LeBron made the first selection Thursday during a special TNT telecast, with Durant's teammate, Steph Curry, coming off the board first for Giannis Antetokounmpo's squad
LeBron and Giannis clearly had different drafting styles. Antetokounmpo's roster is filled with size and athleticism, while LeBron's roster runs small—particularly with the reserves.
The draft included an amusing moment where LeBron admitted he is "very sure" he wants Anthony Davis to be his teammate after the Laker selected him in the reserve round. Unfortunately for LeBron, he did not get his wish for a long-term partnership with Davis, as the Pelican stuck around past the trade deadline in New Orleans.
Here is a look at how the draft played out round by round—and the one transaction that took place after the event was completed.
1) Team LeBron: Kevin Durant, F, Golden State Warriors
2) Team Giannis: Steph Curry, G, Golden State Warriors
3) Team LeBron: Kyrie Irving, G, Boston Celtics
4) Team Giannis: Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
5) Team LeBron: Kawhi Leonard, F, Toronto Raptors
6) Team Giannis: Paul George, F, Oklahoma City Thunder
7) Team LeBron: James Harden, G, Houston Rockets
8) Team Giannis: Kemba Walker, G, Charlotte Hornets
It was a given that the two Warriors would come off the board first. Their order was the only question. LeBron admitted to host Ernie Johnson he picked Durant first each of the last two years—a clear sign of mutual respect between possibly the two best players of this generation.
Giannis, as he indicated he would before the draft, went with Curry as his top pick. Curry selected Antetokounmpo with his first pick last year.
LeBron's strategy appeared to be to take players he might want the Lakers to target this summer. Six of his first seven selections will be free agents in July or guys considered potential trade targets.
Perhaps the biggest surprise came when the reigning MVP and repeat front-runner James Harden lasted until the seventh pick. If we're speculating, this is probably because Harden has little chance of ever being a Laker and Giannis is Harden's most direct competition for MVP.
Antetokounmpo has made it clear in no uncertain terms he feels he's the (expletive) MVP.
1) Team Giannis: Khris Middleton, F, Milwaukee Bucks
2) Team LeBron: Anthony Davis, F, New Orleans Hornets
3) Team Giannis: Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets
4) Team LeBron: Klay Thompson, G, Golden State Warriors
5) Team Giannis*: Ben Simmons, G, Philadelphia 76ers
6) Team LeBron: Damian Lillard, G, Portland Trail Blazers
7) Team Giannis: Blake Griffin, F, Detroit Pistons
8) Team LeBron*: Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
9) Team Giannis: D'Angelo Russell, G, Brooklyn Nets
10) Team LeBron: LaMarcus Aldridge, F, San Antonio Spurs
11) Team Giannis: Nikola Vucevic, C, Orlando Magic
12) Team LeBron: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
13) Team Giannis: Kyle Lowry, G, Toronto Raptors
14) Team LeBron: Bradley Beal, G, Washington Wizards
(Note: Giannis and LeBron later traded Simmons and Westbrook.)
To no one's surprise, Giannis started the reserve round by selecting teammate Khris Middleton. The man not only has to play with Middleton for the remainder of this season but will be part of the contingent that pushes to retain the free-agent-to-be this summer.
Team Tampering—er, Team LeBron—made the second-most obvious choice of the night by taking Anthony Davis with his top reserve pick. That led to the following exchange between James, Antetokounmpo and Johnson:
Johnson: You sure you want [Davis] to be your teammate?
LeBron: I...I am very sure of that
Giannis: Isn't that tampering?
LeBron: Tampering rules does not apply during All-Star Weekend.
I'm pretty sure the only people not laughing at that exchange were NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and those in Greater New Orleans. The draft, taped Thursday morning, came before the Lakers failed to acquire Davis in a pre-deadline trade.
The rest of the draft played out as expected, and Bradley Beal even got his wish of being selected last among the All-Stars. Last month, Beal bristled at the fact that the All-Star draft would be televised and told reporters he did not care where he was taken.
"I think it's dumb," Beal said. "Why does it need to be on TV?"
"Is it [entertaining]? We're just picking teams. [Media and fans] are going to make a big deal out of who's last. I think they will get a kick out of who's last. It doesn't matter."
Things got a little more interesting after the draft ended. LeBron, who yelled out "s--t" when Giannis took Ben Simmons, offered a deal of Westbrook straight-up for Simmons. James used his charm to wink-wink Giannis into splitting up teammates Joel Embiid and Simmons.
As a draft strategy, though, trading No. 13 overall for No. 16 overall is a curious move by Giannis. LeBron took advantage of the young man's inexperience and came through in the Klutch (heh) for his team.
1) Team LeBron: Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat
2) Team Giannis: Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas Mavericks
The world's most obvious pick. LeBron and D-Wade will get to play together one more time in what should be a special moment for the friends.