Stephen Curry

All-Star Weekend

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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)

KyrieIrvingAll-StarMVP

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:

West

Ryan Anderson (New Orleans)
Matt Bonner (San Antonio)
Stephen Curry (Golden State

East

Paul George (Indiana)
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland)
Steve Novak (New York)

stephen-curry-snub

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:

East

Gerald Green (Indiana)
Terrence Ross (Toronto)
James White (New York)

West

Eric Bledsoe (L.A. Clippers)
Jeremy Evans (Utah)
Kenneth Faried (Denver)

 

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.

Tommy Randolph 

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Top Five: Shooting Guards

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A shooting guard scores the bulk of a team’s points and heavily contributes to his team’s
overall success.  A few days ago, I ranked who I believe are the five best point guards in the NBA.  Now, I will rank who I believe are the best shooting guards.

5.  Stephen Curry- Curry is in his fifth year with the Golden State Warriors.  The 24 year old sharp shooter is averaging 21 points per game, shooting 45.2 percent from three point range.  Curry is the leader of a young, high-powered Golden State team that is on pace to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.

4.  Dwayne Wade- Unfortunately, Wade’s prime is in the past.  The 31 year old has been affected by injuries throughout his career, more notably in the past three years.  However, Wade remains an astonishing player, with two championships on his resumè.  In his 10 year career, Wade is averaging 24.9 points per game along with 6.1 assists and 5 rebounds.  This year, though, Wade is recording his lowest figures since his rookie season.  Come playoff time, Dwayne normally steps-up his game and significantly increases his effort.  Wade and the Miami Heat are first and the Eastern Conference.

3.  Andre Iguodala- In his career, Andre has been averaging 15.2 points per game, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists. In recent years, the two time Olympic gold medalist has not been playing well. This year, he is only scoring 13.4 points per game and does not put up impressive numbers in other categorites.  He may not put up the highest stats, but Andre Iguodala’s presence impacts the game as much as any player in the NBA.  His defensive awareness and all around effort make Iguodala one of the top guards in the league.  Iguodala is leading an uprising Denver Nuggets squad towards the playoffs.

2.  Kobe Bryant- Over the course of his 17 year Hall of Fame career, Bryant is averaging 25.5 points per game, and three of those years he had averaged over 30.  This year, Kobe is putting up 28.1 points per game to go along with 4.3 rebounds.  Plus, Bryant is starting to pass more than shoot.  At a late time in his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe is beginning to expand his game even more in order to help his team win ball games.  The struggling Lakers are currently four games back of a playoff spot, as Kobe Bryant attempts to give L.A. a late push.

1.  James Harden-  This may come as surprise to most people.  To me, I see no reason as to why Harden is not the best shooting guard in the NBA.  Last year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden was the guy with the beard who had a tacky celebration after hitting a three pointer.  Now, he has the Houston Rockets on track for a playoff spot.  In just months, Harden has adjusted and matured his game.  He went from averaging 16.8 points per game last season to 25.9 this year.  Harden is also averaging 3.5 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game.  He may have the team on his shoulders, but with Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, James Harden is trying to carry the Rockets to the playoffs for the first time in four years.

NBA.com
NBA.com

Some notable mentions are Paul George and Joe Johnson, but they are yet to establish themselves as dominant guards in the NBA.  The shooting guard is typically the X-Factor in games, but the NBA has been dominated by the small forward position in recent years.  Next, I will rank the top five small forwards in the league.

Drew Agnello