NBA All-Star Weekend 2013: Predicting Most Electrifying Performances in Houston
Offense defines NBA All-Star Weekend, and this year's events in Houston are sure to be some of the most electrifying in league history. The game's best will have some intense performances in various contests with little regard for defense, and fans should brace themselves for a fun weekend.
Miami Heat star and reigning MVP LeBron James is a definite candidate to have a solid performance in the All-Star Game. He is a triple-double threat in every regular season game, and the All-Star Game should be no exception since no one will be heavily defending him.
Similarly, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers could very well set a record for dunks in one game. With teammate Chris Paul in the starting lineup with him, the possibilities are endless.
A good number of players are sure to wow everyone with their skill sets all weekend, but only a handful of performances will stay with us in the days after the big game in Houston.
Expect the following players to deliver just what the fans ordered.
Rising Stars Challenge: Team Shaq
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Of course, NBA All-Star Weekend is more than just the big game itself on Sunday. Friday has the always fun Rising Stars Challenge, which will pit the game's best first- and second-year players against each other.
This year's game will feature stud rookies Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard (pictured) playing against each other, as the two candidates for Rookie of the Year collide. Second-year talents Kenneth Faried and Kyrie Irving will also square off.
This game is sure to be even more fun since two NBA greats in Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley drafted the teams, which should make for plenty of trash talk in the TNT studio.
It's going to be a ton of fun to watch, and I'm picking Lillard and Irving to form a deadly offensive tandem and carry Team Shaq to victory. As a result, the Big Fella will start to rule the roost in the studio while Chuck can only sit and take the trash talk in stride.
Slam Dunk Contest: Eric Bledsoe
The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest is probably my favorite event of All-Star Weekend, and this year's is going to be incredible. The Eastern Conference will take on the Western Conference as some of the game's most dynamic dunkers showcase their talents to the delight and roar of the fans.
Representing the East will be Gerald Green of the Indiana Pacers, James White of the New York Knicks, and Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors.
For the West, we'll see Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets, Eric Bledsoe of the Los Angeles Clippers, and defending champion Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz.
This may be shocking for some fans to hear, but Evans will not defend his title. Rather, I'm expecting Bledsoe will advance to the final round and face White, who made a great name for himself as a dunker in Europe.
In another remarkable upset special, the 6'1" Bledsoe will defeat the 6'7" White and come close to literally blowing the roof of the Toyota Center clean off.
Three-Point Contest: Stephen Curry
The Foot Locker Three-Point Contest is always fun to watch, as fans love offense. In addition, watching shooters do what they do best in a short amount of time provides plenty of fireworks.
This year's contest features specialists in Steve Novak of the New York Knicks and Matt Bonner of the San Antonio Spurs, but also has stars like the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving and the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry. Paul George and Ryan Anderson are also participating.
For this one, I have to pick Curry as the man who will wow the crowd from beginning to end. He has such a natural touch from beyond the arc, and participating in this might as well be a walk in the park for him.
Moreover, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that in one round, he comes one or two baskets short of a perfect score en route to winning.
All-Star Game: James Harden, Houston Rockets
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As he makes his All-Star Game debut, Harden is bound to make a versatile attack. Not only is he a phenomenal scorer, but he is also great at creating plays for his teammates.
In his first year as the Houston Rockets' starting shooting guard, Harden has posted 26.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
Harden won't be a starter in this year's All-Star Game, and will likely be used in the role that made him a household name: The Western Conference will surely use him as the sixth man.
Given the rest of the talent on the bench, Harden should definitely reach double figures in scoring and also have a few assists. His stat sheet won't be the prettiest of the bunch, but the way he puts up his numbers will completely wow the fans.
Prediction: 16 points, 4 assists
All-Star Game: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
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Wade is one of the NBA's most dynamic players, but he's shifted to more of a scorer's role since LeBron James joined Miami. Wade is averaging 21.1 points per game this year to go with 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals, but fans should expect a different player in Houston on Sunday night.
In last year's All-Star Game, Wade had a triple-double. He scored 24 points, plus had 10 rebounds and assists apiece.
A repeat performance is unlikely, but fans can still expect some of the old Wade to come out and play. He'll sink pretty fadeaway jumpers, dish off some beautiful passes and throw down some thunderous dunks.
Long story short, he'll be the Wade fans fell in love with 10 years ago, and the ensuing cheers will define the appreciation.
Prediction: 20 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists
All-Star Game: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
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The NBA All-Star Game is all about offense at a grueling pace, which means that scoring point guard Russell Westbrook will be in his element.
He's posted 22.5 points, eight assists and two steals per game, and he won't have to worry about being too trigger happy with his shooting in Houston.
Thus, expect Westbrook to do it all. He'll drive the lane, create off the dribble, shoot threes and even play some defense. If we're lucky, he might rise up for a dunk.
The fact is that the Western Conference needs him to be a spark off the bench, and the former UCLA Bruin will answer the bell in more ways than one.
Prediction: 18 points, 3 assists, 1 steal
All-Star Game: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
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Blake Griffin is at a distinct advantage in the All-Star Game this year, as he was last season. As the Western Conference's starting power forward, he has the privilege of having teammate Chris Paul serve as his point guard.
As a result, expect some of Lob City to come to Houston. Griffin is going to be in top form as he and Paul help create some of the game's top plays.
He will be a dunking machine in this playground game fans love to watch, and the applause that results from his work above the rim could be ground-shaking.
Prediction: 19 points, 7 rebounds
All-Star Game: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
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Kobe Bryant is about to play in his 15th All-Star Game and though he may be playing more like a point guard as of late, fans should not expect that type of performance. In fact, Bryant has already made it clear just how he's going to play in Houston this weekend.
The fact is that the five-time champion is probably the best scorer in the history of the game, and he's going to be out to put on a show for the fans as he nears the end of his career. This means that he'll be in full Mamba Mode—taking jump shots, driving the lane for layups and throwing down plenty of dunks.
The fans will roar, and all Bryant needs to do is to take it all in.
Prediction: 33 points
All-Star Game: LeBron James, Miami Heat
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Last year was Dwyane Wade's turn to have the triple-double, and LeBron James will carry that flag in 2013. The man is having another excellent season, posting 27.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game while shooting an excellent 56.5 percent from the field.
Simply put, James is going to be excellent in Houston on Sunday night. He's going to rise up for phenomenal dunks, sink key jump shots and also be in full team-first mode.
If he sees a rebounding opportunity, he's going to go for it. If he sees an open teammate, expect him to dish the ball off. The reigning MVP has a new attitude now that he has his ring, and we'll see it at its best as he garners consideration for All-Star Game MVP, win or lose.
Prediction: 28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists