NBA ASG draft: LeBron James makes Giannis Antetokounmpo first pick

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo drives to the basket against Lakers forward Stanley Johnson.
Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, driving to the basket against Lakers forward Stanley Johnson during a recent game, was the first overall pick of the NBA All-Star game draft on Thursday.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Kevin Durant wanted no part of James Harden on the day their partnership in Brooklyn ended.

Durant kept passing on Harden in the NBA All-Star game draft until LeBron James had to take him Thursday with the last pick, bringing some petty comedy to the process.

James had the first pick among players in the starters pool for the Feb. 20 game in Cleveland and drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo. Durant took Joel Embiid, whose Philadelphia 76ers agreed to the trade with Brooklyn that sent Ben Simmons to the Nets.


Durant had the first choice among reserves, going with Devin Booker of the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns. That meant James had the final pick and Durant made clear who was going to be left for him.

With his final pick, Durant took defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, explaining with a straight face he needed size — even though defensive-minded players are hardly a need in an exhibition mostly about offense.

Holding a clipboard over his face to hide his laughter, James asked Durant if Harden was healthy enough to play. The three-time scoring champion and 2018 NBA MVP has missed the last three games because of a left hamstring tightness.

“He got traded. He’s healthy now,” TNT analyst Charles Barkley responded.

James also drafted former MVPs Stephen Curry and Nikola Jokic in the starter pool, along with Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan. Durant took first-timers Ja Morant of Memphis and Andrew Wiggins of Golden State, and Boston’s Jayson Tatum — who replaced Durant in the starters pool because he is injured and won’t play.


The Team LeBron reserves: Luka Doncic, Dallas; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Chris Paul, Phoenix; Jimmy Butler, Miami; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Fred VanVleet, Toronto, and Harden.

The Team Durant reserves: Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota; Zach LaVine, Chicago; Dejounte Murray, San Antonio; Khris Middleton, Milwaukee; LaMelo Ball, Charlotte, and Gobert.

James has been a captain every year since the NBA went to a format where the leading vote-getters draft teams, instead of Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference. His teams have gone 4-0.

The NBA trade deadline is noon on Thursday. Get the latest updates for the Lakers, Clippers and the league here with the Los Angeles Times.

Feb. 10, 2022