One of the best weekends for basketball every year is All-Star Weekend. We don’t basketball in its purest form, but we get it in its most fun and relaxed form. I have been watching All-Star Saturday Night and the All-Star Game for as long as I can remember. A lot of the hoopheads here at SonicsRising have been as well. After you read our picks we want to see yours in the comments.
What team is going to benefit most from the ASG layoff?
Kevin Nesgoda: Despite most of the team being involved in the ASG festivities, I think it is going to benefit the Warriors the most. They looked tired and liked they did not care that much over the last month of basketball. They remind me of the 2005 Detroit Pistons where they think they can just turn it on at any moment and beat any team. How did that work out for the Pistons? They got handled in the Finals by the Spurs. At current rate I expect this Warriors team to lose in six to the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.
Taylor: Before the trade deadline, I probably would have said the Cavs. But they overhauled their roster and have been on a tear since so the break may actually cool their hot streak. I think the break may actually help the Denver Nuggets. They looked to finally be crawling out of the cellar but they are dealing with a handful of nagging injuries to players like Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee, and Richard Jefferson. Getting those guys time to heal up should help them get back on track.
Miles: The Boston Celtics. After starting the season strong, the Celtics are just 10-9 since the calendar turned to 2018 and have lost 4 of their last 5 games. The schedule gets a little easier until the see the Rockets on March 3rd, and they should be able to pull back ahead of the Raptors for the #1 seed in the East by then.
Who is going to win the Skills Challenge?
Nesgoda: I want to say Joel Embiid, but it’s going to end of being Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets. I don’t know why, but I feel he’s the smoothest out of the bunch.
Taylor: Spencer Dinwiddie. Out of everyone in this event, I think Dinwiddie has the most diverse skill set. He may not be the best shooter, but he’s got a better handle than any of the bigs (or any of the other guards for that matter) and is an accurate passer.
Miles: Lou Williams. Hometown players seem to have a way of out-performing expectations during All Star Weekend (Shoutout to Tom Chambers, ‘87) and Lou will be looking to prove something since he was “snubbed” during his best year. The Skills Challenge rewards ball handling guards and Williams is one of the best with the ball in his hands. I think it would be interesting if Embiid won it more for the social media but think its LouWill.
Who is going to win the Three-Point Shootout?
Nesgoda: Eric Gordon. The guy is on fire this year. His stroke is locked in. I think he takes out Klay in the final round. I think Devin Booker and Paul George will end up embarrassing themselves the most.
Taylor: Devin Booker. He has the quickest release and has gained a confidence in his shot this year that should help him in this competition. The biggest question will be if he has any jitters with it being his first time competing. If that happens, I expect Klay Thompson to take home another trophy.
Miles: Klay Thompson. He’s won it once already and is back to reclaim the throne from Eric Gordon and show the Rockets that the W’s are still the best shooters in the league. The 3 point shootout is all about getting hot and Klay’s 37 point quarter shows that he can get the hottest. Throw in his LA heritage and it’ll be Klay.
Who is going to win the Slam Dunk contest?
Nesgoda: Donovan Mitchell. He’s going to run away with this event and when they hand him the trophy for the night’s winner, they are also going to give him the Rookie of the Year trophy because no one is beating him in that either.
Taylor: Donovan Mitchell. Aaron Gordon was my pick as the runaway favorite until he had to bow out with a hip injury. Now I’m going with his replacement in Mitchell. Nance has bounce but he strikes me as more of an in-game dunker and Oladipo was mostly forgettable the last time he competed. Smith has a fighting chance, too, but did you see Mitchell’s off-the-glass dunk in the Rising Stars Game???
Miles: Dennis Smith, Jr. His game is perfectly set up for this and the Dunk Contest is one of the only events in basketball where being shorter is an advantage (s/o to Nate the Great). Donovan Mitchell will be the finalist with him, but Smith Jr’s 48” vertical and showmanship will give the people what they want. *Jalen Rose voice*
Who is going to win the All-Star Game?
Nesgoda: Team Steph in a close one and I hope we get close to 200 points by one team. I think Giannis Antetokounmpo wins the MVP with a near quadruple-double.
Taylor: Team Steph. Everyone has been gushing over LeBron’s roster, but that roster has been depleted since the draft with Porzingis, Cousins, Davis, and Wall all out with injuries. Team Steph has Giannis and The Beard, plus three Warriors (continuity counts).
Miles: Team LeBron. A crunch time lineup of Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis isn’t fair. Injuries to the other players or not, Team Steph doesn’t have a top end like that and when they actually start to try on defense in the 4th quarter, Team LeBron will put the clamps on Team Steph.
Bonus Question: What is your Finals match-up right?
Nesgoda: I am sticking with my preseason pick and saying the Houston Rockets vs. the Boston Celtics.
Taylor: Sigh. Warriors and Cavs. The Rockets are stacked after adding Joe Johnson and the Western Conference Finals should set records for scoring this year. But as Rudy T once said, “never underestimate the heart of a champion.” Also never underestimate LeBron, who has a new cast around him and it has been paying dividends.
Miles: Warriors and Cavs. The Rockets are going to the Warriors a run for their money in the Western Conference Finals, but the Warriors have so much firepower AND great defense, I just don’t think that Harden will be able to maintain his MVP level offense and guard KD, Steph or Klay enough to beat them 4 times in a 7 game series. Until LeBron doesn’t make the Finals, I’m rolling with whatever team he’s on in the East.