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2014 NBA All-Star Weekend Preview: Sports With Biers feature

This coming weekend is All-Star Weekend. Because the writers of SWB are degenerate gamblers, below are our individual picks to win the All-Star Game, All-Star MVP 3-Point Contest, Dunk Contest and skills challenge.

Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry

3-Point Challenge Winner

Josh Biers (JB): Before I reveal my picks, I would like to point out that ultimately, my superior knowledge of basketball will undoubtedly result in my victory! Often times, the valid points I make within the SWB group chat are often met by whining, moaning, and general immaturity. But not today!

Let’s get into it. While some people might be tooting the Steph Curry horn all night and day, I don’t believe the favorite to win the 3-point contest will actually win it. Yes, Curry is an excellent contested and pull-up 3-point shooter, but this contest is all about set shots and Curry rarely takes those in NBA games. I’m going with Bradley Beal. Beal was heralded as the next Ray Allen coming out of college and the player I think is the purest shooter out of everyone in the contest. He’s shooting 42% from beyond the arc on a decent Wizards team this year and will be the 3-point shooting champion this year.

Matt Tuckness (MT): Who else could I go with, but my main man Wardell Stephen Curry II? Playing the best basketball of his career this season, he is a force to be reckoned with from beyond the arc. Time will not be a factor as he has one of the quickest releases in the NBA. Although his 3-point percentage is down this season at around 40%, I’m not sure I have seen a player take more contested or dribble pull-up 3-pointers. The 3-point contest is all about set 3-point shots and when Steph is wide open and can set his feet there is no one more deadly from behind the arc.

Parker Ainsworth (PA)- A big part of me wants to write an argument that Kevin Love wins this contest, because how great would a power forward, one of the best in the game, winning the the 3-point contest be? But I can’t. I have to go with Steph Curry. He’s done this before and understands the contest. And, with the chip on his shoulder he has to be bringing to the weekend this year, I doubt he expects to be embarrassed. He made 17 in the first of the two rounds, but he went 0-5 on his second rack. I really don’t see that happening again. In fact, I bet Curry has put in extra hours of practice just to make sure it doesn’t. I’m going with Curry.

Ryan Rodriguez (RR) – My heart is torn in so many ways with this 3-point contest. I absolutely love Steph and his ability to rain threes from anywhere, anyhow. I predicted Kyrie would win last year because his sweet set shot is perfect for this match-up and part of me thinks this could be a way for him to take his frustration out on the season. Then there is Bradley Beal, who I’ve really liked since he was at Florida, but I have to go with Damian Lillard. He’s a slightly worse 3-point shooter than Steph, though this year they are comparable, and I’m guessing he’ll be warmed up after competing in the skills challenge and ready to drop bombs from behind the arc. When there is no science to picking these contest winners, find the fun, most logical angle (in your mind) and run with it.

Indiana Pacers’ Paul George will be in the Slam Dunk contest

Dunk Contest Winner

The Dunk Contest has some different rules this year. It is no longer an individual battle, but a battle between conferences. 3-vs-3 with a freestyle round and a battle round. The freestyle round is a 90 second free for all for each conference. The three participants from each conference will share a 90 second window to put up some monster dunks.

Then we move to the battle round where it gets interesting. The conference teams still apply but these are 1-on-1 match-ups. The judges will pick the winners from each battle (East dunker vs West dunker) and the first conference to reach three wins is named champ of the dunk contest. Then at the end the fans vote to pick the overall best dunker, but anytime the fans vote it normally becomes a popularity contest. We will pick which conference we think will win and the overall winner.

MT: Due to my West coast bias, I am going with Lillard, Barnes and McLemore. I think they are the perfect combination for a dunk contest. Lillard will provide creativity with his point guard background. McLemore has put down some of the best fast-break dunks this season and may be the best leaper in the contest. Finally, Barnes provides the power. Barnes has thrown down some of the hardest dunks I have ever seen. The three of them combined are a perfect combination of creativity, finesse and power. Even though I am going with the West group to win the battle, I am going with Paul George to win the fan vote. The man is too popular a player and too sick of a dunker to not win this easily.

JB: It seems quite obvious to me who will win the dunk contest. With a trio of Paul George, John Wall, and Terrence Ross, how can the East NOT win? The West only boast Harrison Barnes, Damian Lillard, and Ben McLemore, who are all ferocious in-game dunkers, but lack creativity, except perhaps McLemore. Paul George has already turned in the dunk of the year with his 360-windmill in-game dunk earlier in a match with the Los Angeles Clippers, and Ross showed the world what he could do last year. Top those two off with the artistic John Wall, and the you’ll realize that the dunk contest will in fact be no contest at all, just the East putting the West to shame.

