One of the best parts of the NBA season is finally here again, and that is the All-Star weekend. Highlighted by a series of events over three days, this is the place for the best players in the world to go out and have some fun while competing against each other in various competitions. Over the past couple of years, we've seen players like Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon, Devin Booker, and Klay Thompson give us thrilling moments to be talked about for a long time, and many stars have etched their name in history through the All-Star weekend. Here are my predictions for the All-Star festivities.
Rising Stars Game
Last year Team World defeated Team USA in a blowout win, led by Buddy Hield and Ben Simmons, and each team has some fun new faces to bring to each squad. Team World is led by sophomores Ben Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, as well as rookie sensations Luka Doncic and DeAndre Ayton. Team USA is comprised of many star sophomores, including De'Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell, while also including rookies like Marvin Bagley and Trae Young. I believe Team USA has too much starpower and will defeat Team World, but this game is a perfect opportunity for players in a smaller market to show the outside world more about their talent. There is a pair of teammates playing together that I think will do just that and make their names heard on Friday: Trae Young and John Collins.
Prediction: Team USA def. Team World, 149-137
MVP: John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
Last year's winner was Spencer Dinwiddie, who will not be able to reclaim his crown after suffering an injury that will keep him out until after the break. This leaves the crown to 8 new contestants; rookies Trae Young and Luka Doncic, sophomore wings in Kyle Kuzma and Jayson Tatum, big men in Nikola Vucevic and Nikola Jokic, and point guards in De'Aaron Fox and Mike Conley. This is a competition that shows all-around strength in dribbling speed, passing, shooting and finishing, and while Nikola Jokic is a really enticing pick, De'Aaron Fox has the upper edge with his speed and will take home the trophy.
Winner: De'Aaron Fox def. Nikola Jokic
This might be the most popular contest as of recent, as the 3-pointer is only getting more popular and demanded in today's game. Devin Booker took home the trophy last year after an amazing final round, and is back this year to reclaim the throne. Unfortunately for him, he has a loaded field ahead of him. The Curry brothers (Seth and Steph) are competing once again, along with fellow all-stars Khris Middleton, Damian Lillard, and Kemba Walker, and veteran shooters in Joe Harris, Buddy Hield, and Danny Green. Even aging legend Dirk Nowitzki is going to give it one last go, and that will definitely be fun to watch. It is very hard to repeat in this contest, but given his past success before last year, it's very hard to bet against Booker, even if he is having a rough shooting season. I have Booker winning for the Suns, which will be their first win in a very long time.
Winner: Devin Booker def. Buddy Hield, Joe Harris
Slam Dunk Contest
This is my favorite event of the weekend, and by watching some of the highlights from this year's contestants, this should be a great contest. This year's contest is made of two sophomores: Dennis Smith Jr. and John Collins; and two rookies: Miles Bridges and Hamidou Diallo. Smith participated last year and didn't impress much, but things could be different this year. Both Bridges and Collins has proved themselves with high-flying posters in their young career, and while Diallo hasn't played a whole lot for the Thunder, he was a high flyer in college and definitely has the capability to pull off some nasty dunks. I believe that this is a great chance for Dennis Smith Jr. to get some recognition thrown his way, and it would be a great confidence booster to him if he wins, so I'm going with DSJ.
Winner: Dennis Smith Jr. def. Miles Bridges
I love the new format of the All-Star game, with the draft bringing another level of competition to the game. This year's captains were Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James, and both of them drafted some pretty good squads. James has a supporting cast led by Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Anthony Davis, while the Greek Freak's cast includes Stephen Curry, Kemba Walker, Joel Embiid, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook. There are many intriguing headlines to this game, such as the reunion of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, LeBron drafting players that are potential free agents next year and Giannis having Westbrook and Embiid on the same team, but all battles and drama should be pushed aside once the game starts. And based off of these rosters, Team LeBron should run the game from the very beginning.
Prediction: Team LeBron def. Team Giannis: 167-159
MVP: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers