The Toronto Raptors will be well represented at NBA All-Star weekend in Los Angeles. Kyle Lowry opened at +700 to win Saturday's Three-Point Contest.
The NBA’s All-Star Game is Sunday night from Staples Center in Los Angeles, but there’s a busy schedule on Saturday as well featuring the Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest and Slam Dunk competition. Let’s break the NBA All-Star skills odds and picks.
NBA All-Star Game Weekend Odds
This is the newest of the three All-Star Saturday competitions, first held in 2003. It’s somewhat similar to the NHL’s version. The NBA Skills Challenge features two players going head-to-head in a timed obstacle course race that includes dribbling, passing and shooting stations.
Players dribble between obstacles while running down the court, then must throw a pass into net without the ball hitting the ground. Next, players dribble back down the length of the court through the obstacles to hit a layup. Finally, back down the court and make a three-pointer from the top of the key. The player with the best time wins. It’s a single-elimination format with an eight-player field.
To make this more interesting, the NBA features four big men on one side of the bracket and four guards on the other – ensuring a big guy and smaller player will face off in the final. One would think a guard would have an advantage in this because they are generally better ball-handlers and perimeter shooters. However, the past two winners were big men: The New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis last season and Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns the year before.
Porzingis was set to defend his title, but he recently tore his ACL and is lost for the season (and part of the 2018-19 campaign). He has been replaced by Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond, who also will play in Sunday’s All-Star Game. The Sports Interaction favourite is sharp-shooting Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams at +350. Drummond, not exactly a spry guy, is the +900 long shot. Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, a native of Kitchener, is +400.
This is just as it sounds with players in the eight-man field attempting to make as many three-pointers as possible from five spots around the arc – corner to corner. There are five balls at each station, with each worth one point. However, one station (players’ choice) has a rack of five of multi-colored ABA-inspired balls that count for two points each, called “money balls.” Thus, the maximum amount of points a player can score is 34.
The record for points scored in a round is 27, set by Golden State’s Steph Curry in 2015 and matched by teammate Klay Thompson the following year in Toronto. Both those guys won, with Thompson returning and the +210 favourite. He leads the NBA in three-point percentage this season at .454. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry is +700, his third straight year in the contest but yet to win – Toronto has had one winner, Jason Kapono in 2008. Lowry is fifth in the NBA in made three-pointers with 160. Defending champion Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets is the +450 second-favourite.
Slam Dunk Contest
This is a pure popularity contest, and the rules frankly don’t matter. It also used to be the marquee event of the weekend – often overshadowing the All-Star Game itself. The ABA had huge success with a Slam Dunk Contest thanks to Julius Erving, so the NBA finally started one at the 1984 All-Star Game, won by Larry Nance over the likes of Dr. J, Dominique Wilkins, Ralph Sampson and Clyde Drexler.
Some of the most memorable All-Star moments in league history happened in the Dunk Contest from dunks by Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Spud Webb, Vince Carter, Nate Robinson, Blake Griffin and others. Alas, no big stars compete in this contest these days. The defending champion is Glenn Robinson III of the Indiana Pacers, and most casual fans would ask: Who?
There are no Raptors in the competition, although two have won it: Carter in 2000 and Terrence Ross in 2013. It’s all young guys this year in the Dallas Mavericks’ Dennis Smith Jr. (+170), Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell (+220), Cleveland Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr. (+265) and Indiana Pacers’ Victor Oladipo (+400). Smith and Mitchell are rookies; Mitchell is replacing an injured Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic. Nance Jr. looks to join his dad as a Dunk Contest winner; Nance Jr. played for the hometown Los Angeles Lakers until recently when he was traded to Cleveland. Oladipo is the only one of the four who will play in the actual All-Star Game.