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Every NBA Team's Ideal 2014 All-Star Weekend Competitors

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

Every NBA Team's Ideal 2014 All-Star Weekend Competitors

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Only a handful of carefully selected competitors get to participate in the NBA's slate of All-Star Weekend events. But what if players from every team got a shot to show off their stuff during the league's February exhibition?

    Here, we've taken three players from each NBA team and assigned them to one of the three main competitions on All-Star Weekend: the dunk contest, three-point shootout and skills challenge. No player can compete in more than one event, so there's going to be some strategic jostling necessary.

    Basically, this prevents guys like Damian Lillard from hogging all three spots for the Portland Trail Blazers.

    In addition, we've assigned ratings to each player based on how well we think he'd perform in the given competition. From there, each team gets an overall rating which ultimately determines the best three-man unit.

    Health is a factor too. Guys like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook are automatically disqualified because they're out with injury.

    So, if nobody from your favorite squad is headed to New Orleans for the All-Star festivities, take heart. You can read through these ideal lineups and imagine what it might look like if every squad got a chance to send its best specialists to the Big Easy.

     

    *Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.

    **Stats accurate through games played Feb. 4, 2014.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Slam Dunk: C.J. Miles

    Right off the bat, the Cleveland Cavaliers are at a disadvantage. Lacking anything close to a reputable dunker, the responsibility falls to C.J. Miles. The 6'6" guard is sufficiently athletic, but we haven't seen the kind of variety or power from his in-game performances that might suggest there's a legitimate competitor hiding inside him.

    Rating: 2/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Kyrie Irving

    The lone bright spot in this trio, Irving actually won the three-point contest a year ago. He's been bitterly cold this season, though, hitting just 36 percent of his shots from downtown. Still, we know he can get hot when he needs to.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Jarrett Jack

    As was the case with Miles, the Cavs just don't have much to offer in this event. We've already used Irving as the team's three-point shooter, so Jack is the man stuck competing here. There will be one or two entries worse than the veteran point guard, but Jack's combination of age and limited quickness means he's no threat to win.

    Rating: 3/10

     

    Overall Rating: 4.3/10

Detroit Pistons

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Slam Dunk: Andre Drummond

    Josh Smith took home the trophy in the 2005 dunk contest, but the intervening years have sapped a bit of his athleticism. If there were a contest for bricking long two-pointers, he'd be in.

    That leaves Drummond, the Detroit Pistons' best athlete and most exciting dunker as the choice here. He'll suffer from the bias against big men but should impress the judges enough to grade out as an above-average entry.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Kyle Singler

    Perhaps you've heard: The Pistons can't space the floor on offense. The reason for that is the team's total lack of long-distance shooting. Rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was an option in this category, but Singler is connecting from deep with a little more success than his teammate.

    Still, this is an ugly entry.

    Rating: 2/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Brandon Jennings

    Jennings is the best of a handful of ho-hum options here. He's reasonably fast from end to end but isn't a very accurate passer. At least he won't have to play defense in this event.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Overall Rating: 4.7/10

Chicago Bulls

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Slam Dunk: Taj Gibson

    If Gibson could convince a few opponents to stand in his way underneath the bucket, he'd represent a more dangerous option. There are plenty of ferocious jams in his highlight reel, but most of them look great because some poor sap is getting posterized. There's not a lot of raw elevation or variety in Gibson's dunks. That'll hurt him in a contest setting.

    Rating: 4/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Mike Dunleavy

    D.J. Augustin has been the Chicago Bulls' best three-point shooter this year, but his services are needed in another event. That means Dunleavy and his 39 percent stroke from beyond the arc settle into position here. Dunleavy is an accurate shooter with a solid career of high-accuracy marks, but he lacks a quick release.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Skills Challenge: D.J. Augustin

    The Bulls have little in the way of athletic guards, which you can tell by Augustin's status as the team's representative in the skills challenge. Jimmy Butler isn't a good enough passer or mid-range shooter to fill this role, and Kirk Hinrich lacks the speed.

    Augustin wins this spot by default.

    Rating: 4/10

     

    Overall Rating: 4.7/10

Brooklyn Nets

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    Slam Dunk: Mason Plumlee

    Plumlee is big, strong and athletic. And as a matter of fact, more than half of his field goals this season have been dunks. You'd think that would make him a solid competitor, but he's a little too tall and hasn't broken out any creative slams that indicate he's got a contest-ready repertoire. Nonetheless, the ancient, unathletic Brooklyn Nets don't have anyone else to offer

    Rating: 2/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Mirza Teletovic

    Paul Pierce won the shootout as recently as the 2009-10 season, but Mirza Teletovic's sweet stroke is just too pure to ignore. All the floor-stretching forward does is rain triples, and he's done so at a 42 percent clip this season.

