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Predicting the Inaugural NBA All-Star Draft

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After outcry from fans and media members alike, the NBA has thankfully decided to televise the All-Star draft this year. After getting the most votes, team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will pick their squads tonight at 7pm ET on TNT. While none of us know exactly what to expect, there are storylines galore. Will one of Giannis’ picks join him in Milwaukee this offseason? Who will be the last player selected? Will LeBron trade all of his picks at the end for Anthony Davis? Here are our official predictions for the first annual televised NBA All-Star Draft:

Round 1: Starters

Pick 1 – Team LeBron: Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)

Kevin Durant may believe himself to be the best player in the world, but that is not the case. Win a championship without three other All-Stars and then we can talk (I might still be a little mad about that). LeBron is still the King, and picking Durant first will be a subtle way of showing him that he still has a long way to go to get to his level.

Pick 2 – Team Giannis: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

Two picks in, and already two Warriors off the board. Giannis’ biggest weakness is shooting, so it will make sense for him to add the greatest shooter in NBA history to his roster.

Pick 3 – Team LeBron: Kyrie Irving (“Boston Celtics”)

Much has been made about the relationship between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving over the past year. I personally believe that they are still close, and their split before last season was merely professional. LeBron will pick him early in the draft because he is a sucker for some good drama. This will only fuel the question of whether or not this duo will reunite in LA this summer…

Pick 4 – Team Giannis: James Harden (Houston Rockets)

Giannis and Harden may be battling it out for MVP this season, but here they will join forces to create an unstoppable offensive-defensive tandem. Time will tell if Harden reaches his 12 free-throw attempts per game mark in this one, but I’m betting the under. Would also not be surprised if we see multiple players in this game mock the Harden stepback.

Pick 5 – Team LeBron: Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors)

Here’s when the unofficial recruiting will begin. Though Kawhi is having an unbelievable year in Toronto, he made it known before the season that he wants to be in LA. Who knows if he still feels that way, but LeBron will do his best with this pick to show Kawhi that he will be welcomed with open arms as a Laker this summer.

Pick 6 – Team Giannis: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Team Giannis is in desperate need of some size at this point, so why not draft the only starting center available? Besides – Giannis, who tends to be a more lowkey guy, needs someone like Embiid to talk a lot of trash and meme it up a bit. What’s the betting line on whether or not Embiid gets a technical foul?

Pick 7 – Team LeBron: Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Paul George may have spurned the Lakers in free agency, but there is no better option here for LeBron. George is having an MVP-caliber season, and has taken firm control over the Thunder. As we know, though, defense does not win All-Star games, so George’s high-level defensive impact may be rendered moot.

Pick 8 – Team Giannis: Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)

Kemba Walker is a pretty deserving starter (I’m personally partial to Ben Simmons), but he is nowhere near as talented as any of the players picked before him. It’s nice that the Charlotte crowd will get to see one of their hometown players in the starting lineup, though.

https://twitter.com/SportsSidelined/status/1088685183333818368

Round 2: Reserves

Pick 9 – Team Giannis: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

The NBA trade deadline takes place hours before the draft, so there’s no telling which team Anthony Davis will be on by this point in the night. It looks like the Pelicans will wait to deal him until the summer, but anything can happen. Supposedly, Milwaukee is one of the teams that Davis would like to be traded to:

When Giannis picks Davis here, will he be picking his new teammate? Either way, Davis is the best player available, and is the obvious choice.

Pick 10 – Team LeBron: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

Despite the positon-less NBA we now live in, Team LeBron is in desperate need of a center. With averages of 20 points, 10.5 rebounds, and nearly 8 assists per game, Jokic is having a career-defining year. He has led the Nuggets to a top two spot in the Western Conference, and his creative passing ability is perfect for the All-Star game.

Pick 11 – Team Giannis: Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Giannis has already vowed to make sure that Joel Embiid and Russell Westbrook end up on his team. These two have one of the best individual rivalries in the NBA currently, and it will be fascinating to see whether or not they pass each other the ball (or if Russell Westbrook will steal rebounds from him like he does to Thunder teammate Steven Adams…did I just go there?)

