2010-11 NBA All-Star Weekend: Previews and Predictions for the Main Events

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2010-11 NBA All-Star Weekend: Previews and Predictions for the Main Events
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If you ever watch Inside The NBA, I’m sure you’re aware that Charles Barkley, for as comical and oft-insightful as he is, tends to repeat himself every now and then. But there’s one thing he’s said over the last few weeks that bears echoing:

The NBA treats All-Star weekend and celebrates its game and history better than any other sport.

In this case, he’s absolutely right. It’s not a weekend used as filler between the gaps of the playoffs, like in the NFL. There’s no arbitrary emphasis on the game itself, like in MLB, where players representing a sub-.500 team can have a direct impact on the World Series. Instead, it’s a collection of 24 of the greatest basketball players in the world, some of the best individual skills talent, and a celebration of the game’s legends.

The festivities will take place all weekend but most of the basketball world outside of Los Angeles will focus on five events: the Rookie/Sophomore game, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Shootout, Slam Dunk Contest, and the All-Star Game itself.

 

Rookie/Sophomore Game (Friday, Feb. 18, 9:00 EST)

***Player odds for MVP in parenthesis***

 

Rookie Roster

Blake Griffin (Los Angeles C – 3:1), John Wall (Washington – 8:1), Landry Fields (New York – 6:1), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento – 24:1), Gary Neal (San Antonio – 21:1), Eric Bledsoe (Los Angeles C – 24:1), Greg Monroe (Detroit – 20:1), Wes Johnson (Minnesota – 20:1), Derrick Favors (New Jersey – 24:1)

 

Sophomore Roster

Steph Curry (Golden State – 4:1), DeJuan Blair (San Antonio – 12:1), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto – 15:1), Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City – 5:1), Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee – 13:1), Wes Matthews (Portland – 5:1), Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia – 8:1), Taj Gibson (Chicago – 20:1), James Harden (Oklahoma City – odds unavailable)

 

What to Watch For

Blake Griffin. Anytime this guy takes the floor this weekend, he’ll be in the spotlight. He’s already been featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live Thursday night, participated in some Inside The NBA dunk contest previews, and he’s scheduled to be in the Rookie/Sophomore game, the Slam Dunk Contest, and the All-Star Game on Sunday night. And in a game that doesn’t feature much defense but does display several alley-oops and ferocious open-court dunks, it’d probably be a good idea to keep your eye on him.

James Harden will replace Tyreke Evans for the sophomore squad, who is out with a foot injury. That means the sophomore squad will feature two members of the Thunder: Harden and Serge Ibaka. They’ll try to continue the tradition of Oklahoma City players dropping 40 in this game; Kevin Durant scored 46 in ’09 and Russell Westbrook had 40 in ’10.

If you’re looking for an outside candidate for MVP, try Jrue Holiday. He’s from Los Angeles, he’s having a strong second season and he’s playing with a lot of strong catch-and-shoot players (Curry, DeRozan, Matthews) and inside finishers (Ibaka, Blair, Gibson), meaning he could easily tally double-digit assists.

 

Skills Challenge (Saturday, Feb. 19, approximately 8:30 EST)

***Player odds in parenthesis***

 

Participants

Stephen Curry (Golden State – 3:1)
Chris Paul (New Orleans – 5:2)
Derrick Rose (Chicago – 9:4)
John Wall (Washington – 3:1)
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City – 11:4)

 

What To Watch For

Arguably, this is the best lineup for any of the challenges this weekend. It represents the future of the league. Stephen Curry, at the ripe age of 22, is the second oldest participant. Unfortunately, the set up of the skills challenge isn’t exactly the most riveting thing in the world.

But year after year, it typically features some of the best young PGs in the league. Last year featured Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. The year before saw Tony Parker and Derrick Rose, and in ’08, we saw Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade.

Who will win the Skills Challenge?

Submit Vote vote to see results

 

Prediction

Chris Paul is the favorite, but he’s had knee injuries all season and his play has dropped off in the last week or so. I agree that he should be considered the guy to beat, but he's far from a lock.

This event typically comes down to whoever can make the pass through the tire on the first go-around. My pick is one of the best precision players in the league: Stephen Curry.

