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NBA All-Star 2020: Grading every player on Team LeBron and Team Giannis

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LeBron throws down reverse dunk (0:20)

LeBron James gets out in transition and finishes the reverse dunk in style. (0:20)

The 69th NBA All-Star Game featured notable changes at the United Center in Chicago, highlighted by the two teams -- Team LeBron and Team Giannis -- racing to the wire toward the target score, rather than playing to the buzzer.

The new format seemed to bring out playoff-level intensity in the players, both those on the court and their teammates on the bench. (See below for my full review of the format.)

Team LeBron pulled off a 157-155 victory, with an Anthony Davis free throw hitting the target.

Here are grades for all 24 players from Team LeBron and Team Giannis.

MORE: Sunday's best | All-Star Saturday night grades | Rising Stars grades

Team LeBron

LeBron James
Los Angeles Lakers
Forward | Grade: B

Game stats
23 PTS | 5 REB | 6 AST | 2 BLK

Analysis
By his extremely high standards, it wasn't a strong night for LeBron, who missed eight of his 10 3-point attempts and had six turnovers. He went 1-of-7 from the field in the fourth quarter, though he wisely went to the basket when Team Giannis was overplaying the 3-point line to prevent a game-winning 3 -- allowing Davis to win the game with a free throw. James also delivered plenty of highlights, including a two-handed reverse dunk, a step-back 3 and a behind-the-back dribble in transition that led to a dunk.


Anthony Davis
Los Angeles Lakers
Forward | Grade: A-

Game stats
19 PTS | 9 REB | 3 STL | 3 BLK

Analysis
Davis delivered the first winning point under the new target score format. After a Kyle Lowry foul was confirmed on a challenge, Davis stepped to the line needing one free throw to win the game for Team LeBron. He missed the first, setting up a pressure-packed second attempt that he calmly drained. Although Davis couldn't find the range from beyond the arc (1-of-6), he had 19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks in a well-rounded performance.


Kawhi Leonard
LA Clippers
Forward | Grade: A

Game stats
30 PTS | 8-14 3PT | 7 REB | 4 AST

Analysis
Kawhi opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers for Team LeBron's first two scores and never looked back, tying the All-Star Game record for 3s in a half (seven in the first half) en route to winning the inaugural Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP trophy. Leonard led all scorers with 30 points, handed out four assists and was a key factor defensively down the stretch, highlighted by a steal under his team's basket with the score tied at 152.


Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks
Guard | Grade: C

Game stats
8 PTS | 2-5 3PT | 1 REB | 4 AST

Analysis
Through the middle of the third quarter, Doncic had only two points in his All-Star debut, but then he knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers. He also handed out four assists but was not used by coach Frank Vogel with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.


James Harden
Houston Rockets
Guard | Grade: B

Game stats
11 PTS | 3 REB | 6 AST | 2 BLK

Analysis
It looked as if Harden had won the game for Team LeBron with a pull-up 3-pointer before the call came in that he had committed an offensive foul by pushing off on Kyle Lowry. It was obvious that Harden was going to shoot a 3: All nine of his attempts in the game came from long distance, and he made three. He handed out six assists and had a key late block of Pascal Siakam in the post.


Ben Simmons
Philadelphia 76ers
Guard | Grade: A

Game stats
17 PTS | 8-9 FG | 6 REB | 5 AST

Analysis
Serving as finisher more than his usual role of playmaker, Simmons had seven dunks as he shot 8-of-9 from the field and scored 17 points in as many minutes. A number of those were alley-oops, and he also perfectly timed a tip dunk of a missed shot before landing awkwardly. At the other end, Simmons picked on his 76ers teammate Joel Embiid, stealing an entry pass of Embiid's and stripping him on a double-team from the perimeter.


Nikola Jokic
Denver Nuggets
Center | Grade: B

Game stats
5 PTS | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL

Analysis
Before the excitement of the fourth quarter, Jokic delivered the night's biggest shot with a 3-pointer to give Team LeBron the third-quarter lead with 22.2 seconds left. He played only 12 minutes but found time in that stretch to make a floater on a designed after-timeout play and break up an alley-oop.