    We've seen him catch fire for entire quarters, so he's the pick.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Deron Williams

    Yet another previous winner, Williams' busted ankles have drastically diminished his ability to explode or change directions quickly. So, a guy who posted the fastest winning score (25.5 seconds) in contest history is now just an average competitor.

    Rating: 5/10

     

    Overall Rating: 5/10

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Slam Dunk: Thaddeus Young

    Maybe Tony Wroten deserves a shot here, but Young has a few more respectable dunks in his career resume. Either way, the Philadelphia 76ers are hurting in the dunk department.

    Rating: 3/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Spencer Hawes

    Nobody takes or makes more threes for the Sixers than Hawes, and a shade over 41 percent on the year, the big man is the clear choice to represent his team in the shootout. The only problem is Hawes hasn't really been a prolific shooter until this season.

    If the contest rules change and competitors get extra points for one-footed triples, Hawes' rating will get a boost.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Michael Carter-Williams

    The speed, length and rookie hustle are all there for MCW. Unfortunately, he's going to have to hit a shot from around the top of the circle, which means the Sixers' first-year stud could run into trouble. If not for that clunky jumper, Carter-Williams would be a favorite here.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Overall Rating: 5/10

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Slam Dunk: Giannis Antetokounmpo

    The novelty-dunk options are vast with the Milwaukee Bucks rookie. Maybe he can palm two basketballs in the same enormous hand. Maybe he'll use his immense wingspan to dunk while adjusting the camera above the shot clock with his other arm.

    Height will hurt Antetokounmpo substantially, but there's potential here. Unfortunately, since we don't yet know what the kid can do in a contest, I'm taking the cautious approach and rating him as a merely average competitor.

    Rating: 5/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Gary Neal

    Shooting isn't the Bucks' strong suit. And as soon as I figure out what their strong suit is, I'll be sure and let you know. Neal is probably the most established gunner on the roster, and it'd be fun to see him win the contest and immediately scream at Larry Sanders about earning his money in a post-contest interview.

    Fingers crossed.

    Rating: 5/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Brandon Knight

    The only athletic guard the Bucks have is the default pick for the skills challenge. Knight had a rough time at the last All-Star Weekend, getting crossed up by Irving in the Rising Stars game. Hopefully, his decent speed and desire for redemption will motivate him to show out this year.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Overall Rating: 5.3/10

New Orleans Pelicans

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    Slam Dunk: Anthony Davis

    In theory, Davis is a better in-game dunker than he'd be in a contest setting. But since we've never seen the New Orleans Pelicans' budding superstar in the latter format, we can't really be sure. In other words, most of the same drawbacks that hurt Antetokounmpo will apply to AD.

    Rating: 5/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Anthony Morrow

    Morrow was put on Earth to shoot threes, so he seems like a pretty good choice for the shootout. The journeyman wing boasts a career three-point accuracy rate of 42.7 percent, and he's been even better than that this year.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Eric Gordon

    This is a tough one but only because Jrue Holiday isn't healthy. He'd be the no-brainer selection if he were. As it is, we're stuck picking between guys like Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon. Reluctantly, Gordon will be the Pellies' entry. Four years ago, that might have been appealing.

    Now, not so much.

    Rating: 3/10

     

    Overall Rating: 5.3/10

Boston Celtics

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    Slam Dunk: Jeff Green

    Green has turned in his share of impressive stuffs over the years, but like a couple of the guys mentioned earlier, he might need a victim on the receiving end to truly excel. The Boston Celtics forward is a fearless rim-attacker but might not have the lift to really shine in a contest. Still, he's a better-than-average option for the C's.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Avery Bradley

    This selection would be better if it were for a full-court press competition. Bradley is the pick because Boston just doesn't have anybody who can hit a three. Of the team's higher-volume shooters, Bradley's 36.2 percent accuracy rate is best, narrowly edging out Green for the team lead.

