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NBA All-Star Weekend Preview

Let’s set the stage for the next few nights in Salt Lake City.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

As the NBA finally takes an intermission, our attention turns to Salt Lake City, host of the 2023 NBA All-Star Weekend. The festivities begin at 7pm CST tonight with the Kia Skills Challenge, followed by the Starry 3-Point Contest and the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest, all on TNT. That’s it for Saturday evening, with the two All-Star Games being on Sunday. The G-League Next Up Game is at 2pm CST on NBA TV before we get the headliner, the real All-Star Draft at 6:30pm CST and the All-Star Game itself at 7:30, both being broadcast on TNT.

Let’s dig into all of it.

Kia Skills Challenge (TNT)

This event has taken on numerous different shapes in years past. This season, they have broken it out into three teams, Team Antetokounmpos, Team Jazz, and Team Rooks. Team Antetokounmpos features Giannis, Thanasis, and Alex Antetokounmpo. The Team Jazz roster includes Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler, and Collin Sexton. Finally, Team Rooks rosters Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey, and Jabari Smith Jr.

I just have to say, I am entirely stunned that this is what the NBA has landed on. A common theme with this weekend, in my opinion, is the NBA just having zero idea what their consumers actually want. With all due respect to the Antetokounbros, I cannot imagine that people truly care to see Thanasis and Alex Antetokounmpo compete in this. Team Jazz and Team Rooks are fine, but, I don’t know, there’s got to be something better than a team that includes a player that has totaled 101 minutes in the NBA this year and a guy averaging less than five points per game in the G-League. They couldn’t convince three All-Stars to do the event and just have a “Team All-Star” or find three retired players to compete?

Miami Heat v Orlando Magic Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Starry 3-Point Contest (TNT)

If I get to air my grievances with several other events, I do have to admit that the 3-Point Contest looks like it should be the best event of the All-Star Saturday night. Replacing Anfernee Simons with Julius Randle at the last minute was a bummer, but players make plans for their vacations in advance, so I don’t blame the NBA for asking someone who was already going to be there. I do wonder how many other guys they asked before they ended on Randle, but nonetheless, it’s a strong field.

The contestants are Tyrese Haliburton (39.9% 3pt shooting), Tyler Herro (36.9%), Buddy Hield (42.6%), Kevin Huerter (39.2%), Damian Lillard (37.2%), Lauri Markkanen (41.3%), Randle (33.8%), and Jayson Tatum (35.7%). Overall, that’s a very strong field, with most of the guys who aren’t right around 40% from three this year being guys who take a lot of tougher, pull-up threes. I am genuinely excited to see these guys rip the nets, and I love seeing where guys choose to set their money-ball rack.

DraftKings Odds

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These guys are, for the most part, great shooters, so you can’t really go wrong picking a winner. With that said, I think Tyler Herro’s jumper is one of the more technically sound, and I could just see him getting into a bit of a rhythm here. I’ll take Tyler Herro to win, +550.

AT&T Slam Dunk Contest (TNT)

This is, unequivocally, the most embarrassing part of the entire weekend for the NBA. I mean, what are we doing here? The list of participants in this once proud event are: Trey Murphy III, Jericho Sims, Mac McClung, and Kenyon Martin Jr. Look, the three NBA guys in this event are fine role players (Murphy will likely be more than that someday soon), but these are still guys that your average, casual fan will likely not have heard of. The inclusion of McClung is also just a total joke, and yet another example of the NBA not understanding what people want from All-Star Weekend.

To be clear, I think this will be a fine dunk contest in the sense that these guys are good dunkers. They really are! The problem for the league, though, is that your average viewer likely has no idea who these guys are. The best dunk contest include at least a couple guys who are somewhere in the neighborhood of being a household name. I will probably still enjoy this dunk contest personally because I am a freaking nerd who knows who these guys are, but if the NBA wants to use this weekend as a way to grow the sport and interest in their league, this is not how to accomplish that goal. It is better in the big picture to take a slight hit in dunk quality in favor of name recognition.

2023 NBA All Star - Jordan Rising Stars Game Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

NBA G League Next Up Game (NBA TV)

I’ve complained at length already about how the NBA has missed the mark in places, but I like this change and think it could be a lot of fun. There is a TON of talent in the G League now, with players entering the developmental league straight out of high school to meet their NBA Draft eligibility requirements as well as with more teams taking real advantage of the opportunities a minor league team can provide.

Case in point, the two team captains for this event, Luka Garza and Scoot Henderson. These guys are on total opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their prospect status, but they make for a fun game nonetheless. Henderson will likely be the second player taken in the 2023 NBA Draft, and has been mentioned as the best guard prospect since guys like Derrick Rose, or even before that. Garza is in the G League hoping to develop into a fine NBA rotation player, but he can still fill it up in an All-Star Game type setting. This is a great idea, that I cannot wait to tune into.

NBA All-Star Game

Giannis and LeBron James will pick their teams at 6:30pm CST with the game itself tipping off later. With the teams not drafted yet, I’ll just say that I’m hoping to see Ant come into the game and let if fly. His game is tailor made for this event, with his ability to get on a heater from deep as well as his high-flying play above the rim. He’s still a long shot to win MVP, so it’ll take quite the performance from the first-time All-Star to take home the hardware, but I think he has a genuine chance.

Beyond that, I’m looking forward to the Elam ending. I don’t think I’m ready to see it in the regular flow of NBA games, but it certainly brings out the best of these players. These guys are competitors to their core, so target score by design gives both teams more of a chance to win at the end than the timed game does.

DraftKings Odds

You can bet your favorite spread, moneyline, total or game prop over with our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.

You can basically set your watch to Giannis intentionally picking a team based on things other than talent, so even without the draft done, Team LeBron -3 is the pick.

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