#NBA2015: All-Star Weekend Predictions

The state of New York will be the location for basketball crazy fans this Valentine weekend
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It will be a special occasion this coming weekend. No, I am not talking about Valentine's Day. I'm talking about lots of basketball love!

The NBA All-Star weekend extravaganza is here and hoopnuts around the globe are surely excited for this gigantic event. It's time to breakdown the participants and predict the winners for each event.

It will be raining threes on Valentine's Day
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Three-Point Shootout Participants
1. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets
3. Marco Belinelli, San Antonio Spurs
4. Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks
5. JJ Redick, Los Angeles Clippers
6. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
7. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
8. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

This contest will have the defending champion (Belinelli), a former winner (Irving), the Beard, Dame, the Splash Brothers and two bonafide shooters (Korver & Redick). This will be the highlight of All-Star Saturday night. On one end, we have the shooters (Belinelli, Korver, Redick, Thompson) while on the other end, we have the scorers (Irving, Harden, Curry, Lillard). What's the difference? Shooters often rely for others to create open looks for them. Shooters also utilize screens more and open shots mean trouble for the opposition. Meanwhile, scorers are more adept at creating their own shots and they can score using a variety of ways (penetration, post-up moves, FTs, etc). Generally, shooters have won this event more often than not. That bodes well for the likes of Korver, Redick Thompson and Belinelli. However, the last time a back-to-back winner was declared was back in 2007 and 2008 (Jason Kapono). This event also rarely sees a repeat winner so Irving probably won't win this again. Harden, Lillard and Curry are excellent scorers and Curry is the most accurate shooter in that bunch but he is 0 for 3 in this event. Will the 4th time be the charm? I'm not so sure. The best bet is Kyle Korver. He leads the NBA in percentage at 53% and sits 3rd in threes made. Those numbers are ridiculous! He also missed making the All-Star team so winning this event will be his consolation (or grand) prize.
Prediction: Kyle Korver

The lack of stars or superstars has robbed the Slam Dunk Contest of its luster
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Slam Dunk Contest Participants

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
2. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
3. Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets
4. Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves

While none of the participants are household names yet, don't let that prevent you from watching this event. It has the potential to be something great but it can also end up as a complete dud. All four guys are athletic and can jump out of the gym. Giannis a.k.a. "The Greek Freak" has the height and length advantage over the other players but that could go against him because more difficult dunks to execute might look pedestrian for him. Meanwhile, Oladipo is the shortest dunker but arguably with the longest hang time. I've seen him dunk over others  in a game but I'm not certain if that can translate into this competition. As for Mason Plumlee, he has to be the underdog. I'll admit that I was surprised to see him here and I haven't seen a lot of exciting dunks from him other than a few alley-oops and put-back slams. Not a lot of creativity over that. Finally, my pick has to be the rookie, Zach LaVine. I have seen him do this in high school and this as well. Heck, maybe he constantly competes with Andrew Wiggins during Timberwolves' practice sessions?!
Prediction: Zach LaVine

Speed and skills are needed for the Skills Challenge
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Skills Challenge Participants
1. Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix Suns
2. John Wall, Washington Wizards
3. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia Sixers
4. Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks
5. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
6. Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks
7. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
8. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

The format for the Skills Challenge has constantly changed. This started as a solo event but got changed to "by pairs" last year. This year, the format is by solos again and will use a bracket-style elimination. Four guards each from the East and West will compete. Trey Burke, co-winner from last year, is back to defend his title but the field is stacked with four All-Stars (Lowry, Teague, Wall & Butler), a previous Rookie of the Year winner (MCW) and two starter-level guards (Thomas & Knight). Generally, speed kills this event and the advantage belongs to smaller and faster guards. That reasoning makes MCW, Butler and Lowry unlikely choices to win. John Wall has lost this event twice, so will the third time be the charm? I don't think so. The smart choice will be between Thomas, Teague and Knight. All three are fast and can dish the ball, thus, the best choice would be the one who has the best balance of speed, shooting and passing. I'll pick the first time All-Star in that group, Teague from Atlanta.
Prediction: Jeff Teague

Team Bosh is looking for their 3rd straight win in this event
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Shooting Stars Participants

Team Bosh: Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins, Swin Cash
Team Curry: Stephen Curry, Dell Curry, Sue Bird
Team Davis: Anthony Davis, Scottie Pippen, Elena Della Donne
Team Westbrook: Russell Westbrook, Penny Hardaway, Tamika Catchings

Typically, this event favors shooters with long-range capabilities. In addition to that, some luck as well especially with regards to the half-court shot portion. Team Bosh has won this event back-to-back so it ain't hard to picture them as 3x champs with the same lineup. Their toughest competition has to be Team Curry who has two amazing shooters with the father and son tandem of Dell and Steph Curry. Team Davis and Team Westbrook can still win this event because like I said, this event uses a lot of luck so a "hot" shooting night can propel either team to the finish line. However, using history as guide, it's hard to pick against Team Bosh.
Prediction: Team Bosh

Which conference will have bragging rights this year?
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64th All-Star Game: East vs West
East All-Stars
Starters: John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Pau Gasol
Reserves: Dwyane Wade, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Jimmy Butler, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving

West All-Stars
Starters: Kobe Bryant (injured), Steph Curry, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol
Reserves: Tim Duncan, James Harden, Chris Paul, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins

While All-Star games barely show any defense for the first 3 quarters, you can expect the 4th quarter to have more intensity and defense especially if it is a close game. On paper, the West often has more skill and more talent but in the last 10 All-Star games, it's 5-5 and last year the East prevailed with Kyrie Irving taking home the MVP plum. As usual, the Western Conference has better teams this year so expect the East to try and prove a point that the disparity is not how it seems. The East has a great chance of winning IF the Eastern Conference coaching staff (Coach Budenholzer of the Hawks) decides to close the game with his 3 starters from Atlanta (Teague, Millsap, Horford) plus LeBron James and Butler or Wade. The Hawks are still the best team in the NBA so that has to amount to something. However, I see the West winning because they have better shooters (Curry, Thomspon) and scorers (Harden, Durant) on their team. They also have the height and length (Davis, Duncan, Aldridge, Gasol, Cousins) to stymie any type of penetration towards the paint. Additionally, Kevin Durant is on some sort of mean streak regarding his selection to the All-Star team so a fired up KD ain't good news for the East. Heck, even Westbrook is ALWAYS fired up. Overall, the All-Star game is still more focused on offense and individual scoring rather than ball movement and team defense. Whatever the case may be, we are all hoping for an exciting and competitive game!
Prediction: West All-Stars 
MVP: Steph Curry

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