Team LeBron is looking for its fourth consecutive victory in the NBA All-Star Game, as the four-time NBA champion has led his team to victory since the game’s new format took hold in 2018. This March, Team LeBron will be facing off against Team Durant, captained by the Nets star, who is an All-Star Game captain for the first time in his prolific NBA career. Durant will be inactive for the game, having pulled out of the contest with a hamstring injury. He will, though, still be drafting as one of the game’s two captains.
As a result of Durant’s absence in the game—it is unclear if he will be in attendance on Sunday in Atlanta—Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has been upgraded to the starter pool.
Ahead of the NBA All-Star draft this Thursday, Sports Illustrated writer Ben Pickman and NBA editor Jarrel Harris put their general manager hats on to try and predict how the draft will go.
As will be the case in Thursday’s draft, Team LeBron—selected by Jarrel—picked first from the starters pool while Team Durant—selected by Ben—picked first in the reserves pool.
Team LeBron: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
With the first pick of the draft, I had to pick Giannis. He doesn’t know how to play casual. He is going to bring it no matter what. A team with LeBron and Giannis to start off … YIKES! It is going to be a long night already for Team KD.
Team KD: Stephen Curry, Warriors
In my version of Team Durant, I’m looking to create a team that both is exciting to watch play and has a realistic chance to win. Who better to be the team’s on-court leader—and first pick—than two-time league MVP Stephen Curry, who is leading the NBA in offensive real plus-minus and is one of the game’s most exciting players.
Team LeBron: Kawhi Leonard, Clippers
We are loaded on defense in an ASG. But to quote the great Herm Edwards: You play to win the game! When you first look at these top three picks, you will probably say Team LeBron doesn’t have enough shooting, but Kawhi was the MVP of last year’s game in Chicago after scoring a game-high 30 points and seven rebounds. He also nailed eight three-pointers to lead Team LeBron to victory.
Team KD: Kyrie Irving, Nets
Heading into Monday night’s game with the Spurs, Irving was averaging 27.4 points per game, tied for the best mark in his career. Arguably the league’s best ballhandler, few players are more exciting to watch in an exhibition than Irving.
Team LeBron: Joel Embiid, 76ers
I wanted to pick Kyrie on Team LeBron for obvious reasons. A few years ago, it was great to see Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook end their beef by throwing each other alley-oops. Would have loved to create that moment again with the former Cavs’ teammates. I also had the chance to add a playmaker like Luka with this pick, but Embiid has been so good this season. What an incredible start for Team LeBron.
Team KD: Luka Dončić, Mavericks
Yes, my first three picks are guards, and so we might have some issues defending Team LeBron’s size, but we’re banking on being able to stretch the floor and run up and down the court. Luka Dončić, who is averaging more than 28 points per game for the second straight year, does just that.
Team LeBron: Bradley Beal, Wizards
I will take Beal on my team any day of the week. The NBA’s current leading scorer is on a mission to prove doubters wrong, and his play has brought the Wizards back from the dead.
Team KD: Nikola Jokić, Nuggets
He’s the NBA’s best passing big—and maybe the league’s best overall passer. He’s also shooting a career-high 42.1% from three this season and should be able to stretch the floor in this All-Star Game. The Joker will be a thrill to watch and elevate those around him.
Team KD: Jayson Tatum, Celtics
Tatum, the game’s starter replacement for Durant, will play a key role on this team and will be tasked not just to create on offense, but guard some of Team LeBron’s bigger forwards.
Team KD: James Harden, Nets
Another lights-out shooter and playmaker, the recently acquired Nets guard will further bolster Team Durant’s stable of wings. We’re riding the hot shooters to victory, so why not add Harden?
Team LeBron: Damian Lillard, Blazers
The most disrespected superstar in the NBA. Dame has something to prove, and he is going to show out in Atlanta. What a luxury to have a player who should been a starter on the bench for Team LeBron.
Team KD: Ben Simmons, 76ers
Arguably the league’s best defensive player this season, Simmons won’t have to shoot a lick on Team Durant and can instead worry about orchestrating fast breaks on offense and being a pest in the passing lanes.
Team LeBron: Paul George, Clippers
More shooting and defense on Team LeBron. This might be the deepest All-Star team ever assembled.
Team KD: Zion Williamson, Pelicans
We’re certainly going to win the excitement battle after adding Williamson to this roster. The second-year forward will be making his All-Star Game debut in Atlanta and might be one of the most important players on our team, considering his size and brute strength. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to get in Williamson’s way during the All-Star Game. He’s going to be a dunk machine Sunday night in Atlanta.
Team LeBron: Devin Booker, Suns
Copy and paste what I said about Dame being disrespected right here. Should have been voted into the game the first time around.
Team KD: Chris Paul, Suns
In last year’s All-Star Game, Paul scored a career All-Star Game–best 23 points and added six assists, making a strong push for the game’s MVP. He provides Team Durant with another crunch-time option and would be unafraid to guard some of Team LeBron’s bigger wings. You can’t go wrong adding an 11-time All-Star to the roster.
Team LeBron: Rudy Gobert, Jazz
I would love to see a lineup of Gobert, Embiid, Giannis, Kawhi and LeBron just for fun. Good luck getting a shot up.
Team KD: Jaylen Brown, Celtics
Brown is currently dealing with left knee soreness and it’s unclear what his status will be for Sunday’s game. If available, he'll provide Team Durant with more wing depth as another high-quality option off the bench. Getting Brown late in the draft is also a steal, as he arguably should have been a starter after averaging a career-high 25 points per game on 49.6% shooting from the field.
Team LeBron: Donovan Mitchell, Jazz
The best player on the perhaps best team in the NBA?
Team KD: Julius Randle, Knicks
Randle is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds and assists this season for the Knicks. While he’s unlikely to play a big role on Team Durant, he’s a valuable scorer off the bench nevertheless.
Team LeBron: Nikola Vučević, Magic
I am sorry, Knicks fans! I wanted to draft Randle for Team LeBron. Vuc is having an incredible season and deserves to be on a winning team.
Team KD: Domantas Sabonis, Pacers
Sabonis earned his second straight All-Star selection last week in the wake of Durant’s absence. This season, he joins Giannis Antetokounmpo, Julius Randle and Nikola Jokić as the only players in the league averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game.
Team LeBron: Zach LaVine, Bulls
LaVine received a well-deserved All-Star spot. The Bulls’ guard is averaging a career-high 28.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists. The first-time All-Star might not participate in the dunk contest, but you know he is going to pull off something incredible during the game.
Team KD: While Team Durant might not have some of the size on the wings that Team LeBron has, the squad representing the Nets star is littered with lights-out three-point shooters and players who thrive in transition—both key features of successful All-Star teams. Down the stretch of what we expect to be a tight game, we can ride the hot-hand, likely picking between Curry, Irving, Dončić, Paul and Harden in the backcourt. Williamson seems poised to wreak havoc all night long as well, and it’s hard to see anyone wanting to slow down the explosive forward. Throw in the versatility of Simmons and Jokić, two players capable of both orchestrating our offense and defending some of Team LeBron’s frontcourt players, and some of our shortcomings can be masked over. Plus, it’s an All-Star Game, and the excitement that Team Durant brings is the ultimate trump card.
Team LeBron: Team KD probably has more glamour and exciting players, but I built a winning roster from the top down. My starting and closing five with LeBron, Giannis, Kawhi, Embiid and Beal is just too much to handle. Add in Dame and Book, who are a couple of the coldest dudes in the game, and I don’t know how Team KD will get past this. If Durant were playing, I would be more concerned, but for now this is how I feel about these rosters: