NBA All-Star Game 2021: Early Mock Draft for LeBron vs. Durant

Paul Kasabian
·6 min read
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James gestures during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James gestures during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The next piece of the 2021 NBA All-Star Game puzzle dropped on Tuesday when the reserves were announced.

The entire player pool featuring captains LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the eight other previously announced starters and the reserves can be found below:

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All that's left before the actual NBA All-Star Game, which is set to take place Sunday, March 7, at 8 p.m. ET, is for James and Durant to pick their teams. The fourth annual All-Star draft will occur Thursday, March 4.

Here's a look at how the entire draft could go down, starting with the starter portion.

Mock Draft (Starters Portion)

1. Team LeBron: Milwaukee Bucks F Giannis Antetokoumpo

2. Team Durant: Brooklyn Nets G Kyrie Irving

3. Team LeBron: Los Angeles Clippers F Kawhi Leonard

4. Team Durant: Golden State Warriors PG Stephen Curry

5. Team LeBron: Dallas Mavericks PG Luka Doncic

6. Team Durant: Philadelphia 76ers C Joel Embiid

7. Team LeBron: Denver Nuggets C Nikola Jokic

8. Team Durant: Washington Wizards SG Bradley Beal

Starters Notes

James will get the first pick after receiving the most All-Star fan votes in the league. It'd be hard to pass up back-to-back NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in this spot, especially after James had to go against him when the two were captains in the last two All-Star Games.

Durant picking his teammate, Kyrie Irving, seems like a foregone conclusion for his next selection.

The wild card will be the third pick, and the guess here is that James rolls with Kawhi Leonard, who was the Lakers star's second starter selection last year.

Look for Durant to select an old friend in former Golden State Warriors teammate Stephen Curry next. James can then use the opportunity to take Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic to begin forming a backcourt to counteract the Irving-Curry pairing.

At this juncture, picking a big man makes the most sense for Durant. He'll have his choice between the Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid.

KD can't go wrong either way. The flip of the coin here has him picking Embiid, who has averaged 34.5 points since Jan. 20.

That leaves James with Jokic as an excellent consolation prize at center, and Beal goes to Team Durant with the last starter pick.

Mock Draft (Reserves Portion)

1. Team Durant: Brooklyn Nets G James Harden

2. Team LeBron: Portland Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard

3. Team Durant: New Orleans Pelicans F Zion Williamson

4. Team LeBron: Boston Celtics F Jayson Tatum

5. Team Durant: Los Angeles Clippers F Paul George

6. Team LeBron: Philadelphia 76ers PG Ben Simmons

7. Team Durant: Utah Jazz SG Donovan Mitchell

8. Team LeBron: Phoenix Suns PG Chris Paul

9. Team Durant: New York Knicks F Julius Randle

10. Team LeBron: Utah Jazz C Rudy Gobert

11. Team Durant: Boston Celtics SG Jaylen Brown

12. Team LeBron: Chicago Bulls SG Zach LaVine

13. Team Durant: Orlando Magic C Nikola Vucevic

14. Team LeBron: (TBD Western Conference replacement for Los Angeles Lakers PF Anthony Davis)

Reserves Notes

If this year's draft picking process follows last year's method, then Durant will get the honor of picking first in the reserve round.

The obvious play is for Durant to now take his other Nets teammate in James Harden, who could have very well been KD's top choice even if he wasn't playing in Brooklyn.

That leaves James to select Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, who lost to Doncic in a tiebreaker for the second Western Conference backcourt starter spot. Lillard has been on fire this year, averaging 29.8 points and 7.9 assists for the 18-13 Blazers.

Doncic himself said that Lillard should have been an All-Star starter, and seeing him last more than two picks in the reserve part is near-impossible to fathom given his play.

The wild card could occur with Durant's second pick. He's loaded in the backcourt already with Curry, Irving, Beal and Harden, so a switch to more frontcourt options could occur in this portion of the round.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is still available. He's been sensational with 25.1 points on 61.6 percent shooting, dominating in the low post.

If Durant goes that route, James could bounce back with another forward option in Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 26.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

The rest of the reserve round is a wild card.

James took 76ers point guard Ben Simmons and good friend and Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul in the top half of last year's reserve All-Star draft. They could find their way back to James' team again.

Paul George could be a good fit for a Durant-led team that would have a loaded (albeit smallish) starting lineup in this scenario, providing some size on the wing.

We could also see a run on frontcourt players in the back end of the reserves portion of the draft, with some excellent choices in the New York Knicks' Julius Randle, Orlando Magic's Nikola Vucevic and Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert.

The versatile Randle could be an excellent fit for this Durant-led team of excellent shooters given his passing and ball-handling abilities.

Lakers big man Anthony Davis was also selected as a reserve, but he will be out at least three weeks to recover from a calf strain and aggravating his right Achilles tendinosis. He hasn't been officially declared out of the game, but it seems like a foregone conclusion that he won't be there this year.

With that in mind, per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver would pick a replacement, and that person would have to be from the Western Conference (either backcourt or frontcourt). Notable options include Jazz point guard Mike Conley, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Spurs shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.

Team LeBron Projected Roster

Los Angeles Lakers F LeBron James (starter)

Milwaukee Bucks F Giannis Antetokoumpo (starter)

Los Angeles Clippers F Kawhi Leonard (starter)

Dallas Mavericks PG Luka Doncic (starter)

Denver Nuggets C Nikola Jokic (starter)

Portland Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard

Boston Celtics F Jayson Tatum

Philadelphia 76ers PG Ben Simmons

Phoenix Suns PG Chris Paul

Utah Jazz C Rudy Gobert

Chicago Bulls SG Zach LaVine

TBD Western Conference Replacement

Team Durant Projected Roster

Brooklyn Nets F Kevin Durant (starter)

Brooklyn Nets G Kyrie Irving (starter)

Golden State Warriors PG Stephen Curry (starter)

Philadelphia 76ers C Joel Embiid (starter)

Washington Wizards SG Bradley Beal (starter)

Brooklyn Nets G James Harden

New Orleans Pelicans F Zion Williamson

Los Angeles Clippers F Paul George

Utah Jazz SG Donovan Mitchell

New York Knicks F Julius Randle

Boston Celtics SG Jaylen Brown

Orlando Magic C Nikola Vucevic