It’s that magical time of year when the NBA world coalesces into one city to celebrate basketball. And by celebrate basketball, I mean some folks come into town and have a great time celebrating basketball on the outskirts or with overpriced tickets, and the rest of the weekend is largely a corporate sponsor meet and greet.
Sorry, I told myself I would drop the cynicism over All-Star this year.
WOOHOO, SALT LAKE CITY, LET’S GO!
Here are my bets for NBA All-Star Weekend!
NBA 3-Point Contest Best Bets
This is where the meat on the bone is for NBA All-Star Weekend.
Here’s the track record. I correctly pegged Buddy Hield in 2020. I had runner-up Mike Conley as a best bet (alongside Zach LaVine, whoops) but should have just bet on Stephen Curry because he’s Stephen Curry.
Last year, I got destroyed, and I’m just not gonna feel bad about Karl Anthony-Towns winning.
But the approach has been pretty good at predicting who will have a good shot (no pun intended) at the crown.
Here are the four most important attributes for the 3-Point Contest:
– Consistency across the five shooting spots
– Efficiency in hand-off situations
– Range to hit from the special zones
– Right corner efficiency because that’s where everyone puts the moneyball rack
You want consistency, so you don’t have empty racks. Even if you’re red hot on the moneyball rack, you usually can’t get by an empty rack.
Handoffs are important because that is the closest scenario that mirrors the shooting conditions. It’s popular to look at catch-and-shoot numbers, but guess what? No one’s passing these guys the ball. They have to pick up the ball from the side and fire; that’s closest to a hand-off.
The right corner is the most commonly used moneyball rack location. It’s a corner 3-pointer, which is the highest efficiency shot, and it’s at the end, so you can try and make up if you’re behind.
(Note: Players should really just put the moneyball rack where they shoot it best, but that would require looking at their own shot chart. I swear to God, having talked to shooters, they all say they have never looked at their shot chart.)
Here’s how that data looks (Hand-off shooting and right corner data based on the last four years of data, shot locations based on this current season):
|Player||Hand-Off Shooting Pct||Right Corner Pct||Shot Locations Above 37%|
So the only player I really want to take out immediately is Julius Randle, which makes sense. He’s the last alternate, and it feels like he’s just a fill-in.
Jayson Tatum’s release time is good enough to win, but I’m willing to dock him for the moneyball spot.
Damian Lillard is the best shooter, in terms of the reputation of any of these players. But so much of Dame’s shooting is off the dribble. It’s just not the same action and as he’s battled various ailments, I don’t want to bet on him.
Tyler Herro is shooting just 36% on handoffs this season, and his moneyball rack and consistency aren’t good enough.
Tyrese Halliburton is the best corner shooter in this group. He hasn’t taken as many handoff shots as the others, so the sample size might not be stable there. Haliburton is the toughest cut, but his release time may hurt him on long-distance shots.
That leaves us with Huerter, Hield, and Markkanen.
Hield is the best volume shooter in the competition, and while he’s the shortest odds, he’s still over 4-1. He’s got to be part of a position. I’m concerned with Markkanen’s ability to finish the course with enough time. He’s not a speed shooter. But he’s too consistent, with the home crowd at his back, not to include.
And Huerter has spot-by-spot consistency across our three metrics to be included.
If my shortest odds selection, Hield, wins, then I clear 2.75 units, 5.25 units for Markkanen, and 1.625 units on Huerter.
Don’t Bet on the Dunk Contest
Damn it, I said I wasn’t gonna do the cynicism thing; I just said that!
Look, the dunk contest is dead. But it didn’t die recently. It’s been dead. When was the last dunk contest winner you remember?
I’ve been in the building for most of these and don’t remember them.
The last one I remember was Zach LaVine, which, granted, is a tough act to follow as it’s one of the best of all time.
Did you know Glenn Robinson III, who isn’t in the league currently, won it six years ago? Did you know Hamidou Diallo won one? How about Derrick Jones Jr.? How about Anfernee Simons, who was in the 3-point contest this year until an injury, also won one?
(If you remember any of these, congrats, you are a real hooper, please collect your real hooper ID card.)
The NBA Dunk Contest has not only seen better days; it’s seen days we can actually remember.
This year’s contestants include favorite Mac McClung, who came out of the G League (which is genuinely cool) and signed with the Philadelphia 76ers this week, New York Knicks backup center Jericho Sims, Trey Murphy III of the Pelicans, who’s more known for his shooting (though he can cock it back on a tomahawk), and Kenyon Martin Jr.
Now, we all hope that one of these guys will put together something amazing that we’ll remember for all time.
But if I were a betting man, and I am, I’d bet that you won’t remember a moment of it. If I could bet on “there will be an awkward moment where everyone just wants the dunk contest to be over,” I would.
McClung took a huge amount of steam this week, going from +400 to +150 or shorter. The problem is how many unknown variables you have to sort out.
Take McClung, for example. This week he said he has two dunks people have not seen before. Cool! That’s great! Can he pull them off?
Oftentimes contestants have great ambitious ideas and then can’t pull them off in-contest, and it just gets awkward.
Plus, you have to factor in the judges. Karl Malone is definitely going to be a part of this thing, given it’s in Utah. Do you want to trust Malone to make the right decision to award you money?
I think it’s cool that these guys volunteered to do the dunk contest, given how many of their colleagues have chickened out. I hope they put together an amazing dunk contest.
We cannot bet this thing.
… that said, McClung is the obvious move here, but I really like KJ Martin.
NBA All-Star Game MVP Best Bets
A tough one every year. It’s a combination of who might be feeling it, who will really gun for the award, and who will get enough playing time and encouragement from teammates to win.
We have two extra problems this year. LeBron James (foot), Giannis Antetokounmpo (wrist), Kyrie Irving (back), and Joel Embiid (Joel Embiid-ness) all may not play. Plus, we don’t know who will be on which team; they don’t draft until Sunday in a huge blow to bettors and the books trying to set lines.
I’m going to bet Kyrie Irving at 10-1. Irving missed the Mavericks’ game Wednesday with back tightness, but that might have been just pre-All-Star caution, and with three days off before a non-intense game, he could be good to go.
I’m also going to bet 1 unit on Donovan Mitchell at +1400. In his third NBA All-Star Game, he should play meaningful minutes and has the kind of game where he can get hot and just absolutely dominate.
Finally, I’m going to put a half-unit on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at +2000. The players love SGA, and this could be a breakout showcase moment for him. I’m worried about him playing enough in his first All-Star appearance, but if Gilgeous-Alexander plays enough, he might absolutely tear it up.
I won’t have a bet on the game without knowing the team makeup, but I’ll lean towards the under in this one with so many guys battling injuries and so many prolific scorers out entirely for the game.