NBA All-Star Weekend 2019: Last-Minute Preview, Predictions for All-Star Game

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2019

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 16:  LeBron James #23, Karl-Anthony Towns #32 and Kawhi Leonard of Team LeBron smile and laugh during the 2019 NBA All-Star Practice and Media Availability on February 16, 2019 at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The NBA's biggest stars will be on display at the 2019 All-Star Game on Sunday at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo were named captains of the two teams by winning the fan vote, and they chose a collection of the game's best talent for their respective lineups.

While most fans will tune in to watch James, Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, James Harden and others, there are some breakout stars from the 2018-19 season who are looking to make their marks on the contest as well.

James is in search of his second straight victory as a team captain after winning the inaugural All-Star Game in the new format 148-145 at Staples Center a year ago. Sunday, meanwhile, is Antetokounmpo's first All-Star Game as captain.



Upon first glance, Team LeBron appears to have the better collection of stars.

James was able to land Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Kyrie Irving in his starting lineup, while Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard are among the players set to come off the bench.

Team Giannis has two of the best frontcourt players in the NBA in Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid, but there's a chance they don't face a ton of shots down low with the collection of three-point shooters on Team LeBron.

LM Otero/Associated Press

Joining Embiid and Antetokounmpo in the Team Giannis starting five are Paul George, Stephen Curry and Kemba Walker, with the Charlotte Hornet playing on his home court.

While the Team LeBron reserves are some of the most recognizable stars in the NBA, the Team Giannis reserves comprise some players having career seasons. First-time All-Stars Khris Middleton, Nikola Jokic, Nikola Vucevic and D'Angelo Russell might have extra motivation to play up to the level of the other stars on the court.

In addition to all the fresh faces and superstars gracing the hardwood, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade will be honored as All-Stars for the final time in their historic careers.

Both Nowitzki and Wade admitted in the buildup to Sunday's game that they are going to enjoy whatever comes their way, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

"I'm getting old," Nowitzki said. "This doesn't get old. This is great to be here. Just enjoying the stage one more time. For sure my last, obviously, at an All-Star. So it's been fun. Having some family in town. Having some friends in town. Enjoying some of the festivities."

Wade added: "I'm just here to enjoy it. Whatever is called for me to do, I want to get out there and enjoy it. If it's five minutes, cool. If it's 20 minutes, cool. I just want to get out there and have a little fun."



Walker Shines on Home Court

Walker will continue the best season of his career by shining in front of his home fans Sunday.

The 28-year-old guard, who was named to the last two All-Star teams, has an opportunity to thrive from the start alongside Curry in the Team Giannis backcourt.

Walker comes into the All-Star Game off one of this best scoring streaks of the regular season, as he reeled off five consecutive 30-point performances at the start of February.

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

In last year's All-Star Game, Walker contributed 11 points in 14 minutes off the bench for Team LeBron, and he was one of nine players to reach double figures on the team.

Walker will have to fight for points early on since he's going up against Irving, Harden and Leonard, but once he works into a rhythm, he should be able to put on a show, especially if he's given the chance to be one of the primary scorers on Team Giannis deep into the second half.

Walker could make a case to be the second player in three years to take home the Most Valuable Player award on his home floor after Davis earned the title in New Orleans in 2017.


Russell Continues Strong Season with Impressive Game Off Bench

Russell is one of the top candidates to make the biggest impact off the bench Sunday.

The Brooklyn Nets guard is in the middle of his best season in the NBA, and he will receive a chance to flash his skills at the All-Star Game for the first time as part of Team Giannis.

Russell is averaging 20.3 points, 6.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game for the Brooklyn Nets in their resurgent season in the Eastern Conference.

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

The fourth-year guard might not have an opportunity to reach the 20-point mark because of all the terrific scorers on the court, but he will make an impact in a few different ways.

By scoring a few key baskets and setting up his teammates, Russell will earn more playing time than expected off the bench.

Alongside fellow reserves Russell Westbrook and Middleton, Russell can set up baskets for others, which will also benefit Blake Griffin and Jokic in the paint.

If he's on the floor with the starters from Team Giannis, Russell can benefit from the presence of Embiid and Antetokounmpo, as he will cut through the lane and dish off to one of the frontcourt stars.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.


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