ATLANTA -- Kevin Durant was No. 1. Again. Here's how the draft unfolded:
1st: Kevin Durant (Team LeBron)
2nd: Stephen Curry (Team Giannis)
3rd: Kyrie Irving (Team LeBron)
4th: Joel Embiid (Team Giannis)
5th: Kawhi Leonard (Team LeBron)
6th: Paul George (Team Giannis)
7th: James Harden (Team LeBron)
8th: Kemba Walker (Team Giannis)
9th: Khris Middleton (Team Giannis)
10th: Anthony Davis (Team LeBron)
11th: Nikola Jokic (Team Giannis)
12th: Klay Thompson (Team LeBron)
13th: Ben Simmons (Team Giannis)*
14th: Damian Lillard (Team LeBron)
15th: Blake Griffin (Team Giannis)
16th: Russell Westbrook (Team LeBron)*
17th: D’Angelo Russell (Team Giannis)
18th: LaMarcus Aldridge (Team LeBron)
19th: Nikola Vucevic (Team Giannis)
20th: Karl-Anthony Towns (Team LeBron)
21st: Kyle Lowry (Team Giannis)
22nd: Bradley Beal (Team LeBron)
23rd: Dwyane Wade (Team LeBron)
24th: Dirk Nowitzki (Team Giannis)
*There was a trade after the draft, with Ben Simmons going to Team LeBron and Russell Westbrook going to Team Giannis
Full Draft Results:
• Starters: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden
• Reserves: Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, LeMarcus Aldridge, Karl-Anthony Towns, Bradley Beal, Dwyane Wade
• Starters: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, Paul George, Kemba Walker
• Reserves: Khris Middleton, Nikola Jokic, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, D’Angelo Russell, Nikola Vucevic, Kyle Lowry, Dirk Nowitzki
And friendships -- some over a decade old -- were indeed a priority as captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo darted the rosters for the 68th All-Star Game, which will be played Feb. 17 in Charlotte, N.C.
Last year’s draft, with James and Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry serving as captains, wasn’t televised.
But Thursday’s draft was conducted in front of TNT’s cameras and featured plenty of surprises (including a post-draft trade to spice things up), good natured barbs and confirmation that LeBron made the reigning two-time Finals MVP Durant the first pick for the second straight year.
TNT’s Ernie Johnson confirmed it at the end of the first round of the draft.
“Didn’t you pick Kevin Durant first last year, too?” Johnson asked.
“I sure did,” LeBron said.
“I finally got the answer out of you after 365 days because you wouldn’t say it last year,” Johnson said.
“Well, we’re televised this year,” LeBron said, “so I’m giving up more gems this year.”
LeBron had the first choice of the other eight starters, Giannis the first choice of the 14 reserves and LeBron the first pick of the special third-round additions, Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki.
Antetokounmpo selected Curry with the second overall pick, splitting up the Warriors’ stars, and LeBron tapped a former teammate in Boston’s Kyrie Irving with his next pick. Antetokounmpo countered with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and LeBron chose Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard. Antetokounmpo picked Oklahoma City’s Paul George next and then LeBron wasted no time in selecting reigning Kia MVP James Harden with his final pick of the starters. Charlotte’s Kemba Walker was the final pick to Team Giannis.
But that’s when things got interesting.
Antetokounmpo selected his teammate and first time All-Star Khris Middleton with the first pick of the second round (selection of the 14 reserves), making good on a promise he said he’d made before Thursday morning’s draft, leaving LeBron to take Anthony Davis with the next pick.
Davis, of course, has been at the center of an intense Lakers-New Orleans Pelicans trade drama in the lead-up to Thursday’s trade deadline.
“Isn’t that tampering?” Antetokounmpo asked jokingly after LeBron picked Davis.
“Tampering rules don’t apply on All-Star Weekend,” James shot back.
Antetokounmpo picked Denver’s Nikola Jokic with his next pick and LeBron added Golden State’s Klay Thompson. When Antetokounmpo came right back and announced he was taking “LeBron’s guy” -- Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons -- LeBron’s draft plan went up in smoke.
“Expletive,” LeBron said. “He took my choice. He took my guy. Now I gotta go into shuffle mode.”
LeBron rebounded with Portland’s Damian Lillard. The Greek Freak stayed in the Central Division with his next pick, taking Detroit’s Blake Griffin. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook was LeBron’s next pick. Antetokounmpo went with Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell and LeBron with San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, “even though Pop is going to tell me I can only play him two minutes.”
Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic was the next pick for Team Giannis followed by Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns for Team LeBron. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry was the final reserve selection for Antetokounmpo and Washington’s Bradley Beal was LeBron’s final pick of the reserves.
As expected LeBron chose his good friend and former Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade with his special addition pick and Antetokounmpo finished off the draft with Dirk Nowitzki, giving his team the international flavor he said was a part of his strategy all along.
Before the festivities ended, LeBron added a major wrinkle, proposing a trade of Westbrook for Simmons, so he could make sure that Westbrook and Embiid -- who have had their tussles -- would have a chance to bond as teammates.
Antetokounmpo countered that trade proposal with Wade being included, only to acquiesce later.
“I know Ben Simmons is your guy,” Antetokounmpo said, “so I’ll do it.”
While Johnson consulted “draft officials” to make sure a trade was allowed, TNT’s Charles Barkley weighed in with his own suggestion.
“I think the best way to do it is for Giannis to trade everybody on his bench for Anthony Davis,” Barkley joked.
Moments later the rosters were approved and the sides set for next week’s showcase game in Charlotte.
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