Saturday used to be the most anticipated day of All-Star weekend because it has produced the most memorable moments in NBA All-Star weekend history.
Remember Larry Bird raising his hand in victory even before making his winning shot in the Three Point Contest or Michael Jordan taking off from the foul line to win the Dunk Contest. The list goes on.
In recent years though, All-Star Saturday has lost much of its glitter. This year is no different. The lack of star power in the events is the main reason. And while this year’s three point contest features an interesting sibling rivalry storyline between the hometown Currys, there isn’t a marquee name in the Slam Dunk contest yet again. The Skills challenge likewise lacks star power. But what the heck, there is still a lot of betting money that can be won.
Here are the odds, preview and my predictions for the events on Saturday night.:
Who will win the 2019 Taco Bell Skills Challenge?
Odds from betonline.ag as of 2/15/19
A lot of people are talking about Luka Doncic for this event. And the chatter is more than just Doncic having a sensational rookie season in Dallas. For one, Doncic may be the best passer in this group or perhaps second to Nikola Jokic. But among all the participants, he probably has one of the best combination of passing, shooting and running the floor. Coming from Europe, I also think he has the best fundamentals among this group. At +400, he’s a good value bet and he’s also a big-game player so no doubt, he will enter this competition ready to win.
We talked about Jokic perhaps as the best passer in this group but one thing’s sure, the other Nikola has the highest three point shooting percentage in this group. Orlando’s first time All-Star Nikola Vucevic leads this pack at .386 shooting from downtown. And if you think that he may be too big to win this event, don’t forget that Karl Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis won in 2016 and 2017 because of their three point shooting. Vucevic is at the bottom of the oddsboard at +800 and he is my dark horse pick to win this event.
This contest also puts a premium on speed aside from shooting and passing so don’t overlook the point guards here. De’Aaron Fox, Trae Young and Mike Conley all fit the bill. And I think one of the three is going to make the finals in this competition. Most often, the hardest parts of this competition are making the bounce pass into the net and the three point shot. All three can do both parts of the course with ease.
My pick though is Trae Young. We know he got picked ahead of Luka and got traded for the 18 year old. Everyone’s saying that Dallas got the better of the deal. But Young is doing well himself in Atlanta, it’s just that Doncic is getting all the attention. Maybe Young wants to prove something on Saturday night and he has the speed, passing and shooting to win this event. Young is erratic but he’s a big-game player too and I like him a lot.
Prediction: Trae Young
Who will win the 2019 Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest?
Odds from betonline.ag as of 2/15/19
There’s certainly good value in Devin Booker at +500 because he’s the defending champion in this event. However, Booker has become a more complete player this season and hasn’t been “just” the scorer we used to know. He is averaging career-highs in both scoring and passing at 24.9 points and 6.7 assists per game. But with those, his three point numbers have decreased from 2.7 three pointers made per game last season to 2.1 this year. His three point shooting percentage of .325 this season is by far the lowest of his four-year NBA career. And yes, nobody has repeated as champion since Jason Kapono in 2007 and 2008. Having said those, I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to bet on the defending champion right now.
Then there is Seth Curry at +600. Steph’s brother actually has a higher three point shooting percentage than the two-time NBA MVP himself. Seth’s hitting the three ball at a .465 clip this season which is third in the league behind Davis Bertans’ .476 and Joe Harris’ .471. Seth though has taken just a total of 142 three pointers this season and made 66 in total. Those are the lowest among participants except of course the sentimental contestant Dirk Nowitzki. Seth has even tweeted that he’s going to beat his bro just like the old time. The plot vs Steph alone may push Seth to win this. I like him a lot here.
Of course, this is the most difficult All-Star Saturday event to predict because anyone of these shooters can go hot on that day and win this event. Remember the likes of Daequan Cook, Voshon Lenard, Quentin Richardson, James Jones and Jason Kapono winning this event out of nowhere? If we go with former champions, don’t look past Dirk Nowitzki at +2000 who’s got the most plus money among the participants. But while Dirk won this event in 2006, old Dirk isn’t shooting the ball as well anymore and he even joked that he asked NBA commissioner Adam Silver to grant him an extra 15 seconds so he can finish his balls on Saturday night. Haha.
I don’t like to bet on favorites but with Stephen Curry, I will make an exception. We know that Curry can perform on a big stage and he’s shone in stages bigger than this one. We also know that he obliterated Three Point Shootout records when he won this contest in 2015 in New York. Steph is 6th in the NBA in accuracy and among competitors, only Joe Harris, Seth and Buddy Hield shoot better. Hield is interesting at +450 but Steph might just be angry right now about being called out by his brother. Not to mention that he’s attempting 12 three pointers per game, three more than the closest contestant in Kemba Walker. Steph’s 5.1 three point makes per game is tied with James Harden for the best in the league and Harden isn’t in this contest. And oh by the way, Steph is doing this in his hometown.
Prediction: Stephen Curry
Who will win the 2019 AT&T Slam Dunk Contest?
|Dennis Smith Jr.||+150|
Odds from betonline.ag as of 2/15/19
Dennis Smith looks like a good bet here because he was in this event last season and had arguably the best dunk of the contest but was eliminated after missing one dunk in the first round of competition. Considering Smith was also the favorite last year and that field was better than this year’s, no question that Smith is tempting to pick here at plus money.
Smith is also the shortest competitor in this event and we know that it’s always impressive for the smaller guy to do a dunk that a big man can do. And it is in this argument that we are eliminating John Collins in this event. Collins is 6-10 and has an impressive in-game dunk resume. But unless you have something special like Blake Griffin dunking over a car or Dwight Howard’s Superman dunk, Collins’ dunks will always be inferior to Smith’s. Remember that only Griffin and Howard are the only players 6-10 or taller to win this event.
Going back to DSJ. Smith has a 48-inch vertical leap plus great creativity. He’s been here before and for sure, he’s learned his lesson from last year. But maybe he becomes too cocky knowing he is the favorite. I think that’s what happened last year. He got too confident on his ability to do whatever dunk he can and missed. I think Smith goes to the Finals of this competition this time around but I’m not sure he wins it.
Miles Bridges at +500 may be the best value pick here. Not only is he dunking in front of his hometown fans in Charlotte, he is also physically built to win this. At 6-7, he isn’t too short to be stretching to finish a dunk nor is he too tall to lack hang time. He is explosive off his feet and doesn’t need too much runway to throw the ball down with authority. But not only is Bridges a ferocious dunker, he can also be creative. There is this video of him doing a between the legs 360 during warmups that gets me excited.
Prediction: Miles Bridges