2022 NBA All-Star Mock Draft: Team LeBron James vs. Team Kevin Durant

Bleacher Report NBA StaffFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2022

2022 NBA All-Star Mock Draft: Team LeBron James vs. Team Kevin Durant

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The NBA has officially revealed its 24 players for the 2022 All-Star Game.  

    The rosters, on the other hand, are far from set for Team Kevin Durant and Team LeBron James

    While we're only one week away from the televised 2022 NBA All-Star draft (Thursday, Feb 10—TNT), we're also impatient and ready to do this thing now. Here to give us an idea of what these teams may look like—or at least should look like—are B/R's Greg Swartz drafting for Team LeBron and Dan Favale representing Team KD.

        

    Hit the comments in the B/R app to let us know which roster you would take for the 2022 All-Star Game in Cleveland.

Team LeBron Pick No. 1: Giannis Antetokounmpo (1st Overall)

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    A few players were considered with the No. 1 overall pick in this draft, but Antetokounmpo is arguably the best player in the NBA, and he simply dominated last year's contest.     

    Let's not forget he was a perfect 16-of-16 from the floor for his game-high 35 points en route to taking home MVP honors in 2021. With defense optional, who's really going to sacrifice their body to try to stop a 6'11", 240-pound freight train when he gets downhill?

    The 27-year-old has a chance to win both MVP and Defensive Player of the year this season, something that hasn't been done since, well, Antetokounmpo did it in 2020.

    A forward combination of LeBron James and Antetokounmpo is a nice start to Team LeBron, and a nightmare for opponents (even All-Star ones) to defend.

Team KD Pick No. 1: Stephen Curry (2nd Overall)

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Wow, imagine having the first pick of this draft and not selecting Stephen Curry to bombs away off the dribble, from the would-be five-point line, in the name of offensive domination.     

    Between shameless range, voodoo handles and circus finishes, he’s the quintessential All-Star running mate. In a fully healthy world, it also helps that he and Kevin Durant have played together. Rumor has it they even won a couple of championships. 

    Granted, it doesn’t particularly matter who else is on the team. Steph Curry-plus-anyone pick-and-rolls are universally lethal—in regular-season tilts, playoff battles, meaningless midseason exhibitions, you name it.

Team LeBron Pick No. 2 Ja Morant (3rd Overall)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Nikola Jokic is the better overall player than Morant, but I knew if I passed on him and Dan took Jokic, I'd still be getting Joel Embiid with my next pick. Besides, I wanted to add the best point guard in the NBA this season. (And for those who disagree, the combination of Curry's shooting slump and Morant's superior play in the clutch gives Morant the nod.)

    Unlike some older players who have already made their marks in the All-Star Game, Morant is a first-timer who will want to prove a point. He's averaging 26.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.3 steals and shooting 48.6 percent overall. The 22-year-old is a stone-cold killer who's going to take the game very, very seriously.

    Going up against the 33-year-old Curry, Morant will use this platform to try to establish himself as the game's best point guard.

Team KD Pick No. 2: Nikola Jokic (4th Overall)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    It isn't the best look for either of us that the current should-be MVP, who also happens to be last year's MVP, slipped this far. But it's an even worse look for Greggy Boy, who passed on him twice.   

    Team KD won't be making the same egregious, unforgivable mistake. Our offense will translate to unstoppable no matter the lens through which it's viewed. 

    Nikola Jokic's game isn't synonymous with conventional All-Star highlights, but as he's shown time after time, one-man wrecking balls needn't play above the rim to sear through souls. He will throw touchdown outlets to Steph, run fast breaks, fling no-look dimes and pepper in his usual number of impossibly angled half-court passes. 

    It's a good thing Giannis is on Team LeBron, because hot damn, they're going to need the defense juice. It won't matter, of course. But still, they're going to need it.

Team LeBron: Pick No. 3: Joel Embiid (5th Overall)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The reason I was OK passing on Jokic, who's having an unbelievable season, is that I knew Embiid would be waiting for me with my third pick.

    Embiid could lead the NBA in scoring this season (currently at 29.1 points per game, just behind Kevin Durant's 29.3) and is throwing the Sixers on his back every night while they climb the East standings. This is his fifth consecutive All-Star selection, but 2021-22 is by far his most impressive season when factoring in his 10.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.4 blocks and excellent defense on a nightly basis. There's nothing this man can't do on either end of the floor.

    With a big man duo of Antetokounmpo and Embiid, the paint will be well protected for Team LeBron.   

