Donovan Mitchell said on Wednesday that he had no preference whether he was drafted by LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo for this year’s NBA All-Star Game, so long as he got to play with Jazz teammate and fellow first-time All-Star honoree Rudy Gobert.
On Thursday evening, he got his wish, as both Utah players were among the reserves selected by Antetokounmpo in the draft event televised by TNT.
As the top vote-getter from their respective conferences, James and Antetokounmpo got to pick their teams player by player, first from among the starters, then among the reserves, with no deference to conference affiliation.
With the starters, James did go all Western Conference, though, nabbing Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, then Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, and the Rockets’ James Harden. Antetokounmpo, in turn, went with all East starters: the Sixers’ Joel Embiid, the Raptors’ Pascal Siakam, Boston’s Kemba Walker, and Atlanta’s Trae Young.
Antetokounmpo then got first pick among the reserves, where he, of course, selected Bucks teammate Khris Middleton. That, in turn, created the first intrigue of the night.
Gobert came off the board in the third round of picking the reserves. Mitchell, meanwhile, had to wait until almost the end, as he was one of the final two players available, before the Greek Freak paired him with Gobert.
Gobert, on the night he was named as an All-Star reserve, said he had no preference who he played for, while throwing in a light-hearted boast: “I just wanna go out there and represent my country, represent my team, and have a great time. And the team that wants to win is gonna pick me.”
Mitchell had claimed he’d forgotten entirely about the draft, on account of being focused on helping the Jazz break their losing streak. Then, given the opportunity to stump for one team or the other, he instead made a pitch to be paired with Gobert — though he did give himself an out if that turned out not to be the case.
"I’d rather just play with Rudy. I don’t mean to sound corny when I say it, but seriously, I think it’d be cool for us to enjoy that moment together,” Mitchell said. “But if we do play against each other, I can kinda get back at him for France against USA [in the FIBA World Cup].”
The rest of Team Giannis includes Heat center Bam Adebayo and Miami teammate Jimmy Butler, as well as Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry and Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram.
The reserves for Team LeBron are: Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Sixers guard Ben Simmons, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (picked as a direct response to the Gobert selection), Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Thunder point guard Chris Paul, Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook, and Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis — this year’s Mr. Irrelevant selection.
The two teams will face off at the United Center in Chicago on Sunday, Feb. 16.