It’s one of the most exciting times of the year and it’s here again, 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend. On Saturday, like always there are plenty of exciting contest to watch like the Shooting Stars Challenge, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest and the show stopper, the Dunk Contests. Then on Sunday, you have the fun-filled All-Star game, filled with some of the most exciting and talented players in the NBA.
However, on Friday, they had some early action, like the All-Star Celebrity Basketball Game and the Rising Stars Challenge. When it comes to the Rising Stars Challenge, let me say I was so proud of Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons. He had an amazing night and all around great performance, scoring 30 points and grabbing 25 rebounds, which resulted in him winning the MVP award for the Rising Stars Challenge.
It wasn’t to long ago that I made a statement saying that Drummond got snubbed by the All-Star committee, because he honestly should have been on the NBA All-Star roster. However, since he is playing for the Detroit Pistons, he doesn’t always get the exposure and respect he deserves but there is no doubt after Friday’s performance, more people are taking notice. I was also happy for Michigan Alumni and New York Knick rookie, Tim Hardaway Jr. who had a standout performance, scoring 36 points while hitting a total of seven three-pointers.
Now moving on to Saturday’s events, where we have the Sears Shooting Stars, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest,
Team 1: Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York Knicks); Tim Hardaway Sr. (Legend); Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
Team 2: Chris Bosh (Miami Heat); Dominique Wilkins (Legend); Swin Cash (Chicago Sky)
Team 1: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); Dell Curry (Legend); Becky Hammon (San Antonio Stars)
Team 2: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder); Karl Malone (Legend); Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock)
Predictions: For the Shooting Stars Challenge, I am going with Western Conference, particularity Stephen Curry, Dell Curry and Becky Hammon. When it comes to shooting, it doesn’t get any better than the father and son duo of Dell and Stephen Curry. Then you add that with WNBA superstar Becky Hammon, who has a smooth jump shot and proven clutch abilities, and I don’t think this team can lose. So I am going with Dell Curry, Stephen Curry and Becky Hammon.
If you’re looking for a dark horse team, I would have to go back to the Western Conference. I love the combination of Kevin Durant and Skylar Diggins, both are great scorers and are capable of scoring anywhere on the floor in any situation. However, the reason I didn’t pick them to win is because I worry about Karl Malone. I’m not sure if he will hurt or help them. I guess we will find out. Also be on the lookout for the other father-son duo in this competition, Tim Hardaway Sr. and Tim Hardaway Jr, who could surprise some people too along with Elena Delle Donne.
Eastern Conference Team One Eastern Conference Team Two
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
Western Conference Team One Western Conference Team Two
Trey Burke, Utah Jazz Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder
Prediction: I’m going with a young group in this challenge and that group is Trey Burke and Damien Liilard. In my opinion, they are most well-rounded two-man combo in this competition, meaning, they both can pass, shoot and handle the ball efficiently and they both have the speed and basketball IQ to get through this challenge quickly, yet productively.
However, I wouldn’t count out the veteran group of Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson. I would like to think that Dragic has a chip on his shoulder after being snubbed by the All-Star committee. So I expect him to come ready to win something, plus you’re talking about another well-balanced guard who can efficiently shoot the ball and make the tough passes. Then when it comes to Reggie Jackson, you’re talking about a rising star in every sense of the word. He has the great speed and ball-handling, my only concern is his shooting, but he only has to hit a couple to win. So be on the lookout for them as well.
Eastern Conference Participants
Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
Western Conference Participants
Marco Belinelli, San Antonio Spurs Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Prediction: When it comes to the three-point shooting contest, I have to go with Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. When it comes to shooting, there is no one better, he can catch and shoot, he can create space and hit his own shot and he can hit clutch three-pointers. I know he has had his struggles this season, seeing that his percentages from behind the arc are down, but this is not a game, he is simply being asked to hit uncontested three-pointers. His quick release and technique make for not only for a quick overall time but also good accuracy which is why I am picking him to win.
Slam Dunk Contest
Eastern Conference Western Conference
Paul George, Indiana Pacers Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
John Wall, Washington Wizards Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
Prediction: I’m actually having a hard time deciding on this one, but when it comes to the dunk contest, I decided to go with the dark horse of the competition and that’s Damien Lillard. I believe that Lillard has the explosion and precision to challenge the other participants, I even think he has the creativity to come up with some great dunks and execute on them. The part I am questioning is whether Lillard will have any energy left to give his all in this competition. You have to remember that Lillard is participating in every aspect of All-Star weekend, so it won’t shock me if he turns out to be tired. Nonetheless, I am going with Lillard.
However, if Lillard doesn’t win, I think the next best bet is Terrance Ross and Paul George. They both have the athletic ability and experience to win, it’s just a matter of how creative they will be and if they can execute on those creative dunks. While I didn’t pick Ben McLemore to win, I am interested to see if he attempts a 720-degree slam. The only player I have ever seen do it doesn’t even play in the NBA, he played for AND1 and is currently playing for Ball Up and that player is Taurian Fontenette aka Air Up There, so I want to see if McLemore can do it, if he does indeed try it.
When it comes to the All-Star game, for me it’s never about predicting who will win or even who will win MVP. I always look for those underrated All-Stars that not enough people are talking about. For example, last year, Paul George had a great showing at the 2013 All-Star game, scoring, rebounding, even dishing out a few assists. While he didn’t get MVP, he still put on a great show and others took notice.
So this year, I am looking for that again and this year I am keeping an eye on Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans. I know he isn’t underrated but we all know, he was royally snubbed by the All-Star committee this year, however with Kobe Bryant being injured and out, Davis now gets the opportunity that he rightfully deserved in the first place. Which is why I think he will have a good performance. Plus he will have the home-court advantage since All-Star Weekend is taking place in New Orleans, plus I expect him to get a lot of minutes. While the All-Star game may not be about defense, don’t be surprised if Davis steps up to plate and blocks various shots all game long.
I will also be watching LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trailblazers. I know he may not be the most exciting player but he is another snub because he honestly should have been a starter for this year’s All Star game but the fans apparently didn’t think so. However, with that being said, I expect Aldridge to perform well, he may not win MVP but I expect him to perform well.
When it comes to who will win All-Star MVP, I say take your pick, it could be Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James or even Dwight Howard. Like I said before, it’s never about predicting who will win MVP or even win the game for me, I just want to see a couple underrated All-Stars step up and see a great and exciting game.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit