The stage is set for a mouth-watering clash after captains LeBron James and Kevin Durant picked their sides for the upcoming NBA All-Star contest.
Gone is the Eastern Conference vs Western Conference concept, with James (LA Lakers) and Durant (Brooklyn Nets) choosing anyone they like to be on their side from a pool of players nominated as starters and reserves for the annual clash.
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James had first go, scooping up reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo with his initial pick and finishing with a seriously stacked starting line-up. Of the available starters, The King opted for Warriors sharpshooter Steph Curry, Dallas superstar Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, compiling a side that will be seriously tough to beat.
Durant will miss the All-Star game with a hamstring injury but has plenty of class to fill the void. He chose Nets teammate Kyrie Irving with pick No. 1, then filled out his squad with 76ers big man Joel Embiid, Clippers cool cat Kawhi Leonard, Washington’s Bradley Beal and Boston young gun Jayson Tatum.
Speculation was ramping up last month Ben Simmons would be snubbed for a spot among the All-Stars but received a lifeline when he was officially unveiled as an Eastern Conference reserve.
He’ll play alongside James as the veteran won the bidding war for the Aussie stud by selecting him with his second pick of the reserves, after bringing Portland star Damian Lillard on board.
That prompted a shake of the head from Durant, who admitted: “I wanted Ben Simmons. I wanted Ben. Damn.”
James fleshed out his team with big names like Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown and Paul George, while Durant was also happy with his reserves acquisitions.
He had no hesitation choosing Brooklyn comrade James Harden to kick off the second round, then added Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, Zach LaVine and Julius Randle to his stable.
Utah may be leading the Western Conference but neither James nor Durant seemed to care. The Jazz had Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the Draft pool, only for the pair to be the last two standing when it got down to the final picks.
James chose Gobert, so Durant ended up with Mitchell.
1. LeBron James (LA Lakers)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
3. Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)
4. Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
5. Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
6. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
7. Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
8. Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns)
9. Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)
10. Paul George (LA Clippers)
11. Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers)
12. Rudy Gobert — (Utah Jazz)
1. Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets)
2. Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
3. Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers)
4. Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
5. Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
6. James Harden (Brooklyn Nets)
7. Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
8. Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans)
9. Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls)
10. Julius Randle (New York Knicks)
11. Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic)
12. Donovan Mitchell — (Utah Jazz)