NBA Betting Preview: Team Steph can best tense Team LeBron

LeBron and Steph take charge of the All Star teams this Sunday
LeBron and Steph take charge of the All Star teams this Sunday
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A new format reinvigorates the All Star Weekend, with team captains selecting their rosters from the best in the league. It has also paired some old friends together in what could be an explosive, high-scoring game, writes Mark Kirwan....

"LeBron swallowed enough pride to select his former Cavs right-hand man Kyrie Irving. The point guard has stepped out of King James' shadow in the months since successfully lobbying for a trade from Cleveland last summer."

Team LeBron v Team Stephen
February 19, 01:00 GMT
Live on Betfair Video & BT Sport 1

This year's All Star game sees a change in format. East v West is gone, with the two highest vote-getters in the All Star ballot instead placed as captains and picking, schoolyard style, their teams from the rest of those selected.

So Team LeBron meets Team Stephen at the Staples Centre this Sunday night.

Unfortunately for those who love NBA gossip and drama, the draft itself, conducted by James and Curry weeks ago, remains shrouded in secrecy, so we don't know who chose - or passed on - who and when, all we know is LeBron had first pick.

There is, however, still plenty of intrigue around the roster construction, especially on Team LeBron, where some former teamates are paired together after acrimonious break-ups.

Team LeBron

It's hard to look at this team without considering the two great splits that it is undoing for just one night.

LeBron swallowed enough pride to select his former Cavs right-hand man Kyrie Irving. The point guard has stepped out of King James' shadow in the months since successfully lobbying for a trade from Cleveland last summer.

The other former duo that intrigues is Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant made the opposite decision to Kyrie when he left OKC for Golden State two years ago. KD has picked up a ring since then, and is part of one of the most devastating scoring teams in history, but some sourness lingers after that move still.

He will lineup against three of his current teammates on Team Stephen, but could share time on court with reigning MVP and former Thunder colleague Russell Westbrook.

He has new pals now, Paul George lining out for the Thunder for this season and possibly into the future, but it's tempting to wonder what might've been if Durant had stayed to lead OKC.

The other storyline for this team is injuries. DeMarcus Cousins was set to start at center until his injury, while Prozingis of the Knicks, John Wall from the Wizards and LeBron's fellow Cav Kevin Love have all been ruled out as well.

Those player have been replaced with talented guys, but they still represent a loss of depth. Team LeBron is still a team with LeBron however, and if he's in the mood, he can boss this game, especially when he's surrounded by so many other talented players.

Team Steph

Their opponents have not had to draw on reserves, fielding an unchanged starting five of Curry, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan and Joel Embiid from the draft that is mouth-watering.

Where Team LeBron looks as though it could explode due to competitive tensions of former teammates, Team Stephen is striking for the harmonious balance of its relationships.

Curry missed out on Durant (presumably taken first by LeBron) but secured fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson and the Warriors' disruptive presence Draymond Green to back up the imposing starters.

Two further pairings, the Raptors DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and the Timberwolves Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, fill out a roster that exudes serenity.

Even the mercurial Harden should feel at home with Mike D'Antoni, his coach from the Rockets, on the side line for this team.

The Picks

Ultimately this game is about seeing unusual pairings and unreal lineups. LeBron's team is a slight favourite, largely because it has him playing alongside players who are much better than his Cleveland teammates, but my own preference is for Steph's roster, so I would take them at [2.18] on the Moneyline and enjoy the game.

The Total Points line has been set at 349.5 on the Exchange, which is huge, but no one cares about defence in these games and they tend to go over. If you have to take a stance on this market, go Over at [1.95].

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