After a wave of controversy swept over the NBA World regarding holding All-Star events during the pandemic; finally, after what felt like a decade, NBA All-Star weekend is upon us once again!
This year, there are only four events instead of the usual six:
- Dunk Contest
- Three-Point Contest
- Skills Challenge
- All-Star Game
However, with many new faces competing this weekend, the events are bound to be exciting.
Though the field of competitors is underwhelming when compared to previous years, there are some very underrated dunkers looking to make a name for themselves in the NBA world.
The three competitors this year are Indiana’s Cassius Stanley, Portland’s Anfernee Simons, and New York’s Obi Toppin. Stanley boasts an absurd, record-setting 46.5-inch vertical leap, with Toppin close behind at 44 inches, and Simons in third with a 41.5 inches jump.
Unfortunately for Obi Toppin, big men historically have had bad fortune in the competition, with the exception of Dwight Howard. And even as unfair as it may seem, guards typically get the edge over big men because many judges consider it more impressive for a guard to do the same dunk as a center, essentially docking points for being too tall. With that being said, if there is any power forward I would choose to win the Dunk Contest, it would be Obi, and with his explosive and powerful dunking style, I am confident he will earn many new fans this weekend.
I predict that the two guards, Cassius Stanley and Anfernee Simons, will finish first and second respectively. Stanley is an absolute freak of nature who has been showing out at many dunk contests since his high school days. Most notably, he beat Zion Williamson’s record of the highest vertical in Duke history, overtaking Zion’s 45-inch leap, with his own 46.5 inches. Due to his experience in dunk competitions and his ridiculous athleticism, I predict Cassius Stanley will win the Dunk Contest.
Anfernee Simons is the sleeper of this contest. Not too many people know about him, as he hasn’t been a part of many mixtapes or highlight reels due to his low profile, but Simons has impressive agility and athleticism. There is definitely a good chance at Simons winning this contest, but based on experience and raw athleticism, Stanley remains as my pick.
- Winner: Cassius Stanley (Indiana Pacers)
- Runner-Up: Anfernee Simons (Portland Trailblazers)
Because Devin Booker was forced to give up his spot due to his knee injury, Stephen Curry is now an even heavier favorite and my personal pick to win the event. Everyone knows of Curry and his dominance in almost all three-point records in NBA history, especially when scaled to the sheer volume he produces.
However, just like any human (if he is one), Curry can potentially have an off-day. In this case, I can see either Chicago’s Zach LaVine or Utah’s Donovan Mitchell emerging and winning their first Three-Point championship. Both LaVine and Mitchell have speed, accuracy, and rhythm in their shots, just like Stephen Curry, which is the major reason I am not counting on a player like Jayson Tatum, whose shot doesn't have the rhythm and speed necessary to rain down 25 threes in 60 seconds with accuracy, to win.
- Winner: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
- Runner-Up: Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls)
I will be shocked if the winner is not either Chris Paul or Luka Doncic. Both of these players are known for having fantastic fundamentals as triple-double threats every night. And, though Luka is an MVP candidate and the most polarizing young talent in the league today, my pick is the Point God himself, Chris Paul.
It boils down to speed and both passing and shooting accuracy. Though Chris Paul is 13 years older than Doncic, he’s still faster due to his smaller frame. Also, Paul has been a premier ball-handler and passer for the entirety of his 16-year career, and I definitely believe that this will show in the Skills Challenge as many players lose due to the inability of hitting the passing target in stride. Similarly, many players get caught up at the three-point shot. Paul has a significant four percent advantage over Luka in three-point percentage this year, giving him the edge.
In my opinion, it is highly unlikely that Paul and Doncic fall out of the top two, but if this does happen, two players that can sneak up are Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis and Portland’s Robert Covington. These players, though slower and less accurate, still have great fundamentals. If I were to rank these two, I would predict that Covington just barely edges out Sabonis to finish in the top three.
- Winner: Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns)
- Runner-Up: Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
And finally, the main event. The all-star game this year definitely has depleted lineups when compared to past years without big names like Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid, but it should be very exciting nonetheless.
Team LeBron should have no problem winning this game as they have the advantage of having LeBron James on their team whereas Team Durant is missing their best player due to injury. Also, Durant was basically forced to pick Kyrie Irving with his first choice as they are teammates, which allowed LeBron to snag both Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo, creating a team of cyborgs that should have no problem disposing of Team Durant.
Predicting the All-Star Game MVP, however, is a tall task, as with the new format, players cruise through the first three quarters like practice and only turn it up once the fourth quarter begins. Also, with teams filled with perennial All-Stars and 10 combined MVPs, selecting one to outperform all the other superstars is basically impossible, so consider this prediction just a wild guess.
- Winner: Team LeBron
- Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Team LeBron)
- Runner-Up: LeBron James (take a guess)