The NBA All-Star Game’s inaugural live televised draft has produced some fascinating storylines.
Team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo joined Inside the NBA hosts Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal via live stream on Friday morning (all times AEDT) to select their sides for Monday’s All-Star Game.
The selections, particularly those of LeBron, have added flames to the fire of what will be some of the NBA’s hottest narratives of the off-season and free agency.
After picking Kevin Durant with the first overall pick, LeBron selected Klay Thompson as his second bench player.
Thompson’s upcoming free agency in the summer of 2019 has been fervently discussed this season, coming to a head with travelling Lakers fans chanting ‘We want Thompson’ at the sides’ meeting at Oracle Arena last Sunday.
Speaking to fellow ESPN reporter Zach Lowe during his trade deadline special earlier Friday morning, Adrian Wojnarowski indicated that in the event Los Angeles miss out on Anthony Davis, the Lakers could make a play for Thompson if the Warriors decide not to offer the five-time All Star a max contract:
Lowe: “if the Lakers don’t get Anthony Davis… what is the Plan B?”
Woj: “one scenario that the Lakers are rooting for us for Golden State to offer Klay Thompson less than the max”
— adam (@SixersAdam) February 6, 2019
Speaking of Davis, LeBron picked up the disgruntled Pelicans centre with his first selection of the reserves. Coincidence?
Much has been made of discussions between the Lakers and Pelicans after a mega-offer including Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and two first-round draft picks was rejected by Pelicans GM Dell Demps.
The selection will no doubt give LeBron the opportunity to get in Davis’ ear over All-Star weekend and convince him of Los Angeles as a landing place once he hits free agency in 2020, something which wasn’t lost on Giannis:
LeBron picks Anthony Davis to his All-Star team "Tampering rules do not apply on All-Star Weekend" pic.twitter.com/KBZfFQAxdO
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) February 8, 2019
And the intrigue doesn’t end there.
Much speculation has been made over Kawhi Leonard’s future, who was traded from the Spurs to the Raptors at the end of last season, originally hailing from LA.
Of course, LeBron made sure to draft the three-time NBA All-Defensive player with his fourth overall selection.
Of Team LeBron’s three other starters, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both hold player options in their contract which could see them on the move this off-season.
Of LeBron’s starters, James Harden is the only one locked into his deal, who was taken with his last pick.
All-Star weekend begins in Charlotte on Saturday February 16 with the All-Star Celebrity and Rising Stars games and concludes with the 68th NBA All-Star Game on Monday 18.
The All-Star Game will be televised live on ESPN and NBA League Pass at 12.00pm AEDT.