The biggest surprise of all was Lonzo Ball, the Los Angeles Lakers’ highly touted No. 2 pick who only scored 5 points on 2-of-15 shooting. Ball showed the court vision and pinpoint accuracy he hangs his hat on, finding Brandon Ingram for an alley-oop on the game’s very first play. But an uncharacteristically poor shooting night underscored an otherwise solid NBA debut.
Instead, guys like the Clippers’ late picks Brice Johnson and Sindarius Thornwell had impressive showings. Cleveland cruised to a 29-point victory over the Bucks, and several of the Kings’ promising young players showed why the franchise could finally be headed in the right direction in the post-DeMarcus Cousins era.
Regardless, only three parties came away clear winners on Friday night. In case you were out partying, fell asleep, or just flat-out forgot basketball was a go, this is for you:
Fans could see an East All-Star starting lineup of two of either Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, or DeMar DeRozan; LeBron James, Gordon Hayward, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
As for the reserves, the remaining guards will shine, as will Kemba Walker. Kevin Love will probably be named an All-Star provided he doesn’t get traded, and let’s hope Kristaps Porzingis emerges without Phil Jackson around. After that, who are we talking about? Al Horford? Andre Drummond bounce back? Joel Embiid if he stays healthy? Hassan Whiteside? Bradley Beal?
The league has always had a parity problem. It’s the reason competitive balance was emphasized when negotiating the new collective bargaining agreement.
But once a spike in the salary cap afforded the Warriors the financial liberty to sign Durant last summer — adding to a team that already broke the record for most wins in a season — competitive balance went out the window. The Warriors may have hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June, but they were crowned champions in the court of public opinion 11 months earlier.