 

Three-Point Shootout (Saturday, Feb. 19, approximately 9:00 EST)

***Player odds to win in parenthesis***

 

Participants

Daniel Gibson (Cleveland – 4:1)
Dorell Wright (Golden State – 4:1)
James Jones (Miami – 5:2)
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City – 7:2)
Paul Pierce (Boston – 5:1)
Ray Allen (Boston – 3:2)

 

What to Watch For

Ray Allen became the NBA’s all-time leading three-point shooter last Thursday and is the odds-on favorite to take this year’s title. He won in 2000-01 as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. But he’ll face pressure from teammate Paul Pierce, who bested defending champion Daequan Cook and sharpshooters Stephen Curry, Danilo Gallinari and Chauncey Billups last season to win his first three-point shootout.

Who will win the Three-Point Shootout?

Submit Vote vote to see results

However, the favorites rarely win this contest. Jason Kapono and Rashard Lewis fell to Daequan Cook in ’09. Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic lost to Kapono in ’08. Ray Allen and Jason Terry lost to Dirk Nowitzki in ’06. Kyle Korver and Ray Allen fell to Quentin Richardson in ’05. So don’t rule out Daniel Gibson and Dorell Wright, who could come out of nowhere to nab this year’s shootout.

 

Prediction

Perhaps the guy to keep your eye on is James Jones. He’s made a career out of catching-and-shooting from the three-point line and he typically gets a lot of open looks since he plays with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. He’s a terrific shooter from the corners (over 46 percent for the season) and has, according to Hoopsdata.com and Tom Haberstroh, attempted just one lay-up this season.

About 85 percent of his total shots are three-pointers. He loves standing and shooting from the perimeter, and this contest seems like it’s right up his alley.

 

Slam Dunk Contest (Saturday, Feb. 19, approximately 10:00 EST)

***Player odds in parenthesis***

 

Participants

Blake Griffin (Los Angeles C – 2:7)
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto – 3:1)
JaVale McGee (Washington – 9:2)
Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City – 13:2)

 

What to Watch For

Blake Griffin. Have I mentioned this guy yet? This contest is so centered around him that casual NBA fans probably have no clue who the other three participants are. And who can blame them? Go to YouTube, look up "Blake Griffin dunks" and you’ll be lost for seemingly hours on end.

Being a great in-game dunker doesn’t necessarily transfer to the dunk contest, as we saw with Shannon Brown last year. But Griffin hasn’t lost a dunk contest since high school and he knows how to put on a show. He’s brought a renewed spark and interest that’s been lost in the last five to 10 years. He’ll be must-see TV on Saturday night.

As for the other candidates: DeMar DeRozan came in second place last year and has a terrific bounce, JaVale McGee has freakishly long arms and throws down his dunks emphatically, and Serge Ibaka is a great jumper. But these guys are going to have to do something amazing to top Griffin.

 

Prediction

Griffin. No explanation warranted.

 

All-Star Game (Sunday, Feb. 20, 8:30 EST)

***Player odds for MVP in parenthesis***

 

Eastern Conference Starters

Derrick Rose (Chicago – 8:1), Dwyane Wade (Miami – 7:1), LeBron James (Miami – 9:2), Amar’e Stoudemire (New York – 10:1), Dwight Howard (Orlando – 7:1)

 

Western Conference Starters

Chris Paul (New Orleans – 15:2), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles L – 5:1), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City – 6:1), Carmelo Anthony (Denver – 15:2), Tim Duncan (San Antonio – 21:1)

 

Eastern Conference Reserves

Rajon Rondo (Boston – 28:1), Ray Allen (Boston – 17:1), Joe Johnson (Atlanta – 23:1), Chris Bosh (Miami – 25:1), Kevin Garnett (Boston – 30:1), Paul Pierce (Boston – 20:1), Al Horford (Atlanta – 30:1)

 

Western Conference Starters

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City – 25:1), Deron Williams (Utah – 20:1), Manu Ginobili (San Antonio – 28:1), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles C – 12:1), Pau Gasol (Los Angeles L – 18:1), Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas – 16:1), Kevin Love (Minnesota – 13:1)

Who's most likely to win MVP of the All-Star Game?

Submit Vote vote to see results

 

What to Watch For

The game itself always has compelling storylines and intriguing player matchups and is the perfect culmination to a highlight filled, action-packed weekend. Just take your pick: how will the Miami and Boston players interact with one another? Who will the Los Angeles crowd embrace more: Blake Griffin or Kobe Bryant? The new wave of youth (Rose, Rondo, Westbrook, Griffin, Love) vs. the veterans (Duncan, Nowitzki, Garnett, Bryant). Who takes over down the stretch for the East: Pierce? James? Wade?

 

Predictions

West 118, East 112. Your MVP? Kobe Bryant might be the favorite, but I’m taking the kid who scored 15 points in 20 minutes off the bench last year and might get a little time on the court this season: Kevin Durant.

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