NBA All-Star Weekend Preview

Posted: 02/14/2014 by levcohen in Basketball

There’s no NBA to talk about right now, and that’s because teams are off for All-Star weekend, which starts today with the Celebrity All-Star game. Let’s take a look at that joke of a game and the other (slightly) more serious All-Star weekend events.

Celeb Game:
This game is being coached by ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose, the latter of whom was part of Michigan’s famed “Fab Five” and a good NBA player. This game is of course a coin flip, but let’s take a look at the rosters:

East (team Rose):
Nick Cannon- Actor/comedian/rapper/TV personality
Arnie Duncan- United States Secretary of Education
Mike Greenberg- Co-Host of ESPN’s “Mike and Mike”
Columbus Short- Choreographer, actor, singer
Kristen Ledlow- NBA TV
Stan Verrett- SportsCenter Anchor
Elena Delle Donne- Chicago Sky Basketball Player
Bruce Bowen– Former San Antonio Spurs Player
Wale- Rapper

West (team Simmons):
Kevin Hart- Actor and Comedian
Mike Golic- Co-Host of ESPN’s “Mike and Mike”
Terrence Jenkins- Actor and TV personality
Michael B Jordan- Actor
Erin Heatherton- Fashion Model and Actress
Jesse Williams- Actor
Skylar Diggins- Tulsa Shock Player
Tanika Catchings- Indiana Fever Player
TBD

Who Wins?
Well, your guess is as good as mine, but I’m going to go with the guy who has won two straight celebrity game MVPs: Kevin Hart.

Rising Stars Challenge:
This game was formerly known as the Rookies vs Sophomores game, and it still features only first and second year players, but now those players are drafted into two teams because the Sophomores always killed the Rookies.

Team Chris Webber:
PG- Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke
SG- Tim Hardaway Jr., Victor Oladipo
SF-
PF- Anthony Davis, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk
C- Mason Plumlee, Steven Adams
Rookies: 7
Sophomores: 2

This is a team featuring Anthony Davis, who is the best first or second year player in the NBA.. and it’s not even close. I’m excited just thinking about the Carter-Williams to Davis combination, which could and should combine for some exciting dunks and great defensive play. The problem with this team is the lack of swing men and good outside shooters. Hardaway is really the only good shooter on this team, and they have three players who have played primarily at point guard this season: Carter-Williams, Burke, and Oladipo. And check this out: those three standout rookie guards rank last (Burke- 36.8%), third to last (Carter-Williams, 39.7%), and ninth to last (Oladipo, 41%) among all players who have shot the ball at least 500 times. That’s pretty bad. On the positive side, this should be a very good defensive team, with Carter-Williams, Oladipo, Davis, and Adams.

Team Grant Hill:
PG- Damian Lillard
SG- Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters
SF- Harrison Barnes, Giannis Antetokounmpo
PF- Terrence Jones, Miles Plumlee
C- Andre Drummond, Jonas Valanciunas
Rookies: 1
Sophomores: 8

This is a better all-around team than Webber’s. It has inside scoring (Drummond, Valanciunas), three point shooting (Beal, Lillard), explosiveness (Waiters, Barnes), defense (Drummond, Giannis), mid-range shooting (Jones, Valanciunas), and athleticism (mostly Giannis). It’s going to be super exciting to see everyone’s favorite player, Giannis, play in this game. One concern could be that Hill’s first pick, Lillard, is competing in a record five events, so he might not play much in this game. By the way: who’s excited about the Plumlee vs. Plumlee match-up! I know I am.

Projected Score:
Team Hill- 130
Team Webber- 122

Shooting Stars:
This is an interesting event that has a current player, a female player, and a “legend” teaming up. The teams this year are:

Team 1: Tim Hardaway Jr. (NYK); Tim Hardaway Sr. (Legend); Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
Team 2: Chris Bosh (MIA); Dominique Wilkins (Legend); Swin Cash (Chicago Sky)
Team 3: Stephen Curry (GS); Dell Curry (Legend); Becky Hammon (San Antonio Stars)
Team 4: Kevin Durant (OKC); Karl Malone (Legend); Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock)

The first two teams represent the East, while the latter two represent the East. I have no idea who will win this, but the main story line here are the father-son pairings of the Hardaways and the Currys. Plus, the best player in the NBA right now (Kevin Durant) and in the WNBA (Delle Donne) should be interesting to watch.

