For the second year in a row, LeBron James opened the NBA All-Star Draft on Thursday night by taking Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant with the first overall pick.
James, who earned the first choice by leading the NBA in All-Star voting for the second year in a row, never outright revealed his first choice in last year's draft, which wasn't televised. But after taking Durant in Thursday's event, which was televised on TNT, the Los Angeles Lakers' only All-Star admitted it was a repeat selection.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was named a captain by leading the Eastern Conference in All-Star voting, made it two Warriors in a row by taking guard Stephen Curry.
The captains then alternated picks through the remainder of the starters, with a mild surprise in Houston's James Harden slipping to the seventh of eight starters picked. James picked former teammate Kyrie Irving (Cleveland) third, Kawhi Leonard (Toronto) fifth and Harden seventh, while Antetokounmpo took Joel Embiid (Philadelphia) fourth and Paul George (Oklahoma City) sixth, while getting the last starter available, Charlotte's Kemba Walker.
The drama picked up in Round 2, when Antetokounmpo was given the first choice among reserves.
The Bucks star quickly chose his teammate, Khris Middleton, opening up James to take New Orleans big man Anthony Davis, who requested a trade on Jan. 28 but remained with the Pelicans past Thursday's trade deadline. Numerous reports have indicated Davis wants to join the Lakers, with James and Rich Paul, the agent James shares with Davis, trying to orchestrate his path there.
After James picked Davis, TNT's Ernie Johnson asked sarcastically, "You're sure you want him on your team?"
James responded with a laugh, "You know, I'm very sure of that."
Antetokounmpo, with perfect comedic timing, chimed in, "Isn't that tampering?"
That brought laughter from everyone, before James replied, "Tampering rules does not apply on All-Star weekend."
At the end of the draft, Team Giannis acquired Thunder guard Russell Westbrook in exchange for 76ers guard Ben Simmons.
James is a starter for Team LeBron; Antetokounmpo starts for Team Giannis.
All picks, in order:
Round 1 (starters)
Team LeBron: Kevin Durant (Warriors)
Team Giannis: Stephen Curry (Warriors)
Team LeBron: Kyrie Irving (Celtics)
Team Giannis: Joel Embiid (76ers)
Team LeBron: Kawhi Leonard (Raptors)
Team Giannis: Paul George (Thunder)
Team LeBron: James Harden (Rockets)
Team Giannis: Kemba Walker (Hornets)
Round 2 (reserves):
Team Giannis: Khris Middleton (Bucks)
Team LeBron: Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
Team Giannis: Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)
Team LeBron: Klay Thompson (Warriors)
Team Giannis: Ben Simmons (76ers)**
Team LeBron: Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
Team Giannis: Blake Griffin (Pistons)
Team LeBron: Russell Westbrook (Thunder)**
Team Giannis: D'Angelo Russell (Nets)
Team LeBron: LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
Team Giannis: Nikola Vucevic (Magic)
Team LeBron: Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
Team Giannis: Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
Team LeBron: Bradley Beal (Wizards)
Team Giannis: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks)
Team LeBron: Dwyane Wade (Heat)
** -- Players were traded at the end of the draft.
--Field Level Media