The highly anticipated 2015 NBA All-Star weekend is just around the corner, and the east and west squads are stacked with a slew of top performers from the first half of the season. The Atlanta Hawks made waves and shocked the league after an amazing 19-game win streak good enough to rank them No.1 in the Eastern Conference standings. Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap have been justly rewarded to represent their team in the festivities while the west will feature most of the usual suspects. Newcomer Klay Thompson will join fellow “Smash Brother” Stephen Curry while DeMarcus Cousins earns his first nod this year as a replacement for the injured Kobe Bryant. Both teams aren’t without their snubs, unfortunately, that remains a discussion for another day.
Headlining the events this year is the Three-point contest which includes a list of the most talented participants over the last few seasons, while the dunk contest could surprise many people who project the list of “non-superstar” caliber players to present an unexciting and lackluster event.
Still, we look forward to All-Star Weekend 2015 and feel inclined to offer our picks and predictions for some of the most important events.
Update 2/6/14: Skills Challenge added to the article
BBVA Rising Stars Challenge
Sauping R. Arguello: With the new “U.S. Team” and “World Team” alignment, this game can become more competitive than past contests. Players will be competing for pride and their country opposed to just it being an extension of the dunk contest. I believe the current ROTY favorite, Andrew Wiggins will take home the MVP and the “World Team” will send a wake up call to the “U.S. Team” by getting the win. Look for Minnesota’s Zach LaVine to get into a scoring duel vs. fellow teammate Wiggins. Both players will have 20+ points showcasing the Timberwolves potential for a bright future.
Jeb Taylor: The Rising Stars challenge, featuring a new USA vs World format, will be won rather easily by team USA. Their superior team consists of reigning rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams, freak athlete Zach LaVine, and rim-protector Nerlens Noel. The world team, with the exception of Andrew Wiggins, doesn’t have the same fire power and skill as the USA team. Fresh off of a triple-double vs Minnesota, MCW should have a spectacular night.
Jr. Williams: First and foremost I love the new format that pits the USA players vs. World players, but if you think this will be an easy win for the U.S. team, you’re highly mistaken. This could be a game where we might see an international player such as Dennis Schroder (Hawks), Nikola Mirotic (Bulls), or Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) steal the show. I expect this to be a close game up until late in the 4th quarter, but the World team will hit some key shots which will lead to the victory, final score 120 – 110 — MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo .
Skills Challenge 2015
Jeb Taylor: With last year’s dreaded two-player format jettisoned, this year’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge presents us with a battle between the league’s best guards. Passing, dribbling, and shooting are all necessary traits for this basketball obstacle course. Due to being snubbed for the All-Star game, two-time defending champ Damian Lillard has opted to sit out this competition, seeming quite perturbed. Therefore, the participants include Michael-Carter Williams, Jeff Teague, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, Brandon Knight, John Wall, Trey Burke, and the lone non-point guard Jimmy Butler.
Out of that field, 3 players stand above the rest- Wall, Lowry, and Teague. All are quick, elite passers and dribblers, and can hit an open shot. In the end, I believe it will be Jeff Teague hoisting the trophy at the Barclays Center next Saturday night. His lightning speed, consistent shot, and pinpoint passing make him my prediction for the 2015 NBA Skills Challenge.
Sauping R. Arguello: Predicting the Skills Challenge can be kinda tricky. One bad bounce or a careless, missed lay-up can result in a favorite being defeated. My pick this year will be first-time all-star Jeff Teague. Teague and the Wizards’ John Wall are two of the fastest players from end to end with the ball. Wall will finish a close second. One player who will not defend his title for the West is Portland snub, Damian Lillard. He has declined to participate since he was left off the All-Star roster.
Jr. Williams: I’ll have to agree with Sau, picking a player to win the Skills Challenge could be a daunting task– missed shots and bad passes seem to add more time to the clock than anything, meaning precision and accuracy is the key. Which player is the better passer and perimeter shooter of the bunch, and who can execute their tasks in the best time is the underlying factor. John Wall, Trey Burke (defending champ), and Kyle Lowry all have a chance to walk away with the award, however, I think Lowry (Toronto Raptors) will show and prove why he his one of the most elite guards in the NBA.
Sauping R. Arguello: This one seems to be a no brainer in my opinion. I’m going with Rookie phenom Zach LaVine. After seeing some of his freakish dunks completed in practice and previous competitions, there’s no question he will be this year’s dunk champ unless the bright lights of NYC’s big stage get to him. Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee will have home-court advantage but his size along with Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s length will work against them. Orlando’s Victor Oladipo will come in fourth despite having incredible athleticism but not enough flair.
Jeb Taylor: Although it consists of a relatively weak field, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest has thankfully gone back to the traditional format. At least this year’s contest can’t be worse than last year’s! Anyways, I think the favorites for this showdown are Antetokounmpo and LaVine. Both possess length and freakish-athleticism. Unless Plumlee and Oladipo have some creativity up their sleeves, I believe they are physically outmatched by the aforementioned two. Antetokounmpo, ‘The Greek Freak’, will be your 2015 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion.
Jr. Williams: If Zach LaVine displays even half of his arsenal of dunks, this event has the potential of being decided early, in his favor of course . Mason Plumlee could surprise many– he’s the one player who poses a threat to LaVine winning the contest. Plumlee has the leaping ability but does he have the creativity to steal the show in front of his home crowd? In the end I’m taking Zach LaVine for the win!