Team KD Pick No. 3: Trae Young (6th Overall)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    It turns out two properly-sized-logo threats are better than one. Who knew?   

    Slotting Trae Young into the same backcourt as Steph Curry would incite plenty of defensive concerns—if defense actually mattered. Spare me the worries about the Elam ending. Team Durant will roll out the appropriate defensive firepower if Team Grandpa LeBron ever poses a legitimate threat.

    Until then, we bask in the idea of housing four of the 10 most genuinely offensive dangerous players in the league—all inside our starting lineup. And hell, with the way Steph sets screens, he and Trae might even run some guard-on-guard pick-and-pops from 50 to 60 feet out.

Team LeBron Pick No. 4: DeMar DeRozan (7th Overall)

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    Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    No offense to Andrew Wiggins, but LeBron didn't want to play with him in 2014, and he is once again choosing a more talented teammate now.    

    DeRozan is the far more deserving candidate who already has experience starting in All-Star Games. Need him to get you a bucket in isolation? Easy. How about serving as a point guard to set the table for guys like James, Antetokounmpo, Morant and Embiid? No problems there as well. 

    Averaging 26.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.0 assists and even hitting 35.7 percent of his threes this season, DeRozan has been revitalized with the Chicago Bulls, and he has always liked his chances to win if getting to play alongside LeBron.

    This also means Trae Young is now going to have to either defend Morant or DeRozan. Good luck with that.

    Team LeBron Starting Lineup: PG Ja Morant, SG DeMar DeRozan, SF LeBron James, PF Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Joel Embiid

Team KD Pick No. 4: Andrew Wiggins (8th Overall)

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Because I'm a captain of the people, I'll point out that we're really fortunate to end up with Andrew Wiggins on Team KD. He was in consideration for Pick Nos. 1, 2 and 3, but tough calls were made. He missed each by a hair, because he's clearly a deserving All-Star starter, and not at all a billboard for K-pop's ubiquity.   

    In all seriousness, make Wiggins a punchline if you must. Three-and-D contributors are scalable to every situation, including this one. 

    And let's not forget: Wiggins will have something to prove, so Team KD anticipates him attacking, sledgehammering down posters and defending his butt off, all game, as if he's playing against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Starting Lineup: PG Trae Young, SG Stephen Curry, SF Andrew Wiggins, PF Kevin Durant (injured), C Nikola Jokic

Team KD Reserve Pick No. 1: Chris Paul (9th Overall)

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Editor's Note: Team LeBron owned the first pick, so Team KD will start off with the first reserve selection. 

    My team isn't quite diabolically murderous enough, so Chris Paul gets the enthusiastic nod. Is anyone in this draft better suited to drive value amid the Elam ending? He leads the entire NBA in crunch-time assists and is shooting a preposterous 65.2 percent on twos outside the restricted down the stretch of close games. 

    CP3 is a killer's killer. I'd say a prayer on Team LeBron's behalf if I had any inclination to care about its well-being.    

Team LeBron Reserve Pick No. 1: Luka Doncic (10th Overall)

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    My strategy for starting the reserves picks was simple; take the best player available.   

    Doncic was an All-Star starter each of the past two seasons and only got bumped to the reserves due to Steph Curry's popularity and Ja Morant's incredible season combined with the Memphis Grizzlies' rise to the third seed. Make no mistake, Doncic is still one of the NBA's most talented players, and he ranks tied for eighth in points per game (26.0) and fifth in assists (8.9).

    A big playmaking point guard, Doncic is tailor-made to play in a free-flowing All-Star Game. He should find himself right at home in Cleveland, the site of the world's largest Slovenian population outside of the country itself.

    Having Doncic as a sixth man? Team LeBron is off to a sizzling start.

Team KD Reserve Pick No. 2: Jimmy Butler (11th Overall)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    In a game where so many will uncork shamelessly deep threes and impossibly difficult off-the-dribble middies, give me the guy who will get his jollies off attacking the basket, whipping passes on downhill assaults and harassing ball-handlers in the final frame if the game is close enough.   

    That guy is Jimmy Butler.

Team LeBron Reserve Pick No. 2: Devin Booker (12th Overall)

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    After adding another supersized playmaker in Luka Doncic to go with LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, I wanted to add some shooting to this roster.    

    Booker is having an outstanding season with the league-leading Phoenix Suns. He's their leading scorer at 25.4 points per game, and he's knocking down 41.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes. He'll have plenty of open looks playing off some of the best playmakers in the game, keeping the floor spread for Team LeBron.

    Unable to play due to injury after being named an All-Star last season, Booker should be hungry to make up for lost time now.