    Rating: 3/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Rajon Rondo

    Rondo is a sneakily good shooter from inside the three-point line, which means he'll be a solid competitor in the skills challenge. He's got the speed and passing acumen to blaze through the course quickly, and the only danger he might face is a desire to take it easy on his reconstructed knee.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Overall Rating: 5.3/10

Utah Jazz

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    Slam Dunk: Jeremy Evans

    The Utah Jazz had better thank Evans because he's the only reason this bunch isn't at the very bottom of the ratings. The winner of the 2012 dunk contest has already shown us what length and creativity can do. Remember, this is the guy who jumped over a self portrait and then signed it. He's among the favorites.

    Rating: 9/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Richard Jefferson

    It's remarkable that Jefferson is hitting 43.5 percent of his threes this season. After losing his stroke entirely in recent years, he smoothed out a hitch and suddenly became the Jazz's best sniper.

    Color me skeptical. This guy has a ridiculous windup to his shot, and I'm not sold on the validity of a half-season of data.

    Rating: 2/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Alec Burks

    Point guards tend to be involved in this event, but Trey Burke can't shoot and isn't nearly as fleet of foot as his teammate Burks. For that reason, the slashing off-guard will represent Utah instead of the rookie point man. Burks is more of a straight-line runner than a lateral mover, though, so he won't knock anyone's socks off.

    Rating: 5/10

     

    Overall Rating: 5.3/10

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Slam Dunk: Xavier Henry

    This is something of a leap of faith (pun intended), but I'm banking on Henry's knee to get healthy just in time for the dunk contest. Mostly because nobody else on the Los Angeles Lakers has a chance to be competitive in this event.

    Just to be fair, I'll downgrade Henry a bit because of his questionable health. Jeff Withey knows what Henry can do when his legs are in good shape, though.

    Rating: 5/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Steve Nash

    Nash has won the skills challenge twice, but in the interest of preserving his health, he'll represent the Lakers in a contest that doesn't require quite so much movement. That's fine, though, since Nash is "only" one of the greatest shooters to ever lace up a pair of sneakers.

    If he can keep his back from giving out as he shuffles between ball racks, he'll be terrific.

    Rating: 9/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Jordan Farmar

    Since Nash will be bombing away, Farmar will have to handle things here. He's not an ideal pick, especially with his unreliable hamstring. But the veteran point guard is a better choice than Steve Blake, and I think we can all agree that Nick Young would screw himself into the ground trying to cross up the stationary pylons.

    Well, either that or he'd just shoot the ball from 30 feet instead of finishing with layups on either end.

    Rating: 3/10

     

    Overall Rating: 5.7/10

Washington Wizards

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    Slam Dunk: John Wall

    The skills challenge might seem more appropriate, but in addition to an invite to that event, the league has reportedly asked Wall to throw down at All-Star Weekend.

    Per CSN's J. Michael, Wall hasn't yet made up his mind: "Yes, both. I'll make decisions (Friday) or sometime next week. They have asked me. I'm not sure. I don't know what I'll do yet. I'm shocked after the news I got tonight so I can't even tell you."

    If Wall decides to dunk, expect some fireworks. He's got the perfect combination of freakish athleticism and small stature (relatively speaking) to impress judges.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Bradley Beal

    Beal's sweet, effortless form makes him an ideal candidate for the three-point contest. He uses his legs extremely well and shouldn't suffer from fatigue as he progresses through the racks. There's a lot to like about his chances.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Eric Maynor

    Wouldn't it be nice if Wall could compete in two events?

    Rules are rules, though, even if I just made them up in the introduction. That means Maynor is stuck representing the Washington Wizards in the skills challenge. Hey, better him than Trevor Ariza or Martell Webster, right?

    Actually, it'd be hard to toss out a worse competitor than the plodding Maynor. But he's all the Wizards can realistically offer.

    Rating: 2/10

     

    Overall Rating: 5.7/10

New York Knicks

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Slam Dunk: J.R. Smith

    For all of his awful shot selection and dubious off-court decisions, Smith remains a darn good athlete. We've seen him show that off in games, with extremely creative wrong-footed slams and incredible over-the-shoulder reverses.

    If he can avoid just shooting threes in the middle of a dunk contest, Smith will be a great representative for the New York Knicks.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Carmelo Anthony

    It feels a little strange to slot 'Melo into this position, but he's been the Knicks' best shooter this season. It might be a little odd for him to fire away from a rack instead of off the dribble, but his stroke is repeatable enough to make him a solid competitor.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Iman Shumpert

    Shumpert is a good athlete who can really run the floor effectively. Unfortunately, he's a little shaky as a dribbler and isn't especially quick when changing directions. He's a better pick than Pablo Prigioni, though.

