Three-Point Contest

2018 JBL Three-Point Contest preview

The upcoming JBL Three-Point Contest will take place during NBA All-Star Weekend on February 18th in Los Angeles, CA at the Staples Center. It was originally introduced in 1986 with Boston Celtics legendary small forward Larry Bird winning the inaugural contest. He is also tied with former Chicago Bulls shooting guard Craig Hodges for the most wins in the event with three each.

The rules of the event are pretty simple. Eight contestants compete against each other to see who the best shooter is. There are five shooting racks placed around the three-point arc. Four of these five racks contain four regular basketballs worth one-point and one multi-colored ball worth two points. One rack is filled with all multi-colored money balls, called the “money rack”. This rack is placed at the shooters discretion at one of the five locations on the arc. All of these balls are worth two points. Each shooter gets one minute to shoot as many of the 25 balls as they can, starting from one side of the court all the way to the other.

The order of the shooters is selected randomly, the only exception being that the returning champion will go last. The top three scores from the first round advance to the finals, where they shoot again to see who the winner is.

Now let’s meet our eight contestants:

Eric Gordon

Houston Rockets shooting guard Eric Gordon will try to repeat as champ after winning last year contest over Boston Celtics’ point guard Kyrie Irving. The nine year veteran out of Indiana is one of the best bench scorers in the NBA, averaging 19.1 points per game.

The 2016-2017 Sixth Man of the Year winner has made 146 three’s on the year, which is sixth-most in the NBA currently. He is shooting 33.6 percent on three’s this year for the Rockets, who are second in the Western Conference currently.

Devin Booker

The Phoenix Suns’ shooting guard is currently putting up career high numbers, averaging 24.1 points per game. The third-year player from Kentucky is one of the best scorers in the league, currently 12th overall, ahead of ahead other stars such as Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, and Victor Oladipo.

Last year he had a 70 point game in TD Garden in a loss to the Boston Celtics. He was the 11th player of all-time to score 70 or more points in a game.

The young star is making 2.6 three’s a game while shooting 38.1 percent from deep. He previously competed in this contest as a rookie in 2015-2016, losing in the final round to Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.

Klay Thompson

The two-time NBA champ is back competing in the JBL Three-Point Contest for the fourth year in a row. The 2015-2016 winner is one of the best two-way shooting guards in the NBA. He routinely guards the best guard on the other team while also averaging 20.3 points per game. He is leading the association in three-point percentage at 45.2. He is averaging 3.3 three’s a game for the pace and space Golden State Warriors. He is second in the league with 170 three’s made, only trailing Houston Rockets guard James Harden.

He has already cemented himself as one of the best shooters of all time with his picture perfect stroke and will try to win another trophy. He is tied for the record for most points scored in a round with teammate Stephen Curry with 27 out of the possible 34 points. He did that back in 2015-2016.

Bradley Beal

The star shooting guard for the Washington Wizards is back in the contest for second time, originally competing in the 2013-2014 contest that Italian legend Marco Belinelli won. He is averaging a career high in points this year, scoring 23.8 points per game for a Wizards team that has somewhat struggled so far this year.

He is shooting 37.4 percent from the three-point line so far this season, and has made a total of 126 three’s. Beal is also a first-time All-Star this year in now his sixth season out of Florida.

Paul George

One of the best small forwards in the NBA, Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder seem to have figured things out after a rough start to the year, sitting in 5th place in the Western Conference. George is currently leading the league in steals with 2.2 per game while also continuing to score well, averaging 21.7 points per game. He is fourth in three-pointers made with 160, and is 15th in percentage at 42.3 percent.

He has been one of the best swingman in the league since getting drafted 8 years ago from Fresno State in the 2010 NBA Draft. This will be his second time competing in the contest.

Wayne Ellington

Wayne Ellington has been known to be one of the best bench three-point specialists in the league since entering it in 2009 as a 1st round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves. In the past two years with the Miami Heat, the ninth-year shooting guard has really exploded.