Team KD Reserve Pick No. 3: Zach LaVine (13th Overall)

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    Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

    Kudos to Greg for stealing Devin Booker from under my nose. I have a feeling that he had a feeling that I was feeling inclined to unite Booker and Chris Paul and capitalize on their established synergy. Solid gamesmanship, Mr. Swartz.

    Zach LaVine is a necessary selection, because he's really good at toggling between complementary scoring and alpha off-the-bounce duties, but also because he's a hedge against Kevin Durant's absence.   

    If we're being honest, our fearless captain most definitely won't be available for this superstar shindig. In his absence, we need to ensure there's as much flamboyant off-the-dribble shot-making as possible. And clearly, Stephen Curry, Trae Young and Chris Paul don't provide enough of that. 

    LOL, JK. They do. LaVine is essential overkill. And he'll be good for at least one to 13 dunk-contest-worthy jams in his minutes to boot.

Team LeBron Reserve Pick No. 3: Rudy Gobert (14th Overall)

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    With Luka Doncic and Devin Booker leading my second unit, I thought it time to add some size and defense.

    Gobert should have been a frontcourt starter on the West ballot alongside LeBron James and Nikola Jokic. He's having that good of a season, leading the NBA in rebounding by a large margin (15.1 a game) while also ranking first in field-goal percentage (70.7 percent) for the third time in four years.

    Adding Gobert means Team LeBron now has the top two players on NBA.com's Defensive Player Ladder (along with Giannis Antetokounmpo), with the now-three-time All-Star being brought in to protect the rim, grab rebounds and finish off lobs from LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Ja Morant and others.   

Team KD Reserve Pick No. 4: Jayson Tatum (15th Overall)

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Jayson Tatum is having a down shooting season by his own lofty, volcanic standards. That's cool with me.     

    He remains a bucket when he gets going, and rather than stocking up on pure 5s, give me bigger wings like himself, Jimmy Butler and All-Star starter Andrew Wiggins to guard Team LeBron's many, many unimpressive three-point marksmen.

    For anyone still concerned about Tatum's own long-range clip, just consider how much better his shot quality will be through the first 3.5 quarters of this game relative to every single minute of his regular-season action.   

Team LeBron Reserve Pick No. 4: Darius Garland (16th Overall)

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Is Garland truly the best player available at this point? That could certainly be debated, but let's not forget where the All-Star Game is being held.   

    Unless Jarrett Allen is eventually picked as an injury replacement, Garland will be the Cavaliers' lone representative, as he's been the MVP of a team that's shocked everyone by becoming one of the best in the East. He'll undoubtedly want to put on a show for friends, family and teammates in the crowd, and for All-Star teammate and fellow Klutch client LeBron James.

    Garland is quickly becoming one of the best young point guards in the NBA and is seventh in assists per game this season (8.2) to go along with his 19.8 points per night, the highest mark on the Cavs. He'll bring some added playmaking and outside shooting off the bench for Team LeBron.

Team KD Reserve Pick No. 5: Fred VanVleet (17th Overall)

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    Hakim Wright Sr./Associated Press

    I knew sentiment would eventually get Greg, who sources tell me covers himself in wine-and-gold body paint on days that end in "y." He can have Darius Garland, who is very good, but who also isn’t Fred VanVleet.   

    FVV’s entire career has been one giant exercise in defying expectations. His experience shifting between on- and off-ball responsibilities in Toronto’s offense renders him a transcendent fit alongside so many other bigwigs. But I’m also betting on a first-time All-Star like himself, who is just the fourth undrafted player of all time to earn this honor, will break exhibition tradition and defend his ever-loving behind off whenever he takes the court. 

Team LeBron Reserve Pick No. 5: Karl-Anthony Towns (18th Overall)

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Have you seen how small Team Durant is? With Kevin Durant and Draymond Green unable to play in the game due to injuries, Dan's crew is down to just one big (Nikola Jokic) on a 12-man roster. Yikes.   

    Seeing him continue to take guards and wings made me jump on Towns, as there's simply no way his squad is matching up with mine physically.

    Averaging 24.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.2 blocks and shooting 40.9 percent from three while playing the best defense of his career, Towns can play next to Joel Embiid and Rudy Gobert with his floor-spacing abilities or hold down the center position for stretches.

    Who exactly on Team Durant is guarding all my 7-footers?

