31 January 2011
I am about to say something that I thought I never would. Hockey actually got me thinking about something.
I have to give Gary Bettman and the NHL some credit. Of all the four major sports, hockey is lagging behind baseball, football and basketball. The NHL is an inferior product in comparison to MLB, the NFL and the NBA. Hey, don't get mad at me. Whether or not you happen to like the proceeding statement, very few could argue that it is indeed a fact.
But to the NHL's credit, they are trying some new innovations to bring in some new fans. Their Winter Classic on New Year's Day is now becoming a tradition. By playing a hockey game outside at a famous baseball stadium, it generates more money and buzz for a league that is severely lacking in both. While I would argue that pitting it against some NCAA Bowl Games may not be the best day and time, it is nonetheless a great idea.
But they also came up with another solid decision. The NHL concluded their All-Star game yesterday, and while the game itself turned out to be very close, it was the selection process that grabbed my attention. They didn't just have the fans vote for an Eastern and Western Conference team. They put together a pool of talented players, chose two captains, and had those players select their teams via a fantasy draft that was conducted in front of fans on television.
That, my friends, was a novel idea, and one that other leagues should attempt to imitate.
The NFL already had their Pro-Bowl last night, so it is too late for them. But what if the NBA decided to change things up a bit and do something similar to what the NHL did this time around? Forget about the typical East vs. West. The NBA should have implemented a fantasy draft of players for their All-Star game at the Staples Center on February 20.
But it is not going to happen. Not this time, at least. But what if it did happen? Who would be chosen as the team captains? Who would they select? Who would be the number one selection? Who would be Mr. Irrelevant?
I'm glad you asked.
If I were running the NBA - and yes, David Stern, you should be watching over your left shoulder - this is what I would do for the showdown at the Staples Center in a few weeks.
The game is in Los Angeles. That means, as much as I loathe to give this man any more power or attention, that Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers would be named one captain. It is not that I am a fan of his by any stretch of the imagination, but it would just be the most natural call.
So who would oppose him as the other team captain? I would have to make another likely unpopular decision. This game is not about good vs. evil. Not in my version. If we had a United States vs. The World type of game, that would be different. Then, Bryant would not captain our team, yet his teammate on the Lakers - Pau Gasol - could lead the opposition. But I digress.
The most natural choice for the other team - in an attempt to create more buzz - would have to be LeBron James of the Miami Heat. Whether people like to admit it or not, they like to watch Kobe vs. LeBron. So we have our captains.
FIRST ROUND - FANTASY ALL-STAR STARTERS:
Bryant is the home team, so James would get the first selection, yet in the first twist in this game for the fans, he does not go with any of his Heat teammates. That would be too easy. With the first pick in the 2011 NBA All-Star Fantasy Draft, Team James selects...
James 1. Kevin Durant - Forward - Oklahoma City Thunder. It would make sense for James to finally be able to play with one of the most talented big men in the game. This pick makes perfect sense.
Bryant would most likely have to counter with a big man of his own, so with his first pick, he goes with...
Bryant 1. Amar'e Stoudamire - Forward - New York Knicks. You look at what he has done this season, and this pick also makes perfect sense. For the rest of the starters, I will just dive right into things. Here are the rest of the selections for the starting five:
James 2. Chris Paul - Guard - New Orleans Hornets.
Bryant 2. Dwyane Wade - Guard - Miami Heat.
James 3. Dirk Nowitzki - Forward - Dallas Mavericks
Bryant 3. Dwight Howard - Center - Orlando Magic.
James 4. Carmelo Anthony - Forward - Denver Nuggets.
Bryant 4. Derrick Rose - Guard - Chicago Bulls.
So the starters would look like this after the first round of the fantasy draft is complete:
G - LeBron James
G - Chris Paul
F - Kevin Durant
F - Dirk Nowitzki
F - Carmelo Anthony
G - Kobe Bryant
G - Derrick Rose
F - Dwyane Wade
F - Amar'e Stoudamire
C - Dwight Howard
SECOUND ROUND - FANTASY ALL-STAR RESERVES:
G - Monta Ellis - Golden State Warriors
G - Rajon Rondo - Boston Celtics
G - Steve Nash - Phoenix Suns
G/F - Manu Ginobili - San Antonio Spurs
F - Blake Griffin - Los Angeles Clippers
F - Carlos Boozer - Chicago Bulls
F - Paul Pierce - Boston Celtics
C - Pau Gasol - Los Angeles Lakers
C - Al Jefferson - Utah Jazz
G - Deron Williams - Utah Jazz
G - Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder
G - Eric Gordon - Los Angeles Clippers
G/F - Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors
F - Kevin Love - Minnesota Timberwolves
F - Zach Randolph - Memphis Grizzlies
F - Joe Johnson - Atlanta Hawks
C - Andrea Bargnani - Toronto Raptors
C - Al Horford - Atlanta Hawks
Guards: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Monta Ellis, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Many Ginobili
Forwards: Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Carlos Boozer, Paul Pierce
Centers: Pau Gasol, Al Jefferson
Guards: Kobe Bryant, Derick Rose, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Stephen Curry
Forwards: Dwyane Wade, Amar'e Stoudamire, Kevin Love, Zach Randolph, Joe Johnson
Centers: Dwight Howard, Andrea Bargnani, Al Horford
Both teams would have stacked rosters with some very good twists. James selected Gasol to counter Bryant's selection of Wade. The point guard play of both teams would be absolutely phenomenal, while Team Bryant would clearly be the more physical team.
Right now, this is just a dream. But as we all know, Fantasy is Reality.
Or something like that...
What would your draft look like?
* Make sure to follow Kelley on Twitter @RobKelley24, as he was named One of the 1,000 Most Influential Sports Writers on Twitter in 2010.