After making career high 149 three’s last year, Ellington has already broken it with 159 threes this year, fifth overall in the NBA. He is also averaging a career high 11.3 points per game while shooting 39.8 percent from beyond the arc. He has been a very good role-player for a surprising good Miami Heat team, who are currently sitting seventh in the East.

Kyle Lowry

The four-time All-Star point guard for the Toronto Raptors will be competing in his third straight three point contest. He has lost the previous two years, in 2016 to Klay Thompson and last year to Eric Gordon. Kyle Lowry has steadily improved his game over his 12 year career, going from back-up to starter to star.

The all-around point guard is averaging 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 38 percent from deep. He has made a total of 140 three’s on the season. He and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan have helped lead the Toronto Raptors to 2nd place in the Eastern Conference so far this year.

Tobias Harris

The recently acquired small forward for the Los Angeles Clippers is having a career year, averaging 18.2 points per game between the Clippers and the Detroit Pistons. He is also shooting a career high 41.1 percent from downtown. He is also a player who has improved more and more each year at different aspects of his game.

After riding the bench his first year and a half in the league with the Milwaukee Bucks, he was shipped to the Orland Magic in the J.J. Redick deal. The Magic put him in the starting lineup and he has become a really good small forward since. He has made 116 three’s on the year, which is already a career high. This is his first time competing in the contest.

Luca’s Prediction: Wayne Ellington

Three-Point Contest

Waynee Ellington celebrates after hitting a 3 (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

This might seem like a surprise pick in a stacked field, but Wayne Ellington has a quick release and shot to win this contest. I believe he will continue adding on to a career year and take home the 2018 JBL Three-Point Contest trophy.

 

Featured photo by NBA.com

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Slam Dunk Contest

2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Preview

All-Star weekend is right around the corner, and with that comes the different competitions that take place before culminating with the All-Star game on Sunday February 18th. Arguably the most famous and important competition of the weekend is the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

The Slam Dunk contest will be on Saturday February 17th at 7:00pm on TNT. This year, the event is being held in Los Angeles, California at the Staples Center. The Staples Center is home to the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers of the Western Conference.

The contest features four contestants competing against each other in front of a panel of judges and is two rounds long. In the first round, each contestant gets two attempts to dunk and impress the panel. After each dunker goes both times, the two dunkers with the highest scores will advance. The two remaining dunkers will attempt to out duel each other by getting two more chances to show off their creativity and athleticism. The winner is then decided and a champion declared.

The Dunk Contest was originally introduced in 1984 during All-Star Weekend. Larry Nance defeated the great Julius “Dr. J” Erving in Denver, Colorado in that contest.

The previous three winners of the event will not be competing due to being out for most of the year with injuries. Zach LaVine won in 2015 and 2016, but he just recently returned from an ACL tear. Glenn Robinson III won last year’s event but is out after having ankle surgery in earlier this season.

Let’s meet this year’s dunkers.

Dennis Smith Jr.

 

Slam Dunk Contest

Dennis Smith Jr. dribbles down the court (Zimbio)

Dennis Smith Jr. is a rookie point guard for the Dallas Mavericks. He was picked with the 9th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from North Carolina State. On the year, he is averaging 14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He is shooting 40.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three.

He is one of the standout players from one of the best draft classes we have seen in a while. During his pre-draft workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, he tied a record by registering a 48-inch vertical leap. That is extremely impressive, considering the fact that his is only 6-2 . He has already proved he is one of the most athletic guards in the league with several nasty jams, including ones against the Spurs and Warriors. Expect him to break out some good ones in the contest. 

Larry Nance Jr.

The second junior we have competing in the event, Larry Nance Jr. is a third year power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers. He was picked 27th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft out of the University of Wyoming. As previously mentioned, his dad Larry Nance won the inaugural dunk contest in 1984, so you can see where he got his hops from.