    Rating: 4/10

     

    Overall Rating: 5.7/10

Charlotte Bobcats

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    Slam Dunk: Gerald Henderson

    Let's not overcomplicate things: Henderson can flat-out rise. Ask Dwight Howard.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Anthony Tolliver

    Tolliver has come out of nowhere to become the Kitties' most prolific threat from long distance. He's hit 44 percent of his triples this season. His career mark of 34.9 percent screams "fluke," though. He's the team's representative, but I could see him coming up empty in this imaginary contest.

    Rating: 3/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Kemba Walker

    Ramon Sessions might be a slicker ball-handler, and there are a number of guys you'd pick to hit a mid-range jumper before Walker. But in terms of the total package necessary to excel in this event, the Charlotte Bobcats' starting point guard is the most deserving selection.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Overall Rating: 6/10

Indiana Pacers

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    Slam Dunk: Paul George

    George might not even have to compete in this year's contest to win it. He can just send in tape of his clockwise windmill from a January game against the Los Angeles Clippers. If forced to show up, hopefully George won't opt for the glow-in-the-dark nonsense he tried a couple of years ago.

    It's tough to judge a dunk when nobody can see it, Paul.

    Rating: 9/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: George Hill

    An underwhelming selection from a team that doesn't really have a lot of lights-out shooters, Hill is a solid sniper but hardly a great one.

    He's hitting 37 percent of his triples this year, which is right in line with his career averages. That's fine but won't make him a threat to win.

    Rating: 4/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Lance Stephenson

    If they shave off extra seconds for high-stepping through the course, Stephenson is in good shape. And if they don't, his combination of end-to-end speed and much-improved passing will make Stephenson a worthy competitor. Like Hill, though, he's not going to do anything remarkable.

    Rating: 5/10

     

    Overall Rating: 6/10

Orlando Magic

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    Slam Dunk: Victor Oladipo

    Oladipo might not be much of a point guard yet, but he's already a phenomenal athlete. Plus, we've already seen him pull off a 360 jam in an actual game.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Arron Afflalo

    There's still an outside shot Afflalo will represent the Orlando Magic as an injury replacement in the real All-Star Game this year. Assuming that doesn't happen, he'd definitely be the man to fill out Orlando's three-point contest role in our made-up competition. He's hitting 42 percent from distance and seems to only be getting better.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Jameer Nelson

    Nelson's not quick, fast or a particularly accomplished mid-range shooter. But he's the best the Magic have to offer in this category.

    Rating: 4/10

     

    Overall Rating: 6/10

Houston Rockets

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    Slam Dunk: Dwight Howard

    Look, I don't like using Howard here any more than you do. I've seen his decreased athleticism over the past couple of years and harbor no illusions that the man who donned a cape in previous contests is still with us. Howard might still have something left in his dunk tank, but it'll be too hard to avoid comparing whatever he does this year to his brilliance in the past.

    Besides, the Houston Rockets' only other option in this spot is Chandler Parsons, and we need him to shoot threes.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Chandler Parsons

    Parsons is hitting 39 percent of his threes this season, a figure that is slightly worse than the one belonging to Aaron Brooks. The small forward is the pick here, though, because Brooks' numbers this year are way above his career averages.

    I'm a little worried about Parsons' line-drive trajectory and slow windup, but he seems like the more reliable choice overall.

    In Chandler we trust...sort of.

    Rating: 5/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Jeremy Lin

    You can't have an All-Star Weekend without Lin. I think that's a rule somewhere. Patrick Beverley is also an option here, but I like Lin's deceptive speed and longer strides.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Overall Rating: 6/10

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Slam Dunk: Chase Budinger

    We've seen Budinger's dunk contest offerings in the past. They were funny but ultimately not all that great. He's the pick because of his experience and a lack of better options. Those repeated knee surgeries are a real bummer, though.

    Rating: 4/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Kevin Love

    Love won this thing two years ago, which means we can overlook his 37.5 percent mark this season. He's on the shortlist of guys to watch when the money balls come out.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Ricky Rubio

    It'd be nice to look at Rubio's elite speed and pinpoint-passing eye and conclude he's among the favorites in the skills challenge. But this guy might be the worst-shooting guard on the planet, and he's in serious danger of getting hung up on that mid-range shot.

