The hoopla surrounding NBA All-Star Weekend is as much about the off-court events as it is the basketball action. But, the Saturday Night Events (Shooting Star Challenge, Skills Challenge, 3 Pt Shootout, and Dunk Contest) are the highlight of the weekend. For the first time in a few years, I’ll be paying attention to the happenings closely. Here are my predictions for the three marquee events.
Participants: Jimmy Butler*, Jeff Teague, Kyle Lowry, Patrick Beverley, Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Knight, Trey Burke, Isaiah Thomas
This is one event that could be overhauled. I’ve read and heard suggestions of using big men in the challenge. Imagine Al Horford, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Joakim Noah going through the obstacle course? It would be a lot more exciting and interesting. For 2015, the course has been slightly altered and the competition is bracket style, which is progress. The new wrinkle is sufficient enough to make me pay attention.
*Butler is questionable for All-Star Weekend with a shoulder injury
Three Point Shootout
Participants: Marco Belinelli (defending champ), Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews, J. J. Redick, Klay Thompson
This is quite possibly the best field in the history of the competition. All eight guys shoot at least 38% from 3 point range and you can make a legitimate argument for any of them to win the contest. However, I’m going with the hometown guy for this one.
Participants: Mason Plumlee, Victor Oladipo, Zach LaVine, Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Dunk Contest has been subpar the past few years. There’s been an overemphasis on props (2011-12), terrible format (2014), or just flat out lack of execution (2013) and it’s turned the night’s marquee event into a welcome chance to change the channel. I’m optimistic about this year, featuring one of the better big man dunkers in Plumlee, a great in game dunker in Oladipo, and a rare physical specimen in Giannis. Those guys are nice, but let me introduce the uninformed to Zach LaVine’s dunking prowess…
Prediction: Zach LaVine. The above video sold me on LaVine before he played one second in a T’Wolves jersey. I can’t wait to see his repertoire in the Dunk Contest.
So there they are, my predictions for Saturday night! Due to other obligations, which will remain unsaid, I probably won’t be able to catch any events live. But, I already have the good ol’ DVR locked and loaded for the action. If everything shakes out the way this should be a memorable All-Star Weekend.