The 6-9 power forward is averaging a career high 8.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 60 percent from the field. Over the past three years, we has seen his dunks and have wondered why he has not participated/been invited to the event. Now we don’t have to wait any longer as he gets to show off his ferocious ability in this year’s contest. He has sent many players to the NBA graveyard, including David West, Kevin Durant (2x) and Brook Lopez, as seen below.

Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo is fifth year shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers. He was originally drafted 2nd overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic, where he spent his first 3 years of his career. He then spent last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder before being traded to the Indiana Pacers in the Paul George blockbuster deal this past summer.

The 6-4 guard has proven that Indiana didn’t get fleeced by OKC, putting up a career high 24.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He is shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from three, also career highs.

At the 2013 NBA combine, Oladipo wowed observers with a 42-inch vertical. He previously competed in the 2015 Slam Dunk Contest, where he lost to then-Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Zach LaVine. He had arguably the dunk of the year last year, slamming it on the head of center Dwight Howard.

Aaron Gordon

Last but not least, we have Aaron Gordon. Gordon is a 4th year combo forward for the Orlando Magic. He was selected 4th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft out of the University of Arizona. This year, Gordon is averaging a career high 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He is shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from three.

He is an absolutely electric athlete who can wow you with every dunk he attempts. He competed in the event and lost the past two years, so we will see if he comes up with something new to excite the crowd and impress the judges this time around. Below are his highlights from his epic duel with Zach LaVine in 2016.

Luca’s prediction: Dennis Smith Jr.

Dennis Smith Jr. has enough juice to get this done. I believe he has some great dunks up his sleeve and will impress the casual fans who do not yet know how special of a talent he is. He is a smaller guard with a ton of hops and he can play that to his advantage and get the win.

Featured photo by Dan Savage/NBA.com

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2018 NBA All-Star game starters

Predicting the NBA All-Star starters

NBA All-Star weekend is a great time for players to get some rest, have fun and entertain. Being the best at your job is always sought after, just like being an All-Star in the NBA is.

This season, there are many different combinations that are worthy of being starts for the All-Star game on both the East and the West. With the Western Conference having the majority of last year’s All-Stars, the Eastern Conference could potentially have some new faces in their starting lineups.

Eastern Conference

2018 NBA All-Star game starters

2017 NBA All-Star game (Photo from Clutchpoints.com)

There is a little bit of difference here.

2017 starters: Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler.

Obviously Butler is now a member of the Western Conference, so he will be replaced. Like every year, the big man has been taken out of most starting lineups due to the NBA trying to increase scoring and excitement. The five that seem most likely to get the call include a new face who was previously in the Western Conference.

Irving, DeRozan, James, Antetokounmpo and Victor Oladipo seem to be the most deserving. This would obviously put Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the outside looking in, but they would be reserves.

Oladipo has proven that he can be a No. 1 for a surprising Indiana Pacers team. Oladipo’s numbers read as 24.8 points, 4.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. He is averaging well over his career average in every statistic previously listed. He is shooting nearly six percent better than his career average and has a player efficiency rating over 24. He is more than deserving of a starting spot in a weak Eastern Conference.

Oladipo is the second leading scoring guard in the East only behind DeRozan. Oladipo is shooting the exact same from the field per game as Steph Curry. Oladipo is shooting just over 49 percent on almost 18 attempts, which is the same as Curry exactly.

Oladipo is having his best statistical season of his career. His stats match up against all other Eastern Conference guards. In comparison to someone like Joel Embiid, Oladipo has played in more games, averaged more points, played more minutes and as of right now, the Indiana Pacers have a better record than the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers have overachieved based on rankings, and that is why Oladipo’s been so important.

Western Conference

The Western Conference is home to the league’s best big men.

2017 starters: Steph Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.

This year there doesn’t seem to be too much difference.

This year’s starters could have some parody. There are three point guards in the West all deserving of a spot. Curry, Harden (I guess we can officially call him a point guard now) and Russell Westbrook.

