The game within the game at every NBA All-Star contest is the battle for the MVP award.
The obvious choices for the 2014 version would be Kevin Durant from the Western Conference and LeBron James from the Eastern Conference. Durant and James have made the NBA their personal playground this season and have essentially turned the MVP race for the entire season into a two-man competition.
Turner Sports’ PR Department alerts us to something that could be television gold if it happens:
Durant on Sunday's ASG: "I want to play 1-on-1 w/ somebody on Sun...we’ll see how that goes.” Sager: “LeBron?” Durant: “Probably, yeah.”— TurnerSportsPR (@TurnerSportsPR) February 15, 2014
However, just because Durant and James are playing at a different level right now doesn’t mean one of them is definitely going to win the All-Star game MVP. There are plenty of dark-horse candidates who could take home the coveted award.
The reality is that it likely won’t go to a big guy because winning the All-Star MVP is just as much about touches as it is ability. In an exhibition game that is all about showing off for three quarters, the guards aren’t exactly looking to establish the post game.
So who are some of those dark-horse candidates to win the MVP in Sunday’s game?
Few players in the entire league have been as hot as Stephen Curry lately, as evidenced by his nightly averages in the last 10 games of 29.1 points and 8.2 assists behind 54.6 percent shooting from the field.
He also leads the NBA in three-pointers made at 171.
It isn’t much of a stretch to see someone getting hot in the All-Star game from downtown and racking up the points in a hurry. If that is going to happen, there isn’t a better candidate than Curry.
Wow. Thanks 2 everyone that supported and that voted for me. Amazing feeling and can't wait to represent my teammates down in NO. #dubnation— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) January 24, 2014
It's kind of just a surreal feeling. I saw Kobe come on the screen and you knew that next person on the screen was going to be me or I was going to get left off that list. Just when I saw my name it was a real emotional kind of experience and glad my wife and daughter were here to watch it with me.
If Curry hits four or five three-pointers, look for his Western Conference teammates to start feeding him.
If Curry is going to win the MVP it will likely be on the back of his shooting, but don’t overlook his underrated passing abilities. He is averaging nine assists a game for a reason, and with so many talented teammates in this game, he should pick up a number of dimes.
The argument could be made that John Wall should be starting at guard for the Eastern Conference instead of an injury-plagued Dwyane Wade or Kyrie Irving, who hasn’t exactly led his Cleveland Cavaliers team to new heights as its superstar.
Look for Wall to use that slight to motivate his play during the All-Star game.
He is posting nightly averages of 19.8 points, 8.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and two steals and has the athleticism and speed that will come in handy with the numerous transition opportunities that come in every All-Star game.
As a capable passer, Wall will set up his talented teammates in this game in much the same way Curry will. What’s more, don’t be surprised in the fourth quarter when players start to play defense if Wall isn’t in there showing the NBA world why he averages two steals a game.
Despite the earlier comments about a big guy winning the All-Star game MVP, Blake Griffin is not your prototypical post-up man.
In fact, All-Star games were built for players like Griffin.
He gets out in transition and throws down plenty of jaw-dropping dunks. Every guard on the Western Conference roster will be chomping at the bit to get on SportsCenter by throwing an alley-oop pass to Griffin.
Griffin has been on an absolute tear in February as Chris Paul battled back from injury. He is averaging 33.7 points and 11 rebounds a night this month and will bring some of that renewed production to New Orleans during the All-Star game.
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