The stage for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game is set after the league televised its All-Star draft for the first time ever on Thursday night.
The Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo served as the captains of the draft after winning the votes for their respective conferences, with James picking first after piling up the most overall votes.
With the starters and the reserves announced in January, both James and Antetokounmpo had some time to strategize.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers*
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors*
Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics*
Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors*
James Harden, Houston Rockets*
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (taken 13th overall)**
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks*
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors*
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers*
Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder*
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets*
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons
D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (taken 16th overall)**
Early on, there was little drama in this draft.
James took Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant with the No. 1 overall pick for the second consecutive year, and Antetokounmpo stuck to his word by taking two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry with his first selection.
James further proved that he and Kyrie Irving are in a "good place now" by taking his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate with his second pick.
Perhaps the biggest storyline of the first round of the draft was the fall of Houston Rockets star James Harden. The reigning NBA MVP leads the NBA in scoring (36.5 points per game), and he has recorded 30-plus points in 28 straight games. However, six players were selected before the Beard.
There was plenty worth keeping an eye on as the draft entered the second round. The Greek Freak took Bucks teammate Khris Middleton with his first pick of Round 2, and James quickly snatched up New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, who had been rumored to be a Lakers target leading up to the trade deadline.
That pick hilariously brought up tampering accusations:
The Davis selection wasn't the only James pick that raised eyebrows. Many of the reigning All-Star Game MVP's choices made it seem as though he was using this opportunity to do some recruiting for the Lakers:
Antetokounmpo pulled a quick one on James by taking Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons midway through the round. That turned out to set the stage for an All-Star draft first—the event's first-ever trade.
James acquired "my guy" Simmons in exchange for 2016-17 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook. That led to quite the turn of events on Twitter:
That trade was prefaced by James saying he felt as though Antetokounmpo would want to see Westbrook and Sixers center Joel Embiid—who have a history of bad blood—on the same team. Being the social media legend that he is, Embiid reacted to the transaction shortly after:
Perhaps the Westbrook-Embiid feud will be the latest to simmer down as a result of the All-Star Game. Two years ago, Durant and Westbrook connected for a tension-breaking alley-oop, which drew quite the reaction from the West bench. Last year's game offered James and Irving a chance to play together for the first time since the latter forced his way out of Cleveland.
While James and Irving will once again suit up for the same squad, the Westbrook-Simmons trade will keep former OKC teammates Westbrook, Durant and Harden (all of whom now have NBA MVP awards on their respective resumes) from reuniting.
After loading up on size early, the Greek Freak used the 17th overall pick on Brooklyn Nets point guard D'Angelo Russell, a first-time All-Star who was replacing the injured Victor Oladipo on the Eastern Conference reserves.
The only concern about making the draft public was for the player selected last. Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal previously made it clear that he didn't care if he was the last one off the board because he was an All-Star regardless. As fate would have it, he was the last reserve taken.
Then again, Beal wasn't technically the last player selected. This year's All-Star Game features a pair of honorary players: Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade and Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki. While James initially pretended to fake everyone out, he made sure to grab his Banana Boat buddy, who is making his final All-Star appearance:
The 2019 NBA All-Star Game will be held on Feb. 17 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.