Pick 12 – Team LeBron: Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Klay is not the best available player here, but this is where GM LeBron must take over. According to Woj, Klay has already stated that he may be interested in joining the Lakers if he doesn’t receive a max offer from the Warriors:

https://twitter.com/balldontstop/status/1090151016014635009

While Klay’s sharpshooting will be helpful for Team LeBron in the game itself, this pick will serve mainly as a recruiting effort.

Pick 13 – Team Giannis: Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)

Giannis has already made it known that he intends to draft current teammate Khris Middleton. Middleton is not really an All-Star caliber player (I’m sorry), but Giannis will make sure to snag him as early as he can. This is his first All-Star selection, and you can bet that he’ll bring a high energy and intensity to the game.

Pick 14 – Team LeBron: Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons)

The Pistons are, frankly, a hot mess right now.

Griffin, though, someone who I have been critical of in the past, is not the reason for this mess. He is playing the best basketball of his career with an extraordinary usage rate. He deserves to be an All-Star, and hopefully playing with LeBron and others in this game will remind him what it feels like to win again.

Pick 15 – Team Giannis: Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)

If Simmons had even a semi-decent jump shot, he’d be a top 5 player in the NBA right now. That’s my hot take of the day. Regardless, he’s an unbelievable talent whose ball handling skills and quickness make him a great fit for the All-Star game. Will be interesting to see how much space the opposing team gives him on the perimeter, though.

Pick 16 – Team LeBron: Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)

Unlike the rest of us, Bradley Beal could not care less where he is drafted:

He may want to be picked last, but he’s far too great of a talent for LeBron to allow that to happen. Beal was actually linked to the Lakers earlier in the season, but, for now, he’ll provide some sharpshooting on the perimeter in the All-Star game – something that LeBron’s Laker team desperate needs.

Pick 17 – Team Giannis: Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)

Lillard used to be the guy that fans lamented about not making the All-Star team, but he has firmly established himself as a perennial All-Star in recent years. He’ll be a solid addition to Team Giannis.

Pick 18 – Team LeBron: Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)

KAT has had a fascinating year. It started off pretty poorly after he got ran out of the gym by Jimmy Butler and the practice squad, but he has somehow turned things around and brought the Timberwolves back into the fight for the playoffs. He’s highly talented, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s too sick to play after this stunt:

Pick 19 – Team Giannis: D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets)

Russell was added to the game to replace Victor Oladipo. He has completely shocked the NBA world with how he has been able to successfully take over and lead the Nets to wins over the past few months. Above all, though, he’s a fun, well-liked player who is perfect for the All-Star Game.

Pick 20 – Team LeBron: Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)

This is probably the least exciting pick of the draft. I’m already bored just thinking about watching Lowry play in the All-Star game again. He has had a fine year, but has not been nearly as impactful as he has been in previous years. The only reason he’s not the last pick is because of name alone.

Pick 21 – Team Giannis: Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic)

It was a tough decision for these final two picks. While Aldridge is the bigger name left, I decided that Giannis would choose Vucevic due to his youth.

Vucevic is not the flashiest of players or the most well-known, but nice guy Giannis will give him a chance to shine.

Pick 22 – Team LeBron: LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers)

I believe that Aldridge will be the last pick in the draft (other than Wade and Nowitzki, who don’t really count). I don’t think he really deserves to be an All-Star if I’m being completely honest – the honor should have gone to either Luka Doncic or Tobias Harris (who has since been traded to the East). He’s had a good year, but his overall impact on the Spurs is marginal in the grand scheme of things.

It remains to be seen whether or not the last pick will get some sort of compensation like they used to do in the NHL.

Round 3: Old Guys

Pick 23 – Team LeBron: Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)

This one is probably the most obvious pick of them all. LeBron and Wade are best friends (Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony may have something to say about that), and LeBron will make sure that they end up on the same team together.

Pick 24 – Team Giannis: Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)

The last man left on the board, Dirk will be the final pick in the draft (though Aldridge is the real last pick). Dirk has slowly but surely established himself as the resident jokester of the NBA, which will make him a terrific addition to All-Star weekend. Will be interesting to see how long until he gets tired out in what will surely be a ridiculously fast-paced game.

Whatever happens, this will be a memorable evening in the NBA, and I can’t wait to see what happens. Don’t forget to tune in!

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About Zach Zola

Zach Zola is a student at Brown University studying English. He grew up in New York, but has been a die-hard Rockets fan since the days of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. He believes that James Harden is the only King James in the NBA.

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