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GM LeBron James played favorites in the All-Star Draft

Unfortunately for the Utah Jazz, they weren’t the favorites with LeBron James or Kevin Durant.

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69th NBA All-Star Game Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Now that the teams are set for the 2021 All-Star Game in what was yet another entertaining draft — seriously, put LeBron James and Kevin Durant on TV together, and good things happen — let’s go over what we learned about GM LeBron in his fourth season as All-Star captain.

Team LeBron

  1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  2. Stephen Curry
  3. Luka Doncic
  4. Nikola Jokic
  5. Damian Lillard
  6. Ben Simmons
  7. Chris Paul
  8. Jaylen Brown
  9. Paul George
  10. Domantas Sabonis
  11. Rudy Gobert

Team Durant

  1. Kyrie Irving
  2. Joel Embiid
  3. Kawhi Leonard
  4. Bradley Beal
  5. Jayson Tatum
  6. James Harden
  7. Devin Booker
  8. Zion Williamson
  9. Zach LaVine
  10. Julius Randle
  11. Nikola Vucevic
  12. Donovan Mitchell

First and foremost, James does not believe that Kawhi Leonard is realistically considering leaving the Clippers in free agency. When Kenny Smith asked him if his draft strategy would involve which players would make good Lakers, James said that he didn’t see any upcoming free agents on the rosters, even though Leonard is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. There’s also a possibility that James was concerned about Leonard’s availability since the draft was conducted in the afternoon, when the Clippers All-Star was questionable for Thursday evening’s game.

It could also be that James was avoiding the Clippers as long as possible. In the second round, the other Clippers All-Star Paul George fell until 10th pick, and James essentially had to take him at that point, with the caveat that, “This is the only time I’ll root for this guy (PG) or this team, because we are enemies”, before James started cracking up.

James made it a priority to take care of his own. After taking clearly the best player on the board with his first reserve pick (Damian Lillard), his next two picks were from Klutch and the Banana Boat. Dwyane Wade was even surprised that Chris Paul wasn’t James’ first selection of the second round. That prevented James from getting some of the high flyers on the board — he seemed a little peeved that Zion Williamson and Zach LaVine were drafted by Durant — but family comes first.

Of course, the main takeaway from James’ decision-making, and the draft as a whole, was a complete disregard for the Utah Jazz. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert may want to redirect their ire from the referees to the All-Star captains, because it’s hard to believe that they were the two least desirable players in the All-Star pool. James at least had a reason for leaving the Jazz till the end, but it won’t make Utah fans feel any better.

We at Silver Screen & Roll tried to mimic James’ thought process in our SB Nation mock draft, but only ended up with six of his 11 choices. In fairness, we would have gotten seven correct had Nets Daily made the obvious pick and taken James Harden to start the second round, so we still feel pretty good about the overall effort. Our biggest miss was thinking James would avoid Giannis Antetokounmpo, when he ended up making the reigning MVP his first pick.

All in all, James has the better team, yet again. James may give the impression that he’s trying to have a good time, but every year, he comes to the draft with a plan to win. Team LeBron is in good position to do so.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @sabreenajm.

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