Durant seems like a sure thing, and the final spots seem to be between the Pelican big men. In the end, I think the lineup for the West has to be Curry, Harden, Durant, Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Last year, in Russell Westbrook’s MVP season, he didn’t start in the All-Star game. This season, he has less impressive numbers and has more help. He is still the third best guard among that trio. It does not help that the game is being held in L.A., which means that Curry is put ahead of him.

It’s hard to pick between the two Pelican big men. They both have solid numbers and compliment each other well. In the Western Conference, the two are fourth and fifth in the voting, and they are both more than deserving for a spot in the frontcourt.

The argument for getting both of the Pelican big men to the starting lineup starts with this: DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 25.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Anthony Davis is averaging 25.8 points as well and 10.3 rebounds per game. The two are averaging double-doubles in the same frontcourt. They both have a player efficiency rating over 23.7. A guy like Kawhi Leonard being hurt opens the door for both big men.

Karl-Anthony Towns is another guy averaging a double-double and is up over 23 in his player efficiency rating. He plays the exact same minutes as Cousins. The only difference is he is averaging just over 20 points per game which is nearly 20 percent less than both Cousins and Davis, and they are on the same team.

Ultimately, the last two spots in the Western Conference starting lineup are likely two of the three previously listed players. Davis and Cousins have made strong cases as All-Star starters, and they share the same frontcourt.

The hometown guy

Kyle Kuzma will find his way on a roster here. He has put up great numbers and at times has been the most important piece for the Lakers. It seems like the voters love to have a hometown guy, and Kuzma, at this point, seems to be the most deserving.

 

Featured image from basketinfo.com.

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Pro Bowl Olympics

Every year it is the same sad story when people start talking about the Pro Bowl. It’s boring, the players don’t even try, or it’s a meaningless game that wouldn’t be missed if scrapped. The problem though is there needs to be some kind of recognition for the best players in the NFL. All other sports hold all-star games and it doesn’t seem to be as big of an issue.

(Photo: Jake Roth, USA TODAY Sports)

Hockey isn’t as popular as the other major sports in America so there is not much of an emphasis on the all-star game and the problems it may create. Baseball has a home run derby during all-star weekend, plus the winner of the game earned home-field advantage in the World Series for their league through this season. It may be unfair to the team with the better record, but there was meaning within who wins the game. As far as the NBA is constructed, the all-star weekend has a skills competition, a three-point contest, and a dunk contest that get the fans excited about the all-star game. Football doesn’t have anything exciting like that. They have tried different kinds of mini-games or competitions that just does not get anybody super pumped up about meaningless football.

Many ideas have been constructed on how this game should be handled. Nothing has stuck or sparked interest and most people want to just do away with it. But what if it was turned into something similar to the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, in which NFL players got to display athletism on more than just the gridiron? Many ideas are outlandish but sometimes it takes an outlandish idea to strike gold.

 

 

A New Idea

Speaking of striking gold, why not turn the Pro Bowl into a weekend event and call it the Pro Bowl Olympics. There will be three events on Saturday that would display different skills that otherwise would not be displayed by players in the NFL. The regular game would still take place on Sunday. Players not trying or nobody caring about the game would no longer be an issue.

(NEW ORLEANS, LA – SEPTEMBER 30: Tight end Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints dunks the ball over the goal post after scoring a 27-yard touchdown in the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 30, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

There would be three mini-tournaments in three different sports. The events would be a softball, flag football, and basketball tournament on Saturday with four teams each in participation. The teams would be split up into AFC offense, AFC defense, NFC offense, and NFC defense. Special team pro bowlers would be allowed to choose offense or defense but must remain with their conference. Each player voted to the pro bowl would be allowed to opt out of one of the three events on Saturday.

The goal would be to develop a point system so that three players from the Saturday events, would earn Pro Bowl Olympic Medals. Gold, Silver, and Bronze would go to the best three players at the end of the day who had earned the most points. There would also be a team that could win as the best team. For example, the NFC defense collectively scored the most team points, then all players who were on the NFC defense would win the team gold medals.

