An entire weekend of festivities will culminate in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, featuring a wide variety of players who can create a memorable event.
Veterans such as Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade might not be having their best years, but as true superstars they will remain fan favorites and are always a threat to put up big numbers. Conversely, younger stars like Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis represent the future of the sport, while Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green will finally get the recognition they deserve.
These men will go back to their teams next week—many of them falling back out of the spotlight on losing squads—but this weekend provides one opportunity to see the most exciting players in the game on the same floor.
No matter which team you root for, this exciting matchup will be one you don't want to miss.
2016 NBA All-Star Game
When: Sunday, Feb. 14
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
TV: TNT (Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET)
Spread (per Odds Shark): West -5
|2016 NBA All-Star Game Rosters|
|23||LeBron James||F||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|13||Paul George||F||Indiana Pacers|
|7||Carmelo Anthony||F||New York Knicks|
|3||Dwyane Wade||G||Miami Heat|
|7||Kyle Lowry||G||Toronto Raptors|
|21||Pau Gasol||F-C||Chicago Bulls|
|10||DeMar DeRozan||G||Toronto Raptors|
|4||Paul Millsap||F||Atlanta Hawks|
|0||Andre Drummond||C||Detroit Pistons|
|1||Chris Bosh||F||Miami Heat|
|2||John Wall||G||Washington Wizards|
|4||Isaiah Thomas||G||Boston Celtics|
|24||Kobe Bryant||F-G||Los Angeles Lakers|
|35||Kevin Durant||F||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|2||Kawhi Leonard||F||San Antonio Spurs|
|30||Stephen Curry||G||Golden State Warriors|
|0||Russell Westbrook||G||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|23||Draymond Green||F||Golden State Warriors|
|13||James Harden||G||Houston Rockets|
|3||Chris Paul||G||Los Angeles Clippers|
|11||Klay Thompson||G||Golden State Warriors|
|23||Anthony Davis||F-C||New Orleans Pelicans|
|15||DeMarcus Cousins||C-F||Sacramento Kings|
|12||LaMarcus Aldridge||F||San Antonio Spurs|
The Eastern Conference roster is loaded with some of the most unguardable players in the league. James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will all start in the frontcourt, and although none of them are true low-post players, they all have the ability to beat just about anyone offensively.
When the team does need post players, veterans such as Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh and Paul Millsap will be able to handle the duties, while Drummond will have no problem bringing down every rebound possible. Add in lightning-quick point guards Kyle Lowry, John Wall and Isaiah Thomas, and this is a formidable squad from top to bottom.
With that said, the home side will be completely overmatched.
The Western Conference has the better teams this season, and the players have just been performing at a different level.
The trio of Golden State Warriors will likely see the floor together at some point, and based on what we have seen this year, Curry, Green and Klay Thompson could likely play with any two post players and win games. When those players are some combination of Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMarcus Cousins, it's almost not fair.
Durant and Russell Westbrook also can take control of the game themselves, as Westbrook showed a year ago with his 41-point outburst to win MVP. Still, this overlooks Leonard as one of the top contributors on the roster. Jalen Rose of ESPN had high praise for the San Antonio Spurs star:
NBA on ESPN @ESPNNBA
"Kawhi Leonard has officially established himself as the best two-way player at any position in the NBA." - @JalenRose on NBA Countdown.1/31/2016, 1:26:17 AM
Leonard has the NBA's best three-point shooting percentage and is sixth in offensive win shares, per Basketball Reference. He won't likely show off much of his defensive ability in this exhibition, but he can still be a star offensively.
There are just too many elite players throughout the West roster to be stopped.
If the West is successful, one of the stories will be the play of Bryant. The Black Mamba hasn't had a great, or even a decent, season, averaging just 16.9 points per game while shooting 34.9 percent from the field. The shooting mark would easily be the worst of his impressive career.
Despite the struggles, he still earned the start with the highest number of votes, meaning fans want to see him play. He should get his chance in a game where he has won MVP four times prior, topping 20 points on seven different occasions.
Bryant could easily get hot from the outside and put together a big enough outing to take home another MVP. Then again, this doesn't seem to interest the 37-year-old veteran, per ESPN's Baxter Holmes:
Baxter Holmes @BaxterHolmes
Will Kobe go for All-Star Game MVP? “Why? I’m good. I’ll make a couple jumpshots and try to play the best I can, but I’m okay."2/11/2016, 4:26:31 AM
Even if he doesn't want to go for big numbers, the crowd can easily change his mind.
Outside of Bryant, Curry is the easy guess to win MVP but one sleeper to watch for is James Harden. He had 29 points at this event a year ago and is never shy about taking a shot whenever the ball is in his hands. Even while coming off the bench, he has a good chance of putting up a high-scoring total while leading the Western Conference.
No matter who excels on an individual level, though, it seems like a safe bet for the Western Conference to take home the win.
Prediction: West 156, East 142
|Odds to Win All-Star Game MVP|
|per Odds Shark|
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for year-round sports analysis.