The 2019 NBA All-Star Game captains' draft is in the books as LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo have assembled their squads for Feb. 17 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here's everything that went down -- including a first-of-its-kind trade -- on draft night:
We have a trade!
Team @Giannis_An34 Let's Go! ⛈🔥— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) February 8, 2019
Redo redo ... Team @KingJames LETS GOOOO! 🔥⚡️😂— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) February 8, 2019
Where was @wojespn on that one huh?— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) February 8, 2019
He probably needed a nap after the deadline! 🤣🤷🏾♂️— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 8, 2019
Ok....... pic.twitter.com/CCpzig8mxC— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) February 8, 2019
ESPN NBA Insider Kevin Pelton grades the deal:
Team LeBron gets: Ben Simmons
Team Giannis gets: Russell Westbrook
From a value perspective, this trade is hard to understand. Westbrook, the 16th pick, was still available when Team Giannis took Blake Griffin with the previous pick. So why didn't Team Giannis take him then instead of trading 13th overall pick Simmons to get him?
That said, in terms of roster-building I still like the move for Team Giannis. Westbrook plays harder than just about anybody else in the All-Star Game, which is how he won MVPs in 2015 and 2016. Team LeBron putting the ball in Simmons' hands will take it away from Damian Lillard, a superior pick-and-roll option. I just wish Team Giannis had been able to get swap rights on a 2020 second-round pick.
Team Giannis: B
Team LeBron: C
'Isn't that tampering?'
Giannis delivered a clever response to LeBron choosing New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis as an All-Star reserve (the Los Angeles Lakers and the Pelicans failed to reach a deal for Davis by Thursday's trade deadline).
Bron is no dummy!! Drafted KD, Kyrie, Kawhi , and AD!!!! All have an opportunity to play with him by this summer 🤔🤔🤔— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) February 8, 2019
Welcome to the team!
team giannis... let's gooooko https://t.co/syqGJZdIEu— Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin23) February 8, 2019
Biggest questions from the All-Star draft
1. LeBron or Giannis -- who won the draft?
André Snellings, ESPN Fantasy: LeBron's team has more talent, but Giannis' team is more balanced with more versatility. In an All-Star Game, defense isn't prized but rebounding is still important. Team Giannis has both 7-footers in the starting lineup, and with shooters like Stephen Curry and Kemba Walker to play off the bigs -- plus Russell Westbrook as the battery off the bench -- Team Giannis is in a strong position.
Jackie MacMullan, ESPN.com: Team LeBron. He picked guys who can score voluminously (James Harden), who can defend voluminously (Kawhi Leonard) and fleeced Giannis into taking on Russell Westbrook in exchange for Ben Simmons.
Tim MacMahon: ESPN.com: Give the edge to experience. Team LeBron has a total of seven All-Star MVP trophies among its members. It took a trade for Team Giannis to get any (Russell Westbrook has two). The Greek Freaks do have a significant size advantage, though. We all know how much LeBron loves playing center, so perhaps he'll volunteer to match up with Joel Embiid.
Chiney Ogwumike, ESPN: I have to go with LeBron's squad because -- forget all the noise -- in these types of games it really just comes down to shooting. I know they don't have Curry, but Team Bron does have the hottest shooter and reigning MVP (Harden), defending Finals MVP (Durant), most clutch performer (Kyrie Irving) and the greatest player in the world (James) all in the same starting lineup. Plus, shooters like Klay Thompson and Bradley Beal are coming off the bench. Not to mention that they also have a guy who has been begging to hit the court and also wields enough power to completely derail Super Bowl coverage by the name of Anthony Davis.
Royce Young, ESPN.com: LeBron's team makes a little more sense top to bottom, with shooting, versatility, playmaking and just enough size. It's the perfect combination of players for today's NBA. Giannis went a little heavy on the size, taking a series of bigs, meaning some of those lineups could get a little bit awkward. Giannis also let his loyalty affect his picks, taking Khris Middleton with his first bench pick, leaving LeBron an open door to take Anthony Davis.
2. Fact or fiction: LeBron drafted with ulterior motives
MacMullan: Fact, fact, fact! LeBron used his first three picks -- and four of the first five -- to select players who will be unrestricted free agents at season's end. That includes Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis (not to mention Klay Thompson with his second reserve pick). Considering the kind of day the Lakers had at the deadline, he'd probably happily settle for any one of them come July.
Ogwumike: Fact! The best thing about televising the draft (thank you, Rachel Nichols) is that it was not only funny and entertaining, but it was also extremely transparent. What we just witnessed was the wildly perfect scenario where the forbidden word and deed -- "tampering" -- became the perfect joke and perfect storyline to get us hyped for the game. Some of the biggest players of the summer -- KD, Klay, Kawhi and Kyrie -- somehow all made it onto LeBron's roster. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that locker room ...
MacMahon: Fact. And he did it with a big smile on his face. LeBron followed the script by taking Klutch (and potential future Lakers) teammate Anthony Davis, then yucked it up about tampering. Then he went right back to the pending free-agency well with Klay Thompson.
Snellings: Fact. LeBron chose every major free agent this summer, including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard, and he also drafted the much coveted Anthony Davis. Add in that he got buddy Dwyane Wade AND traded for workout partner Ben Simmons, and it's hard to see how LeBron could have had a better draft.
Young: Fact. It's hard to believe LeBron doesn't do anything without ulterior motives. It's not just highly suspicious that he literally took every player who's headed for free agency -- Durant, Irving, Leonard, Davis, Thompson -- but it's flat-out blatant ... and brilliant. Giannis even called him out on it, which was fantastic, and LeBron didn't deny it. If you're not cheatin', you're not tryin', right?
3. What surprised you the most?
MacMullan: Both captains passed on James Harden through the first six picks. Giannis could have had him but opted instead for Paul George, who apparently left an imprint when he dunked on him. If Harden isn't the ultimate All-Star selection, then who is?
Snellings: I was stunned that James Harden was among the last round of starters. He's in the midst of one of the greatest offensive stretches in NBA history, and the All-Star Game is all about offense, right?
MacMahon: Reigning MVP James Harden lasted until the second-to-last pick among starters. And it seemed that LeBron took him in part because he didn't want to disrespect a dude who is making history. I guess I can understand not wanting to play with a ball-dominant scorer in an All-Star Game, but Harden sure as heck should have gone higher based on impact.
Ogwumike: I love how they allowed the captains to make a trade -- another reason why the NBA always finds innovative ways to win.
Young: How fun it was! It was awesome. It was lighthearted and highly entertaining. Both LeBron and Giannis didn't take it too seriously and had a good time with it. And then to cap it off, there was a trade, sending Russell Westbrook to Team Giannis for Ben Simmons. LeBron should've asked for a future first-rounder, but it's still a pretty good deal.