With all due respect to the celeb game and the Rising Stars challenge, the most entertaining parts of the NBA Allstar weekend happen after Friday. The celeb game usually involves the one or two celebs who can actually play dominating a game no one takes seriously and the Rising Star game eschews suspense for an informal dunk contest in the last few minutes. That being said let’s take a look at all the events that people actually tend to try during.
The Skills Challenge
This obstacle course is basically something I wish that every guy who dribbles the ball into the ground while playing pickup basketball had to complete before assuming de facto point guard duties in recs around the world. The format has changed a bit and now features teams of two completing the course.
Smart money is on: Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson
Goran Dragic is quietly one of the most entertaining players in the league regardless of position and he may now hold the Devin Harris Memorial Award for guy who can start a fast break just by sprinting up court as fast as possible with the ball. Being paired with Reggie “almost good enough to make you not hate the James Harden trade every time the Thunder play” Jackson seems like a match made in heaven and they should run, or probably walk, away with this simply because they’ll take their time.
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Dark Horse: Damian Lillard and Trey Burke
Lilliard has officially ascended to star status, but one has to wonder if he’ll be conserving his energy for the other events he has to take part in later on. As a Buckeye fan, it pains me to admit the Ohio-bred, but Wolverine-made Burke is amazing, but he is disproving all those who doubted his size and heart prior to the draft and might be looking to add some hardware to his mantle as one last FU to his doubters until next season.
Happy to Be Here: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Victor Oladipo
The Greek Freak and the guy my Cavaliers should have drafted are both guys who wouldn’t be playing the point on better teams and kind of snuck into this contest though both are having great seasons.
The Slam Dunk Contest
For people of a certain generation, this is second only to the actual All Star game, but what used to be a rite of passage on the way to being one of the top guys in the league has waned in excitement over the past few years. This crop of dunkers looks to change all that by taking the contest to new heights … see what I did there?
Smart Money is on: Paul George
After a sick in-game 360 one has to wonder what kind of dunk PG can throw down when he doesn’t have defenders chasing him down. As part of THE LEAP he took when he announced to the world that he can go toe-to-toe with Lebron in last season’s playoffs, it seems only right that George further cement his status as one of the most important players in the world by doing what Jordan and Kobe did before him.
Dark Horse: Damien Lillard
I expect Lillard to shine here because as a kid growing up, no one dreams of winning a skills competition; people never remember who won that. You can probably ask people where they were for MJ from the foul line, or the Vince Carter arm in the rim dunk. Shorter dunkers always seem to get the advantage simply because it’s much more impressive to watch a shorter guy (Spud Webb, Nate Robinson) dunk on a ten foot rim as opposed to a taller (Dominique Wilkins, Dwight Howard) player who has less “ground” to cover.
Just Happy to be Here: Ben McLemore
I only say this because I think that in his quest for a rumored 720 I think we will see the “miss intended dunk a bunch of times, thus detracting from the wow factor gained by a first try make, then settle for a lesser dunk as time expires” scenario played out here. If not he could shock the world and maybe steal the show.
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3 point Shoot out
This is a sneaky good event and the thrill of seeing a guy light it up from deep can’t be understated. The under discussed aspect is how this contest favors set vs jump shooters and the stamina it actually takes to make it around the arc and maintain a decent stroke. Another fun part is a reversal from the dunk contest where the crowd likes to see big guys with sweet shots go on a tear.
Smart Money is on: Stef Curry
The Human Heat Check is a part of last season’s cadre of guys who took THE LEAP last season in the playoffs and he hasn’t cooled off much since. He’s either going to win this thing or bow out early as it is reminiscent of the HR leader in the MLB not wanting to jack up his swing by trying too hard in the Home Run Derby. Curry is a legit threat to break the record if he puts his mind to it and may not hit the rim all night.
Dark Horse: Big man with a sweet set shot is a good bet to win this, since all he has to do is jog between racks and can get his shot up quickly.
Just Happy to be here: This is wide open because while shooting vs air is obviously easier, if you’ve ever watched warmups you know anyone in the NBA can hit shots with great regularity, so I wouldn’t rule out any of the guys in the field catching fire and making things interesting.
The All Star Game
In a game where defense will be at a premium we see some of the best scorers in the league stacked on the Western roster and Lebron James on the other. It will be interesting as always to see who shows up to play and who will be content to get their moments in and then ice down their knees in preparation for the final stages of the regular season. Since the only way the East wins is if Lebron goes Super Saiyan I’ll instead try to pick the MVP.
Smart Money is on: Kevin Durant
The Slim Reaper is probably the only person other who can make a legit claim to be the MVP of the league this season and I look for him to start solidifying his campaign for the second half of the season. He’s destroying NBA defenses geared to stop solely him this season and in a game where defense is matador at best look for him to ring up about 30.
Dark Horse: Chris Paul
In his return to New Orleans CP3 is a prime candidate for “guy most likely to take a midrange jumper in the allstar game,” add in the inevitable spectacular pass leading to an Alley Oop and CP3 should be right there for MVP.
Just Happy to be here: Joe Johnson
Don’t get me wrong, I love JJ but lets be honest, he’s here because his coach finally figured out a decent lineup after Lopez went down and now he’s carrying a mediocre team to a playoff spot in the awful East. He’s been getting buckets but leaving Kyle Lowry out is a miscarriage of justice here.
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Kyle Robinson is by day a not-so mild mannered drone for one of the world’s largest tech companies, by night he’s a sports enthusiast/wrestling smark/videogame geek/travel nut/chicken connoisseur/ comic book nerd and self- proclaimed “hopefully non-threatening black man”. Follow him at here for tweets that he hopes get more RTs, because that’s how he validates his existence.
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