Ever the showman, LeBron James and Kevin Durant put on quite the entertaining performance at the annual All-Star Game draft on Thursday. Taped right after the chaos NBA trade deadline, the show had the perfect fodder for the hilarity that ensued.
Because while Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was sitting on his hands with the Lakers, James made some moves that have him poised to remain a perfect 5-0 in the new draft format.
Before the draft even started, the elephant in the room was addressed with the news of James Harden — Durant’s now-former teammate — being traded for Ben Simmons. Durant was asked the hard-hitting questions, like his reaction to the news and whether the Nets had a full-time psychiatrist on staff to deal with the constant drama.
Chuck: "Do you have a full-time psychiatrist on staff dealing with all the stuff you had to deal with in Brooklyn?"— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) February 10, 2022
KD: "What I gotta deal with? I'm making millions of dollars playing basketball."
With the formalities aside, the fun part of the evening was set, with the two sides picking their teams, beginning with the starters. Being the overall leading vote-getter, James had the No. 1 overall pick and made the rather simple choice of selecting Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Every pick made between the two would always be hyper-analyzed, but especially this year, it didn’t take much digging to see a little something extra in James taking DeMar DeRozan with his third pick over the likes of Nikola Jokic and Trae Young. Over the summer, DeRozan was heavily linked to the Lakers in free agency and reportedly was willing to take a pay cut to return home to Los Angeles.
The optics, then, of the Russell Westbrook experiment imploding around him at the same time as James is taking DeRozan with his third pick are objectively hilarious.
Equally hilarious was the mid-draft exchange, where host Ernie Johnson tried his best to get a health update on Durant, who was having none of it.
Ernie: "By the way KD, can you tell us how you're feeling, and where you are in terms of coming back to play?"— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) February 10, 2022
Ernie: "I didn't think so. But I had to ask." pic.twitter.com/ZgO1DPUgpO
The real moment of the night, though, played out in the draft of the reserves. With Harden amongst the pool of players to be selected, a... methodical James made sure to not select him, leaving Durant in an increasingly more awkward position of not wanting to select the player that just bailed on the Nets literally minutes earlier in the day.
In the end, Durant wasn’t going to HAVE to pick Harden, as James had the final pick. That didn’t stop LeBron from taking Fred Van Vleet with his penultimate pick, leaving Durant with Rudy Gobert or Harden as his options. From there, hilarity ensued.
With the chance at the close of the show to make final trades, Durant tried to pry Klutch client Darius Garland from James’ grasp, but LeBron was unwilling, citing him leaving Cleveland twice as the reason to draft the hometown All-Star to get back in the city’s good graces when he returns in a week.
Here’s a look at the final teams for both players:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Stephen Curry
- DeMar DeRozan
- Nikola Jokic
- LeBron James
- Luka Doncic
- Darius Garland
- Chris Paul
- Jimmy Butler
- Donovan Mitchell
- Fred Vanvleet
- James Harden
- Joel Embiid
- Ja Morant
- Jayson Tatum
- Trae Young
- Andrew Wiggins
- Devin Booker
- Karl Anthony-Towns
- Zach LaVine
- Dejounte Murray
- Khris Middleton
- LaMelo Ball
- Rudy Gobert
You can watch the whole draft here:
It’s remarkable that the league ever considered not having this whole thing on television. Add in James, who always excels in these environments, the Durant/Harden dynamic, and the All-Star Game itself has a high bar to be better than Thursday’s draft.