Jayson Tatum
Boston Celtics
Forward | Grade: B-

Game stats
6 PTS | 1 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL

Analysis
Tatum shined as a passer, rather than as a scorer, in his All-Star debut. He set up a pair of Simmons dunks, one with a touch pass as part of a hot-potato sequence and the other with a backward pass over his head. Tatum missed all four of his 3-point attempts and was 3-of-8 from the field overall.


Chris Paul
Oklahoma City Thunder
Guard | Grade: A

Game stats
23 PTS | 7-11 3PT | 2 REB | 6 AST

Analysis
Paul made a strong case for MVP with his play in the second half, including a team-high nine points (all on 3s) in the untimed final quarter. Earlier, he skied to finish an alley-oop from his Oklahoma City predecessor, Russell Westbrook. Remarkably, Paul's most recent dunk during a regular-season game was in December 2015, per Basketball-Reference.com.


Russell Westbrook
Houston Rockets
Guard | Grade: D

Game stats
6 PTS | 2-10 FG | 3 REB | 3 AST

Analysis
The All-Star MVP in 2015 and 2016, Westbrook struggled Sunday, missing eight of his 10 shots. He was scoreless until late in the third quarter, when he followed an ill-advised 3-point attempt with a tough layup in transition to tie the quarter score. He then split two free throws in the closing seconds, opening the door for Team Giannis to tie the quarter score. Westbrook added a two-handed dunk in transition during the fourth quarter.


Domantas Sabonis
Indiana Pacers
Forward | Grade: C-

Game stats
2 PTS | 6 REB

Analysis
In his first All-Star Game, Sabonis missed his only shot (a dunk) and split four free throws, though he did grab six rebounds.


Devin Booker
Phoenix Suns
Guard | Grade: C-

Game stats
6 PTS | 0-4 3PT | 4 REB

Analysis
Selected as a replacement for the injured Damian Lillard, Booker had a tough All-Star debut, missing all four of his 3-point attempts and committing four turnovers. He also missed a dunk but salvaged it with his highlight of the evening: a block of Khris Middleton's 3.

Team Giannis

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee Bucks
Forward | Grade: A-

Game stats
25 PTS | 11 REB | 4 AST | 3 BLK

Analysis
Nobody showcased more defensive ability during the intense ending to the game than Giannis, who blocked a LeBron fadeaway -- remarkable, given that James has been blocked only three times on jumpers this season, per Second Spectrum tracking -- and then met Davis at the summit to turn him away on the next possession. Oh, and that's before mentioning the incredible chase-down block on LeBron that was ruled goaltending before it was overturned by replay review. After scoring a team-high 25 points through the first three quarters, Antetokounmpo faded from the offense late. He was scoreless on 0-of-2 shooting in the untimed final period.


Joel Embiid
Philadelphia 76ers
Center | Grade: A

Game stats
22 PTS | 8-13 FG | 10 REB

Analysis
Somewhat surprisingly, Embiid emerged as the best offensive option down the stretch for Team Giannis. His 10 points in the untimed fourth quarter led all players on both teams, as did his five rebounds. With players tiring, Embiid was difficult to guard, and he got eight free throw attempts in the fourth, making six of them. Earlier, a drive he finished with a one-handed dunk and a windmill were among his highlights.


Pascal Siakam
Toronto Raptors
Forward | Grade: A-

Game stats
15 PTS | 7-10 FG | 6 REB

Analysis
Siakam finished with 15 points and six rebounds but generated few memorable moments in a solid performance highlighted by his going end-to-end for a dunk.


Kemba Walker
Boston Celtics
Guard | Grade: B+

Game stats
23 PTS | 5-11 3PT | 3 REB | 3 AST

Analysis
The second-leading scorer for Team Giannis, Walker looked for his own offense to a surprising extent, attempting 18 shots -- tied for third most among all players. He hit back-to-back 3s in the first quarter and had a pair of acrobatic layup finishes. Although Walker had only three assists, his half-court alley-oop to Trae Young stood out.


Trae Young
Atlanta Hawks
Guard | Grade: B+

Game stats
10 PTS | 2-6 3PT | 3 REB | 10 AST

Analysis
It was Young who took on the role of distributor for Team Giannis, handing out a game-high 10 assists. His passes nearly entirely set up layups or dunks, including an alley-oop to Rudy Gobert that tied the third-quarter score in the closing seconds of the period. Young also beat the halftime buzzer with a half-court 3-pointer, showing off his range, but he missed on another highlight when he was unable to convert a layup after nutmegging Harden.


