LeBron James is quick to show fans that he’s more than just a basketball player—he’s a businessman, the Lakers’ secret general manager, and an entertainer. This draft is a balancing act of all these roles. While I’m obviously here to win, I also plan to recruit James’ next superteam before he rides off into the sunset.
Knowing how competitive Giannis Antetokounmpo can be, he’ll probably show up to the draft with reading glasses and binders overflowing with research and notes. With that in mind, I’m looking to pick the most balanced, dominant team with high flyers and sharp shooters alike, combining effort and skill to crush James’ remaining spirit.
First Round: Starters
1. Kevin Durant (Team LeBron)
Arguably the second-best player in the league, Durant earns the first overall pick for another reason: He will soon be a free agent. The opportunity for Durant to see James and himself in action is a good trial run for a prospective move to the Lakers.
2. James Harden (Team Giannis)
Harden made one of the most impressive runs in NBA history in January, averaging 43.6 points for the month. Picking the MVP frontrunner is a clear choice for Antetokounmpo.
3. Kyrie Irving (Team LeBron)
Irving spent three years demolishing opponents alongside James. A few years after their falling out, they’re now mending fences. This pick isn’t just for the sake of nostalgia: It’s for the theatrics, the cryptic Instagram stories, and possible tampering fines. The All-Star Game is entertainment for the fans, after all. What could be better than a potential reunion?
4. Stephen Curry (Team Giannis)
After a fantastic first half of the season, picking the two-time MVP with the fourth pick is a no-brainer for Antetokounmpo. It doesn’t hurt that Curry will have a chip on his shoulder for getting passed over for captain in favour of James.
5. Kawhi Leonard (Team LeBron)
James needs to recruit. Leonard happens to have just spent $13.3 million on a home in Southern California, while Toronto is so cold that fans have reached out to Danny Green, urging him to keep the star indoors. With an opportunity to team up and show out in the All-Star game, GM James can sell sunshine and dynasties if Kawhi is looking to bolt.
6. Joel Embiid (Team Giannis)
With a dominance in the post rivaled only by Shaquille O’Neal in the early 2000s, Embiid has established himself as the best traditional centre in the league. He will also bring a competitive edge that has been painfully absent in All-Star games of years past, with his trademark humiliating poster dunks and unrivaled trash talk.
7. Kemba Walker (Team LeBron)
Before chastising this pick, it’s important to recognize that Walker has had a stellar year. With only two players left on the board in the first round, Team LeBron doesn’t need another wing; however, the Lakers could use a star point guard, and this one just so happens to be a free agent come July.
8. Paul George (Team Giannis)
George has had an exceptional season, picking up Russell Westbrook’s slack. Averaging 28 points, four assists, and eight rebounds per game, George looks like he may have finally hit his stride in Oklahoma City this year.
Second Round: Reserves
9. Anthony Davis (Team Giannis)
Getting Davis on the ninth pick is a steal. He’s had an eye-popping season, posting his best stats yet and showing what the combination of elite skill, size, and athleticism can do. He will definitely be motivated to put a show on for potential future teammate James.
10. Russell Westbrook (Team LeBron)
While he’s scoring at an inefficient clip (41.7 field goal percentage/24.8 three-point percentage/64.3 free throw percentage) this season, Westbrook still brings a lot to the table. He’s also averaging a triple-double this season; with two All-Star MVPs already, Westbrook is a mighty weapon, beneficial to any team.
11. Nikola Jokic (Team Giannis)
Jokic has had an electrifying season, leading a second-seeded Nuggets team and redefining what it means to be a centre. His inside passing game is unrivaled by any other centre and will certainly be on display at the All-Star Game.
12. Ben Simmons (Team LeBron)
Simmons and James not only share an identical playstyle on the court, but they’re also good friends. James will likely take his ‘little brother’ early in the draft, and, as a result, this team’s fluid ball movement will be a sight to behold.
13. Damian Lillard (Team Giannis)
Lillard didn’t get overlooked this year. With a range rivaled only by All-Star teammate Steph Curry, he’ll add to a monstrous backcourt. It would come as no surprise if Team Antetokounmpo never set foot inside the three-point line.
14. Blake Griffin (Team LeBron)
Since leaving Lob City, Griffin has completely overhauled his playstyle. Nevertheless, Team LeBron is not looking for a stretch-four; it’s looking for the Pistons star to throw down lobs like it’s 2014 again.
15. Klay Thompson (Team Giannis)
It only makes sense to capitalize on the connection that Thompson and Curry already share. The Splash Brothers are two great bets to get in James’ head and secure victory for Team Antetokounmpo.
16. Nikola Vucevic (Team LeBron)
Despite a shaky Magic roster, Vucevic is an offensive juggernaut who has found a way to torment defences; this won’t go unnoticed in the All-Star game. Plus, Team LeBron could use his size.
17. Bradley Beal (Team Giannis)
In John Wall’s absence, Beal has proven to be an elite guard. At just 25 years old, he still has got room to climb. He’ll want to put on a show and continue to prove himself during this All-Star game.
18. Oladipo Replacement → D’Angelo Russell (Team LeBron)
19. Khris Middleton (Team Giannis)
Keeping Middleton makes sense: Antetokounmpo will understandably want to play alongside his teammates. It also doesn’t hurt that he is one of the most underrated and unselfish players in the league.
20. Karl-Anthony Towns (Team LeBron)
This one is a no-brainer: Towns’ offensive skill-set is phenomenal, and he is only 23. Ideally, Towns’ former Timberwolves teammate Jimmy Butler would have been chosen as a reserve alongside him, but their reunion will have to wait.
21. Lamarcus Aldridge (Team Giannis)
While Aldridge’s season hasn’t exactly been exhilarating, he has managed to lead an otherwise overlooked Spurs team to the sixth seed. That achievement is definitely worthy of some recognition.
22. Kyle Lowry (Team LeBron)
Lowry’s scoring numbers may be down, but this team has enough offensive options already. With Lowry’s addition, Team LeBron will have flashy ball movement locked down.
1. Dwyane Wade (Team LeBron)
The band is back together for one last showcase. LeBron will look to Wade to help convince All-Star teammates Durant, Leonard, and Walker that playing on the King’s court can be pretty fun.
2. Dirk Nowitzki (Team Giannis)
It’s only right to bring Nowitzki out one last time. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even break out his signature one legged fadeaway.
Starters: G Kemba Walker, G Kyrie Irving, F LeBron James, F Kevin Durant, F Kawhi Leonard
Reserves: G Russell Westbrook, G D’Angelo Russell, G Kyle Lowry, G Dwyane Wade, F Ben Simmons, F Blake Griffin, C Karl-Anthony Towns, C Nikola Vucevic
Starters: G Stephen Curry, G James Harden, F Paul George, F Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Joel Embiid
Reserves: G Damian Lillard, G Bradley Beal, F Klay Thompson, F Khris Middleton, F LaMarcus Aldridge