This upcoming weekend marks a special time on the NBA calendar. It is All-Star Weekend, a time filled with big time events and lots of big time names (though the injury bug snatched some away). There will be a lot going on this weekend in Los Angeles as the Staples Center will play host to the All-Star festivities. There will be a few contests and small scale games over the course of Friday and Saturday and will be capped of on Sunday night with the Team Steph versus Team LeBron showdown. While this weekend has lost some relevancy in the NBA media over the past few years, it will still be filled with exciting content for anyone who loves basketball. Here is a break down of all events happening over the weekend and what you should expect.
Celebrity Game (7pm EST Friday, ESPN):
The first mainstream event of the weekend will be the interesting spectacle that is the Celebrity Game. This Kevin Hart fueled scrimmage brings together some of entertainment’s biggest basketball fans and puts them on the court with some former NBA and current WNBA talent. The teams this year can be found here and are both full of some interesting characters. As a basketball analyst, I would have to give the edge to Team Clippers. They seem to have the more complete roster (in the celebrity game sense) as they have Paul Pierce, Jason Williams, Stefanie Dolson (one of the best players in the WNBA this year) and Common (who has shown he can ball). Team Lakers will rely heavily on Candace Parker (2x WNBA MVP) and Tracy McGrady but I see the Clippers pulling this one out. Expect another contest that is high on fun but loose on actual basketball.
Prediction: Team Clippers
Rising Stars (9pm EST, TNT):
For the first game of the weekend that has active NBA players in it, you will find the Rising Stars game. This contest is filled with young players across the league who will face off in a Team USA versus Team World format. These rosters can be found here and have some big names participating in this game. Ball and Brogdon were originally named to the team but were replaced by Fox and Prince due to injury. Still, this contest should be a fun one. I would give an edge to the World team in this matchup. They have two of the best young players in the league in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on their team. Plus they have the added chemistry as current teammates that will surely help them in-game. The USA team also has some high profile guys on their team like Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma but I just don’t seem them being able to top the Sixers duo. Look for this to be a good contest that showcasing some up-and-coming players around the NBA.
Prediction: Team World
Skills Challenge (8pm EST, TNT):
After a long day of media with the Hall of Fame announcements and Commissioner Adam Silver’s press conference, it will be time to get to the true apex of the weekend’s entertainment. Starting at 8pm, the big three contests will commence and we will see who has some special basketball skills. The first contest is the Skills Challenge, a obstacle course-type competition that tests a player’s passing, dribbling and shooting abilities. This year’s contestants cane be found here (sadly defending champion Kristaps Porzingis will not be able to defend his crown). While this event was dominated by guards for most of its existence, big men (more specifically the Unicorns) have won the two contests and with four centers/forwards in this year’s contest, it is likely we may see another one win in 2018. I see Embiid coming away the winner in this contest. He fits the Unicorn mold and has the skill set to do well in this competition. His three point percentage is the second worst this season among this group (Drummond with 0%) but I still feel that his overall game will help him win the challenge. In 2018 the big man-Skills Challenge trend will continue with Embiid taking the trophy on Saturday night.
Prediction: Joel Embiid
Three Point Contest (After the Skills Challenge, TNT):
Following the Skills Challenge will be the Three Point Contest; which, as it sounds, is a contest to see who can make the most threes in an around-the-world style game. The players competing can be found here and is once again filled with star names. My pick to win this contest is Devin Booker of the Suns.
He has shined in this competition previously (second place in 2016). He is also shooting 38.3% from three this season and looks to me like the real deal from outside. He will have his work cut out for him as Klay Thompson and Paul George are currently in the top ten for three point percentage but I have a feeling that Booker will shine in this contest. Look for him to beat out one of the Splash Bros in close contest.
Prediction: Devin Booker
Dunk Contest (After the Three Point Contest, TNT):
Probably the most popular part of NBA All-Star Weekend is the Slam Dunk Contest. I know as an NBA fan I will be watching but this seems to have appeal in casual fans and even non-basketball fans. Some of the feats that the people from contests’ past were able to complete are amazing and make for great highlight footage. This year we will have four contestants who can be found here. We are missing out on two of the top dunkers over the past two seasons in Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon this year but the field still has some solid talent. Of those in the field, my choice to win in upset fashion is Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith has had lots of crazy dunks throughout his college and short NBA career. He is a high flying guard who will look to use that vertical to his advantage in this contest. Both Victor Oladipo and Larry Nance Jr. have experience in this contest but I feel that Smith’s fresh thinking and creativity will shine in this contest. If he can bring any of the flashy dunks he has broken NBA twitter with to this contest, he will leave victorious.
Prediction: Dennis Smith Jr.
All Star Game (7pm EST Coverage with Tip-Off at 8PM EST, TNT):
Finally the main event. After a long weekend slate, the All-Star game will take place on Sunday night. This game, while still plenty exciting, has lot some of its luster over recent years and is not quite the mainstay it used to be. This has to do with many factors, including nonchalant play during the game and an overall unpleasant viewing experience for the fans. In an effort to change things up and bring live back into the game, the NBA went with a pick-up style format that allowed two captains (LeBron James and Stephen Curry) to choose players onto their squad from a select pool of players. This resulted in the following teams (though Team LeBron had a few extra additions due to injury). Nevertheless, this changeup add some fun to the game as we will see player combinations that we may not see in an actual NBA game. Only time will tell if this move will help get the All-Star Game back to it’s former glory but the NBA seems to be on the right track. As for a winner of this contest, I see team Steph pulling out the victory. Team LeBron’s losses have given him less talent on his squad. And while the players he is getting (Kemba Walker, Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic and Paul George) are solid, it still doesn’t compete with Steph’s roster. In addition to more depth, Steph’s starters (James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar Derozan and Embiid alongside him) are better that what LeBron has to offer, even if he has Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Look for the Steph team to get up early and cruise to a victory in this star-studded exhibition.
Prediction: Team Steph Curry