B/R NBA Experts Mock Draft Rosters for 2019 All-Star Game
We regret to inform you that our mock drafting of the 2019 NBA All-Star rosters will not be televised.
But until LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo uphold their sacred duties as captains for the midseason festivities, picking friends for their individual rosters and making enemies through omission, we've got you covered with a selection process of our own. Just as James and Antetokounmpo will each recruit four starters to join them on the floor for the opening tip and then gain access to seven reserves, we're doing the same, balancing personal factors, sheer entertainment and—gasp—actual basketball skill to win this hypothetical competition.
Team LeBron has the first overall pick by virtue of his earning the most votes in the All-Star balloting, and we'll keep that order here with Dan Favale serving as his proxy. Adam Fromal takes over for Team Giannis, if for no other reason than his inferior jumper and need to score points around the basket in pickup games—sadly, with under-the-rim layups rather than tin-twanging slams.
Journey with us as we flesh out these rosters, and please don't hesitate to let us know for which squad you're pulling.
Pick No. 1: Team LeBron Takes Kyrie Irving
Some people are going to be BIG mad. Inject their fury into my veins.
Kyrie Irving is not the best player available. Far from it. But this pick isn't for his talent or for the fit. It's for the culture—the tweets, the memes, the Instagram captions, the prospect of tampering fines, etc.
Sources told Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher that Irving isn't opposed to teaming up with LeBron James on the Lakers this summer. I don't care that he has already pledged his allegiance to Boston. Give me the playground drama that comes with LeBron not only picking Kyrie but taking him first, ahead of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Paul George, et al.
Oh, and also: Irving is pretty damn good. He's having a career year and legitimately in the top-10 conversation. His mixtape handles and spectacle finishing are made for the All-Star Game. We know he's the guy who can come out and win MVP honors because he already did, in 2014.
Super-technical fit enthusiasts should accept this, too. Irving and LeBron spent three years together carving up defenses and each other's feelings. This will work.
We're splitting hairs when debating this level of star power in a no-stakes setting anyway. Passing on Steph, KD, PG13, etc. isn't so much an error as a commitment to trending hashtags.
Pick No. 2: Team Giannis Takes Stephen Curry
Give Team Giannis all of the three-pointers. And then give the soon-to-be victorious squad some more, all courtesy of the best shooter in NBA history—a title to which Stephen Curry, still only 30 years old, has already laid claim with plenty of room to spare.
This isn't just about the raw numbers, which see Curry knocking down his 11.5 deep attempts per game at a 45.1 percent clip. Unfathomably jaw-dropping as those marks may be, we're more concerned with the off-the-bounce manner in which he's able to drill so many shots from well beyond the three-point arc.
Maybe he sidesteps his way into a quarter-ending bomb. Perhaps he discombobulates defenders with his dribbling wizardry before coolly launching a trey with only the tiniest modicum of airspace. Sometimes, he just catches fire and refuses to miss for multiple possessions in a row, raining down an aerial assault that leaves the opposition devastated both mentally and on the scoreboard.
We want it all. We want to dazzle the crowd with three-point heroics while spacing out the defense and providing a clear runway for Antetokounmpo to attack the basket. No one does that better than this point guard.
Pick No. 3: Team LeBron Takes Kevin Durant
Look, LeBron James has to cover all his free-agency bases.
Kevin Durant isn't leaving the Warriors to play second fiddle to a 35-year-old Magic-Malone-MJ mashup. He'd clearly rather play with Rodions Kurucs 1.0 (Kevin Knox) and Allonzo Trier in New York. Or maybe he wants to, you know, keep living in Stephen Curry's shadow and winning championship rings.
But LeBron has to play this safe. Pointing out to KD that he selected him before his Oklahoma City successor, Paul George, is one helluva free-agency pitch.
It helps that Durant is also the best player available. He drowns this team in shot-making, both off the dribble and on the catch.
