More than any other time in recent NBA seasons, doesn’t it feel like all of us have earned NBA All-Star weekend? Between the rash of season-ending injuries, the drama of the trade deadline, and your typical 24-hour NBA news cycle, the whole league and all of us fans need these next few days to just sit back, relax, and recharge before we all start losing our minds again when the second half of the season starts.
So here we are. With the next few days all about the festivities of All-Star Weekend, we thought it’d be fun to break down all the major events lined up for the next few days, beginning with what is, in our minds, the best event of the weekend.
MOUNTAIN DEW KICKSTART RISING STARS GAME
I think we can all agree that this year’s Rising Stars game has the most loaded lineup of first- and second- year players in the NBA. Don’t believe us? Check out the teams:
World Team: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Dillon Brooks, Joel Embiid, Buddy Hield, Lauri Markkanen, Jamal Murray, Frank Ntilikina, Domantas Sabonis, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons
USA Team: Jaylen Brown, John Collins, Kris Dunn, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell, Dennis Smith Jr., Jayson Tatum, Taurean Prince, De’Aaron Fox, Lonzo Ball (injured), Malcolm Brogdon (injured)
That’s 22 of the best rookies and sophomores in the league. We’re not going to pretend to know the future, but we’re looking at at least three future superstars in this game—Embiid, Simmons, Mitchell—and around eight or nine players that could make future All-Star teams.
This game is going to be over-the-top, bat-shit insane.
This game is too close to call, but if we’re going to pick a winner, we’re going with Team USA. They’re deeper than Team World and they have around three or four players that can go of for at least 30 in the game. That includes the guy we think is going to win the MVP for this game, Donovan Mitchell. Spida rules!
Winner: Team USA
MVP: Donovan Mitchell
TACO BELL SKILLS CHALLENGE
Participants: Spencer Dinwiddie, Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Lauri Markkanen, Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray, Andre Drummond, Lou Williams, Kristaps Porzingis (injured)
Reigning champion and All-Star Kristaps Porzingis won’t participate in the game so we’re going to see a first-time winner here. This might seem like a competition that favors guards and swingmen, but bigs have won it the past two years with the Unicorn taking the title last year and Karl-Anthony Towns taking home the crown two years ago.
We think one big is going to make it to the finals, but a guard will once again take home the title. Give us Lauri Markkanen and Lou Williams in the finals, with Sweet Lou edging out the Finnisher in a tightly contest matchup.
Winner: Lou Williams
JBL THREE-POINT CONTEST
Participants: Eric Gordon, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, Devin Booker, Wayne Ellington, Tobias Harris
This is the most difficult contest to predict because all the contestants have the ability to catch fire from downtown. Defending champ Eric Gordon is a threat. So is 2016 champ Klay Thompson. Guys like Bradley Beal, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, and Devin Booker can heat up faster than a microwave, and Wayne Ellington and Tobias Harris are just as lethal from beyond the arc.
There’s no science or reason behind our choice, but we think that Devin Booker takes crown from Gordon and Thompson in a thrilling three-way finals showdown.
Winner: Devin Booker
VERIZON SLAM DUNK CONTEST
Participants: Victor Oladipo, Larry Nance Jr., Dennis Smith Jr., Donovan Mitchell
Don’t crucify us, but we’re not excited about this year’s Dunk Contest. We’ve already seen Victor Oladipo compete and he didn’t exactly impress. Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell are fantastic athletes that can throw down with the best of them, but we’re not sure if they have the hops to really stand out. That leaves Larry Nance Jr., who has the pedigree of being the son of a former slam dunk champion. But isn’t he really more of an in-game dunker?
We’d like to be proven wrong, but we’re pretty sure that this year’s dunk contest will be underwhelming.
Winner: Larry Nance Jr.
NBA ALL-STAR GAME
Team LeBron: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins (injured), Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Goran Dragic, Andre Drummond, Paul George, Kevin Love (injured), Victor Oladipo, Kristaps Porzingis (injured), John Wall (injured), Kemba Walker, Russell Westbrook
Team Stephen: Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Joel Embiid, DeMar Derozan, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Al Horford, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson, Karl-Anthony Towns
Like everybody else, we have high hopes that this new playground-style format will result in a more competitive game than the ones we were subjected to in past years. The mix-match style will give us some interesting All-Star teammates and intriguing matchups between real-life teammates.
There are enough storylines on both teams to make for an interesting game, but in the end, we’re putting our hats on Team Stephen to win this game over Team LeBron. Sure, they’re the underdogs, but that’s what’s going to make this game more interesting than ever before. We have three players in the running to win MVP, but we’re going to give it to the one player who gave a shit during last year’s All-Star game.
Give us the Freak for MVP.
Winner: Team Stephen
MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo