NBA All-Star Saturday Predictions

Posted: 02/14/2015 by levcohen in Basketball

We can probably all agree that the NBA All-Star game itself is not among the more exciting or enjoyable viewing experiences for sports fans. The players don’t try at all defensively, and only a few players usually try to impress (my guess this year: DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, Kyle Lowry), although that might be different this year since the NBA extended the break an extra few days after the game for the first time. But NBA All-Star weekend is not just the game on Sunday; in fact, the best part about it probably comes on Friday and Saturday. Tonight is the second of the three night festivities in New York after the celebrity game and freshman-sophomore game (now called the US vs. the World because the American rooks and second-year players go against everyone else’s rookies and second-years). I’m going to predict what’s going to happen in the three point contest, the dunk contest, and the skills challenge. I’m not going to talk about the shooting stars competition, because the team of Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins, and Swin Cash has won two in a row and will probably three-peat. What’s the shooting stars competition? Honestly, I don’t really know. I’ve never watched it and don’t plan on watching it tonight. Look it up.

Skills Challenge (aka PG obstacle course):
There are eight competitors in the revamped skills competition: Patrick Beverley, Trey Burke, Elfrid Payton, Jeff Teague, Kyle Lowry, Dennis Schroder, Brandon Knight, and Isaiah Thomas. Michael Carter-Williams, John Wall, and Jimmy Butler (a non point guard!) were supposed to compete but bowed out due to injury and were replaced by Schroder, Payton, and Beverley. A sure sign of lack of interest, the NBA has changed the format of the skills contest repeatedly over the last few years. Last year there were four teams of two (Burke and Damian Lillard won), but that worked out so well that the NBA immediately got rid of it.

This year, the eight-person bracket will feature head-to-head matchups and three rounds of competition until a champion is crowned. It’s a variety of passing, speed, dribbling, and agility challenges, and this year the contestants crucially must hit a three pointer at the end in order to win. I know most people aren’t that interested in the skills challenge, but I actually kind of like it, which is why I’m going to break it down.

I don’t think there’s a clear favorite, and I’m going to go about this entirely unscientifically. Burke has to be a co-favorite because he won last year, although that was with the help of Damian Lillard. Teague is among the fastest guys in the NBA, so he’s also a favorite. So too is Isaiah Thomas, thanks to his combination of speed and shooting ability.

Since contestants have to hit a three pointer now, I don’t think Burke’s going to win. He’s shooting just 31.6% from beyond the arc, and I don’t think he’s going to be able to hit the trio of threes necessary to win this competition. That leaves Thomas and Teague, with Schroder acting as a potential darkhorse. And because Thomas has been the much better shooter from deep this year (39% for Thomas and 34% for Teague), I’m going to give the edge to Thomas.

Three point contest:
This is the one that has usurped the dunk contest over the last few years and is now the best All-Star weekend event. This year should be no different. There’s no need for a long introduction, since the three point contest is pretty simple: each contestant has to shoot 25 basketballs (total) around the three point arc (five from each of five locations) in 60 seconds. The more shots you make, the better chance you have of advancing and eventually winning.

There are a few pretty clear favorites. One is Kyle Korver, who is possibly the best spot-up shooter in NBA history (and is having the best spot-up season in NBA history). The other two are the Splash Bros, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. But in a contest like this, any half-decent shooter can get hot and blow everyone else away. I’m going to pick Thompson to win, because why not, but it wouldn’t surprise me if James Harden or Kyrie Irving or Wes Matthews or defending champ Marco Belinelli wins it either. Given his recent injuries, J.J. Redick is the only guy I’m counting out, which probably means he’ll win it.

Dunk contest:
This is even easier to explain than the three point contest. Four dunkers. Two dunks each. The top two advance. Two more dunks each. A champion is crowned. Pretty simple.

The four contestants are Victor Oladipo, Zach LaVine, Giannis “Greek Freak” I don’t feel like spelling his last name, and Mason Plumlee. LaVine is the favorite because he is the most graceful and best in-game dunker of the four. He entered the NBA this year with a reputation and hasn’t disappointed any dunk lovers. Plumlee’s a big white guy but actually is a pretty good dunker and actually slammed three balls at once in a previous contest. Oladipo can throw down the most powerful, thunderous dunks of the four. And Giannis is the long-armed wild card who could throw up a clunker but could also steal the show.

I was going to pick LaVine, but I don’t want to be boring so that eliminates him. I think this will come down to Oladipo and Plumlee, and I just trust Plumlee a little more because he’s been here before. Oladipo throws down a lot of big 360 dunks, but can he vary his dunks in this contest? I’ll go with Plumlee.

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