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Our staff picks for the dunk contest, three-point shootout and All-Star Game.
Which stars will shine brightest at All-Star weekend in Cleveland? We make our picks!
Who will win the Rising Stars Challenge?
Michael Pina: I don’t want to overthink this extremely serious exercise and pick against Team Barry (which has Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley and Franz Wagner on it), but Team Payton is stocked with able, selfless defenders (Ayo Dosunmu, Jonathan Kuminga and future DPOY Jaden McDaniels) who can all accentuate LaMelo Ball’s ingenious playmaking. Plus, Scottie Barnes is here. Team Payton all the way.
Jarrel Harris: Team Isiah is stacked. Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, Saddiq Bey, Jaden Hardy, Isaiah Stewart, Precious Achiuwa and Desmond Bane! Give me this team.
Rohan Nadkarni: I’m going to go with Team Barry. (We’ve gone a little too far with naming teams after one guy.) Cunningham and Mobley teaming up together is too fun to pass up on. Plus, we have a chance to see the Tim Duncan & Shaquille O’Neal of the next era take the floor together if Mobley plays alongside Alperen Sengun. I’m not going to pretend like I understand the new format for this game, but I am still willing to say that Team Barry is built perfectly for it.
Robin Lundberg: I’ll go with Team Payton simply based on Ball’s inclusion. His game is built for these sorts of exhibitions, and this will be his chance to put on a show as the clear biggest star on the floor.Michael Shapiro: The Mobley-Sengun pairing is the frontcourt of my dreams on Team Barry, but their overall roster does lack some shooting. Let’s go with Team Isiah, which should be favored here, even if Edwards shows up in his pajamas.
Who will win the Skills Challenge?
Pina: The rookies—Josh Giddey, Cunningham and Barnes—should dominate this event since they’re three of the four most skilled players participating. This is a Skills Challenge Dream Team.
Shapiro: I’ll side with the hometown team here. Both Mobley and Allen are skilled enough as bigs to survive the passing portion of the competition, and my money is on Darius Garland to hit a clutch half-court shot when it matters most.
Lundberg: The rookies. This should be a blowout as Giddey, Cunningham and Barnes are a stacked squad when it comes to skills and especially relative to their competition in this event.
Harris: I am going with the Antetokounmpo bros! Giannis is legendary for playing hard in every event he competes in and the brothers will be motivated to shine together on the NBA’s biggest weekend.
Nadkarni: Hold on, they really changed the rules for this competition? Is the NBA bored? Did somebody lose a bet? The skills challenge was fun! How are you going to have a team skills challenge? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Why do the Antetokounmpo bros get a team but not the Holiday bros? I’m already mad about this event, but I’m picking Team Rooks. They’re more balanced than Team Cavs, and they have more NBA players than Team Antetokounmpo.
Who will win the three-point contest?
Nadkarni: Finally, a normal event with rules I understand. I’m going to go with Freddy All-Star aka Fred VanVleet for this one. I like his demeanor. He takes things seriously but not too seriously. He never looks pressed, and I like his chances to swing a couple rounds by hitting that extra deep shot worth three points.
Pina: Luke Kennard is making 44.8% of his catch-and-shoot threes this year. He’s at 50.9% when wide open. Let’s go with him.
Lundberg: Give me Patty Mills. His legs may be a little tired from the load he has had to carry for the Nets this season, but he’s been a knockdown shooter and certainly won’t be afraid of the stage.
Shapiro: It’s a bit of an underwhelming field here with no Steph Curry nor Klay Thompson. I’ll go with VanVleet, largely because it’s always a good idea to bet on him.
Harris: Desmond Bane is having a breakout year for the Grizzlies and I think he is going to put the rest of the NBA world on notice on just how good he is.
Who will win the Slam Dunk contest?
Lundberg: I’ll go with Cole Anthony in what is a fairly unremarkable field. When in doubt, the shortest participant with the chance to impress given hang time is a safe bet.
Nadkarni: I can’t believe we still have to pretend to be excited about the dunk contest. The best way to fix it would be to get rid of it for five years and actually create a demand again. Also, I know dunking has literally nothing to do with team success, but having representatives from the Magic and Rockets for this one doesn’t exactly scream “All-Star weekend!” Anyway, I’ll pick Juan Toscano-Anderson. I love his bounce, love his story and love the teammates he can ask to be involved.
Shapiro: It’s been a difficult rookie season for Jalen Green, though his athleticism remains undeniable. He’s may be the best pure leaper in the league, and he’s not hesitant to get a little creative if his pregame warmups at the Toyota Center are any indications. Take it from Dwight Howard. This is Green’s competition to lose.
Harris: Anthony is from New York, so he is a natural-born showman. I expect the Magic point guard to get creative and add excitement to this year’s contest. But I’m also not sleeping on Green, who has rockets for feet.
Pina: Anthony deserves to be the heavy favorite. He’s also my pick.Who will win the All-Star Game (and All-Star MVP)?
Pina: Bless whoever looks at these two rosters and thinks Team LeBron won’t win in a landslide. I can’t with 100% certainty label Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Curry, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Jokić the greatest starting five in All-Star history, but based on how they’re all playing coming into the break, consider me a prisoner of the moment: This is the greatest starting five in All-Star history. For MVP, though, I’m going with Luka Dončić. He’s been a disappointing All-Star performer in his career so far, but this feels like a good opportunity for him to get serious and grab the torch.
Lundberg: Team LeBron. I won’t pick against LeGM when it comes to his All-Star picking prowess. As far as MVP? Antetokounmpo plays hard and is efficient, so there are fewer variables involved when it comes to his performance.
Nadkarni: Team LeBron will continue its dominance until the league slightly tweaks its draft rules. LeBron’s team somehow ended up with himself, Steph, Giannis and Jokić. That’s completely nuts. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant isn’t even playing for Team Durant. Hopefully it’s close but I don’t see that happening. The best chance Team Durant has is if Erik Spoelstra decides to actually cook up a game plan. Give me DeRozan as MVP in a comfortable win for Team LeBron.
Shapiro: I’ll take Team LeBron, with its captain taking home MVP honors. James is back in Cleveland and the Lakers are struggling mightily. What better way to change the narrative than an All-Star Game MVP? If this one is close late, expect James to lock in and potentially hit a game-winner as the Elam Ending returns.
Harris: I am going with Team LeBron to win for the sixth consecutive year, with King James winning MVP in Cleveland.