After a very playful draft, the 2020 NBA All-Star teams are set. Captains Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James selected their rosters on Thursday just hours after the trade deadline closed. (Andrew Wiggins and Andre Drummond are still trying to figure out who they play for, but at least there’s clarity for the All-Stars.) LeBron received the most overall votes, so he was granted the honor of choosing first. Here are the lineups, and three takeaways from the draft:
LeBron drafts with his head; Giannis drafts with his heart
Before the draft began, Kenny Smith called LeBron the better general manager of the two stars. He pointed out that LeBron picked Anthony Davis first in the All-Star draft last year, and now the two just so happen to be teammates on the Lakers. Let’s not forget this exchange from the 2019 draft:
LeBron: “I’m going with Anthony Davis.”Ernie Johnson: “You sure you want him to be your teammate?”
LeBron: “I’m very sure of that.”
Giannis: “Isn’t that tampering?”
LeBron: “Tampering rules do not apply on All-Star weekend.”
Kenny was joking about LeBron being the better GM, but it was veiled in truth. It will never be more than speculation to say that LeBron recruited AD to play with him in Los Angeles—they’d get in trouble if they ever admitted anything more. But LeBron and Davis playing together wouldn’t have happened without a ton of force and lobbying. Two of the greatest players on the planet wearing the same uniform is no happy coincidence. Kenny’s right. That Davis did actually end up with the Lakers makes LeBron one of the best executives in basketball.
LeBron was also better at building his All-Star roster for the second year in a row. On a player-by-player comparison of the starters, Team LeBron goes five-for-five. Giannis went for loyalty over talent, choosing Middleton with his first bench selection. That left Lillard—averaging 39.7 points over his last 11 games; converting our world and worlds beyond to Dame Time; sweating money—on the board for LeBron. Giannis chose Lowry because he’s a “good locker room guy.” He also drafted Bam way higher than expected, and then took Butler because the two have good chemistry. Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are also both on Team Giannis, making for three pairs of real-life teammates. If the game comes down to heart and chemistry and all the stuff you hear about in movies, Team Giannis will take the win. If it comes down to basketball talent, put all the money on Team LeBron.
The NBA should listen to Charles Barkley’s “Team USA vs. Team World” pitch
Chuck was on to something when he noted how many foreign All-Stars there are this year. Kenny replied that he didn’t see players as American or not anymore, but that’s the opposite of the point. If it is the NBA’s mission to prove it is a worldwide league, the best way to display that would be having an entire roster full of players born outside the states.
Of course, there aren’t enough foreign-born players to fill an 11-man roster with this year’s selections. There are seven international All-Stars this year: Giannis, Doncic, Embiid, Simmons, Jokic, Pascal, and Gobert. But having enough to fill over half a roster is astounding.
Giannis is not good at drafting, but he’s great at TV
Giannis might draft like the Timberwolves in 2009, but he would handle the public duties of an executive really well. Just like last year, he was charismatic, charming, and genuine, twiddling a pen contemplatively, scribbling off names as he and LeBron made selections, joking that the Ben Simmons trade lost him the game last year. I say it often, but the one comfort in knowing that LeBron will eventually no longer be the face of the league is having Giannis as his replacement.