Between his silky-smooth explosion, LeBron's freight-train velocity and Kyrie Irving's illusionist handles, every member of Team Giannis will be leaving Charlotte with less cartilage than they had upon arrival.
Pick No. 4: Team Giannis Takes James Harden
James Harden isn't going to put up a 50-point explosion during the All-Star proceedings.
Maybe. Probably. Possibly.
Actually, don't bet against it.
Come to think of it, we really can't guarantee anything when it comes to the bearded superstar, given the torrid pace he set while carrying a heavy burden for the Houston Rockets during the first half of the 2018-19 season. Thanks to his foul-drawing habits, finishing ability and remarkable shot-creation skills from all over the half-court set, any offensive feat seems possible these days.
The worst-case scenario stemming from Harden joining Antetokounmpo and Curry involves him serving as little more than an off-ball decoy on most trips down the hardwood and then working the crowd into a frenzy with his rock-the-defender-to-sleep, between-the-legs dribbles before drilling a shuffle-step three-pointer on the rare possessions during which he's granted an isolation opportunity. The best-case scenario, however, features him remaining in takeover mode and challenging for the All-Star scoring record of 52 points set by Anthony Davis in 2017.
Oh, and don't be worried about foul-drawing droughts. That's not all Harden is about, and he's proved as much in prior All-Star Games. In six previous midseason-classic appearances, The Beard has averaged 23.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 9.1 assists per 36 minutes while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from downtown...without a single free-throw attempt to his name.
No matter what, Antetokounmpo, Curry and Harden are quite the start offensively in a game that features little defensive resistance.
Pick No. 5: Team LeBron Takes Paul George
Imagine picking James Harden over Paul George for a game that cannot be won at the foul line.
On the one hand, the reigning MVP—and current co-favorite (Giannis!) to win this season's MVP—is so much more than the whiny folk tales that overstate his villainous rule over the system. On the other hand, perpetuating the cranky inaccuracies from the yells-at-clouds crowd is a convenient and effective way of building up Team LeBron.
With that in mind: Did you know that James Harden has attempted zero free throws through six All-Star appearances? How Team Giannis expects to win with him flopping off the ghosts of Manu Ginobili past is beyond me.
George, meanwhile, is a monster. He's the star you want playing off other stars. He is a certified killer off the bounce this season, but he's also used to watching Russell Westbrook while away possessions.
Close to 45 percent of George's made baskets are assisted, and that's a low-end outlier for him. He made nine three-pointers in the 2016 All-Star tilt. He might beat that while being fed by LeBron, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Pick No. 6: Team Giannis Takes Joel Embiid
Can your center baffle and bamboozle defenders on the blocks with an endless arsenal of post moves? Can he supplement that bag of tricks with ferocious athleticism and a face-up jumper to boot?
Can your center protect the rim so devastatingly that foes must think twice before they even consider entering his domain? Can he also move his enormous frame nimbly enough to switch onto smaller foes and remain between them and the basket he protects so thoroughly?
Can your center eviscerate his enemies on the court, talking trash all the while to get under their skin, and then turn to the Twitter machine and keep humiliating them in an online forum? Can he do this in a way that's somehow frustrating for opponents and their supporters but simultaneously endearing to his own fanbase?
I'll give you a hint. Unless you're singling out one man in particular, the 5s of which you're thinking simply can't.
They aren't the NBA's most dominant 7-footer, a man who looks like the league's premier talent when he's fully healthy and everything is clicking. There's only one lovable villain who fits all these descriptions, and his name is Joel Embiid.
Pick No. 7: Team LeBron Takes Kawhi Leonard
In the interest of full disclosure: Team LeBron almost picked Kemba Walker.
I know, I know. Kawhi Leonard is fantastic. But can any of us be absolutely sure he won't back out of the All-Star Game at the last minute, citing load management so he can go shopping with Jerry West for a 15,000-square-foot fun-guy's pad in Hollywood?