Skills Challenge:
This skills event again pits the East against the West with two teams representing each conference.

Eastern Conference:
Team 1: Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMar Derozan
Team 2: Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo

Western Conference:
Team 1: Trey Burke and Damian Lillard
Team 2: Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson

Although I have no idea who will win this, I’m super excited for it. Giannis and DeMar have to be the underdogs, but I’ll be pulling for them. I think the favorites have to be Burke and Lillard, with the rookie duo in the East a close second.
Projected Winners: Burke and Lillard

Three Point Challenge:
Now we are getting to the really big contests, with the three point challenge, dunk contest, and finally the actual All-Star game. Here are the contests, with their odds next to them from Bovada:

Stephen Curry (GS)                    9/4
Kevin Love (MIN)                       5/1
Kyrie Irving (CLE)                      5/1
Arron Afflalo (ORL)                   5/1
Bradley Beal (WAS)                   11/2
Damian Lillard (POR)               6/1
Marco Belinelli (SA)                  8/1
Joe Johnson (BRK)                   10/1

It’s funny that Marco Belinelli, the best shooter of all of then by three point percentage this year, has the second worst odds in this competition. It’s also a shame that Kyle Korver, the owner of the longest consecutive games with a three pointer made streak, chose not to participate, because I think he would win this competition. Curry is the most pure shooter here, while Love and Irving have won it before. Belinelli is a three point specialist. Lillard is a great shooter, but, again, he is in five competitions this season. Beal and Afflalo are both solid players who are having breakout years. I think Johnson is the clear underdog here, as the odds indicate.

Prediction: Curry ousts Afflalo in the final.

Dunk Contest:
Let me first say that I hate the new format, which is not an individual competition but, again, East against West. Finally, we find something that the East is better at. I think it’s fair to say that the East should be favored here. Luckily, there will still be a “Dunker of the Night” despite the fact that this is now for the most part a team event, so let’s see the odds for “Dunker of the Night.”

Paul George (IND)                   5/4
Terrence Ross (TOR)               7/2
John Wall (WAS)                     9/2
Harrison Barnes (GS)             5/1
Ben McLemore (SAC)             11/2
Damian Lillard (POR)             6/1

Sure enough, the East is favored big time, as the three Eastern Conference dunkers are favored over the three Western Conference dunkers. These six are a nice mix: It’s a rare competition in that there are three all-stars: George, Wall, and Lillard. The last time there were three all-stars in a dunk contest was a legendary showdown between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins that also included Clyde Drexler. This contest also includes a rookie (McLemore), and two sophomores, including last year’s winner (Ross).

Prediction: Terrence Ross takes it again, although it’s tough to pick against George.

All-Star Game:
This game looks super lopsided, with the West holding a huge advantage. Let’s take a look at the rosters:

Eastern Conference:
PG: John Wall, Kyrie Irving
SG: Dwyane Wade, DeMar Derozan, Joe Johnson
SF: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George
PF: Chris Bosh, Paul Millsap
C: Roy Hibbert, Joakim Noah

Western Conference:
PG: Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, Damian Lillard
SG: James Harden
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Dirk Nowitzki
C: Dwight Howard

You can just tell by the names that the West is a better team. I think if Goran Dragic, Mike Conley, and DeMarcus Cousins ALL played in the East, all three would make the team. None of them made it in the stacked West, and that’s after the injuries to all-star mainstays Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook.

Top Scorer: Kevin Durant
Top Rebounder: Kevin Love
Top Assister: Chris Paul
Final Score: West- 146, East- 119
All-Star Game MVP: Kevin Durant

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