Team KD Reserve Pick No. 6: James Harden (19th Overall)

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Congratulations to Greg for arming Team LeBron with a third big in Karl-Anthony Towns at No. 18. That is definitely the right call for a roster with limited high-volume three-point shooters and basically zero wings attempting to win a friggin’ All-Star Game.   

    At this point, my lack of conventional size might seem like a problem. What-the-eff-ever. James Harden has slipped too far for me not to take him. His season has unfolded like a violent roller coaster without seat belts, but he’s looking more svelte than usual these days, and there have been more frequent flashes of an actual first step. This game should also wind up being officiated to his liking, which in turn means he won’t want for inspiration.

Team LeBron Reserve Pick No. 6: Donovan Mitchell (20th Overall)

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Getting Mitchell at this point in the draft was a steal, as he's once again been a devastating offensive force both on and off the ball.   

    His 25.5 points per game easily lead the Jazz, a team that's 25-11 when he and Rudy Gobert both play this season. Pairing them up on Team LeBron only makes sense.

    Looking at Team Durant, who features three defensively challenged guards in Trae Young, Stephen Curry and James Harden, Mitchell is just another weapon off the bench to terrorize the trio with.

Team KD Pick No. 7: Draymond Green (21st Overall)

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Draymond Green won't be partaking in the All-Star Game, but this draft is chess, not checkers. I'm taking his to-be-determined injury replacement over Khris Middleton knowing it will, almost assuredly, result in my squad landing Dejounte Murray, a defensive try-hard, or Deandre Ayton, a versatile back-line anchor intimately familiar playing with Chris Paul.   

    Ayton would provide me with the size that would satisfy the bellowing-at-clouds crowd, but either he or Murray improves my defensive hierarchy. I'm also a sucker for loading up on first-timers, because the implication is they will give bigger damns for the special occasion. 

    It doesn't matter if this spot ends up going to someone other than Murray or Ayton. Jaren Jackson Jr. would be perfect, too. So would anyone else. Because my roster was better than Team LeBron's before now.

Team LeBron Reserve Pick No. 7: Khris Middleton (22nd Overall)

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    The final pick in the All-Star draft, Middleton is a pretty damn good consolation prize, one who's even better than Andrew Wiggins, a starter for Team Durant.    

    Averaging 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.2 steals while playing great defense and hitting 38.2 percent of his threes this season, Middleton plugs into this roster, one that features plenty of guards and big men, beautifully.

    No stranger to the All-Star Game having been named to the 2019 and 2020 games, Middleton gives Team LeBron some great depth and a defensive wing to stick to players like Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler and Zach LaVine. 

    The Bucks are beating opponents by 8.3 points per 100 possessions with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton on the floor together this season, so we'll make sure they see some shared court time.

Who Ya Got?

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    Ethan Mito/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images

    Team LeBron

    Starters: LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ja Morant, Joel Embiid, DeMar DeRozan

    Reserves: Luka Doncic, Devin Booker, Rudy Gobert, Darius Garland, Karl-Anthony Towns, Donovan Mitchell, Khris Middleton

    Dan picked a great roster, to be sure. He was also stuck with Andrew Wiggins as one of his de facto starters and is already staring at two injury replacements with Kevin Durant and Draymond Green out. This, combined with a drastic lack of size, will ultimately doom Team Durant when these two superstar squads take the floor.

    Fred VanVleet could sit on Trae Young's shoulders and still have to stare up at my collection of bigs, ones who bring a combination of scoring, rebounding, outside shooting and elite interior defense.

    I have enough scorers and playmakers to keep the offense humming, the reigning All-Star MVP in Antetokounmpo, and, oh yeah, LeBron freaking James, who should be right at home back in Northeast Ohio and is suiting up for the 18th time in his 19-year career.

    —Swartz

    Team KD

    Starters: Kevin Durant (injured), Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic, Trae Young, Andrew Wiggins

    Reserves: Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Zach LaVine, Jayson Tatum, Fred VanVleet, James Harden, Draymond Green (injured)

    Traditionalists will bemoan my big-man rotation, which as of now, includes only Nikola Jokic. But it may end up including Deandre Ayton or Jaren Jackson Jr., as well. 

    Oh, and also: I don’t care.

    Winning All-Star Games isn’t about building the most conventionally acceptable roster. It’s about maxing out top-end talent and spring-of-the-moment fits. Team KD has done both. The aggregate shot-making, spacing, ball-handling and general dynamism of this group is beyond measure, and we have the quota of maniacal-in-a-good-way vibes more than filled with Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler and Fred VanVleet on the same side. 

    Be afraid, Team LeBron. And Greg. Be very, very afraid.

    —Favale

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