    He'd be close to a 10 if not for his wrecked jumper.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Overall Rating: 6/10

Atlanta Hawks

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    Slam Dunk: Paul Millsap

    Millsap has a couple of nice posters this year, but he's not the kind of athlete who'll wow audiences outside of a game setting. The Atlanta Hawks aren't a team with many dunkers, though, so the All-Star forward will have to do his best to represent in the dunk contest.

    Rating: 3/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Kyle Korver

    Were you expecting Pero Antic?

    Korver is probably the best standstill shooter alive, hasn't gone a game without making a three for what seems like seven years and is drilling an absurd 46 percent of his long-range bombs on the season. If he doesn't deserve a 10, nobody does.

    Rating: 10/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Jeff Teague

    It was tempting to slot rookie Dennis Schroder here, as the lightning-quick German import certainly has the raw speed to do well. But Teague is the steadier, more reliable pick. And let's not forget he's a quick guard who changes direction well.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Overall Rating: 6.3/10

Denver Nuggets

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    Chris Schneider/Associated Press

    Slam Dunk: Kenneth Faried

    Faried got a perfect score with a through-the-legs jam last year, but I'm betting we've seen everything he's got in his arsenal by now.

    A couple of ankle injuries and a limited repertoire mean Faried is now little more than an average entry.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Randy Foye

    It's too bad the three-point shootout doesn't involve game-winning 30-footers. If it did, Foye might look like a better candidate. As it is, he's a high-volume shooter who isn't remarkably accurate.

    Rating: 4/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Ty Lawson

    Call me crazy, but Lawson seems like a perfect player for this event. He's insanely quick, can knock down a shot and is an underrated passer. He's got all of the necessary ingredients. As such, he earns the second 10 we've seen so far.

    Maybe that'll make up for the sting of missing out on the actual game.

    Rating: 10/10

     

    Overall Rating:  6.7/10

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Slam Dunk: James Johnson

    He hasn't been around for all that long, but Johnson's athleticism and aggression have been a big part of the Memphis Grizzlies' surge in 2014. Oh, and he's pretty springy too. His resume is short, but dunks like the one above hint at a sneakily solid dunk-contest participant.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Mike Miller

    Owner of one of the prettiest strokes of all time, Miller is the easy pick on a team that lacks much in the way of three-point shooting depth. With a pair of previous competitions under his belt and a career accuracy rate of 40.6 percent, Miller's a great option.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Mike Conley

    Conley's greatest strengths are his defense and general reliability, but he's also a darn good athlete. Perhaps checking in a notch or two below the game's truly elite speedsters, he'll give the Grizz yet another solid competitor.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Overall Rating: 7/10

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Slam Dunk: Serge Ibaka

    Maybe I'm a sucker for gimmick dunks, and maybe it's silly to expect a guy with Ibaka's height to really impress the judges, but the Oklahoma City Thunder's lion-retrieving forward profiles as a serious threat to do well in the dunk contest.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Kevin Durant

    It's tempting to just give KD a perfect score in this category and move on. But in the interest of fairness, we have to note Durant's career three-point percentage is only 37.8 percent. He's well above that this year and hasn't missed much of anything in over a month. His rating isn't perfect, but it's nothing to sneeze at either.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Reggie Jackson

    If Russell Westbrook were healthy, Jackson wouldn't even sniff the skills challenge. Unfortunately, OKC's best athlete is going to be out until after the All-Star break. So his replacement in real life is also his stand-in here.

    Jackson is quick, a good shooter and a solid athlete. He's no Westbrook, though.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Overall Rating: 7.3/10

San Antonio Spurs

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    Slam Dunk: Shannon Brown

    This feels like cheating because Brown is only on a 10-day contract with the San Antonio Spurs. But his presence on the roster gives the team its best dunker by a healthy margin.

    Brown is 28 and isn't quite the same dynamic leaper he once was, but he's all the relatively ground-bound Spurs have to offer.

    Rating: 4/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Matt Bonner

    The Red Mamba earned his way into last year's contest as a fan favorite, but he's no charity case when it comes to long-distance shooting. In fact, if Bonner wasn't one of the most consistent snipers in the NBA, he would have been out of a job a long time ago.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Tony Parker

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a better representative than Parker, who won the skills challenge two years ago. Even though he's on the wrong side of 30, the Spurs point guard is as quick and shifty as ever.

    In fact, he's right up there with Lawson as a favorite.

