In 2018, the NBA altered the way players were selected to the mid-season All-Star games off the back of non-competitive games and one-sided results. Prior to the change, starting players were chosen by fan vote only; however in the revamped draft format, a pool of 24 players are now selected by a combination of fan, player, and media votes.
The two players with the most fan votes from each conference become the captains in the new All-Star draft-style format. These captains select their team personnel from the remaining pool of 22 players voted as All-Star, choosing starters first then reserves. Significantly, the captains make these selections on live television in TNT's presentation of the NBA All-Star Draft.
The pool of 24 players comprises 12 players from each conference. Fans have 50% of the vote, current players and media each have 25% vote, whilst the 14 reserves are selected by the NBA coaches.
As the name suggests, the players in these events are ‘all stars’. With this, let’s look back at the teams and results since 2014 and see whether the new draft selection has made for better matchups and increased viewership for stars to showcase their immense talent.
2014: New Orleans, Louisiana - Points difference 8.
The Smoothie King Centre played host to the 63rd edition of the NBA All-Star Game, where the Eastern Conference came out on top against the Western Conference, 163-155. Kyrie Irving was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP).
The East started with Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony.
The West had Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Love as starters.
2015: New York City, New York - Points difference 5.
Hosted by the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Mets, the 2015 event was held at the iconic Madison Square Garden. In a nail-biting game, the Western Conference defeated the Eastern Conference, 163-158, with reserve Russell Westbrook named the MVP.
The West started with Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, and Blake Griffin.
The East began with John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Lebron James, Pau Gasol, and Carmelo Anthony.
2016: Toronto, Canada - Points difference 23.
The Air Canada Centre, home to the Toronto Raptors, was the home for the All-Star game in 2016 - the first time it was held outside the United States. In this edition, the Western Conference beat the Eastern Conference convincingly, 196-173. Russell Westbrook walked away with the MVP.
The West started with Curry, Russell Westbrook, Bryant (playing in his eighteenth and final All-Star game before retirement), Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.
The East began with Wade, Lowry, James, George, and Anthony.
2017: New Orleans, Louisiana - Points difference 10.
Played in the deep South for the second time in four years, the Western Conference got another one over the Eastern Conference, 192 - 182. Pelicans star Anthony Davis was named MVP.
The West started with Curry, James Harden, Durant, Leonard, and Davis.
The East had Irving, DeMar DeRozan, James, Jimmy Butler, and Giannis Antetokounmpo as starters.
2018: Los Angeles, California - Points difference 3.
The Staples Centre hosted this close-fought 67th edition of the NBA All-Star Game, as Team LeBron beat Team Stephen, 148-145. Captain James was named MVP for accumulating 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Team LeBron started with Irving, DeRozan, James, Joel Embiid, and Antetokounmpo. Apart from Embiid for Butler, these were the same starting players as the 2017 event.
Team Stephen started with Curry, Harden, Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, and Davis.
2019: Charlotte, North Carolina - Points difference 14.
Held at the Spectrum Centre, home of the Charlotte Hornets, this event generated huge interest. It pitted many former All-Star teammates against each other for the first time as Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis by 178-164, with Durant pocketing MVP.
James' draft selections were widely discussed, as Team LeBron started with Curry, Harden, Durant, George, and James.
Team Giannis started with Kemba Walker, Irving, Leonard, Embiid, and Antetokounmpo.
2020: Chicago, Illinois - Points difference 2.
Played at the United Centre, home of the Chicago Bulls, Team LeBron once again beat Team Giannis. This time the final margin was much narrower at 157-155, as Leonard walked away with the MVP award.
Team Lebron started with Harden, Luka Dončić, James, Leonard, and Davis and Team Giannis started with Walker, Trae Young, Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakam, and Embiid.
2021: Atlanta, Georgia - Points difference 20.
The most recent edition of the NBA All-Star Game was staged as a made-for-TV event and played at a primarily empty State Farm Arena. Thanks to an impressive second quarter, Team LeBron trounced Team Kevin by 170-150. Antetokounmpo, back with Team LeBron, was voted MVP.
For the winning side Curry, Dončić, James, Leonard, and Nikola Jokić all featured, whilst
Bradley Beal, Irving, Antetokounmpo, Domantas Sabonis, and Embiid started Team Kevin. Durant suffered a late hamstring injury and was replaced by Sabonis.
So, what's the difference?
Despite the new configuration, not an awful lot has changed. The average points difference over the four All-Star games before the format change was 11.5, and the average of the four games following the change is 9.75. Although a small sample size, this difference is hardly an indicator that games are much closer fought since the shift to draft-style selection.
LeBron James has started all of the last eight All-Star Games, and Stephen Curry has started seven - four games before 2018 and three games since. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Giannis Antetokounmpo have each started five games from 2014 to 2021, with their representation roughly equal before and after 2018.
Apart from the behind-closed-doors 2021 event, ratings and viewership of NBA All-Star Games have held steady since 2014. This does not suggest that the 2018 format change has piqued fans' interest and made games more competitive and watchable.
One person who has certainly been smiling throughout all his games is LeBron James. Before 2018, he'd lost three of the last four All-Star games.
Since 2018, he's won them all.
Perhaps that will make Charles Barkley review his list of top five NBA players of all time.
With James’ Lakers struggling this season - officially eliminated from Championship contention - you can expect the next All Star teams to feature a number of Nets players thanks to their high-flying form, including James Harden, Kevin Durrant and Kyrie Irving.
You can get all the latest odds on all matches in the NBA season with Betway Sports, including the upcoming All Stars game once the teams are announced.