The 2021 NBA All-Star Draft takes place Thursday night (8 p.m. ET) on TNT, with LeBron James and Kevin Durant choosing their respective rosters.
James is quite used to being a captain at this point. It’ll be a new experience for Durant, who will not even be partaking in the festivities due to a hamstring strain.
LeBron gets the first pick among the starters as the leading vote-getter. Durant will have first choice among the reserves.
Remember, under the new format, conference does not matter. James and Durant can select whichever NBA players they please.
How might the draft play out? Let’s have some fun and concoct a mock draft for the proceedings.
First Pick, Team LeBron: Kyrie Irving
James uses his first pick to select former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate and current Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, stealing him away from Durant. “Uncle Drew” has a style of play built for an All-Star Game, with incredible handles and exceptional playmaking ability.
First Pick, Team Durant: Stephen Curry
Durant also goes with another former teammate in Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. Like Irving, the two-time NBA MVP often has the ball on a strong and boasts tremendous court vision. Curry also wows with his shot-making, especially from beyond the arc.
Second Pick, Team LeBron: Nikola Jokic
Perhaps this is a bit audacious for a center to go so early. But what Jokic lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in spades with tremendous skill. The Denver Nuggets star is one of the best passers in the NBA, and might already be the best passing big ever. His high-arcing fallaway jumpers also make for good entertainment.
Second Pick, Team Durant: Bradley Beal
Durant solidifies the backcourt by selecting Beal. The Washington Wizards guard leads the NBA in scoring at 32.9 points per game, and is a certified bucket-getter capable of creating off the dribble and even surprising opposing bigs with his athleticism and bounce at the rim.
Third Pick, Team LeBron: Kawhi Leonard
LeBron has always had a ton of respect for “The Claw” dating back to his early years in San Antonio. He has a playmaking point guard and a do-it-all center, and adds a two-way defensive wing to the mix.
Third Pick, Team Durant: Joel Embiid
Durant locks down the middle by drafting Embiid who, like Jokic, is unbelievably skilled for a big. He not only dominates with a ridiculous assortment of post moves, but has also shown a greater comfort shooting face-up jumpers and expanding his game to the perimeter.
Fourth Pick, Team LeBron: Luka Doncic
How do you combat a dynamic, playmaking backcourt in Curry and Beal? By drafting Doncic to partner with Irving. Luka is perhaps even better utilized in the post, but he can also break opponents down off the dribble, and is a tough cover in pick-and-roll with rim-rolling bigs. In this case, that might be LeBron himself.
Fourth AND Fifth Pick, Team Durant: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum
Since Durant himself cannot play, he gets the last two starters on the board, including his replacement in one of the NBA’s brightest young stars.
In fact, Tatum is an ideal replacement given his size, length and shot-making. Antetokounmpo can be a blur in transition with his long strides, and is sure to energize his team defensively down the stretch.
First Pick, Team Durant: James Harden
Obvious choice for Durant here. He takes his Brooklyn teammate in Harden, who has increased his aptitude for sharing the rock since joining the Nets, and dimes his teammates in just about every way imaginable. He’s pretty good at scoring, too…
First Pick, Team LeBron: Chris Paul
Remember, James loves to play with his friends. He could also use a gritty PG who can handle, shoot the rock and excel in pick-and-roll off the bench. So, CP3 it is.
Second Pick, Team Durant: Damian Lillard
Dame Time! Durant has Curry at the starting point guard spot, and now adds Lillard off the bench. The two star PGs could be making it rain at the NBA All-Star Game.
Second Pick, Team LeBron: Zion Williamson
Another player prototype made for the All-Star Game. LeBron has always had one of the highest motors in basketball. So how does he replace himself at the forward spot? With Zion, a guy with an incredibly high motor and penchant for highlight-reel jams and explosive finishes.
Third Pick, Team Durant: Devin Booker
Durant has spoken numerous times about Booker’s pure scoring ability. D-Book is a nice replacement for Beal off the bench as a guy who is an absolute terror to cover in the midrange.
Third Pick, Team LeBron: Ben Simmons
Here we go again with LeBron showing loyalty to his guys. Simmons is a Klutch Sports client, and his ability to see the floor and make plays in transition while also guarding numerous positions will be valuable.
Fourth Pick, Team Durant: Julius Randle
Randle has been the anchor for the New York Knicks’ success thus far, but his total production and evolution is most impressive. The former Kentucky star is averaging 5.5 assists and also shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc.
Fourth Pick, Team LeBron: Zach LaVine
LeBron needs a pure scorer off the bench. He could do worse than Zach LaVine. The Chicago Bulls star combo guard is averaging 28.7 points on 52.5 percent shooting from the field, including 43.5 percent from deep. LaVine can pull up for above the break triples, and might also be the best dunker in the NBA.
Fifth Pick, Kevin Durant: Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown’s metamorphosis into a two-way star is complete. He is averaging 24.8 points, shooting close to 50 percent from the floor and nearly 39 percent from deep. Brown gives Durant some scoring and a bit of an edge off the bench, not to mention plenty of athleticism.
Fifth Pick, Team LeBron: Donovan Mitchell
Speaking athleticism, LeBron gets a steal with “Spida” near the end of the draft. Mitchell can fill it up from deep and jumps through the gym. Size means little to the Utah Jazz star, who can just as easily dunk on bigs.
Sixth Pick, Team Durant: Rudy Gobert
Durant already has an elite defensive center in Embiid, and now adds arguably the best defensive center in Gobert. No, defense isn’t at a premium in an All-Star Game, but it sure might be down the stretch as part of the new format.
Sixth Pick, Team LeBron: Nikola Vucevic
Don’t let the fact he is the last pick fool you. Vucevic can flat-out hoop. The Orlando Magic star has been about the only thing positive for that franchise this season, averaging 24.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting a career-high 41.2 percent from beyond the arc on good volume.