All-Star Weekend is my Super Bowl Sunday. Except in the case of All-Star Weekend, it’s spread out over three different events (because who really counts the Celebrity All-Star Game?). I’ve preset my DVR and set a side several hours of my Sunday to re-watch all the festivities before the main event on Sunday night, the NBA All-Star Game. I make it a habit to pick my winners beforehand (which tend to be wrong, I did pick Chase Budinger to win the Dunk Contest last year), so without further ado here are my picks for All-Star Weekend:
BBVA Rising Stars Challenge:
This event has developed more flair over the years. For starters Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkely now draft the teams rather than it being simply a Sophomore – Rookie Challenge, with the sophomores usually taking home the victory. With the teams now more evenly matched, it gives for a much more entertaining game. Here are the teams:
TEAM SHAQ: Damian Lillard (Portland), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland), Andre Drummond (Detroit), Klay Thompson (Golden State), Harrison Barnes(Golden State), Chandler Parsons (Houston), Dion Waiters (Cleveland),Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte), Tyler Zeller (Cleveland), Kemba Walker (Charlotte)
TEAM CHUCK: Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Kenneth Faried (Denver), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), Bradley Beal (Washington), Ricky Rubio(Minnesota), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando),Brandon Knight (Detroit), Isaiah Thomas (Sacramento), Alexey Shved(Minnesota)
The clear cut favorite here is Shaq’s squad for one big reason. Kyrie Irving. I’ve been saying for months that Irving is the next elite player in the NBA. He has the potential to not only be elite, but to be a 1st tier elite player (Durant, Kobe, LeBron, Chris Paul). While Chuck’s roster certainly lends very well to a strong inside game with Anthony Davis and Nikola Vucevic, Andre Drummond will help anchor Team Shaq in the paint and allow Irving to score and create on the perimeter for the other shooters on his team (Barnes, Thompson, Parsons). Team Shaq should shoot Team Chuck out of the Toyota Center. Prediction: Team Shaq over Team Chuck – 143-131
All-Star Saturday Night
This is far and away the best part of the weekend, mainly because of the dunk contest. The other events hold merit and can be very entertaining, but everyone tunes in so they can be dazzled by the highflying showmanship in the final event of the evening, the Sprite Dunk Contest.
Sears Shooting Stars: This one is easy, plus not many people care, so I’ll make it short. You never bet against Robert Horry in a shootout. I’ll take the West squad of Big Shot Bob, Sam “Looks Like an Alien” Cassell, Harden, Westbrook, Tina Thompson and Maya Moore over the East squad of Dominique Wilkins, Mugsy Bogues, Bosh, Brook Lopez, Swin Cash, and Tamika Catchings.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge: In years past this event has featured some great point guards and playmakers. Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Steve Nash and Derrick Rose are some of the recent notable champions. This year’s contestants seemed to be a watered down version of the contestants of years past minus Parker. Aside from Jrue Holiday and Parker, I don’t consider the other contestants proven point guards at this point in their career. Not to say their future isn’t promising, but we haven’t seen much yet. Jeremy Lin, Jeff Teague, Damian Lillard, and Brandon Knight. While experience may seem trivial in a competition like this, I don’t see anyone unseating Parker as reigning champ.
Prediction: Parker over (3) Holiday and (2) Lillard in the 2nd Round. Lin will finish with the worst time, followed by Knight and Teague respectively.
Foot Locker 3 Point Contest: This event is always this most difficult to call, and this year does not get any easier. Last year’s contest featured Kevin Durant and Kevin Love in an intense shoot-out for the title. This years competitors all have a legitimate shot at the crown, but there are a few that stick out from the bunch. Here are the participants:
Prediction: This will be the most entertaining 3 point contest in recent history. Look for George and Bonner to make early exits. Look for Irving and Curry to face-off in the finals with Curry bring home the trophy. Watch out for Ryan Anderson as a potential dark horse.
Sprite Slam Dunk Contest: This contest is the most hyped and most entertaining event of the weekend. Their have been so many historic performance in the past from Dominique and MJ’s showdown in 1988 to Vince Carter’s absolute clinic in 2000. While the participants may have lacked star status in recent history (minus Howard and Griffin) , they have certainly made up for it with some legendary performances (Nate Robinson’s Kryptonite performance, Jeremy Evans two ball slam). Here are the participants:
Prediction: Look for Jeremy Evans to make an early exit after winning the competition last year. I just don’t see him having the showmanship or creativity to win it again. Look for Gerald Green, Kenneth Faried and Eric Bledsoe to advance to the finals with Bledsoe teaming up with teammate Chris Paul to pull something out of Lob City’s bag of tricks.