 

 

Softball

Many football players were multiple sport athletes in high school and/or college. Some were great basketball players and others were great baseball players. It would be highly intriguing to see the best players in the NFL square off in a slow pitch softball game. For softball, it would be a five-inning game, single elimination tournament.

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

The first round would see the AFC offense vs. NFC Defense and the AFC defense vs. the NFC offense. It would be fun to see who could be pitchers and what other positions, players may play on the softball field. Wouldn’t you love to see Antonio Brown covering centerfield? How exciting would it be to see who the AFC defense would throw out there to pitch?

It would be fairly simple to set up the point system for softball. This list would explain how each individual player would score points towards their pro bowl olympic medal: a Single=1 point, a Double=2 points, a Triple=3 points, a Home Run=4 points, a Grand Slam=5 points, a stolen base=3 points, and striking out would result in losing a point. In the field, a pitcher striking a batter out= 3 points, players involved in a double play putout=1 point, winning pitcher=3 points, losing pitcher= a loss of 3 points. In softball there are not a lot of strike outs and in a game like this the fans would want offense, therefore, most of the scoring would come from batting.

As far as team points are concerned the team that won the tournament would get three team points and each team following in placement would receive a point less. For example, second place would get two points, and third place would get one point. The team who finishes last would end up with a goose egg.

Flag Football

Now alot of people would question, why would we want to see a flag fotoball game from football players? This game would be around to help fans see the athletism of the offensive and defensive line. The rules would state that the quarterback must be either an offensive or defensive lineman and each player could only play quarterback for a half. The halves would be only 10 minutes long. It would be seven on seven but there would be subbing allowed as well. It would be the same tournament format as softball for the match-ups.

(Photo: Getty)

Scoring towards medals as individuals would be as follows: Touchdowns= 6 points, Safeties=2 points, receptions= 1 point, completions= 1 point, interceptions throw= loss of 5 points, interceptions by defense= 5 points, deflections/pass breakups=1 point, and drops= loss of a point. Team scoring would be the same as it was in the softball event.

This would allow NFL players such as, center Rodney Hudson, or defensive tackle Fletcher cox, the opportunity to showcase passing or receiving skills that otherwise would go unnoticed.

 

Basketball

(http://www.sbnation.com)

The last event would be a basketball tournament. By now you get a sense of how this would play out. Five vs. Five with two 10 minute halves and once a player is subbed out they will no longer be allowed to reenter the contest. This allows multiple players to get in the game since both sides of the ball have quite a bit of players.

Scoring in this event would be easy as well. A player would receiving points for every single point they scored. For example, if linebacker Anthony Barr dropped 17 points in the basketball game, 17 points would go to his overall olympic score. A player also would receive 1 point per an assist, rebound, steal, or block. If A.J Green had 14 points, three assists, seven rebounds, two blocks, and a steal he would have 27 points towards a pro bowl medal.

 

 

Bite the medal

(http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2016/9/25/13049130/josh-norman-odell-beckham-jr-giants-washington-nfl-ballet)

At the end of the three events the player with the most points total would be the Pro Bowl Olympics Gold Medalist. Second and third place would receive their silver and bronze, respectively. The team with the most points in standings would also be awarded Gold Medals.

There is no realistic chance of something like this happening and it is okay to admit that, but one can not read this and not be intrigued. It creates alot of strategy on how the players would approach which positions they play within the three events. The competitor in all of them would be brought to the surface as each and every single player would be chasing that gold. The Pro Bowl Olympics wouldn’t have to be limited to these three events. Golf, tennis, hockey and soccer could all be added or replace any one of these events and it would still bring about major excitement to Pro Bowl Weekend.

Yes, the idea might be far-fetched but can you sit there and really say that it wouldn’t be fun to see Alex Smith pitching to Landon Collins? Or to see Jadeveon Clownley playing quarterback? Or see Odell Beckham Jr. trying to dunk on Josh Norman in the basketball game? The Pro Bowl Olympics would turn Pro Bowl weekend into the most popular exhibition weekend in all of sports.

