NBA All-Star Game 2021: TV Schedule, Time and LeBron vs. Durant Mock DraftMarch 3, 2021
Basketball's biggest and brightest stars are mere days away from taking over Atlanta for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.
But there are All-Star rosters to assemble before then.
That duty falls on the shoulders of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, named the game's two captains by virtue of being the highest vote-getters in their respective conferences. Durant will retain that honor despite being sidelined from the actual contest by a nagging hamstring injury.
James and Durant will make their selections during Thursday night's televised draft on TNT (8 p.m. ET). Fans who don't want to wait that long to see the rosters are in luck, as we're breaking out our crystal ball for a Team LeBron vs. Team Durant mock draft here.
NBA All-Star Game 2021 Schedule
When: Sunday, March 7 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: State Farm Arena in Atlanta
Live Stream: Watch TNT
Team LeBron vs. Team Durant Mock Draft
As the overall leader in fan votes, James will get the first pick from the starter pool. Given the plethora of top-shelf talent available, there isn't a wrong pick.
But there might be a right one. James could do himself a ton of favors by starting off his squad with the reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"In a game full of lobs and dunks, Antetokounmpo is a dream come true," ESPN's Kevin Pelton wrote. "He is by far the best dunker among the starters and probably the best defensive rebounder too."
The fact Antetokounmpo's motor only runs on full-throttle also means he'll be bringing it the entire game. James should want that on his team—and to not have to worry about defending Antetokounmpo.
For Durant, his first pick feels obvious: former running-mate Stephen Curry. He has seen the Chef's firepower firsthand and knows few (if any) offensive forces are as powerful.
James could mimic Durant's thinking by snagging his own former championship partner, Kyrie Irving. Durant could then come right back with Kawhi Leonard, who always seems to find an extra gear against James.
If James goes for the best player available here, Joel Embiid might be the pick. He's been nothing short of awesome this season, and good lord, a James-Antetokounmpo-Embiid frontcourt sounds ferocious. For Durant, answering that pick by adding Nikola Jokic seems the logical move to make, pushing the offensive ceiling even higher.
James could round out his starting five with Bradley Beal, whose shot-making might address the only question mark with this lineup. Durant could then close out the starter draft with Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum, Durant's replacement in the starting lineup.
The first pick of the reserve round goes to Durant, and he should be quick to pounce on Brooklyn Nets teammate James Harden. Imagine a defense facing Harden at one backcourt spot and Curry at the other. That's the definition of poison-picking.
James could counter by sending his already absurd size-athleticism combo into the stratosphere with Zion Williamson. Get those two out there with Antetokounmpo and Embiid and it might be game over.
That might nudge Durant toward a big, athletic defender, making Ben Simmons the next selection. Send Damian Lillard to Team LeBron, and Durant could go back to the defensive end with Paul George.
James could be hunting for more offense, and few provide it in more fiery outbursts than Devin Booker, who should be particularly heated after getting passed over in the initial All-Star selections. Durant might go back to the defensive well again with Rudy Gobert, who might be the only player physically equipped to deal with all of Team LeBron's length and explosiveness.
That leaves James' close friend Chris Paul there for the taking, while Durant can respond with rising two-way wing Jaylen Brown. James could increase his team's excitement with Donovan Mitchell, and Durant could do the same with Zach LaVine, whose combination of dunk-contest hops and three-point contest touch seems perfect for this environment.
As a jumbo-sized playmaker himself, James might appreciate Julius Randle's ability to serve as a 6'8" secondary shot-creator. After Durant perks up his own ball-movement with Domantas Sabonis, James can close out the draft with Nikola Vucevic, Orlando's 6'11" offensive hub who can score from the post to the perimeter.