NBA Previews

Published on February 16th, 2017 | by Sam Matear


2017 NBA All-Star Weekend Preview

BBVA Rising Stars Challenge

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! If you’re an American sports fan that is…We’ve seen arguably the greatest Superbowl ever, we have March Madness rapidly approaching, but best of all, it’s time for the NBA All-Star Weekend!

Let’s start off with the first event on Friday (Sat morning Aus Time) the BBVA Rising Stars challenge (more commonly known as the Rookie/Sophomore game).

In recent years we’ve watched the format of the game change from East v West to Rookie v Sophomore to teams managed by retired NBA greats. But this year we’re continuing with the World vs USA format, which was created two years back.

The USA boasts star trio Karl Anthony-Towns (Minnesota Forward), Devin Booker (Phoenix Guard) and D’Angelo Russell (LA Lakers guard). Not to be outdone, the World team has some serious frontcourt talent featuring, Joel Embiid (Philadelphia Forward – since replaced by Alex Abrines), Kristaps Porzingis (New York Forward) and Nikola Jokic (Denver Forward).

These games are usually pretty tight, as the first 3 quarters, like the All-Star game, are all about the show. So with one-quarter of competitive basketball being left, let’s look at the most likely outcome.

The USA seems to have a bit more depth when it comes to current talent. To look at it quite bluntly, the worst player on the USA team (possibly Frank Kaminsky) is a more developed player than the worst on the World squad (Trey Lyles). It’s always hard to predict the outcome of these games and we shouldn’t have to, they’re for our enjoyment obviously.

That being said, with not as much competitive basketball to be played, I’m tipping the World team. They definitely have more talent that is currently dominating in the NBA and their trio of big men will be almost impossible to stop; Kristaps Porzingis for the game MVP.

Kristaps Porzingis could be a deciding factor in the Rising Stars Game. Photo: (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

NBA All-Star Saturday Night

The NBA All-Star Saturday Night event is always a highlight of All-Star weekend. Last year saw the return of the dunk contest to greatness, with arguably the best championship round of all time, if not since the 1988 event where Michael Jordan went back-to-back against Dominique Wilkins in an epic encounter.

We kick off this year’s schedule with the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. To be fair this has gotten better over the last few years and the inclusion of big men has been surprisingly entertaining and successful.

This year’s line-up is: Devin Booker (Suns), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Joel Embiid (76ers), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Isaiah Thomas (Celtics) and John Wall (Wizards).

Without overanalyzing it too much, a guard is always most likely to win. The speed and 3pt shot needed give them an obvious edge. If it’s going to be a guard, I’m tipping Isaiah Thomas and if it’s going to be a big, I’m tipping Kristaps Porzingis.

Following the skills challenge, we get to the slightly more entertaining JBL Three-Point Contest. This event is so stacked with talent that it’s basically who’s hot on the night.

This year’s line-up is: Eric Gordon (Rockets), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Wes Matthews (Mavericks), CJ McCollum (Blazers), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Kemba Walker (Hornets) and Nick Young (Lakers).

The obvious choice is the reigning champion, Klay Thompson. His biggest rivals are Kyrie Irving and CJ McCollum. These three are the best shooters in the category considering that they play the most minutes and shoot the most 3’s. This is no discredit to the other players at all. Wes Matthews is a 3pt specialist too and Nick Young definitely attempts his fair share himself. But if you take into account the ability to get hot immediately, it’s out of those three. As much as the fans would love to see Nick Young take it out, I’m tipping Klay Thompson in a tiebreaker over CJ McCollum.

Finally, we have the main event! The Verizon Slam Dunk Competition!

Let’s acknowledge the only disappointing factor first. Zach LaVine won’t be participating again this year. We were all hoping for a re-match of one of the best battles of all time, but only Aaron Gordon returns this year. Get well soon Zach!

This year’s line-up is: Aaron Gordon (Magic), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Glenn Robinson III (Pacers) and Derrick Jones Jr. (Suns).

How good is this going be!? Aaron Gordon looks set to finally take home what may have been rightfully his last year. It’s hard to see him losing with LaVine out, but there are a few possibilities of how it might happen…

Derrick Jones Jr looks to be the biggest threat to Gordon’s chances. With 6 games and 5 points to his name total, he is relatively unknown until now to the NBA world. BUT, oh boy can he dunk! We’ve seen some pre-game warm-up highlights and he’s definitely shown us a few 10/10 dunks. He’ll be gunning for the title, but I can’t see Gordon letting it out of his grasp. He is the favourite, he deserves to be and he should take it home; Gordon to beat Jones Jr in the final round!

Aaron Gordon will looking to go one better than last year… if that’s possible! Photo: Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

NBA All-Star Game

This year will be very different to watch as LeBron James (14) has 5 more All-Star appearances than the next best (Durant – 9). With such a young group, it should bring very exciting fast play. The biggest talking point has obviously been Russell Westbrook. The fans decided that his first-half performance wasn’t impressive enough to make the Western Conference’s starting five. To be fair, the West’s starting guards each have a pretty good case for a starting spot too. Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Houston’s James Harden, who in his new found role as point guard, will start in the backcourt. Westbrook’s former teammate Kevin Durant will headline the Western Conference frontcourt. Durant is accompanied by San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans’ big man, Anthony Davis.

For the Eastern Conference All-Star team, LeBron James is the only returning starter from 2016. Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo will make their All-Star debuts. DeMar DeRozan will make his starting debut with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, a three-time former All-Star who missed last season’s game recovering from knee surgery. Irving was the MVP of the All-Star Game in 2014, coincidentally the last time it was played in New Orleans.

Russell Westbrook and first-time All-Stars Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz), DeAndre Jordan (LA Clippers) and Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets) lead the list of reserves for both sides. Joining them is DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies), Draymond Green and Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors.)

In addition to Walker, the East reserves are Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers – since replaced by Carmelo Anthony), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks), Isaiah Thomas (Boston Celtics) and John Wall (Washington Wizards).

Looking at the rosters and the history, it might be finally time for the East to get back on top. I worry about Westbrook’s relationship with Durant and other Golden State players if placed on court together. Durant famously left OKC on bad terms to join the Warriors to create a ‘super team’. Westbrook has made his feelings very well known and the two have clashed on court this season. Either way, it will make for entertaining viewing.

If James and Antetokounmpo are on the floor together for majority of their minutes, this could lead to an East victory. They are both almost impossible to stop and it’s hard to see the West shutting them both down. But just like the Rookie/Sophomore game, it’s all about the last quarter. The West has the shooters to drown the East in 3’s if they wanted too and if this happens, look for a Warrior to take home the MVP if Westbrook hasn’t already scored 40 points.

I think Cousins will play a lot more than bench minutes and his output will be extremely important to the West’s chances as the East are missing a true big man. This is a big void for the East, but they do have very long wings that they will be hoping can cover the gap.

I’m tipping the East in a rare overtime win with Antetokounmpo as the MVP!

The ‘Greek Freak’ will be must-see TV in his first All-Star Game! Photo: .Jeff Hanisch-USA Today Sports

Let us know what you think of the predictions below in the comments or on our forum! Who do you have taking out each event?!

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Massive NBA and AFL supporter. Diehard Portland Trail Blazers and Adelaide Crows fan! Favourite athlete of all-time is Blazers legend, Brandon Roy.

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