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NBA All-Star draft: LeBron James picks Giannis Antetokounmpo first, while Jazz stars get taken last

Jack Baer
·Writer
·4-min read

Kevin Durant won't be playing in the 2021 All-Star Game, but he still had to fulfill captain duties against LeBron James.

For the fourth time, the All-Star Game rosters were decided via captain draft, and for the fourth time, James was one of those captains. The selections from James and Durant were televised Thursday on TNT after taking place Wednesday.

Past drafts have been known to be one-sided in favor of James, to the point of accusations that the Los Angeles Lakers star has used the medium for free agency shenanigans. James jokingly denied this would be the case in 2021.

"I'm looking at the roster, I don't see many upcoming free agents," James said.

James opened the draft by selecting reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, a captain in the last two All-Star Games, first overall among the starters. Rudy Gobert had the unfortunate distinction of being last picked among reserves, while teammate Donovan Mitchell went just one pick earlier.

Here's how it all ended up shaking out:

Team LeBron

Starters

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks

2. Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors

3. Luka Doncic, F, Dallas Mavericks

4. Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets

C. LeBron James, F, Los Angeles Lakers

Reserves

1. Damian Lillard, G, Portland Trail Blazers

2. Ben Simmons, G, Philadelphia 76ers

3. Chris Paul, G, Phoenix Suns

4. Jaylen Brown, F, Boston Celtics

5. Paul George, G, Los Angeles Clippers

6. Domantas Sabonis, F, Indiana Pacers

7. Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz

Team Durant

Starters

1. Kyrie Irving, G, Brooklyn Nets

2. Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers

3. Kawhi Leonard, F, Los Angeles Clippers

4. Bradley Beal, G, Washington Wizards

5. Jayson Tatum, F, Boston Celtics

Reserves

1. James Harden, G, Brooklyn Nets

2. Devin Booker, G, Phoenix Suns

3. Zion Williamson, F, New Orleans Pelicans

4. Zach LaVine, G, Chicago Bulls

5. Julius Randle, F, New York Knicks

6. Nikola Vucevic, C, Orlando Magic

7. Donovan Mitchell, G, Utah Jazz

Jazz stars get snubbed

As the draft progressed it was hard to ignore that Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert — the two All-Stars on the Utah Jazz, which have the NBA's best record at 27-9 — were not being taken.

Then the draft kept going. And then Mitchell and Gobert were the last two names left on the board.

Somehow, the pair were good enough to propel the Jazz to a three-game lead in the West, but the least attractive players on the board to James and Durant. TNT's analysts immediately noted the situation as the draft ended, resulting in this response from James:

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"There is no slander to the Utah Jazz. You guys got to understand, just like in video games growing up, we never played with Utah. Even as great as Karl Malone and John Stockton was, we would never have picked those guys in video games. Never."

That's probably not going to stop the salt from flowing freely out of Salt Lake City.

Durant targets Nets teammates

It wasn't hard to see Durant's priorities in the draft. With his first starter pick, the Brooklyn Nets star picked teammate Kyrie Irving. With the first overall reserve pick, Durant picked teammate James Harden.

Picking teammates in the draft is an All-Star tradition at the point, and Durant lived up to the example. James didn't have the same opportunity due to Anthony Davis' Achilles injury.

LeBron drafts some old friends

While James didn't seem to do any legal tampering this time, he won't be without friends in Atlanta.

One of James' first reserve picks was Ben Simmons, the only other player in the game who counts Rich Paul as an agent. James is enough of a fan of Simmons' that he once traded for the player after missing on him in a previous draft.

James also drafted old friend Chris Paul with his third reserve pick, bringing together two members of the old banana boat crew.

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