PA: Someone must have hit Josh in the head, because he’s got a point. The East wins the conference head-to-head in my mind this year. I don’t see the creativity out of Barnes or McLemore, even though both are very impressive in-game dunkers. I mean, who could forget Barnes going up over Nikola Pekovic, early into his NBA campaign. But, how will that really translate to this? We’ve seen Terrence Ross before, and Paul George showed us a preview in the game earlier this year vs. Lob City. Can we debate the dunk contest we’d really rather see? LeBron vs Blake Griffin for some substantial prize. The King takes on The Blake Show. I know LeBron is beyond the age of a normal dunk contest participant, and I know we’ve seen Blake jump over a KIA, but I think that could be a bigger contest than this one would.

Terrence Ross is the defending dunk champion

RR: It’s just so easy to pick the East in this one, but I can’t go against logic. Harrison Barnes is just too boring to really have flair in a dunk contest. Damian Lillard really hasn’t shown anything besides your standard point guard dunk (nothing like a Westbrook or DRose). And Ben McLemore probably won’t make one since he misses three quarters of his shots on a nightly basis anyway. Basically it comes down to loving T Dot (Terrence Ross) and Paul George for me. I called T Dot’s win last year and I think he has some above average help from the rest of his teammates (John Wall has shown some actual tricks in games). I’m also calling Ross to win the head-to-head portion of the event, as repeat winners tend to have good showings in this event.

Skills Challenge Winner

Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns

JB: Ah, my least favorite event of all. What is the purpose of the Skills Challenge? This event is entirely focused on luck and speed, hardly skill. Nonetheless, the NBA needs some sort of event to set up Saturday night for the 3-point and dunk contest. This year the Skills Challenge has also been formatted into an East vs. West style. Taken directly from the official All-Star Website:

“Each conference will field two teams consisting of two players. Each team of two players will run the course, competing in a relay format for a single overall time….The fastest East team and fastest West team from the First Round will compete to determine the competition champion.”

I’m going to have to go with Team 2 on the West, Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson. Not only are they an incredibly entertaining duo, I think Dragic will have the best time of any other player and Jackson is competent enough to complement Goran. Enough to win the Skill Challenge at least.

PA: Ah, reality is restored! Josh, how is this one luck? Just because you can’t put a pass on a dime, doesn’t make it luck when others do. I like Team 1 on the West, Damian Lillard and Utah’s Trey Burke. Mostly, because those two men have skills, and it is the skills challenge. Most say Lillard is going to wear himself out over the weekend, but this is only the second event that night. Assuming he makes it through the Rookie / Sophomore game the night before unscathed (how pissed will Portland be if Lillard comes out of the weekend overworked and worn down?), I think this is his kind of event. Burke is putting up a decent rookie campaign, but I’m going with him in this because I feel like he showed me enough at Michigan that, paired with Lillard, I think he is the best “2nd-best-on-his-team” in this contest.

RR: The thing that scares me in the skills competition is that passing targets, as so many players seem to have trouble over the years of passing the ball without it getting rejected by the wooden edges of the target. Since I imagine players don’t ever practice a skill like this, the competition is a total crap-shoot to me, and therefore my pick will be based on unproven evidence. I think the West team of Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson will edge the East team of DeMar Derozan and Giannis Antetokounmpo. I would love to see the Greek Freak win because his interview would be epic, but I don’t think he’s quite ready for the precision needed for the passing targets. On the other hand, this seems like something Goran has had to do since he was six growing up in Slovenia. He probably put a Sasha Vujacic face in the opening of the target just so he could improve his passing while hitting that slime ball in the head.

MT: I have to go with Lillard and Trey Burke who would be a sick duo in any real backcourt. Lillard, who was the winner of last years skills challenge, is now paired with Trey Burke who has been an excellent player for the Jazz this season (possibly a little too good for the tanking Jazz). It was tough for me to go against Goran Dragic who I think is the most skilled guard in this competition, but I think back-up PG Reggie Jackson will hold him back. I mean this position was really meant for Russell Westbrook right? I couldn’t go with any East combos either. One team has the Greek Freak who I thought was just athletic and the other comprises two rookies. They aren’t ready to take the throne just yet.

All-Star Game Winner

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PA: I’m going with the West. While the starters may be a coin flip, I feel like the West’s bench would be a pretty good starting group. While I’ll save who I think the MVP is going to be until that question… He’s on the West. I see a stretch with CP3 and Blake on the floor throwing lobs like they did on Philly, a stretch where Durant scores 28 in 14 minutes, a stretch where Aldridge and Dwight are too much inside for the East, and Curry has the possibility of hitting a few heat-check three’s that are sure to be shot in this game.

What scares me about the East is their starting front-court. Paul George, the King, and Melo are all potentially going to have 30+. But someone to keep an eye on is Anthony “The Brow” Davis. Davis was a unanimous snub when the teams were first selected – its in his hometown, he’s a young, defensive player… Don’t expect him to go “soft” for an All-Star game. The highlight I see him wanting to make is swatting a Carmelo dunk into the 4th row and waving the Mutombo finger.

RR: I wonder what Parker has against Melo to throw an unwarranted potshot at him right there? It’s like people love to poke at him because he’s not KD or LeBron, even though they forget that most people aren’t. I guess he should apologize for not being one of the best of all time instead of just really, really good. Anyway, there will be no uncalled for jabs from me here, just a winner based on clear cut analysis of these two rosters. Well actually, this is the All Star game, so no analysis will be done because you can’t predict this game, no matter what the perceived talent disparity might be. My pick is done simply on which team has more players that I like and that is the West team.

