James, selecting first as the leading vote-getter, assembled a starting lineup that includes himself, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.
The Los Angeles Lakers forward then filled out his bench with Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons, Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George, Indiana Pacers center Domantas Sabonis and, finally, Gobert.
Durant will sit out Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury but still served as a team captain by virtue of leading the East in all-star voting. He selected a starting lineup of guard Kyrie Irving, his Nets teammate; 76ers center Joel Embiid; Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal.
The Nets’ forward then selected his other all-star teammate, James Harden, to lead a bench group that also included Suns guard Devin Booker, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, New York Knicks forward Julius Randle, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Mitchell.
TNT conducted the draft Wednesday and aired it Thursday. Commentator Charles Barkley quickly seized on the fact that Mitchell and Gobert were the final two picks.
“I’m not going for this Utah Jazz slander right now,” Barkley said. “They’ve got the best record in the NBA, and their two best players are the last two standing. This is slander. This is slander, America.”
Once the selection process was complete, James pushed back on Barkley’s assessment.
“There’s no slander to the Utah Jazz,” James said as he and Durant laughed. “You’ve got to understand, just like in video games growing up, we never played with Utah. As great as Karl Malone and John Stockton was, we would never pick those guys in video games. Never.”
Gobert, Mitchell and Conley made headlines Wednesday when they took issue with the officiating following a loss to the 76ers. Gobert pointed to the Jazz’s market size while venting his frustrations, hinting at skepticism from analysts who believe the Jazz is a regular season team that might struggle in the playoffs without a top-five player.
“We’re not able to get some calls that everybody else in the f-----g league gets,” Gobert said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “We know that we’re the Utah Jazz and there may be some people that don’t want to see us go as far as I believe that we can go.”
The two-time defensive player of the year added that the officiating was “disrespectful to the game of basketball” and said: “When you’re a small market, we got to be better than just better. You’ve got to be elite.”
Mitchell argued that officiating bias against the Jazz was getting “f-----g ridiculous” and that they were “screwed” in their loss to the 76ers. Members of the Jazz have previously expressed disappointment that Conley, who has never made an all-star team, wasn’t selected to participate in Atlanta. Conley joined Gobert in suggesting that market factors were at play when it came to the officials.
“Small market,” Conley said, according to the Deseret News. “We don’t have the big-time names, the ones that are all over the TV and stuff like that. It can get a little wild for us.”