NBA All-Star weekend is just days away, and the most talented and exciting basketball players in the world will be competing against each other in various events. Dribbling, passing and shooting will be on full display in the skills challenge, the deadliest sharpshooters will try to make more threes than their competition and the league’s highest flyers will look to punish rims in the most creative ways possible. Also, the NBA’s rising stars and best players will play exhibitions against one another. Sean’s here to definitively tell you who will definitely win each All-Star 2020 event.
NBA Rising Stars
Since converting to the Team USA versus Team World format in 2015, Team World holds a 3-2 advantage. However, an incredibly deep Team USA beat Team World by 17 last year. This season, Team USA looks very deep again, while Team World is pretty top-heavy with Luka Doncic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. If Team World wins, expect it to be because of this duo, who are both triple-double threats.
Though Team USA got 65 points from Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma, who won’t be there this year, Trae Young had 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Young is back as a sophomore, accompanied by impact rookies Ja Morant, Tyler Herro and the freak of nature known as Zion Williamson. I expect Team USA to win again this year, and one of either Young or Herro to get super hot from behind the arc and take home the MVP.
Winners from three of the past five contests, Jayson Tatum, Spencer Dinwiddie and Patrick Beverley, will all be participating this year. This trio will look to join the ranks of Dwyane Wade and Steve Nash as the only players to win more than once. Sadly, Derrick Rose would be one of the guys trying to become a multiple-time winner, but he had to drop out for injury-related reasons (classic D-Rose). It would have been cool to watch him in this event in front of the Chicago crowd.
Replacing Rose is Gilgeous-Alexander, who I am picking to take home the dub. With a similar build to Dinwiddie, SGA is a freak athlete who gets up and down the floor fast, a very accurate passer and aside from Tatum, is the most likely to make the shot from the top of the arc on the first try.
The 3-point Contest has a new wrinkle to it that reflects where basketball is today. There are two new spots, positioned between the center rack and each wing rack. Each spot holds just one ball, but the ball is worth three points — one more than the classic “moneyball” on each regular rack. Here’s the kicker: Those spots are six feet behind the arc.
With these new shots, Steph Curry is the first name to come to mind, but he unfortunately isn’t participating this year. The next guy with limitless range is James Harden, but he isn’t playing either. Next has to be Damian Lillard and Trae Young, both of whom are in the contest. I give Lillard the slight edge for two reasons. One, he has done this competition before, scoring 15 last year, while Young has never done this event. Secondly, he is one of the hottest shooters in the league right now, and many of his threes are coming from well beyond the arc. Saturday night is going to be “Dame Time.”
Slam Dunk Contest
I love when Aaron Gordon is in the dunk contest. He has such insane hops and wonderful creativity. I hate that Zach Lavine isn’t in it. These two went toe-to-toe in 2016, and it revived the event and might have been the best dunk contest I had ever seen live. Lavine, guard for the Chicago Bulls, would be an insane home favorite, but instead he is doing the 3-point contest. Disappointing.
Though Gordon is great at this event, this is his third time doing it. Fans could be sick of seeing him, and he could be out of ideas. Instead, I am going to go with another previous contestant. No, not Dwight Howard, but Derrick Jones Jr. The Heat forward has some of the best hops that I’ve ever seen. His arms and legs are freakishly long, and the arsenal of acrobatic feats he can accomplish is beyond my comprehension. He could have a very special performance that we remember for years.
NBA All-Star Game
The 69th ever All-Star game is undergoing a new format to not only enhance competitiveness, but also honor NBA legend Kobe Bryant. It’s tough to explain, but essentially, the leading team’s score at the end of three quarters will be taken for a little math equation. The winning team’s score will have 24 added to it, which will then become the target score for both teams to go after to win. So if one team leads 100-94 after the third quarter (that second number could be anything), the first team to 124 will win the game.
The general consensus is that LeBron James drafted a vastly superior team to Giannis Antetekounmpo. James is accompanied in the starting lineup by his teammate Anthony Davis, James Harden, Luka Doncic and Kawhi Leonard. Antetokounmpo is joined by Trae Young, Kemba Walker, Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid. In my mind, all four of Team LeBron’s starters are better NBA players than those on Team Giannis.
However, the NBA All-Star game isn’t that black and white. Many called Antetokounmpo a terrible drafter, but he actually had a great strategy. He drafted the hungriest players that will actually try hard in an exhibition contest. While James picked just three first-time All-Stars, Antetokounmpo picked six. Think back to middle school gym class. Who would win, the best athletes, or the try-hards? I’m going against the grain and going with Team Giannis, and I think Captain Greek Freak himself will win the MVP.
Thumbnail photo by Morry Gash/AP