    Rating: 10/10

     

    Overall Rating: 7.3/10

Dallas Mavericks

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    eric gay/Associated Press

    Slam Dunk: Vince Carter

    This is a sentimental pick, but it's also one made out of necessity. The Dallas Mavericks don't have much in the way of rim-rattling high-fliers, so it makes sense to go with the man who reinvigorated the dunk contest 14 years ago.

    And hey, we saw the 37-year-old throw down a beautiful 360 in warm-ups recently, so maybe he's got a little juice left. Besides, fans would go crazy if Vinsanity was involved in any dunk contest.

    Rating: 5/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Jose Calderon

    You've got to be a pretty good marksman to ace Dirk Nowitzki out of any shooting competition. Fortunately for the Mavs, that's exactly what Calderon is.

    Actually, he's a pretty great shooter. Calderon is over 40 percent from long range for his career and is knocking down 44 percent this season.

    Rating: 9/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Monta Ellis

    Speed, speed and more speed. In a dead sprint, there still might not be anybody in the league who can outrun Ellis. He's not a great ball-handler, but Monta will make up for that by turning on the jets.

    Rating: 9/10

     

    Overall Rating: 7.7/10

Sacramento Kings

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    Steve Yeater/Associated Press

    Slam Dunk: Ben McLemore

    We've only seen flashes this year, but it sure seems like there's an intriguing dunker inside McLemore who's just waiting to break out.

    There hasn't been much chance for McLemore to show off this year because he's been slipping in and out of the rotation. But it's probably safe to assume he's got enough bounce to compete.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Jimmer Fredette

    Fredette isn't logging enough minutes to qualify for the league lead in three-point shooting. But if Mike Malone would just look at the guy's 47.5 percent mark from downtown, maybe he'd up Fredette's minutes from the paltry 11.3 he's averaging this year.

    You don't have to play defense in a three-point shootout, which is absolutely perfect for this offense-only gunner.

    Rating: 9/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Isaiah Thomas

    There aren't many small guards who finish with more variety around the rim than Thomas, which tells us he's got the deft hands and coordination necessary to perform well in the skills challenge.

    It also doesn't hurt that he's one of the quicker and more competitive backcourt players in the NBA.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Overall Rating: 7.7/10

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Slam Dunk: Will Barton

    Barton earns this spot because of quality, not quantity. We've seen just a handful of slams from the Portland Trail Blazers' little-used guard, but the ones we've witnessed have been pretty impressive.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Wesley Matthews

    Matthews ranks fourth in the NBA in made triples, per Basketball-Reference.com, and is knocking down those shots at a rate of 41.7 percent. He's only the second-most prolific sniper on his team, but we need the man ahead of him for the next contest.

    Even though Matthews only started enjoying this kind of success from beyond the arc this year, he seems like a very reliable pick.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Damian Lillard

    Let's be serious: Lillard should be the man to compete in all three events. He's just as dangerous a shooter as Matthews but has tossed up a much higher volume of treys.

    And we also know he'll be competing in the dunk contest for real, per Chris Haynes of CSN: "Portland Trail Blazers All-Star guard Damian Lillard has accepted the league’s invitation to participate in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans."

    Haynes also reports that the league wants Lillard to participate in the three-point shootout.

    For our purposes, though, it makes the most sense to use the point guard in an event he's already won: the skills challenge. Lillard took home the trophy last year and has the perfect mixture of speed, hands and shooting to do it again. He's most valuable in this spot

    Rating: 10/10

     

    Overall Rating: 7.7/10

Phoenix Suns

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Slam Dunk: Gerald Green

    Green is probably the most underrated dunker in history. This guy blew out a candle on an above-the-rim cupcake, jammed without shoes and has some of the nastiest in-game flushes we've ever seen.

    He's a beast.

    Rating: 10/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Channing Frye

    The only reservation I have about Frye is the speed of his release and his general lack of mobility. He's a dead-eye sniper, but Frye might struggle to get through all five racks because of his substandard foot speed.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Goran Dragic

    As you can see, we're getting into some consistently solid three-man roster at this point. If Eric Bledsoe were healthy, the Suns might have been even scarier.

    But Dragic is no slouch. He's bigger than he seems and has great length but is still pretty quick with the ball. There are no added bonuses for being a lefty or general trickiness, but he's a solid choice here.

