the rosters for each team. For the last four years, All-Stars have been picked in a joint effort by fan vote and the NHL Hockey Operations Department. Then, two chosen captains draft their teams on live TV. Last year, the NFL's Pro Bowl moved to the same format, except the captains were former players assisted by current Pro Bowlers.

Isn't this idea tailor-made for the NBA - a product which lends itself to a pickup-style draft more than either the NHL or the NFL; basketball is the ultimate pickup sport, after all.
Who wouldn't want to tune in to watch LeBron James and Kevin Durant choose sides for that Sunday's game? How much drama would there be if LeBron chose Chris Bosh for his team instead of Kevin Love? What if KD picked another point guard over Russ? People would debate for hours about the way each captain constructed their team; whether they chose teammates based on how they'd actually play together, who their friends are, who the biggest available names were, or what players were most likely to put on the best show. Would they take all the point guards first because they're the ones who control the flow of the game? How would they divvy up the big men?

So much interesting stuff could happen.

The league already uses the draft format for the Rookie Game (or whatever they're calling it now), where Chuck and Shaq pick the teams and snipe at each other on TNT. And the process by which All-Star rosters are selected was already changed recently to eliminate the center position on the ballot, so it's not even like the NBA can claim some dogmatic devotion to "the way it's always been done."

This is a change that should happen, and one that's probably more likely to occur before we see conferences eliminated for playoff seeding purposes. Other leagues have paved the way, and the NBA should follow suit.

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