 

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Who Should Start in the NBA All-Star Game

The 66th NBA All-Star game is set to be played Feb. 19 at 8:00 p.m. in New Orleans. Fans began voting for All Stars on Christmas day and can do so through NBA.com, the NBA app, Twitter, Facebook, or by Google search. Fans can submit one ballot a day on any of these platforms. Voting ends Jan. 16, so there is plenty of time for fans to cast their ballots.

NBA All-Star Game

Courtesy of Sporting News

There is a lot of argument over how voting is done and which players should be playing. Every fan has heard from someone that the All-Star game is just a popularity contest anymore. It is all offense and no defense. It is full of high flying dunks, deep three-point shots, and entertainment for the fan.

This season, the NBA changed the voting process and will allow fans to account for just 50% of the All-Star vote. The other 50% will be from NBA players and the media, each accounting for 25%. Time will tell if this new method will change the way players are selected. In the mean time, these are the guys I will be voting for.

Eastern Conference Starting Lineup

Kyrie Irving

If Kyrie has not yet proven he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference, I don’t know what more he can do. He has proven how clutch he is with game-winning shots over his last two matchups against Golden State. He is second among Eastern Conference point guards in points per game (24), first in field goal percentage (48%), and second in three-point percentage (42%). He is also averaging nearly six assists a game. He is incredible when it comes to playing iso and has the best ball handling in the NBA.

Demar DeRozan

NBA All-Star Game

Courtesy of Yibada

DeRozan has shown a lot of improvement from last season. He is leading the East in scoring with just about 28 points a game. He has been a big part of the Raptors offense and is why they are second place in the Eastern Conference. His field goal percentage is also the highest it has been since his rookie season, and he is averaging almost three times the amount of shot attempts. No other two-guard compares to DeRozan in the East.

Lebron James

King James is the most obvious choice in the East lineup. The best player in the NBA is once again in the MVP talks like he is every season and his numbers back it up. Lebron is averaging 25 points, eight rebounds, and almost nine assists per game. He has the Cavs at the top of the Eastern Conference and that looks like it will not change anytime this season. Lebron is a sure lock in the All-Star game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Better known as the “Greek Freak,” Antetokounmpo is not only making a case as the league’s most improved player, but also an All-Star starter. The 22-year-old forward would be first in rebounds and assists for his position in the East if it wasn’t for Lebron James. He is also third in scoring for his position in the conference. With numbers like 23 points per game, nine rebounds, and nearly six assists, the Greek Freak should be seeing his first All-Star game action as a starter.

Hassan Whiteside

NBA All-Star Game

Courtesy of ESPN

Whiteside is probably the least likely of these selections to make the starting lineup. In this new small-ball era, popularized by Golden State, centers are a dying breed in the NBA. Last season no player over 6-foot-9 made the starting lineup. If this trend continues to grow, Whiteside may never get a chance to start. Whiteside is also better known for his defense rather than his offense, which is not popular amongst All-Star voters. Here is the argument for Whiteside.

His numbers per game are 18 points, 15 rebounds (first in the NBA), and just over two blocks (fourth in the NBA). The points are a career high for Whiteside, whose field goal percentage is also fourth in the east at 55%. Whiteside has the range to shoot jumpers, can catch lobs, and block shots as he said earlier in the season. He is no doubt the best center in the East and should earn a spot in this lineup.

Western Conference Starting Lineup

Russell Westbrook

The triple-double king and league’s leading MVP candidate should be as sure of a lock as Lebron James is in the East. The NBA’s leading scorer at nearly 32 points a game is also averaging 11 assists (second in the NBA) and 10 rebounds. No player has put up numbers like this since Oscar Robertson. Not much more to say about Westbrook, who knows how to put on a show for the crowd as well.