In the end, Kawhi is too good to pass up. The gap between him and Walker is the largest between any of these picks, and he's perfect for this almost-all-wing roster. Plus, like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, he's about to be a free agent. LeBron's plan never sleeps.
Please, please, pretty please don't bemoan the starting lineup's lack of size. This is the All-Star Game. It is the Catalina Wine Mixer of NBA matchups. Everyone's here to laugh, relax, play zero defense and perhaps purchase a luxury helicopter.
Either LeBron or Durant can jump center. Heck, so can Kyrie Irving. It isn't hard to pretend you're guarding Joel Embiid. And we don't care about the ramifications on the offensive glass. We're not going to miss many shots. We'll punt on the rest.
Besides, Leonard is the single most likely player to give a hoot on defense. The two to 17 turnovers he'll randomly force with those Hulk-sized hands will be a nice reality check for the unsuspecting members of Team Giannis.
Pick No. 8: Team Giannis Takes Kemba Walker
Why is Team Giannis taking Kemba Walker with the No. 8 pick?
Because, by rule, we have to.
We're not going to lie to our fans and pretend Walker was our top choice here, particularly with Curry, Harden and Antetokounmpo all capable of functioning as primary ball-handlers. But because the starters have to go before the reserves, regardless of whether superior options exist in that secondary pool, Walker is the selection through sheer attrition.
Fortunately, he's by no means a bad option. Even during a year in which he's sacrificed a bit of his efficiency for additional scoring volume, he's remained a dangerous pick-and-roll option who dares opponents to pick between two unpalatable poisons: playing him tight over the top of a screen and getting left in the dust or sagging back and waiting for him to hit the pull-up three.
Walker won't play as much for Team Giannis as the other starters. But at least we have another floor-spacing option on the roster ready to pick apart any defenders playing with a lazy mentality—something that obviously never happens in the All-Star Game.
Nos. 9-12: Davis, Lillard, Jokic, Simmons
Pick No. 9: Team Giannis Takes Anthony Davis
When he's fully healthy (please, let that index finger heal up before he leaves our team in the lurch), Anthony Davis can often function as the best player in the world, ticking every box while pacing the New Orleans Pelicans (for now) on both ends of the floor. He's proved his bona fides at the All-Star Game in the past and still holds the single-game scoring record. He contributes effortlessly on defense, which plays well in this exhibition setting, while also cutting out of nowhere to provide highlight-reel jams that thrill those both in attendance and watching the national broadcast.
Oh, and selecting him here also has the added benefit of preventing LeBron James from tampering and smoothing the process that might lead to them both wearing the purple and gold in the not-so-distant future.
Pick No. 10: Team LeBron Takes Damian Lillard
Team LeBron could use some size. This is us not giving a darn.
Shot creation is the new "being tall." You can never have too much of it. We have all of it. There would be cause for some concern if everyone on this roster so far couldn't play without the ball, but they can. Team LeBron is loaded with weapons who dabble in both off-the-bounce artistry and standstill snipers.
Besides, we need someone to rival Stephen Curry, 45-foot three-pointer for 45-foot three-pointer. Lillard is that player, far more so than Irving.
And wait. Oh, my God. I just realized we'll have minutes in which Kyrie and Dame share the floor.
Best of luck matching our scoreboard, Team Giannis. You're going to need it.
Pick No. 11: Team Giannis Takes Nikola Jokic
This isn't about the numbers, even if many metrics make clear Nikola Jokic's status as a top-10 player who had a serious argument for a starting gig in the loaded Western Conference. One of the best passers in league history (you'll notice there's no "frontcourt" qualifier there), the Denver Nuggets superstar is a joy to watch.
Jokic gets tricky enough during the course of games that actually count, routinely throwing deep outlets, no-look feeds and precision passes through traffic to teammates who have learned to keep their heads on a swivel. He's also never played with a squad quite this talented, which makes the mind boggle when thinking of the geometry-warping assists he could compile in the All-Star Game.
