With the NBA heading into their unofficial halfway point, we decided to gather several of our writers to discuss the spectacle that is NBA All-Star Weekend. Our five guys discuss everything from the Rookie/Sophomore game to the possibility of Russell Westbrook taking the court with Kevin Durant and the other three Golden State All-Stars. Our participants for this roundtable are:
- DJ Allen (@DJAllen23)
- Felix John-Baptiste (@TwoSmooth2)
- Ralph Cortes (@_RLoading)
- Kyle Allan (@Kallan441)
- Alfonzo De Falco (@FonzyDeFalco)
- Ralph Cortes (@__RLoading)
1.) Which rookie or sophomore do you believe will have the best performance in the USA vs. World game?
Allen: I’m expecting Karl-Anthony Towns to have a breakout performance. He’s been having such a great season and I’m expecting him to capitalize on this opportunity to show those who may have not seen him much this season, what he’s made of.
John-Baptiste: My first thought was Kristaps Porzingis who scored 30 points in this game last year. However, the one glaring name on the list that I’m going with is Devin Booker. He’s got the rookie year experience under his belt along with multiple 30-point games to his name. The up-and-down style of play together with his silky shooting should produce some magic.
Cortes: D’Angelo Russell said he wanted to prove something during the All-Star Weekend and he’ll probably come through with that and make a statement to the rest of the league. The highly scrutinized sophomore guard has been solid this season but not many have paid attention to him and the reeling Lakers.
Allan: I’m expecting a “prove it” type of game from D’Angelo Russell. Even though this game has literally no meaning when it comes to the NBA season, it would be nice to see Russell go for big points. He has had a little bit of a down year and so have the Lakers as a team, so it would be a nice kick-start to the second half of the season for Russell.
De Falco: I’m expecting Kristaps Porzingis to have an excellent game. Last year he had 30 points as a rookie in the Rising Star Challenge and I think he’ll improve on his scoring this time around. So far he has had an improving sophomore season and it only looks to go up as he is looking like a perfect building block for the Knicks’ franchise.
2.) More compelling All-Star Saturday Night event: Three-Point Shootout or Slam Dunk Contest?
Allen: For me, it’s the Three-Point Shootout. I love seeing guys compete in this challenge and I’m interested to see if Klay Thompson can repeat as the top shooter. I was looking forward to the return of Zach LaVine in the Slam Dunk Contest but he stated he wasn’t returning and then he faced an unfortunate season-ending injury. The dunk contest just isn’t as exciting this year.
John-Baptiste: The Three-Point Shootout. NBA All-Star Weekend is usually known for its stars going head-to-head in these competitions. There are many more household names in the Three-Point Shootout than there are in the Dunk Contest. Though I still expect Klay Thompson to win this event, it will draw the attention of the masses.
Cortes: Remember when everyone said that the Three-Point Shootout has become the new Dunk Contest? Well that may be the case for this All-Star Weekend. Although the Dunk Contest has some intrigue, the Three-Point Contest has become extremely fun to watch with the NBA’s best shooters effortlessly draining 30-foot bombs.
Allan: For as much as I want to say the Three-Point Shootout, I have to say the Slam Dunk Contest. We won’t be able to see the craziness from Zach LaVine as he suffered a season-ending knee injury, but we get to see some young guns take flight once again this year.
If last year proved anything, it’s that you have to be more creative than ever before to catch the attention of the crowd and judges. The Three-Point Shootout will never change, but the Slam Dunk Contest has a new mystique after last year, in my opinion.
De Falco: It will always be the Slam Dunk Contest for me. I will say that in recent years, the Three-Point Shootout has been getting household names to compete (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving to name a few.) I will be watching both this year but I am very excited to see what Aaron Gordon can do this time around in the Slam Dunk Contest.
3.) How will things play out between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and is Steve Kerr gutsy enough to play Russ with the four Warriors?
Allen: For some reason I envision them laughing and getting along during the weekend. I feel like this is going to be one of those things like “hey, jokes on you.” Everybody has been speculating about their relationship and if their friends when in reality, they’ve just been playing along with this narrative the entire time. I think they’re going to get along and everything will be fine.
John-Baptiste: Boy oh boy! Yes, Steve Kerr is gutsy enough to play the four Warriors along with Westbrook, and on that note, I think the on court relationship between KD and Russ will be fine. Once the ball gets tipped the outside noise should somewhat go out the window. Will they laugh it up together? I doubt it. But as far as them all putting differences aside to perform and put on a show for the crowd, that should be a go.