Khris Middleton
Milwaukee Bucks
Forward | Grade: C-

Game stats
5 PTS | 1 REB | 2 AST

Analysis
A dunk was the best part of Middleton's night. He missed four of his five 3-point attempts, finishing with five points and two assists.


Bam Adebayo
Miami Heat
Forward | Grade: B

Game stats
8 PTS | 4-5 FG | 2 REB | 1 AST

Analysis
A solid if unspectacular All-Star debut for Adebayo was highlighted by a two-handed reverse dunk shortly after he checked into the game, as well as a looping alley-oop to fellow big man Rudy Gobert. Adebayo made four of his five shots.


Rudy Gobert
Utah Jazz
Center | Grade: A

Game stats
21 PTS | 10-11 FG | 11 REB | 2 AST

Analysis
Consider Gobert's long-overdue All-Star debut a smashing success. Playing above the rim, he made 10 of 11 shots, eight of them dunks. One of the non-dunks was an and-1 finish through contact, and a hard putback and a reverse two-handed finish of a Trae Young alley-oop stood out among Gobert's finishes. At the other end, an impressive sequence saw him block Davis before following a missed dunk by Sabonis.


Jimmy Butler
Miami Heat
Forward | Grade: B

Game stats
4 PTS | 3 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL

Analysis
Playing in the All-Star Game for the first time since 2017 -- he did not make the game last year and was on the roster but sat out in 2018 -- Butler had a pair of driving dunks on his lone shot attempts. He also committed four turnovers in only 13 minutes.


Kyle Lowry
Toronto Raptors
Guard | Grade: A-

Game stats
13 PTS | 5 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL

Analysis
Nobody rose to the challenge of the target score more than Lowry, who was in trademark fashion looking to take charges with no regard for the possible risk. That resulted in a blocking foul when Lowry stepped in front of LeBron in transition, but later Lowry took a charge on Kawhi and drew an offensive foul when Harden pushed off before the potential winning 3. Lowry shot just 4-of-12 from the field, but he handed out eight assists highlighted by a half-court alley-oop to Giannis and a pass off the glass for a Khris Middleton dunk.


Brandon Ingram
New Orleans Pelicans
Forward | Grade: C

Game stats
2 PTS | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL

Analysis
Among players who did not play in the untimed fourth quarter, Ingram's 8:33 of playing time was the shortest stint on either side. He missed all three of his 3-point attempts, scoring only on a dunk.


Donovan Mitchell
Utah Jazz
Guard | Grade: C+

Game stats
7 PTS | 5 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL

Analysis
Along with Adebayo, Mitchell got to start the second half for Team Giannis after being selected as a reserve. He knocked down a smooth pull-up 3 in early offense but missed a tomahawk dunk and shot 3-of-10 from the field. Perhaps his best play was sprinting downcourt to steal an outlet pass, atoning for a 3-point miss on the previous possession.


The new All-Star format: A

It would be premature after one year to call the changes the NBA made to the All-Star Game in 2020 a permanent fix to the lagging effort we've seen in recent years, but they worked exactly as hoped in the first trial run. The combination of playing for charities each quarter, the target-score ending and the influence of the late Kobe Bryant's legacy of playing hard in the All-Star Game led to the best combination of highlights and intensity we've seen in years.

I was skeptical of the decision to emphasize quarter-by-quarter scores rather than the overall game score, but it paid off with a finish to the third that acted like an end-of-game situation. The target score, inspired by the Elam Ending used in The Basketball Tournament, served to focus players on both sides on the finish line and led to tougher defense than had been seen in the All-Star Game in decades. The drama was palpable in the arena.

To some extent, that effect might wear off over time. Remember, this time two years ago, we were excited about the way drafting teams had led to a thrilling conclusion to the All-Star Game in Los Angeles. That effort level didn't carry over to last year's game in Charlotte. It's also possible that a more lopsided game would feel like something of a fait accompli after the clocks go off.

I'd expect tweaks over time. It's unclear what the right target score should be or whether it would be good to time any of the fourth quarter before turning off the clock. I'd suggest adding mandatory timeouts in the fourth quarter if the current rules remain in place, as players seemed to wear down with few stoppages to break up the high-energy play. Still, the NBA has to be thrilled with the results of this year's changes.