Photo Credit: Cavs.com
With the 2017 NBA-All-Star Weekend one week away, it is time for a preview of the weekend and who to watch.
BBVA Compass Rising Star Challenge – The Rising Star Challenge opens the weekend this Friday and provides a look at the NBA stars of tomorrow. This year’s challenge is in the hands of D’Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns. The two Western Conference guards are arguably the two best players of the 2015 NBA Draft and if they can go off, it will be an easy win for the U.S. team.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge – The Skills Challenge is a contest between the “smalls” (guards/small forwards) and the “bigs” (power forwards/centers), that tests the participants dribbling, passing and shooting skills in a race. I predict Isaiah Thomas to win the challenge as he has the most skill of the smalls (with John Wall being a very close second). Thomas was a participant in the Skills Challenge last year, losing in the final round. His competition in the final round will most likely be Demarcus Cousins (because of his skill as a passer and shooter), but I do not see him being able to beat Isaiah Thomas.
JBL Three-Point Contest – The Three-Point Contest features some of the best shooters on the planet. However none of the participants can hold up against Klay Thompson. Thompson won the contest last year, beating out his teammate Stephen Curry for the title. However if there were a participant who could beat Thompson, it would be Kyrie Irving or CJ McCollum. Irving has proven to be one of the best three-point specialists in the association, McCollum on the other hand, has slowly become a great shooter, capable of hitting a shot from anywhere on the court. While I do not see either man being able to stop Thompson, it will be interesting to see if they can.
Verizon Slam Dunk Contest – The Slam Dunk Contest is the draw of All-Star Saturday Night, and this year’s contest provides some crazy sleepers. Although the contest is Aaron Gordons’ to lose, Glenn Robinson III and Derick Jones Jr. have potential to steal the show this upcoming Saturday. DeAndre Jordan, although being very talented, the contest counts being tall against players, which will make it hard to win against smaller guys. I am picking Gordon to win but it would be very entertaining if one or two of the other participants brought some flare to the competition.
NBA All-Star Game – This game, although being the main event, is a little easier to predict. Generally the Western Conference wins the game, having won five of the last six, including back to back wins. This year it might be a different story. The West has the better starting lineup, but I like the East reserves better. I always say the better bench wins, so I will go ahead and pick the Eastern Conference to get an upset win. The biggest storyline going in to All-Star Weekend is, how will Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook react to playing on the same team? There is a huge amount of tension between Durant and Westbrook (due to Durant leaving to join the Warriors in the offseason). It will be interesting to see how this will affect their play. It may even result in the two sitting on opposite ends of the bench and, not even being on the court at the same time.