The NBA has abandoned its East vs. West format for this year’s All-Star Game in favor of a playground-style draft, a decision that was met with near universal acclaim. After several years of disinterested play, a captain for each team will select his roster.
Observers hope that selection process will be televised live, and the league hasn’t ruled out the possibility. Given its allure, The Washington Post thought it would be fun to create a mock all-star draft before the season begins next week.
We used LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the captains, so they each count as one of their conference’s 12 players. The selection of players in the pool will remain the same: Fan voting will determine the five starters from each conference — the top vote-getters will be the captains — and the league’s coaches will select seven reserves. This is our pool of 24 likely all-star candidates.
East: James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Joel Embiid, Kemba Walker.
West: Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, James Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis.
Remember, the starters chosen by fans must be selected first, before the reserves, and the captains do not have to choose players from their respective conferences. Now, let’s get to the draft:
Team James: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Team Durant: Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
We’ll assume that whoever gets the most fan votes gets to pick first. Going by last year’s vote totals, that would be James. Who will he take? To avoid any in-game drama, James selects Westbrook, preventing Durant from an awkward reunion. In return, Durant selects Irving, and both players avoid a weekend of questions about playing alongside their former teammates.
Team Durant: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Team James: Chris Paul, Houston Rockets
Of course Durant takes his two-time MVP-winning teammate here. James, meanwhile, takes Paul. Sadly, this format arrived a few years too late to allow the Banana Boat crew — James, Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony — to team up.
Team James: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Team Durant: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
James contemplates breaking up the Warriors and taking Green with his third pick. Instead, he takes George — once again causing rampant speculation about their possible future together in Los Angeles. Durant, meanwhile, happily takes Green, setting up an easy fourth-round pick.
Team Durant: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Team James: Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
Durant ensures the Warriors get to stick together. James does the same thing, taking Love to ensure harmony in the Cavs’ locker room — as well as to make Westbrook happy, as he gets to spend a few days reuniting with his former UCLA teammate.
Team James: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Team Durant: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
James now has a tough choice to make between Antetokounmpo and Leonard, as he doesn’t want to have to deal with either of them guarding him. He isn’t able to make a decision and winds up flipping a coin. The coin lands heads up, and so the Greek Freak joins James’s team. Durant was happy to take either, and so he chooses Leonard.
Team Durant: James Harden, Houston Rockets
Team James: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
With Durant getting another pick, he picks Harden, getting the chance to hang with his former Oklahoma City teammate for a few days. Then James, with Love as his only big man thus far, snatches up Davis to give him the ridiculous combo of himself, Antetokounmpo and Davis in the frontcourt.
Team James: John Wall, Washington Wizards
Team Durant: Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves
With plenty of depth now at every position, James has the freedom to go in any direction. That allows him to scoop up Wall, ensuring the star guard — who is represented by the same agent, Rich Paul, as James — doesn’t fall any further. Durant counters by grabbing Jimmy Butler to give himself yet another athletic wing player to go with himself, Leonard and Thompson.
Team Durant: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Team James: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Durant then completely clears the board of Western Conference players by adding Towns, and ensuring his team has at least one center on it. James then begrudgingly takes Beal at the behest of Wall — not because James thinks badly of Beal, but because he doesn’t want to hear Beal and Wall tell him that the Cavaliers are afraid of the Wizards all weekend.
Team James: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
Team Durant: Al Horford, Boston Celtics
With his next pick, James takes DeRozan, allowing him to turn to Wall and Beal when they try to give him grief and say, “Well, at least he’s made the conference finals.” Durant then takes Al Horford, making everyone in Oklahoma City momentarily forget about the team the Thunder have constructed for this season and bemoan what could’ve been had both Durant and Horford wound up in Oklahoma City last summer.
Team Durant: Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics
Team James: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Durant then grabs Hayward to keep the Celtics together. The end result: Seven guys from his team will come from two teams — the Warriors and Celtics. James counters by taking Lowry and tells the Raptors and Wizards guards to go spend the weekend playing 2-on-2 so he doesn’t have to hear from either of them about which team is better.
Team James: Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
Team Durant: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Now there are just two players remaining — Walker and Embiid — and both begin imploring James so they aren’t picked last. Walker tells James that taking him will make up for making fellow U-Conn. alum Shabazz Napier into an NBA punchline after the Heat drafted Napier in 2014 because they thought James would want to play with him … only for James to leave a few weeks later in free agency. Embiid, on the other hand, tells James that he needs to trust the process and take him.
James reminds Embiid that the process has led to a lot of losses for the 76ers, to which Embiid responds that he can also serve as his team’s social media coordinator — to which James reminds Embiid that he has his own company, Uninterrupted, to take care of that for him. When Embiid begins to make another point, James tells him to go have another Shirley Temple, and takes Walker.
This leaves Embiid for Durant’s team, and he then decides to create a social media campaign to capitalize on his misfortune — and to try to turn it into the date with Rihanna he’s been seeking.
So there it is, our best guess as to how a possible draft will play out. Now we can only hope the NBA will televise the proceedings and give us all a chance to see how this would play out — and in doing so, allow us to see where the super-team teammates will fall and who will wind up being last picked.
That would create a level of drama the past 20 All-Star Games combined haven’t stirred up.
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