The rule of three is a time-honored device for grouping things in an ascetically pleasing way. So many amazing things tend to come in packages of three: The Three Stooges, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, The three best friends that any of us could have. Anyway, with the NBA All-Star Game right around the corner and the reserve picks revealed on Thursday, it’s time to add another historic trio to the list: Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and Garion Thorne. That’s right. I, a clear peer of Antetokounmpo and James, will now do their job for them. Why have two of the best basketball players in the world as captains when you could have a 5’9”, 27-year-old writer from Toronto do it, right?
Let’s get into the mock draft.
FIRST ROUND - ALL-STAR STARTERS
LeBron (Pick 1): Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
You think James traded half of last year’s roster to bring Davis to Hollywood and he’s not going to make him the first player selected? Plus, as Los Angeles has learned so far this season, you really can’t go wrong with both these players sharing the court. The Lakers are outscoring teams by 10.4 points per 100 possessions in the over 950 minutes the duo have played together in 2019-20.
Giannis (Pick 1): Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
In January, Leonard is averaging an insane 32.2 points per game on a 36.3% usage rate with a .611 true shooting percentage. Anyone would want him on their squad. However, for Giannis, this is a little more personal. Following the Bucks’ Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Raptors last season, Antetokounmpo was quoted as saying “I don’t care who’s guarding me. Give me a name. Thaddeus Young. All I’m seeing is Kawhi, Gasol coming.” If everyone already looks like Kawhi, he’ll sort of have to draft Kawhi. I mean, Marc Gasol isn’t an option.
LeBron (Pick 2): Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Doncic is arguably the best player remaining on the board, but this pick is about more than statistics. Dallas’ sophomore has often been compared to James, with the way that both are essentially point guards masquerading in the bodies of a power forward. No body is more conscious of the media than James and, knowing this, I’m sure he’ll relish the chance to get to play with the young superstar. It’s not like it’s going to happen on Team USA in the summer. You have to take your chances when they come.
Giannis (Pick 2): Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
The Greek Freak is once again picking out of self-preservation. While no one can really hope to contain Antetokounmpo one-on-one, there are a handful of guys who can be an annoyance to the reigning MVP. Now, Giannis has two of the gentlemen who fit that mold playing alongside him. To wit, with Embiid acting as Antetokounmpo’s main defender on Christmas, the 25-year-old was limited to just 18 points on 8-of-27 shooting.
LeBron (Pick 3): James Harden, Houston Rockets
With three point guards left on the board, James is going to have to add another ball-handler to a roster that already includes him and Doncic. As such, he might as well go for the best player remaining. Harden’s struggled the past few weeks from an efficiency standpoint, yet he’s still leading the league in points per game (35.3) - something he also managed in both 2017-18 and 2018-19. He also leads the league in minutes per night, so it’s possible he’ll be content to take it easy as a secondary piece on Team LeBron.
Giannis (Pick 3): Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Antetokounmpo now has a squad where the average height is roughly nine-feet tall, but he did express interest in creating a “Team Africa” when asked about Siakam and Embiid’s selections while in France last week. It’s more than likely I’ve already screwed up this mock, but can you imagine anyone in real-life trying to score a point off of a team comprised of Giannis, Pascal, Joel and Kawhi? That’s nightmare fuel.
LeBron (Pick 4): Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
It doesn’t really seem like LeBron has any real ties to either Walker or Trae Young, but I feel like he’d eventually side with the veteran choice in scenarios like this. Also, this is Kemba’s prize for helping take down James and the Lakers a couple weeks ago in Boston, snapping a personal 28-game losing streak against the former MVP in the process.
Giannis (Pick 4): Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Well, I guess we’ll finally get to see what Young can do when surrounded by talent that will not only buoy his offensive skill-set, but also make up for his very visable defensive deficiencies. Young’s also registering 29.4 points and 9.2 assists per game this season. Not a bad asset to pick up in what boils down to an exhibition contest.
SECOND ROUND - ALL-STAR RESERVES
Giannis (Pick 5): Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Antetokounmpo started the reserve round last year by making the very same pick and Middleton only improved his game in 2019-20, possessing a career-best .582 effective field goal rate.
LeBron (Pick 5): Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder
#BananaBoatCrew is a bond that can never be broken.
Giannis (Pick 6): Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Last year, Antetokounmpo followed up his Middleton pick by taking Nikola Jokic, who is still on the board here. However, Giannis knows he needs some guards on this team. So, Butler, who is a guard, joins the squad. Once again, he’s a guard.
LeBron (Pick 6): Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets
There’s a couple reasons this happens. One, as mentioned above, I think LeBron favors sharing the court with older players when push comes to shove. Two, how are you going to miss the chance to put Westbrook in the same team as Paul and Harden?
Giannis (Pick 7): Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Antetokounmpo obviously respects the European elements of Jokic’s game more than most could as the Greek Freak continue to stuff his roster full of versatile players standing taller than 6’9”.
LeBron (Pick 7): Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Is Simmons someone who James is actively seeking the opportunity to play with? I have no idea. But there was no chance that I was getting through this process without doing Brett Brown a favor and getting Simmons and Embiid on separate teams.
Giannis (Pick 8): Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Lillard falls this far in the draft only because, under the new All-Star format, the fourth quarter is not subject to a game clock. Will he know it’s still Dame Time? We’ll have to wait and see.
LeBron (Pick 8): Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
James needs another big man, so why not go with the guy averaging 17.8 points and 15.2 rebounds per game through 15 games in the month of January?
Giannis (Pick 9): Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Antetokounmpo drafts based on need here, going with the third-year guard out of Louisville essentially averaging career highs across the board in 2019-20.
LeBron (Pick 9): Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
Could there be a better way to mend fences than over a deep dish pizza at Giordano’s?
Giannis (Pick 10): Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Adebayo hasn’t quite expanded his game past the 3-point line, but he’s still producing 16.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game so far this season. Maybe Giannis can give him a few tips.
LeBron (Pick 10): Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Tatum’s putting up a career-best 21.5 points per game after a down sophomore campaign. He and LeBron can swap Kyrie Irving stories on the bench, too.
Giannis (Pick 11): Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
Giannis finishes this draft right where he started it: Selecting highly-skilled forwards you have uniquely developed passing skills.
LeBron (Pick 11): Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
The six-time All-Star is Mr. Irrelevant, which, strangely enough, probably suits him just fine. Lowry will proceed to take two charges and finish the ASG as a +12 in 14 minutes of work.