    Rating: 7/10

     

    Overall Rating: 8/10

Toronto Raptors

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Slam Dunk: Terrence Ross

    This is easy. Ross won the whole thing last year, putting on a show that featured loads of elevation and plenty of power. He's on a level with guys like Green and one more dunker who'll show up momentarily.

    Rating: 10/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Steve Novak

    Remember Novak? He's seen his minutes and overall accuracy slip since coming over to the Toronto Raptors in an offseason trade, but his track record of shooting prowess is hard to forget.

    Just one active NBA player has a higher career three-point percentage than this long-distance specialist. Recency matters a little, though, and Novak is only knocking down 38.5 percent of his triples this season.

    Still, he's a very dangerous competitor.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Kyle Lowry

    Let's be honest: Lowry's at his best when he's running into things. That's not a strategy that will play particularly well in a competition whose obstacles are meant to be avoided.

    The Raptors point guard is fast enough to be competitive, but there's always a danger that he'll crash into one of the pylons or knock over a passing standard in hopes of drawing a foul.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Overall Rating: 8/10

Golden State Warriors

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Slam Dunk: Harrison Barnes

    Barnes is in the midst of a massively disappointing season, but his regression this year has been the result of an ill-fitting role and a few mental blocks. Put simply, he's been hesitant.

    Physically, the second-year forward is just fine. And just as a reminder of what he can do when he rockets off the floor, please refer to this clip.

    Rating: 6/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: Klay Thompson

    OK, hear me out.

    Stephen Curry might be the most dangerous shooter this side of Kyle Korver, but the Golden State Warriors need their All-Star point guard to man the skills challenge. That leaves Thompson in charge of triples.

    And while it might seem crazy to move Curry out of any shooting competition, Thompson has actually been slightly more accurate from long distance this season. His form is perfect, there's no wasted motion at all and he gets off shots in the blink of an eye.

    Thompson is an ideal player for this role.

    Rating: 9/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Stephen Curry

    Don't forget, Curry won the skills challenge three years ago. His handle is terrific, he's deceptively fast and there's no way he'll miss that critical 20-footer.

    Rating: 9/10

     

    Overall Rating: 8/10

Miami Heat

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    Slam Dunk: LeBron James

    James' inclusion here is probably the best indicator that we're dealing strictly in hypotheticals. Only in our imaginary competition would LBJ ever consider participating in the dunk contest.

    He's got nothing to gain.

    But we know James has a bevy of incredible slams tucked away because we've seen some of them in warm-ups. Plus, he gets such an absurd amount of elevation on his in-game offerings that he's bound to be a serious threat in a competitive setting.

    We'll never find out for real, but James would be fantastic.

    Rating: 9/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: James Jones

    I know what you're thinking: "Where's Ray Allen?!"

    As a matter of fact, he's right behind Jones in career three-point shooting. It's a tiny margin, but Jones has actually been more accurate from distance than the man who's made more threes than anybody.

    Jones has also won the shootout (2011), which is something Allen has never done. Plus, Jones is hitting a ridiculous 55 percent of his treys this year—albeit in a tiny sample size. Allen is at just 35 percent.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Dwyane Wade

    Fortunately, there are no back-to-back sets when it comes to the skills challenge. That'll allow Wade and his cranky knees to participate in a contest he's won twice in the past.

    It's easy to assume Wade's age and penchant for sitting out games means he's lost a step. But this guy still looks incredible when he's rested. As such, he's more than deserving of this spot.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Overall Rating: 8.3/10

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Slam Dunk: Blake Griffin

    Well, we've finally made it to our top team. It seems appropriate to start out with a contestant who gets one of just three perfect scores in the dunk category.

    Griffin jumps over cars and easily has the best in-game catalog of dunks over the past half-decade. He's an easy pick and one of the favorites to win any dunk contest.

    Rating: 10/10

     

    Three-Point Contest: J.J. Redick

    The Clips stay hot here, as Redick gives them one of the best pure shooters in the league. He's right at 39 percent from long range for his career and just a shade under 40 percent this season.

    Rating: 8/10

     

    Skills Challenge: Chris Paul

    Let's see: Competitors in this event need to be speedy with the ball in their hands, excellent passers and accomplished mid-range shooters. I'm not sure there's a guard who better fits those qualifications than Paul.

    The only reservation I have about rating him so highly is the possibility that his age and shoulder injury might slow him down a step. Just a step, though.

    Rating: 9/10

     

    Overall Rating: 9/10

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