James Harden

NBA All-Star Game

Courtesy of Sporting News

Harden is showing this season that he is an All-NBA caliber player. Being left off the teams last season must have been all the motivation he needed. Harden is putting up MVP-like numbers with 27 points per game (fifth in the NBA) and is first in assists with 12. He is also averaging eight rebounds a game. Perhaps the most improved aspect of Harden’s game is his defense. You can tell from watching him that he is putting a lot of effort on both sides of the ball.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is pretty much just picking up where he left off last season. After moving over to Golden State, he quite possibly became the league’s most hated player. The same thing happened to Lebron James when he moved to Miami and it didn’t keep him out of the All-Star lineup. It should not keep Durant out either. He is averaging 26 points per game and nearly nine rebounds, which is a career high. Durant is still at the top of his position in the Western Conference.

Anthony Davis

NBA All-Star Game

Courtesy of USA Today

The league’s leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year is playing the best season of his life. Davis is averaging almost 30 points (second in NBA) and 12 rebounds (seventh in NBA) per game. Not to mention he is leading the NBA in blocked shots. Davis should also be hearing his name in the MVP talks, but the incredible players like Westbrook, Harden, and James have overshadowed him. Not to mention the fact he is on the Pelicans, one of the worst teams in the NBA. Nevertheless, Davis is a lock in the West lineup.

Demarcus Cousins

Unsportsmanlike conduct and bad attitude often overshadow the fact that Cousins has been the best center in the NBA for the last several years. This year he is no doubt at the top again. Cousins is third in the NBA in scoring (29 points per game) and also averaging just over 10 rebounds a game as well. No other center compares.

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NBA All-Star Weekend

The NBA All-Star Weekend won’t disappoint. Photo: youtube.com

Football doesn’t entertain us with the Pro Bowl but the NBA sure does entertain us on All Star Weekend. If you’re a little disappointed from watching the Pro Bowl, cheer up because All Star weekend is coming up. That said, it is time to preview the event that always has us talking about an amazing display of three point shooting, creative, high-flying dunks and flashy plays in the All Star game.

The events start at 8:30 est. Saturday, February 13th on TNT.

Taco Bell Skills Competition: This is the first major event of the night and typically this event is for guards and a few small forwards, but for the first time ever the skills competition will include front court players. There will be eight participants: Jordan Clarkson (Los Angeles Lakers), Isaiah Thomas (Boston), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota), C.J. McCollum (Portland), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Draymond Green (Golden State), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento) and defending champion Patrick Beverly (Houston). The finals will come down to Draymond Green and Isaiah Thomas in my opinion and will be much more entertaining by including front court players.

Prediction: Draymond Green. Draymond is very talented and versatile and he will show case his versatility by winning this competition.

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest: This is the second event and there are eight participants: Devin Booker (Phoenix), Chris Bosh (Miami), J.J. Redick (Los Angeles Clippers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto), Kris Middleton( Milwaukee) , Klay Thompson (Golden State), James Harden (Houston) and defending champion Steph Curry (Golden State). I believe the finals will be between J.J. Redick and defending champion Steph Curry. Steph Curry is on top of the world and currently the best player in the NBA. I believe he will defend his title.

Prediction: Steph Curry. He is the best shooter in the league and he will prove it again in this competition.

Verizon Slam Dunk Contest: The main event on Saturday night has shown us that humans can fly over the years. There have been so many players who have shown amazing talent and dunking over the years, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Nate Robinson, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and maybe the best of all time, Vince Carter. Most of these players participated in this before becoming superstars. It is a stepping stone to stardom. This year the four participants are: Andre Drummond (Detroit), Will Barton (Denver), Aaron Gordon (Orlando) and defending champion Zach LaVine (Minnesota). I think a lot of people will learn about Will Barton and he will make it to the finals and go up against Zach LaVine.
Prediction: Zach Lavine: This man can defy gravity. His is super athletic and is going to be a star in this league one day.  I believe he will defend his title and go back to back in Toronto.