Designated captains Lebron James of the LA Lakers and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets are done selecting the members of their respective teams for the NBA 2021 All-Star Game. Based on the line-ups, Team Lebron should have no problem dusting of Team KD.
Following the success of the last few years’ All-Star festivities, this year’s Game will once again cross the Eastern and Western Conference lines, with Lebron and KD selecting from a pool of players voted as starters and reserves. Fans and media personnel selected the starters, while the NBA coaches selected the reserves in each conference. Lebron and KD, having received the most number of votes for the Western and Eastern Conferences respectively, were designated captains, and had the privilege of selecting their respective team members. That said, here are the results of the draft.
Starters for Team Lebron include: Lebron himself, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Steph Curry of the Golden State Wariors, Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. For Team KD, the starters are: his Nets’ teammate Kyrie Irving, the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, the LA Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal and the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum. In an unfortunate turn of events, Kevin suffered a hamstring injury which will not allow him to play in the All-Star game, hence the inclusion of Jayson Tatum in the starters’ line-up.
Completing Team Lebron’s reserves, we have Portland Trailblazers’ Damian Lillard, Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons, Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul, Boson Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, LA Clippers’ Paul George, Indiana Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis and Utah Jazz Rudy Gobert.
KD, on the other hand, drafted his Nets’ teammate James Harden, Suns’ Devin Booker (replaced by Utah’s Michael Conley due to injuries), New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson, Chicago Bulls Zach LaVine, New York Knicks’ Julius Randle, Orlando Magics’ Vucevic and the Jazz Donovan Mitchell.
KD’s absence in the line-up places his starters at a grave disadvantage. At the start of the draft, Lebron already had himself. He then proceeded to take the first pick, which he used to take Giannis. This had him 2 players ahead of KD at the start of the draft. KD had to play catch-up the rest of the way in selecting the starters. This abundance of talent in all positions is why the starters’ line-up looks heavily stacked in favor of Lebron. This is primarily why Team Lebron is seen as the heavy betting favorite.
The line-up for the reserves looks relatively even, although Team Lebron definitely has the advantage in experience. KD took in 3 of the youngsters in Zion, Randle and LaVine; all of whom are first-time All-Stars. Thus, not only does Team Lebron’s starters show an advantage on the talent side, their reserves also have the advantage in experience. The abundance of talent in all positions will negate whatever perceived advantage Team KD has in youth and speed.
On offense, both teams are balanced, with great playmakers, scorers and rebounders everywhere. On defense, Team Lebron once again has a slight advantage with 2 Defensive Players of the Year awardees in Giannis and Gobert. KD has one in Kawhi. I firmly believe that in an All-Star game stacked with explosive scorers, the presence of defensive gems will be very significant.
This year’s annual festivities will be a one-night event, stripped of the grand pageantry that used to cover an entire weekend. Right before the game, there will be a Taco Bell Skills Challenge and a Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest. The AT&T Slam Dunk Contest will be held at halftime.
The Skills Challenge will feature Luka Doncic, Chris Paul, Nikola Vucevic, Domantas Sabonis, Julius Randle and Robert Covington, the only non-participant in the All-Star Game invited to play in this appetizer competition. Who do I have winning the Skills Challenge? I’ve got my money on Luka Doncic.
Competing for the 3-Point Contest will be: Steph Curry, Devin Booker (later replaced by Mike Conley), Donovan Mitchell, Zach LaVine, and Boston teammates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. For this, I think Steph is far better than anyone here. But the challenge will come from Mitchell.
The Dunkathon at halftime will not include any of the All-Stars for obvious reasons. Instead, sophomore Anfernee Simons, plus rookies Cassius Stanley and Obi Toppin will compete for the crown. Will they electrify the crowd the way the past Dunk Contests did? We’ll find out soon enough. Obi should top this.
This Sunday (early Monday Philippine time), I expect Team Lebron to win the annual NBA All-Star Game. Who you got?
Cover Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report.