NBA All-Star Game 2021: Predicting LeBron vs. Durant Rosters, Players to Watch
The 2021 NBA All-Star Game has found yet another way to be different from previous versions.
Kevin Durant, named a team captain for being the top vote-getter in the Eastern Conference, won't suit up in the contest because of a hamstring injury. But he will retain his captaincy and pick one roster for the exhibition, per ESPN's Rachel Nichols.
LeBron James, the top vote-getter overall, will select the other side during the 2021 NBA All-Star Draft slated for Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
Before those stars make their picks, we'll make our own to assemble the potential rosters. Then, we'll spotlight two first-time All-Stars worth your viewing attention.
All-Star Roster Predictions
Player to Watch: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
When Zion Williamson, 2019's top pick, made his long-awaited debut last season, the bouncy big fella was never short on intrigue. His highlights were jaw-droppers, and his stat sheets sizzled.
Year 2 is much more of the same.
He's converting a ridiculous 61.5 percent of his field goals, which is basically the manifestation of giving a 6'7", 284-pounder a fresh package of moon boots. He is equal parts force and function, and there's just as much substance in his execution as there is style.
When he's motoring toward the basket, defenders are left risking it all to get in his way or grabbing a front seat for his next rim-rocking masterpiece. In a defense-optional setting like the All-Star Game, it's a safe (and smart) bet to assume everyone will opt for the latter.
He's forceful enough to bring down the basket inside Atlanta's State Farm Arena. If he wanted to, he could probably dunk his way to MVP honors.
But again, he's not just a throwdown artist. He has graceful footwork near the basket and a penchant for playmaking that the Pelicans are tapping into more and more.
Oh, one more thing—he'll be coming into this contest too hot to the touch. Over his last 10 outings, his contributions include 29.8 points (on 65.2 percent shooting), 7.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
Player to Watch: Zach LaVine
The NBA All-Star Game is often defined by aerial artistry and "he shot that from where?!" long-distance sniping.
Few players are better equipped to scratch both itches than Zach LaVine.
His high-flying heroics helped re-establish the Slam Dunk Contest as appointment viewing for even the most casual of fans. He took back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 with displays that defied gravity.
As for the outside shooting, he was a fourth-place finisher in last year's three-point contest, and he's upped everything with his long-distance arsenal since. He is pulling off the impressive feat of shattering his previous bests in both three-point volume (3.6 makes per game) and accuracy (44.2 percent).
He can create offense off the dribble. He can pull up from just about anywhere. He can find shots for his teammates. And, obviously, he can create magic when he has a runway to the rim, which should be early and often in an All-Star setting.
He may not be the first name that comes to mind for an All-Star discussion, but he has the tools and talent to take over this literally star-studded affair.