Last night, the NBA All-Star reserves were announced on TNT prior to the Thursday night slate of games. Nikola Jokic was chief among the reserves in the Western Conference, a well-deserved honor for the fourth year pro. Jokic took the time to speak to the TNT crew, and he had an amazing reaction to hearing his other nickname “Big Honey” when Ernie Johnson read a tweet from Will Barton.
Breaking: Nikola Jokic hates the nickname “Big Honey.”— Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn) February 1, 2019
Sorry guys. pic.twitter.com/OuB045I9cU
Jokic will be among the 22 players selected by LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo on February 7th in the second ever All-Star Draft. Last year, the NBA went through the same process, and the ensuing game was very competitive. Each of the teams used the draft order as a motivating factor to compete against each other, and as a result, the game was highly entertaining.
This year, the NBA will undergo the same process, but who will LeBron and Giannis pick for their respective teams? LeBron picks first. Here’s how I see the NBA All-Star Draft going down on February 7th:
Starter Pool: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid
1. Team LeBron - Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
James had the first pick in the draft last year and used it on Durant then. This year, I bet he follows the same path. Not just because he thinks that Durant is one of the best players the NBA has ever seen, but because he’s recruiting help in 2019 Free Agency to make the Los Angeles Lakers better and the Warriors worse.
2. Team Giannis - Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
How can Giannis pass up having Curry on the same roster? He will be playing with more spacing from than ever before in his career. The Steph-Giannis pick and roll will be ridiculous.
3. Team LeBron - Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
Ditto what I said about Durant for Leonard here.
4. Team Giannis - James Harden, Houston Rockets
Giannis is locked in a battle with Harden for the MVP award, and I bet he respects that. He might pick Harden to convey that respect, but also to make sure that Harden doesn’t try to embarrass him with a nasty step back on the perimeter.
5. Team LeBron - Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
LeBron respects Kyrie. He may respect him enough to pick him higher than this. But everything LeBron does is layered, and once again, he’s selecting a 2019 free agent, one who the Lakers could really use.
6. Team Giannis - Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Giannis spoke about wanting to reunite Embiid with Russell Westbrook to squash the beef. On top of being a trash talker, Embiid happens to be a great player too.
7. Team LeBron - Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
Think of Kemba as a B version of Kyrie Irving for LeBron right now. Also happens to be a 2019 free agent.
8. Team Giannis - Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
LeBron left Paul George for Giannis on purpose. That’s what happens when you spurn the king in free agency the prior year.
Reserve Pool: Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Klay Thompson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Kyle Lowry, Blake Griffin, Nikola Vucevic, Khris Middleton, Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russell (Oladipo replacement)
9. Team LeBron - Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (kinda)
10. Team Giannis - Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis will take the first opportunity he can to draft his teammate I’d expect.
11. Team LeBron - Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
The LeBron team needs a spacing wing, but Klay could also flock to the Lakers next summer. Interesting.
12. Team Giannis - Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
On top of getting Westbrook and Embiid on the same roster, Giannis reunites Westbrook and George here. Shaping up to be a very solid roster.
13. Team LeBron - Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
LeBron strikes me as a KAT guy. Someone who can physically dominate and has the skill to go for 50 points.
14. Team Giannis - Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
This is the perfect spot for Jokic to go. Team Giannis needs another big man, and Jokic will make sure he gets everyone on Giannis’ team their highlights. I would bet a lot of money that Jokic finishes the game with more assists than points.
15. Team LeBron - Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
LeBron has to have a lot of respect for Dame after some insane games to start this year, and Team LeBron needs a backup point guard.
16. Team Giannis - Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Another guard to space the floor for Giannis and company.
17. Team LeBron - Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
18. Team Giannis - Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons
Griffin’s having an elite season in Detroit, and it has been forgotten because he’s playing in Detroit. Giannis is in the same division though, so he knows.
19. Team LeBron - Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
LeBron planting the seed for a 2019 free agent once again.
20. Team Giannis - Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
This is probably too low for Lowry, but both LeBron and Giannis already drafted point guards, so it could happen.
21. Team LeBron - D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets
This feels like a move LeBron would make. Embrace the young guy in the group, even if he is a former Laker.
22. Team Giannis - LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Aldridge receives the annual “Elite, but boring big man” award by going last. He will probably hit three turnaround fadeaway jumpers in the post.
Starters: James, Durant, Leonard, Irving, Walker
Reserves: Davis, Thompson, Towns, Lillard, Simmons, Vucevic, Russell
Starters: Antetokounmpo, Curry, Harden, Embiid, George
Reserves: Middleton, Westbrook, Jokic, Beal, Griffin, Lowry, Aldridge
Whatever happens, this should be a fun game with a variety of storylines. Now that LeBron resides in Los Angeles, every upcoming free agent he drafts will be subjected to the “LeBron recruiting” hype from fans and media. On the other side, Giannis is nearing his peak form as a player and is on the verge of becoming the best player in the NBA. In a lot of ways, this is an “Old Guard gives way to New Star” scenario, which should lead to some fun moments during the contest.
Wherever Nikola Jokic is drafted, he’s going to have a fun time throwing lobs and absurd passes to the talented players on his team. Whether it be LeBron, Giannis, Davis, George, Simmons, or someone else, expect Jokic to put on a show. He is, after all, one of the brightest stars in the NBA today. Nuggets fans are lucky to have him, and so is whichever team selects him on Thursday.
Who Wins this All-Star Mock Draft?
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