For the seventh time, the NBA All-Star teams will be drafted with the top two players from the fan-vote serving as captains.
But unlike past years, the 2023 edition in Salt Lake City will feature a live draft on the court just moments before tipoff.
LeBron James is back as a captain once again, looking to maintain his perfect 6-0 record. Giannis Antetokounmpo will serve as the opposing captain for the third time in his career.
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Before the actual teams are selected on Sunday, NBC Sports put together a mock draft for how each squad could look. Logan Reardon represented Team LeBron and Max Molski selected for Team Giannis. James got the most All-Star votes of any player, so Team LeBron gets the first overall pick and Team Giannis will get its first choice out of the reserves:
Pick No. 1 (LeBron/Reardon): Nikola Jokic
Imagine the passing on this squad with Jokic and James? The back-to-back MVP is an ideal running mate in the All-Star Game, where defense is optional and it’s all about flash.
Pick No. 2 (Giannis/Molski): Luka Doncic
Happy to start off my selections with the NBA’s scoring leader, who also happens to be an equally mesmerizing facilitator.
Pick No. 3 (LeBron/Reardon): Kyrie Irving
With two gifted passers on the team, it’s time to add a certified bucket-getter. Irving has built-in chemistry with LeBron from their days in Cleveland.
Pick No. 4 (Giannis/Molski): Jayson Tatum
WOW! I know Irving plays a quintessential All-Star style, but I was worried I’d have to settle with him as my last starter after the year he’s had. Let’s keep it moving with the best player on the NBA’s best team and pair him with Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla, who is handling coaching duties for Team Giannis.
Pick No. 5 (LeBron/Reardon): Donovan Mitchell
Time for another undersized scoring guard who plays the ideal All-Star Game style. Mitchell is used to sharing the backcourt with a dynamic guard in Darius Garland, so it shouldn’t be much of an adjustment playing alongside Irving.
Pick No. 6 (Giannis/Molski): Joel Embiid
Embiid surely would have gone earlier if he was definitely going to play in the All-Star Game. Even with his status in doubt, who doesn’t want to see him dominate Jokic on the court again?
Pick No. 7 (LeBron/Reardon): Ja Morant
At this point, I might as well embrace my small-ball squad. Morant running the fastbreak these four teammates – passers like James and Jokic, shooters like Irving and Mitchell – could be lethal.
Pick No. 8 (Giannis/Molski): Lauri Markkanen
One of the most surprising developments this NBA season has taken place in Salt Lake City. Markkanen will get some shine in front of his hometown fans as recognition for a career year.
Pick No. 9 (Giannis/Molski): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SGA has been a bucket all year in OKC. He may not be the national name that some of his fellow All-Stars are, but this is the perfect chance for fans across the country to watch him cook. It feels a bit disrespectful to another point guard in the reserve pool to begin with SGA, but my fingers are crossed that Team LeBron won’t go for another guard first off the bench.
Pick No. 10 (LeBron/Reardon): Paul George
After grabbing three starters who are 6-foot-3 and under, I badly need some size on the wing. So as much as I want another scoring guard, PG13 is the pick. In 2016, he dropped 41 points to narrowly miss Wilt Chamberlain’s then-ASG record (42). Hopefully he can recreate some magic for us.
Pick No. 11 (Giannis/Molski): Damian Lillard
My gut was right and Team LeBron went with someone other than Lillard, who is having a stellar season for the otherwise-mediocre Blazers.
Pick No. 12 (LeBron/Reardon): Anthony Edwards
Making his first All-Star appearance as a replacement, Edwards is another athletic young guard to go with Mitchell and Morant. The Timberwolves’ leading scorer will be eager to prove he belongs alongside the NBA’s brightest stars.
Pick No. 13 (Giannis/Molski): Jaylen Brown
Brown has already faced off against Tatum in an All-Star Game. Now, it's time to let the Jays join forces on the All-Star stage.
Pick No. 14 (LeBron/Reardon): Domantas Sabonis
Let’s stick with the theme here. Sabonis is another supremely gifted passer with size who can run my second unit when Jokic and LeBron hit the bench.
Pick No. 15 (Giannis/Molski): Jrue Holiday
Giannis must be scratching his head at all the reunion picks for the Celtics so far. Let's give our captain one of his Milwaukee running mates in Holiday.
Pick No. 16 (LeBron/Reardon): DeMar DeRozan
Whenever my group needs a bucket, we can just get the ball to DeRozan at the elbow. The veteran is nearly automatic in the mid-range, especially if he’s unguarded. He also played a key role as a starter in Team LeBron’s win last year.
Pick No. 17 (Giannis/Molski): Bam Adebayo
This team might need some Embiid insurance. Sabonis would have been a solid choice in this slot, as well, but Adebayo is a more effective option to stop Jokic, James and anyone else the opposition sends down low.
Pick No. 18 (LeBron/Reardon): Tyrese Haliburton
With all the size Team Giannis has (Antetokounmpo, Embiid, Markkanen, Adebayo), my goal is to simply outrun the opponent. Haliburton is a flashy guard who can shoot it and pass it. At 6-foot-5, he can play up to a forward spot defensively in the ASG. Plus, it’s fun to pair him with Sabonis, the man he was traded for last year.
Pick No. 19 (Giannis/Molski): Pascal Siakam
Siakam plays more minutes than anyone in the NBA. In Salt Lake City, he will get some much-needed rest while filling in for Tatum and Markkanen on the wing.
Pick No. 20 (LeBron/Reardon): De’Aaron Fox
I’m loading up on Kings (and former Kings): Sabonis, Haliburton and now Fox, plus King James! Making his All-Star debut, Fox is lightning quick and has developed into a capable jump-shooter.
Pick No. 21 (Giannis/Molski): Jaren Jackson Jr.
I’m down to the last two players on my board, and JJJ is the pick. Not only will he slot in nicely behind Embiid and Adebayo, but we could also see a must-watch collision at the rim between Jackson and Morant.
Pick No. 22 (LeBron/Reardon): Julius Randle
It doesn’t hurt to add some character and toughness with the last pick. Randle is in the midst of another career season with the Knicks. While he won’t exactly run the floor with these young guards I drafted, Randle and DeRozan create a fun throwback basketball duo.
Well, that was fun. Here’s a look at how our full rosters stack up:
- LeBron James
- Nikola Jokic
- Kyrie Irving
- Donovan Mitchell
- Ja Morant
- Paul George
- Anthony Edwards
- Domantas Sabonis
- DeMar DeRozan
- Tyrese Haliburton
- De’Aaron Fox
- Julius Randle
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Luka Doncic
- Jayson Tatum
- Joel Embiid
- Lauri Markkanen
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
- Damian Lillard
- Jaylen Brown
- Jrue Holiday
- Bam Adebayo
- Pascal Siakam
- Jaren Jackson Jr.