Pick No. 12: Team LeBron Takes Ben Simmons
All righty, it's time to make the big-man pick.
JK, jk, jk, jk.
Ben Simmons is 6'10" and can defend everyone. That matters. First-time All-Stars have an incentive to try harder. They're new. Simmons is going to work in ways the older heads around him do not. (I think.)
Philly uses him as a point guard, so we're taking a little bit of a risk. Simmons is not as effective off the ball, and it isn't quite clear how he'll establish himself around so many other studs who fancy themselves top-shelf creators.
Mark my words, we're going to be just fine. Assists are like oxygen for Simmons. He'll find LeBron James and Kevin Durant for easy slams and go full Magic Johnson in transition. And hey, Simmons and LeBron share an agent in Rich Paul. We might as well use this opportunity to get the "Ben Simmons to L.A., #2024 or #2025" tweets flowing.
Nos. 13-16: Thompson, Towns, Griffin, Beal
Pick No. 13: Team Giannis Takes Klay Thompson
At the expense of the hapless Chicago Bulls, Klay Thompson made 14 three-pointers in a game this season.
If that's not justification enough, consider the fact that we're placing him on a team loaded with ball-handlers and asking him to flit around the perimeter in search of spot-up jumpers. He's proved time and time again he can score without dribbling, and this will give him an opportunity to put that catch-and-shoot skill on full display.
Thompson's rough start to the year makes him one of the least deserving All-Stars in 2018-19. His ability to bounce back and knock down his 7.4 triples per game at a 41.3 percent clip since his rough 20-game opening salvo still makes him a perfect fit for Team Giannis, which already boasts the other Splash Brother.
Pick No. 14: Team LeBron Takes Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns gives this roster its first conventional big man—minus the conventional part.
Towns does typical big-man stuff like rebound, bully opponents in the post and dunk fools into the sun. But he also torches poor souls off the dribble and has made a living of downing spot-up threes (38.6 percent this season) and slipping through the heart of defenses for catch-and-slams.
Team LeBron looks forward to KAT's captaining the offensive-rebounding attack we don't really need while he ensures our squad has five shooters on the floor at almost all times.
Pick No. 15: Team Giannis Takes Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin may have reason to be frustrated with some of his teammates on the Detroit Pistons, but that won't be the case when he suits up alongside a host of all-world talent in Charlotte. He's now working with a veritable treasure trove of floor-spacers and ball-handling options who can help alleviate the offensive responsibilities he shoulders on a nightly basis, freeing him up to become even more effective with the touches he does receive.
Ideally, the power forward will throw down slams that make Timofey Mozgov shudder from afar. But even if he doesn't rock the rim with his prodigious athleticism, he's still capable of knocking down pull-up triples and keeping defenders honest with his passing vision. The frontcourt passing on display when Griffin joins Jokic and Antetokounmpo will be legendary.
Pick No. 16: Team LeBron Takes Bradley Beal
More off-the-dribble creation mixed with complementary shooting!
Bradley Beal is having a monster season. Since John Wall went down with a heel injury Dec. 26, Beal's averaged 27.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game and slashed 45.8/38.2/81.4. He has established himself as an alpha, and his years of working alongside Wall have adequately prepared him to thrive next to our armory of other ball-handlers.
Our head coach, whoever it ends up being, will be instructed to play him in tandem with Ben Simmons as much as possible. They go together like the Knicks and short-circuited rebuilding processes.
Nos. 17-22: Westbrook, Oladipo/Siakam, Middleton, Lowry, Vucevic, Aldridge
Pick No. 17: Team Giannis Takes Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook, who's slashing 41.6/25.0/65.0, can't shoot this season. And that's just fine.
