Much to the dismay of many of the league’s stars, NBA All-Star Weekend is upon us. Some of the league’s biggest stars, like Lebron James, openly did not want to play an All-Star game in the middle of a pandemic, during a season that started two months after the NBA Finals ended, but the league won out and the game will be played Sunday in Atlanta.
This year’s game has an unusual twist as the two captains, Lebron James and Kevin Durant, drafted teams on Thursday night, but Durant will not play in the game due to injury. This ultimately appears to leave Team KD at a disadvantage, as Lebron, who had the first pick of the snake draft, was able to grab Giannis Antetokounmpo before Durant had a single player on his roster. Durant also had the last two picks among the starters, taking Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum with those picks.
Durant had the first pick of the reserves and selected teammate James Harden, giving him both of his Brooklyn Nets teammates, after selecting 2014 ASG MVP Kyrie Irving with his first pick among the starters. Durant also snagged last year’s Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP Kawhi Leonard. Lebron has won three of his own ASG MVPs and can tie the all-time record of four on Sunday, currently held by Kobe and Bob Pettit. The other former ASG MVP on lebron’s team is Chris Paul, who won the award eight years ago.
Oddsmakers have set the line at Team Lebron -3.5 with the over/under at a whopping 308.5 points. For reference, last year’s game featured 312 points and the year prior saw a 178-164 game, though under different rules. This year will see a repeat of the 2020 ASG rules where after three traditional quarters, where the game will become untimed and end when one team has 24 more points than the leading team’s score after three quarters, with the 24 being in honor of Kobe.
The -3.5 might seem like a low number for a team that is universally considered the stronger squad, but Team Lebron has the three oldest players, in Lebron, Stephen Curry, and Paul. James Harden (31) on Team Durant is the only other player over 30 actually playing, since Durant (32) is not suiting up.
Team Durant has most of the players who might just be happy to be there, with a trio of first-time All-Stars, in Jaylen Brown, Zach LaVine, and Julius Randle. Team Lebron only has one ASG rookie, Zion Williamson, who was four years old when James made his ASG debut.
One other storyline is that both Utah Jazz All-Stars were the final two selections in the All-Star draft. Both Rudy Gobert on Team Lebron and Donovan Mitchell on Team Durant might be playing with a chip on their shoulder, compounded by the perceived All-Star snub of their teammate Mike Conley.
When it comes to the traditional Saturday night festivities, which this year will be held before the All-Star game and during halftime on Sunday, the biggest value is in the Three-Point Contest. Stephen Curry is a massive favorite at -195 but he has only won the shootout once in his first six tries. The longest odds are for the two Celtics, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, both making their Three-Point debuts. Both players are +650 and fellow shootout rookie Donavan Mitchell is +550.
With Curry such a prohibitive favorite, the play here is to grab 2018 champion Devin Booker. The Phoenix Suns guard has +480 odds, which are surprisingly low, considering the field has been pared down from eight to six shooters. Zach Lavine is actually the second favorite according to the odds, at +390.
You should avoid betting on the Dunk Contest this season with only three contestants participating, Cassius Stanley, Obi Toppin, and Anfernee Simons, all in their first contest.
The Skills Challenge sees a pair of virtual co-favorites, with Chris Paul at +230 and Luka Doncic at +250. Oddly, Paul has never won the Skills Challenge; he has competed four times, though not since 2011. Luka only won one round in his debut last season. Nikola Vucevic has the third best odds at +480, but he flamed out in his first matchup in 2019. Robert Covington and Julius Randle are Skills Challenge rookies, so the best value here is Domantas Sabonis (+750), who made a run to the finals last year, knocking off Jayson Tatum and Khris Middleton, before losing to Bam Adebayo in the finals.