NBA All-Star Celebrity Game – Friday, February 17 at 7PM E.T. (ESPN)
Although it’s an event most basketball fans don’t end up watching, this year’s matchup should be more interesting than usual. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is back in the game for the first time since 2010 representing the West team, and will be flanked by Baron Davis and WNBA star Candace Parker. However, the East team has defending All-Star Celebrity MVP Win Butler from Arcade Fire, Nick Cannon, former D-League player and king of impressions, Brandon Armstrong, and Jason ‘White Chocolate’ Williams. In a pick-up game like this one, betting against ‘White Chocolate’ is a recipe for disaster.
Prediction: 81-72 East
BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge – Friday, February 17 at 9PM E.T. (TNT)
This is the third time the Rising Stars Challenge will use the United States vs. World format (both sides have won once), and this showdown promises to be a good one. Thanks to the giant youth movement taking place in today’s NBA, fans will get to watch many of the league’s best duke it out in a game that means absolutely nothing. The U.S. Team will be led by Devin Booker, D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, and will take on a World squad led by Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Kristaps Porzingis. In a game that won’t feature any defense, expect this one to be a high scoring affair. With the game likely turning into a three-point contest, I like Devin Booker to take home MVP honors and lead the United States to their second straight win in the series.
Prediction: 155-146 United States Team
MVP: Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns
NBA D-League All-Star Game – Saturday, February 18 at 2:30 PM E.T. (NBA TV)
Realistically, no one is going to watch this game. The only semi-interesting storyline is that Yogi Ferrell, who just signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks, will be participating. The other 23 players will be trying to gain the attention of potential NBA suitors, but likely to no avail. Ferrell leads his team to victory in front of a half-empty Smoothie King Center.
Prediction: 132-128 East
Taco Bell Skills Challenge – Saturday, February 18 at 8 PM E.T. (TNT)
The Skills Challenge – the most underrated event of All-Star Weekend – should be a thriller. The new format pitting four big men (Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis, DeMarcus Cousins) against four guards (Devin Booker, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall, Gordon Hayward) only adds to the excitement, as the bracket style ensures a 7-footer will be facing someone six inches shorter for supremacy. Conventional wisdom would say to go with a quick point guard (Thomas, Wall) since the challenge entails dribbling and passing, but the big men are defending champs after Karl-Anthony Towns’ improbable victory last year. With the extra-long strides and equally efficient three-point stroke, Davis puts on a show in front of his home crowd and keeps the big men undefeated.
Prediction: Anthony Davis defeats Isaiah Thomas
JBL Three-Point Contest – Saturday, February 18 after skills challenge (TNT)
In recent years, the three-point contest has become the marquee Saturday night event of All-Star weekend, but this year’s contestants don’t garner the same excitement. While Klay Thompson, Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker are all All-Stars in addition to three-point participants, the absence of Stephen Curry is a devastating blow. After Curry won in 2015 and Thompson won in 2016, many were hoping the best-out-of-three series would be settled here in New Orleans. Instead, the defending champion Thompson will be taking on the aforementioned point guards plus Eric Gordon, C.J. McCollum, Wesley Matthews and Nick Young. 2013 three-point champion Kyrie Irving will give Thompson a run for his money, but the defending champ will win keep this title in Golden State for the third straight year.
Prediction: Klay Thompson defeats Kyrie Irving and Nick Young in final round
Verizon Slam Dunk Contest – Saturday, February 18 after three-point contest (TNT)
After Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon resuscitated the slam dunk contest last year, many were expecting a rematch in New Orleans. Instead, LaVine declined (and then tore his ACL two days later), leaving Gordon to face Derrick Jones Jr., DeAndre Jordan and Glenn Robinson III. Centers haven’t fared well since Dwight Howard won in 2008, which doesn’t bode well for Jordan. Robinson III is an explosive wing, but hasn’t produced any game film to suggest he can compete in this contest. Gordon oftentimes took our breath away during last year’s contest, but it’s going to be nearly impossible for him to repeat the feat. Enter Derrick Jones Jr. – a dunking specialist recently called up from the D-League – who just did this in warm-ups:
Yeah, I’ll take that guy.
Prediction: Derrick Jones Jr. defeats Aaron Gordon
66th NBA All-Star Game – Sunday, February 19 at 8 PM E.T. (TNT)
Last but not least, the biggest laughingstock of the entire weekend – the NBA All-Star game. The NBA’s 24 best players come together for what should be a competitive, highly entertaining game, but is one filled with apathy, lackadaisical defense, redundant alley-oops and Russell Westbrook trying way harder than the other 23 guys. Fans continue to clamor for the winning conference to get home-court advantage in the NBA Finals similar to what Major League Baseball does, but to no avail. Instead, the only intriguing storyline is the potential for Kevin Durant and Westbrook to be on the court donning the same uniform. It remains to be seen whether head coach Steve Kerr will make that a reality, but it’s safe to say everyone is hoping it does. The West is simply too talented for the East to keep up, and despite Westbrook’s attempt to win a third straight All-Star game MVP, Anthony Davis takes the honor in front of his home crowd.
Prediction: 166-159 West
MVP: Anthony Davis