The NBA All Star Game Weekend is still the best in professional sports, and even if you think the Dunk Contest has lost some of its luster (it has), the three events combined still make All Star Saturday a fun evening that both the players and fans can enjoy.
There’s no real “analytic-driven analysis” for tonight’s events. But that doesn’t mean there aren’ta few good, and fun, wagers on tonight’s event. This isn’t a night where we are going for broke, but a few fun conservative plays can make the event a heckuva of lot more fun to watch.
Here’s my favorite plays in each of the two main attractions, the 3-Point Shootout and the Dunk Contest.
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Three Point Shootout:
Steph Curry enters as the regining champion. Specifically in this instance, I am referring to the 3-Point Contest, though, reigning champion also fits in just about all respects; NBA Champion, MVP, Most Popular Player on Earth, etc. He was one of the first Vegas favorites to take the crown in more than a few years, and if you like him to repeat, you aren’t going to get great odds. As of writing, he was down to a slim -125. That number is kind of ridiculous, considering it is an eight-man field and all of them can shoot (and aren’t guarded).
So where is the value? I’d start with Klay. President Obama gave him the winking nod for “prettier shot” and he could have also given him a not for quicker release. Now, can he shoot in awkward, self-created microscopic windows as well as Steph? No. No human who has ever existed can. But does his hair-trigger release bode well for a format like the 3-point contest? Absolutely. I like his value at +275.
My favorite value play is JJ Reddick, who is statistically the best open-look three point shooter in the NBA this season. Since the contest is ALL “open looks” JJ could be a nice sleeper at +550.
My ultimate sleeper is C.J. McCollum. The second year pro is a bonafide bomber who lacks the reputation of some of his more veteran peers in the contest. At +1700, he is a nice long shot if you are rooting for an underdog.
I don’t like Kyle Lowry in this contest. He isn’t the same pure shooter that the four mentioned early are, plus the extra pressure and juice from playing at home could lead to an over-amped slow scoring start. If you don’t lock in on the first rack, the competition is just too tough.
I like Klay, but at +275, there just isn’t quite enough value for my liking to pull the trigger on a wager.
Slam Dunk Contest:
This contest is clearly expected to go to high-floating Zach Lavine. The youngster awed the crowd last year – which is tougher and tougher in the “we’ve seen that before” era of the dunk contest. Will the judges be reluctant to make the otherwise limited player one of just three back-to-back contest winners? Perhaps. And there is also the boredom factor of seeing the same guy win again. That makes for an interesting case for the other three dunkers.
But here’s the problem: Will Barton is a relatively anonymous dude in the league. While you could have said the same about Lavine prior to last season’s contest, at least he was a high-ceiling rookie with a ton of “holy bleep, wait until you see this kid fly!” entering the contest. Barton, despite a few jaw-droppers this season, doesn’t have the same advance billing. Ditto for Aaron Gordon, whose second season in Orlando hasn’t produced the kind of progress that pre-draft Blake Griffin comparisons invited.
And then there is Andre Drummond. Who is seven feet tall and not Dwight Howard. Judges and voters usually don’t like the giants.
So, despite the relatively low value, I gotta go Zach. As long as he doesn’t get a ton of early misses trying to impossibly best last year’s stunning effort, should win. For better or worse, this kid has been practicing for THIS moment since middle school. And I think he gets his moment in the sunshine for the second straight year. (And assuming Lavine can learn to play even close to his athleticism, how ridiculous are the Timberpups going to be when they add another Lottery pick to Lavine, Wiggins and Towns??? Wow.)
I’m not opposed to a small flyer on Barton at +550, but I’ll stake my pick on the conservative but obvious favorite, Zach Levine -275