When you’re used to watching your team in tight battles that could make or break their season, All-Star games can feel like a waste of time. In an exhibition game where players don’t want to risk injury and thus don’t necessarily play as hard as usual, these events can lack the drama and intensity that sports fans thrive of off. This has definitely been a criticism of the NFL’s Pro Bowl, but in some of the other leagues, the festivities of All-Star events are significantly more exciting. Maybe the best All-Star spectacle comes via NBA All-Star weekend.
With great events such as the All-Star Celebrity Game, Three-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest, and (of course) the All-Star game itself, the NBA does a great job of keeping their fans excited during the much-needed mid-season break. This Friday, the 2016 All-Star event will begin in Toronto, and the competitors in the various events should provide one of the most memorable All-Star weekends in several seasons. To prepare you for the action, we have some bold predictions for each of the big events.
Jason Sudeikis wins All-Star Celebrity Game MVP
This season’s All-Star Celebrity Game includes several big names including Tracy McGrady, Rick Fox, Nick Cannon, and Elena Delle Donne. The event also includes former All-Star Celebrity Game MVP Kevin Hart as coach of the USA side and none other than Drake as head coach of team Canada. The game usually turns into a display of comedy and entertainment rather than one of basketball skills and athleticism, but it has still produced some pretty shocking statistics in the past.
This season, actor Jason Sudeikis could steal the show in the event, which opens the weekend on Friday night. Coached by Hart, Sudeikis will outshine former big-name NBA and WNBA players (or at least steal the hearts of fans, who vote for the game’s MVP) and win the MVP award. We predict that Sudeikis will end up with 10 points, two rebounds, three assists, and one verbal confrontation with the opposition’s head coach, Drake. He should also end up with one attempted block of McGrady (only to fail pitifully) and at least one bear hug from Hart.
The Rising Stars Challenge will be Karl-Anthony Towns’ showcase
The Rising Stars Challenge features the NBA’s top rookies and second-year players. The Friday-night event generally produces an exciting contest on the floor, with the two teams breaking into a World team and a USA team to create two loaded rosters. This season, players such as No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns as well as Jahlil Okafor are featured on the USA side, while scoring stud Andrew Wiggins and Kristaps Porzingis lead the World team’s cause. It’s a chance for these young guys to make a statement in front of a national audience, and we think Towns will do just that.
Towns already proves to be worthy of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ pick last year, as he is averaging 16.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game over the first half of the season. Going up against some of the top talent from his class, however, Towns could be in for a big game on Friday night. We think he will go for 25 points and 15 boards to win the game’s MVP award and help team USA earn the win.
Klay Thompson outshines Stephen Curry in the Three-Point Contest
The Three-Point Contest could be the highlight of the weekend, as a field of excellent shooters will take center stage on Saturday night. The competitors include defending contest champion and defending league MVP, Stephen Curry of Golden State, as well as his teammate Klay Thompson, James Harden of the Rockets, Khris Middleton of Milwaukee, Kyle Lowry of the Raptors, J.J. Redick of the Clippers, Chris Bosh of Miami, and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns.
Obviously, the average NBA fan expects Curry to steal the show again, but we think his teammate will one-up him under the lights. The field will dwindle down to Thompson, Curry, and Redick as the three shooters in the final round, but Thompson will put up a mark that is too much for Curry to overcome, one season after Curry outlasted Thompson. Curry put up a score of 27 in that final round in 2015, but Thompson will go one higher and score 28 to take home the crown.
Andre Drummond wins the Slam Dunk Contest
The Slam-Dunk Contest used to be the grand event of All-Star weekend, with spectacular dunkers like Spud Webb, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, and Vince Carter stealing the spotlight in past contests. Things have changed over the last several seasons, however, as mainly less-popular names are the ones participating. This season, defending champ Zach Lavine of Minnesota headlines the field, which also includes Aaron Gordon of the Magic, Will Barton of the Nuggets, and Andre Drummond of the Pistons.
Again, not the most exciting list, but maybe the dunks will make up for the lack of star power. Drummond is easily the biggest name in the contest, as he’s the only All Star competing. We’ll go out on a limb and say that he does some crazy leap over Hart, teammate Reggie Jackson, and maybe former Pistons’ great Chauncey Billups to impress the judges and take home the honors for the most creative, explosive dunker this weekend. Still, nothing can top what guys like Spud Webb used to do on this stage.
Kyle Lowry wins All-Star Game MVP on his home-court
The main event on Sunday night is usually more entertaining than you’d think, even if the result is essentially meaningless. We’ll see tons and tons of points and plenty of material for the season’s highlight reel. Ultimately, more than the results, we are interested in the player who shines the brightest and takes home the All-Star game MVP. It’s a sign of a player’s greatness when you can outshine the other top players in the league and be recognized as the most valuable asset for one night.
For this season, we are going with the hometown kid to take home the honors. Kyle Lowry was (somewhat surprisingly) voted in to the game as the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference, but seeing as he plays for the Toronto Raptors and this weekend’s festivities are taking place in Toronto, it makes sense that Lowry earned the nod.
He’s certainly had a season worthy of the selection, as he has helped the Raptors stay right on the heels of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East. In this game, we think Lowry will take advantage of the situation to score an upwards of 20 points while dishing out 10 assists to earn MVP. Maybe more surprisingly, the East will shock the West to take the win.
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.