It doesn’t help the East’s case that they have Joe Johnson (not really sure how the coaches justified this selection) or Roy Hibbert (too weird for me, plus I went anti-Hibbert when people started using the Heat playoff series from last as the reason he was so dominant. When you cite 7 games against the perfect match-up as signs to why he can average more than 12 points a game, you have a problem). Plus, the West has two point guards that are tailor made for this game (CP3 and Steph) and that always goes a long way in games where lobs and command of the court can set a team apart. As long as this is a close game in the fourth quarter, causing the players to truly bring their A game, I will be a happy person.

JB: I’m going to go against the grain here and say the East is going to win the All-Star game. Frankly, I’m surprised none of these LeBron-loving fools chose the East, but honestly, if no Kobe Bryant or Los Angeles Laker is playing in the All-Star game, I can’t bring myself to root for the West. But is predicting the East winning really that far fetched? You have the best player in the game in James, as well as the best scorer in Carmelo Anthony (KD who?)(see 62-point game at MSG). Throw in “The Sheriff of the Paint” protecting the rim, and there’s no way those losers playing for the West are going to win. John Wall, DeMar DeRozan, and Paul Millsap are first time selections and I imagine they’ll want to prove their worth, meaning they will put more of an effort than perhaps Tony Parker and a recently healthy Chris Paul.

MT: Does Josh realize that Kobe Bryant isn’t even a top 10 player in the NBA anymore. The All-Star game is all about offense, which made this is an easy choice for me. I am going with the sharpshooting Western Conference squad. Not only do they boast 3-point shooting at every position except the power forward, but they may have the two best 3-point shooters in the NBA in Durant and Curry. What I am most excited about is to see a possible back-court of Chris Paul and Steph Curry, my two favorite guards in the NBA. Letting Chris Paul create open opportunities for Steph Curry could allow him to go off for about 30 points on 10-15 from the 3-point line. Not to mention if Paul penetrates and the East take away Curry then Paul can kick it to Durant as well. Pair those two with the deadly pick and role combinations of the high flying Blake Griffin and the outside sharp shooting of K-Love and this Western Conference team is an offensive powerhouse.

All-Star Game MVP

Kevin Durant

PA: My MVP is KD. The guy is on a mission right now, and it’s just KD’s year. I honestly can see him going for 50 in this game, even while playing even minutes with everyone else. And here’s the other thing, his coach for the game is Scotty Brooks. While if it’s clearly not his (say Steph comes in with a chip on his shoulder and goes 15-16 from 3), I think Brooks would pull KD for rest, Brooks knows that KD can take over this game and earn OKC this award. I foresee him taking over, I foresee Scotty Brooks trying to help him get it, and I foresee KD not taking this game lightly. KD’s “not nice” attitude he has right now makes me think he won’t. He knows that no one in the world can guard him. Why is he going to let them? While there are many potential MVPs in this game, I think the most likely has to be Kevin Durant.

RR: As much as I’d love Melo to win the MVP, with my winner being the West, that isn’t going to happen. Now if the East wins, I can see him taking out his frustrations of playing with his horrible Knicks team on the All Star game, morphing into Olympics Melo against Nigeria, and pouring in threes. However, for my prediction, I have Steph Curry winning the MVP. Hot off his loss to Damian Lillard in the 3-point contest, I think Steph will be brooding the rest of Saturday night and all day Sunday, come out firing, and bury the competition under a barrage of threes. Parker says 15-16 from three, and even though we all know that is not going to happen, I think 8-12 is definitely on the cards. And with CP3 still coming back from injury, Steph should get the crunch time point guard minutes, and thus, leave the last impression of dagger threes in the voters’ mind to propel him to MVP in his first All Star appearance.

JB: Sure, simpletons might choose KD because he’s the leading scorer in the NBA, or Steph, because he’s a decent 3-point shooter. I guess they could win. However, my vote is going to Paul George. The All-Star game was created for a player of George’s talent. He has the showmanship, the skill, and the swagger to beat out anyone else for MVP honors. I see George wowing the crowd with spectacular dunks, lighting it up from beyond the arc with his three-point range, and wreaking general havoc. This is George’s breakout year and the momentum he’s generated all season with the Indiana Pacers is going to reflect in the All-Star game and ultimately land him the MVP award.

MT: Ryan had the right idea going with Steph Curry to win the MVP. This award goes to the most gaudy stats or the best shooting performance and since Steph is the best shooter I think it’s going to him. I already said how Chris Paul will allow Steph to get wide open threes all game and since he will be hot coming off his 3-point contest victory you know he is going to make them all. That combined with the fact that he may be the most exciting to watch player in the NBA and this feels like a shoo-in to me. Its hard for me to go against KD who could easily put up ridiculous numbers and is on a mission this season to score as many points as humanly possible, but Steph is my boy and I want as many reasons to root for him as possible.

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