NBA All-Star Game 2021: Predicting LeBron vs. Durant Rosters, Players to Watch

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 1, 2021

NBA All-Star Game 2021: Predicting LeBron vs. Durant Rosters, Players to Watch

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    Nam Huh/Associated Press

    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

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    Nam Huh/Associated Press

    Team LeBron

    Starters

    LeBron James

    Stephen Curry

    Nikola Jokic

    Kyrie Irving

    Bradley Beal

          

    Reserves

    Damian Lillard

    Zion Williamson

    Chris Paul

    Devin Booker

    Zach LaVine

    Domantas Sabonis

    Julius Randle

                          

    Team Durant

    Starters

    Giannis Antetokounmpo

    Kawhi Leonard

    Joel Embiid

    Luka Doncic

    Jayson Tatum

            

    Reserves

    James Harden

    Paul George

    Ben Simmons

    Donovan Mitchell

    Rudy Gobert

    Nikola Vucevic

    Jaylen Brown

Player to Watch: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    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

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    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.

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