2013 All-Star Game:
Out with the old and in with new seems to be the theme of the 2013 All-Star Game, at least on the East squad. 6 of their 8 reserve players are participating in their first All-Star game including Paul George, Kyrie Irving, and Brooke Lopez. Kevin Garnett has stated that this will be the last All-Star game that he will participate in, after 16 appearances. On the West side they feature only one newcomer to the squad in James Harden, who joins his former teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in their 4th and 3rd All-Star games respectively. There are several other familiar faces on the West side, including Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, both of whom could be playing in their last All-Star game.
Prediction: This year’s West squad is stacked up and down the roster. With so much young talent on the East squad, I’ll take the West and their offensive juggernaut over the inexperienced East. Final Score: West over East – 133-124 MVP goes to Kevin Durant.
Questions also need to be answered in the Central Division. This a division that is up for grabs since the Bulls’ guard Derrick Rose will be out for a majority of the season. Will it finally be the Pacers’ turn to seize control, or will another team control the reigns?
Milwaukee Bucks – Will Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis be able to coexist as backcourt mates?
These two guards demand so much time with the ball that it makes it difficult to see this as a happy marriage in Milwaukee. Both Jennings and Ellis are very talented and many predict the Bucks to be a playoff team. That said, it’s tough seeing this team making any sort of playoff push with the talent left on this roster. Look for the Bucks to be bottom feeders in the East this year, despite the high level of play by Ellis and Jennings.
Prediction: 35-47; 3rd in the Central, 10th in the East
Chicago Bulls – Can the Bulls keep their heads above water without Derrick Rose?
I want to keep this one short, since I believe my answer deserves a simple explanation. Tom Thibodeau the best coach in the NBA. I have no doubt he will be determined to keep this Bulls team focused and on point until Rose’s eventually return, if he does at all. Chicago has too good of a defense and too good of coaching to not be a contender in the East. The Bulls will still make the playoffs, with or without Rose.
Prediction: 44-38; 2nd in the Central, 7th in the East
Cleveland Cavaliers – Can Kyrie Irving’s rapid progression bring the Cavaliers closer to a playoff berth?
Kyrie Irving is slowly becoming one of my favorite players in the NBA. Bias aside, I believe Irving has the talent around him to make the Cavs a serious contender for the final playoff spot in the East this season. If Irving can get strong production from rookie Dion Waiters, sophomore Tristan Thompson and veteran Anderson Varejao, look for Cleveland to build off of last season and be in contention come April.
Prediction: 33 – 49; 4th in the Central, 11th in the East
Indiana Pacers – How much will the absence of Danny Granger affect the Pacers?
For those who are currently panicking in the Hoosier state, please stop. Yes, Danny Granger is an elite scorer and has been arguably the best player on the Pacers for the past 4 seasons, but are the Pacers now suddenly depleted of all the talent they have on their roster? No. Through the first week of the season, Paul George has emerged as a go to player for the Pacers. He has proved to be a dangerous threat still after sliding over to the three in Grangers absence. T he new additions of Gerald Green and DJ Augustin will also help shoulder some of the offensive load until Granger returns in late January. Also, keep in mind that the Pacers also boast one the best frontcourts in the East with Roy Hibbert and David West. Look for the Pacers to remain on track over the course of the season.
Prediction: 49-33; 1st in the Central, 4th in the East
Detroit Pistons – Can the youth in Detroit mature enough to be a legitimate playoff contender?
While Greg Monroe has emerged as a low post presence in his first two seasons in the league and the backcourt of Stuckey and Knight has begun to show improvement as well, I still think that this team is a year away from contention, proven by their abysmal 0-7 start. They have too many holes defensively, not enough bench play to support their starting five, and no clear starter at the wing with Prince, Jerebko, and Singer lacking consistency on a nightly basis. Once Detroit can develop the core of Knight, Monroe and Drummond, Detroit could become a legitimate threat in the East once again.
Prediction; 17 -65; 5th in the Central, 15th in the East
Edited by Drew Agnello