NBA Fact or Fiction: The All-Star Game can be fixed

Each week during the 2023-24 NBA season, we will take a deeper dive into some of the league’s biggest storylines in an attempt to determine whether the trends are based more in fact or fiction moving forward.

[Last week: Did the trade deadline impact the NBA's championship outlook?]

This week's topic: Is the NBA All-Star Game fixable?

Yes, the NBA All-Star Game is fixable. Does this mean we're done? Actually, let me walk you through it.

Start the festivities as you normally would: Fans (50%), players (25%) and media (25%) vote for starters — East vs. West, USA vs. the world, Millennials vs. Gen Z, however you want to do it, just make it five a side.

(By the way, just imagine the old guard of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George against a new guard of Jayson Tatum, Luka Dončić, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. We're already off to a roaring start and haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet.)

Now, the wrinkles. Coaches select the next 15 best players, regardless of conference. This expands the field to 25, giving one more potential snub his shine and providing enough players for five teams of five.

That's right. Three captains — the highest vote-getters among reserves — pick teams of five. Provide the "Inside the NBA" crew with another night of programming. It doesn't need to be on the same night of the All-Star Game. Set your five teams of five. Maybe the intimacy of smaller teams sparks some chemistry.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives on Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard (0) during the first half of an NBA All-Star basketball game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
The league is struggling to get its brightest starts to shine during All-Star Weekend. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Then, just run some pickup. The starters begin the night. Games to 11. Winners stay on. First team to, say, five wins is the victor. None of these guys is going to want to see one team steamroll through the first five games. If they do, so be it. We all get an early night. I'd imagine, though, that these guys might start to care.

After all, you have to really work for that MVP. If your team loses a best-to-11, you're not on the floor. You want your shine? You better try. As it stands now, no coach is yanking these dudes if they're lollygagging.

How fun would this be? For real.

The scorebook might be an issue. If we want to curb the amount of 3-point shots fired, tallying 1s and 2s only puts more weight into long-distance attempts. Maybe it's just 1s. Maybe it's 1s and 1.25s. Maybe limit teams to two 2s; everything after counts as 1. Maybe you play to 21 by 2s and 3s. We can easily tweak this.

What if someone gets injured or requires rest? They can't just play 4-on-5. (Or can they?) Another easy fix. Every team chooses an alternate from Friday's Rising Stars. Victor Wembanyama, come on down. Chet Holmgren, we see you. Don't like that option? Want to get crazy? Let teams pick anyone for a fifth — Mac McClung, Sabrina Ionescu, Shaquille O'Neal, Guy Fieri, whomever. Choose wisely, or get run off the court.

They can expand this. Add five rookies as a team. Five WNBA players. The starting five of the Australian national team. EuroLeague's best five. Patrick Beverley picks an All-Defensive five. If the All-Stars don't come ready to play, they'll get embarrassed, as they should. Just keep it pickup — basketball's essence.

This all happens on Saturday night, too, not Sunday, because we're about to fix the rest of the weekend.

For Sunday, each of the five teams nominates one member for the dunk contest and one for the 3-point shootout. The other three members from each team participate in a skills challenge — not like the existing one, though. Ours has H-O-R-S-E, 21, Lightning, Around the World — playground games. Or play straight 1-on-1, 2-on-2 and/or 3-on-3. There are way better options than throwing balls through giant hoops. All-Stars all around, too. If these teams are incentivized (we'll get to that), they're nominating the very best.

Are you telling me this wouldn't spur some competition from each five-man unit?

OK, let's throw some money on this. Cumulative scoring throughout the weekend. Win Saturday's All-Star Pickup Game, finish second in the dunk contest and third in the shootout, and you may accumulate enough points to nab $1 million apiece. Give it to charity or keep it themselves. That might be their only incentive.

There, your NBA All-Star Weekend is fixed. The entire thing. Every single issue. Happy now?

Determination: Fact. The NBA All-Star Game can be fixed, because I just fixed it.