- What should we expect from the All-Star draft? LeBron plays matchmaker and brings in all the Klutch sports guys while Giannis opts for high-flyers.
Amid Kristaps Porzingis trades and Anthony Davis rumors on Thursday was the announcement of the East and West All-Star reserves. Seven players from each conference joined the crop of 2018-19 All-Stars, making 22 players available to team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the upcoming All-Star Draft on Feb. 7.
Last year’s splitting of squads happened off camera, with a conference call robbing us of watching Team LeBron and Team Steph divvied up, chosen one-by-by from two of the league’s greatest power brokers. We won’t miss such a spectacle this year, with the All-Star Draft broadcast at 7 p.m. on TNT.
Before we begin our mock draft for Team LeBron and Team Giannis, a few ground rules should be stated:
1. LeBron picks first: James officially earned this honor by earning the highest number of votes. It’s also the appropriate order. He is King James, after all. Giannis’s time can wait.
2. The starters must go first: No Westbrook in the top eight, nor will we see LeBron court Davis until each team has its five starters. Bet on AD being the first reserve taken.
3. No snake order for the draft: LeBron gets the first pick, followed by Giannis as we work through the starters round. Antetokounmpo will get the first pick of the reserves selection, alternating until all 22 players are selected.
So who should LeBron take with the first pick in the 2019 All-Star Draft? We at The Crossover worked up a mock draft prior to the selection show on Feb. 7.
1. Team LeBron: Kevin Durant, Warriors
This feels like a safe bet at No. 1. Durant is assumed by many to be the league’s second-best player, effectively ending both the 2017 and 2018 Finals. There’s also no harm in a potential sneak-peak for Durant on a potential partnership in July. Maybe joining James isn’t so toxic?
2. Team Giannis: Steph Curry, Warriors
Giannis has 174 dunks and 22 made threes entering Thursday night. Steph has 203 made threes and a whopping zero dunks. This is a perfect match. My money would be on Giannis converting a triple over Curry converting a dunk.
3. Team LeBron: Kyrie Irving, Celtics
With Durant in tow, LeBron can begin to embrace his recruiter mode with the selection of Irving. The hard feelings are apparently in the past. What better way to begin a reunion than All-Star Weekend?
4. Team Giannis: James Harden, Rockets
Antetokounmpo doesn’t need to play politics like James. Taking the league’s leading scorer and MVP favorite is the smart option with the fourth pick.
5. Team LeBron: Kawhi Leonard, Raptors
The free-agency ties are less overt than with Durant and Irving. Still, Leonard will be available in July, and could very well end up at the Staples Center with either the Lakers and Clippers. Even if we toss ulterior motives aside, Leonard will be an asset slowing down Giannis in the first quarter.
6. Team Giannis: Joel Embiid, 76ers
Our lone true center among the starters, Embiid can form a fun inside-out duo with Antetokounmpo. There’s also the chance he completely posterizes someone, which is always a treat.
7. Team LeBron: Kemba Walker, Hornets
Most would expect Walker to be the last pick among the starters, but if we’ve learned anything over the last week, free agency rules the league at the moment. Walker has significant financial incentive to stay in Charlotte, and there hasn’t been much free-agency chatter surrounding the UConn product. But you can’t hurt James for trying with his final starters pick.
8. Team Giannis: Paul George, Thunder
Perhaps the league’s best two-way player is a quality consolation prize for the final pick of the starters crew.
Team LeBron Starters: James, Durant, Irving, Leonard, Walker
Team Giannis Starters: Antetokounmpo, Curry, Harden, Embiid, George
9. Team Giannis: Russell Westbrook, Thunder
We should be treated to at least one Giannis-Westbrook lob on Feb. 17. An extra dose of entertainment would be to see these two square off in the dunk contest on All-Star Saturday, although the competition is presently a gig for non-All-Stars.
10. Team LeBron: Anthony Davis, Pelicans (not for long)
The stars keep aligning for James in the Davis sweepstakes, with the draft order working like a Rich Paul daydream. Not only can we see LeBron and Davis together in Charlotte, we’ll also likely see a Davis-Irving pairing or even Davis-Irving-Durant trio. Perhaps we’ll see one of these groupings in New York next year, although that remains a summer prayer for now.
11. Team Giannis: Khris Middleton, Bucks
It’s no shame being selected after Westbrook, and Middleton is a natural choice as Giannis’s teammate in Milwaukee. Middleton’s free-agency will be an interesting case in July, although a return to the Bucks should work out barring an outsized offer on the open market.
12. Team LeBron: Klay Thompson, Warriors
Thompson receives a hoard of free shots playing with Golden State. Life would have similar ease with James. It’s hard to envision Thompson leaving his Splash Brother Curry, yet Los Angeles does seem like one of the few plausible destinations. Even if the two remain rivals, it will be fun to see James and Thompson pair up in the All-Star Game.
13. Team Giannis: Damian Lillard, Blazers
Lillard brings near-limitless range and won’t steal dunks from Antetokounmpo and Co. He could go sooner than the 13th pick.
14. Team LeBron: Ben Simmons, 76ers
Team LeBron becomes Team Klutch with Simmons joining Davis and James. We could’ve had a fourth Rich Paul client join the All-Star Game if Eric Bledsoe snuck into the East reserves crew.
15. Team Giannis: Blake Griffin, Pistons
While it’s questionable whether Griffin can still jump over a KIA, he can likely provide a highlight-worthy slam for the Charlotte crowd. Perhaps he’ll pass on the dunks altogether to show off his newfound range.
16. Team LeBron: Bradley Beal, Wizard
We’re sadly passed the potential recruiting angles for James, so we’ll settle on Beal, a quality shooter who is thriving with John Wall’s absence. Maybe Beal ends up at the Staples Center one day, but expect Washington to shop John Wall or Otto Porter first.
17. Team Giannis: Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
Selected as an All-Star reserve following a game-winner vs. Memphis on Wednesday night, it’s been a disappointing 2018-19 for Towns as well as Minnesota. His offensive skill-set is downright impressive, though. He’ll provide some buckets for Team Giannis.
18. Team LeBron: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
Bold prediction: the best highlight of the night comes from a lob off the hands from Jokic. Denver’s interior dynamo has an argument as the best passer in the All-Star Game. He’s a true maestro.
19. Team Giannis: Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Antetokounmpo defeated Lowry and Co. in Toronto on Thursday, so no hard feelings from Milwaukee’s leader. Plus, the more point guards the better for Giannis and his other high flyers.
20. Team LeBron: Nikola Vucevic, Magic
Vucevic has been a dominant offensive force despite a shaky cast in Orlando. He could find himself on a contender next week, and the All-Star Game will provide a nice showcase for his offensive development.
21. Team Giannis: LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
Giannis spares the veteran Aldridge from falling to the last pick. Classy move from Antetokounmpo.
22. Team LeBron: D’Angelo Russell, Nets LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
This spot would go to Doncic if the archaic conference selection structure were scrapped. Instead, we get Russell for the injured Victor Oladipo. Nice year from D-Lo as he seeks a summer payday.
Team LeBron: James, Durant, Irving, Leonard, Walker, Davis, Thompson, Simmons, Beal, Jokic Vucevic, Aldridge
Team Giannis: Antetokounmpo, Curry, Harden, Embiid, George, Westbrook, Middleton, Lillard, Griffin, Towns, Lowry, Russell