Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (R), shown Jan. 18, 2021, selected Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert over James Harden (L) with his final pick in the draft. Harden was reportedly traded to the Philadelphia 76ers earlier Thursday. File Photo by Jason Szenes/EPA-EFE
Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Just a few hours after Brooklyn agreed to trade disgruntled guard James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers, Nets star forward Kevin Durant avoided selecting his former teammate in Thursday's NBA All-Star Game Draft.
With each of his seven reserve round selections in the draft, Durant -- who will miss the All-Star Game due to a knee injury -- picked, in order: Devin Booker; Karl-Anthony Towns; Zach LaVine; Dejounte Murray; Khris Middleton; LaMelo Ball; and Rudy Gobert.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who was the other team captain in the draft, took Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet with his second-to-last selection after some urging by NBA on TNT co-host Charles Barkley. That pick left Durant with the choice of either Gobert or Harden for his final pick.
With the entire TNT panel laughing and James hiding his laughter behind a clipboard, Durant said he was going to prioritize size and defense and take Gobert, meaning James wound up with Harden by default with his final selection.
The All-Star Draft took place just hours after the Nets reached an agreement with the 76ers on a blockbuster trade. In the deal, Harden and veteran forward Paul Millsap will go to Philadelphia in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a pair of first-round draft picks.
"I'm excited for our team," Durant said of the Nets when asked about the trade. "Looking forward to finishing the season out with this new group and these new players. Playoffs are right around the corner so we got to fast track it to get used to each other, but I'm excited."
In addition to the reserve portion of the draft, Durant chose Harden's new teammate, Joel Embiid. Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins and Durant's injury replacement, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, also joined Durant's team.
James, meanwhile, ended up with a final roster of starters Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Jokic, in addition to himself. His reserve selections were Luka Doncic, Darius Garland, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Donovan Mitchell, VanVleet and Harden.
"I like our team," James said. "We've got size, we've got quickness, we've got shooting, we've got guys who play hard."
The 2022 NBA All-Star Game is scheduled for Feb. 20 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland. It will be the 71st edition of the NBA's midseason showcase.