With his explosive athleticism and relentless desire to achieve dribble penetration into the heart of a defense, he's already har enough to keep away from the basket while he suits up for the Oklahoma City Thunder. When greeted with even less resistance from Team LeBron, he's sure to produce a few angry jams, leaving his mark on the All-Star Game in the form of a nearly shattered backboard.
Pick No. 18: Team LeBron Takes Victor Oladipo Pascal Siakam
Eric Bledsoe, Jimmy Butler and D'Angelo Russell may all be better bets to get the nod in place of Victor Oladipo, who's out for the year with a knee injury. But the powers that be (i.e. me) have decided whoever selected last year's Most Improved Player would get to select whoever else they coveted from the Eastern Conference.
Pascal Siakam is my guy. He does everything. He's hitting more of his threes (38.3 percent from the corners). He hustles off the ball. He can attack off the dribble in space. He is the dude Toronto tasks with covering Giannis Antetokounmpo. He can lead the break and initiate pick-and-rolls.
Slotting him at center would be our cheat code if our entire roster weren't one ginormous cheat code. But he fits our hyper-versatile theme while giving us a we-might-care-about-defense-more-than-you-think vibe. And if Bledsoe, Butler or Russell ends up here instead, well, nothing changes. We'll still dominate.
Pick No. 19: Team Giannis Takes Khris Middleton
At this stage of the draft, Team Giannis needs wings. And in the interest of full disclosure, we were also planning on drafting Oladipo to replace him with Siakam—a perfect fit on any outfit filled with ball-dominant players.
Positions don't matter in today's NBA, particularly in an exhibition contest with all-around talents. But we still need another player who can fill the duties typically assigned to swingmen, considering Antetokounmpo is the only player on our roster who has logged much time at the 3 in recent years.
Enter Middleton, who can check opposing wings, knock down triples and keep defenders off balance with his pull-up jumpers from all over the half-court set. He might not be the most glamorous option and often fades into the background when paired with our team captain, but he can get the job done.
Pick No. 20: Team LeBron Takes Kyle Lowry
With this selection of Kyle Lowry, Team LeBron has officially met its Raptors players quota.
Lowry is made for this roster, because he doesn't care about scoring. He seldom shot-hunted in his previous four All-Star appearances and has spent a great deal of this season chaperoning Toronto's offense through the Kawhi Leonard experience.
Do we need him to improve upon his 0-of-8 showing from downtown in last year's exhibition? You betcha. But also, maybe not. He's that good of a table-setter. Two of his four All-Star cameos have included double-digit assist tallies.
Pick No. 21: Team Giannis Takes Nikola Vucevic
Forget about glitz and glamour. We're filling the final spot on Team Giannis with a player who's quietly emerged into a legitimate candidate for celestial status, tormenting foes with a well-rounded offensive game in spite of the relentless defensive attention to which he's subjected on an Orlando Magic unit that can't properly protect him.
Slowing Nikola Vucevic is tough enough when he's surrounded by D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac—the lineup in which he's been used most frequently this year. It might be downright impossible when Antetokounmpo, Curry, Harden and another All-Star are keeping defenders honest.
Pick No. 22: Team LeBron Takes LaMarcus Aldridge
OK, so "pick" is a stretch. Team LeBron had no choice but to take LaMarcus Aldridge.
Color us shades of not-at-all upset.
Aldridge's 30 points across six All-Star appearances are concerning, but only marginally so. He gives us a more traditional option to milk in the post. That's important. We're going to spend so much time up by 15 or more points that we'll need to slow the game and run some methodical pick-and-pops and back-to-the-basket isos. He'll be our crutch in those situations.
Unlike Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, we'll also encourage him to take a three-pointer or 12. He has the range, and knowing how many ankles Lillard and Irving will vaporize, he'll damn sure have the room.
Starters: Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard
Reserves: LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Ben Simmons, Karl-Anthony Towns
Starters: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Kemba Walker
Reserves: Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Nikola Jokic, Khris Middleton, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, Russell Westbrook