Cortes: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook definitely won’t be doing handshakes together but they won’t be trying to hurt each other as well. The former dynamic duo will play their game and try to enjoy the weekend without acknowledging their “beef.” As for Steve Kerr, he probably has no issue with playing Russell with his four Warriors, given that Steve Kerr isn’t some childish person who is caught up into that drama.
Allan: It would be a pure troll job on Steve Kerr if he were to put Russell Westbrook out there with all four Warriors. While I don’t think that will happen, I see some tension going on between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It’ll almost be uncomfortable to see I think because Durant and Westbrook’s relationship was always on extra display in past All-Star Weekends. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
De Falco: They probably won’t handshake or even give high-fives but they aren’t going to go after each other. Both will try to enjoy it as if it was any other All-Star Weekend. As far as Steve Kerr, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’d put Russell Westbrook and the four Warriors in at the same time. He knows a lot of fans watching are looking out for that so why not put on a show? Who knows, maybe we will see glimpses of the glory Thunder days between Westbrook and Durant (a man can dream right?)
4.) Who is the best player not in this year’s All-Star Game?
Allen: Damian Lillard is the best player not on this roster. Due to the high volume of superb point guards in the Western Conference, he continues to get left off of this roster. He’s a big-time player and I believe he got snubbed yet again this season. He’s the only player that’s in the top ten scorers (Lillard is ranked 7th with 26.0 ppg) this season who’s not in the All-Star game.
John-Baptiste: Damian Lillard by default. Due to the guard heavy Western Conference, if your team is not in contention, your statistical numbers must be above par (which his are). He was a snub in both this year’s game as well as last year. However, if you ask me, the most DESERVING player is Bradley Beal. With this Love injury, he probably gets in the game.* (Carmelo Anthony was named Kevin Love’s replacement for the ASG.)
Cortes: Karl-Anthony Towns. The second year big from Kentucky has exceeded expectations playing MVP-like for the Timberwolves. He’ll definitely have a lot of All-Star Games under his belt once he hangs it up but he definitely deserved consideration to be an All-Star even in his sophomore year in the NBA.
Allan: It has to be Damian Lillard. It’s crazy how many good guards get left out of the All-Star game due to the NBA being a guard heavy league. At 26.0 points per game, it is astonishing to me how you can leave him off of an All-Star roster. He has been snubbed plenty of times before, but it makes you wonder how much more he needs to do to really receive the type of credit he deserves.
De Falco: If you followed me on Basketball Society for the past couple of years you know who I am about to say. Damian Lillard. This guy has been snubbed every year yet he has improved his scoring average since his rookie year and is currently 7th in the league in scoring (26.0 points a game). I know that the West is loaded with talent at his position, but a scoring machine like that should not be snubbed year after year.
5.) Give your prediction for All-Star game MVP.
Allen: My gut tells me Russell Westbrook with everything that he’s doing this year and looking to come back and repeat as the All-Star MVP. However, I want to go with someone unexpected and that’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s making his first appearance in the All-Star Game and he’s also starting. He’s my Most Improved Player this season and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in this All-Star Game. Giannis is more than capable of winning the MVP in this game if he just plays his game and remains aggressive.
John-Baptiste: THE BEARD! This game has James Harden written all over it and he has the jumpshot to make it happen. We all know Russell Westbrook will have something to prove and that in itself may be just the tiny distraction needed for Harden to go off. My bold prediction is a 20-point, 20-assist output for this stud to capture his first All-Star MVP.
Cortes: James Harden takes home the All-Star MVP. The All-Star Game is a guard-dominant game, so Harden has the chance to do some incredible stuff during the contest. If he can easily drop 12 assists a game with Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon (no disrespect to them,) he can get 20+ assists with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, etc. on his team. Not to mention that he has a pretty smooth inside-out game.
Allan: James Harden is my pick for All-Star MVP. With Harden now being a true point guard, I think that he can get a double-double (points and assists) while leading the Western Conference team in both statistical categories. He will be competing with Russ for the All-Star MVP just like they are competing for the regular season MVP. My prediction is 33 points, 14 assists and 8 rebounds for The Beard.
De Falco: With the way Westbrook has been playing and the fact that he was snubbed as a starter, I think he’ll play out of mind. He has been a walking triple-double and I think he can easily do it in this type of game, maybe even a quadruple-double. Hey anything can happen at All-Star Weekend!