Major League Baseball, the NHL and the NBA used to simply have an All-Star Game to break up the season. No other gimmicks. That’s no longer the case. MLB has the Home Run Derby, the NHL has a Skills Competition, and the NBA has a weekend full of events that can be wagered on leading up to the actual game on Sunday night. This year’s All-Star festivities are from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Per usual, the Skills Challenge and Three-Point and Slam Dunk Contests will be held Saturday night. The Dunk Contest features four young players in the Dallas Mavericks’ Dennis Smith Jr. (+170) – the betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com – and Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell (+220), both rookies, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr. (+265) and Indiana Pacers’ Victor Oladipo (+400).
Nance Jr.’s father won the first NBA Dunk Contest in 1984 over dunking legends Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins. It’s somewhat of a home-court advantage for Nance Jr. as he was a Laker until being traded to Cleveland on February 8. Oladipo is the only dunker who will play in the actual All-Star Game. Mitchell is a leading candidate for this season’s Rookie of the Year honors and replaced an injured Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic in the field.
The Three-Point Contest has a field of eight, led by 2016 winner Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors (+210) and 2017 winner Eric Gordon (+450) of the Houston Rockets. Winning this contest at least twice is nothing new as six other players have done so. Thompson leads the NBA this season in three-point percentage at .454, while Gordon is second in attempts with 461.
Finally, the Skills Competition features quite a mishmash of players. You have small guards in the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams (+350) and Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray (+400), and 7-footers such as the Philadelphia 76ers’ Embiid (+600) and Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond (+900). Big guys did win the previous two years. The New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, the defending champion, was set to return but is out for the season.
The All-Star game is Sunday night, and that had always been Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference, but in the wake of last season’s no-defense-played 192-182 win by the West, NBA commissioner Adam Silver instituted a change. This year’s rosters were chosen by captains like you would find in any playground pick-up game in America. The two captains are the Cavaliers’ LeBron James and Warriors’ Steph Curry because they received the most fan votes in each conference.
The captains alternated picks and had to choose among the eight other starters first before the reserves. For some reason, the NBA didn’t televise the “draft,” but James picked first because he had the most fan votes, and it has been essentially confirmed he took Curry’s teammate, Kevin Durant. LeBron also has the likes of Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and his former Cavs teammate, Kyrie Irving. James has lost four members of his squad due to injury: DeMarcus Cousins (a starter), John Wall, Porzingis and Kevin Love.
Curry’s team is highlighted by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Embiid, James Harden and Curry’s
Warriors teammates Thompson and Draymond Green. Curry’s team hasn’t had any replacements due to injuries as of yet.
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