Your 2014 Warriors All-Star Weekend Primer
For the second straight season, WarriorsWorld will be bringing you all the sights, sounds and musings from All-Star Weekend. 2013’s festivities in Houston saw Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson compete in the Rising Stars Challenge, Stephen Curry splash in the 3-Point Contest and David Lee represent the Warriors as their first All-Star in 17 seasons.
Nothing against Houston, but it’s no New Orleans. As someone who has never been to New Orleans, I’m extremely excited to not only cover the well-represented Warriors squad, but to explore the city they call The Big Easy. Once again, the Joe Lacob PR machine does wonders as not only does Stephen Curry receive his well-deserved (and should be second) All-Star spot, but is joined by second-year player Harrison Barnes.
The Warriors have half as many participants this season than they did last, but will be busier in the form of one more event.
Harrison Barnes will once again compete in the Rising Stars Challenge, this time as a member of Team Hill (he was on Team Shaq last season). Barnes will continue his weekend by participating in the Slam Dunk Competition in what was a fairly surprising selection from the league offices. What wasn’t surprising was Curry’s selection into the 3-Point Competition, an event he hopes to win for the first time (he leads the NBA in made threes at 171).
Curry will then start on Sunday in the 63rd version of the All-Star Game. Curry was the fourth leading vote getter by fans, receiving 1,047,281 votes, only trailing LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Paul George. Curry is the first Warriors player to start in the game since Latrell Sprewell in 1995.
It will be a busy weekend for both Barnes and Curry, but a fun what at that. Let’s break down the odds for their events and my predictions:
Rising Stars Challenge
Harrison Barnes: 12/1 for MVP
Both Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson competed in the event last season, as it has now turned into a TNT personality vs. TNT personality game instead of the usual Rookie vs. Sophomore format we’ve come to know. The new format adds for some entertainment value on draft day in the form of Charles Barkley’s inability to pronounce names and Shaq trying to sound like a competent GM, but it’s more so for TNT to promote their personalities than anything else.
While his game may not live up to his brand, Barnes is still a big name on the national level due to his time with North Carolina and his previous #1 player ranking in the high school. He’s listed as the 12/1 favorite for game MVP behind Anthony Davis (3/1), Damian Lillard (4/1), Michael Carter-Williams (8/1), Andre Drummond (10/1) and Bradley Beal (10/1).
Last season, the event turned into the Kyrie Irving Show as he humiliated then Pistons point-guard Brandon Knight on a filthy crossover on his way towards 32 points and six assists. But, Team Chuck came out victorious and was led by the efforts of Kenneth Faried (remember him?) who led all scorers with 40 points, 10 rebounds and lots and lots of dunks.
Thompson (Team Shaq) finished with 11 points on 5/11 shooting (1/6 from deep), two rebounds and a +/- of (-13) in 14:29 of play. Barnes (starter for Team Shaq) finished with 12 points on 5/8 shooting (1/3 from deep) and a +/- of (-19) in just under 20 minutes.
Yes, I just gave two +/- stats in an exhibition game.
As Warriors fans know, Barnes has been the model for consistency this season: consistency underwhelming. While his total output doesn’t seem disappointing —10.4 PPG, 4.1 RBG on 42% shooting — it’s his constant settling for the midrange jumper, contested shots in the lane, inability to commit on the offensive end and befuddling defense that has many aching for the playoff version of the North Carolina product to magically reappear.
Alas, this is the Rising Stars Challenge and not a midseason review, and I just can’t see Barnes taking home the MVP given his streaky offense and how the game is generally dominated by guards. Barnes can steal the hometown crowd away from Anthony Davis if he scores early and often and throws down some dunks in the process, but he’ll have to do throughout to earn MVP honors over the hometown product.
Damian Lillard has the second best odds, but he’ll be competing in every event this weekend and he should be saving himself for Saturday’s festivities and Sunday’s game. Anthony Davis is the hometown product and physical freak that can produce highlights on both ends of the floor. I expect him to not only be converting plays, but making plays in the form of assists (he played point guard in high school) and on the defensive end (he leads the league in blocks at 3.1 per game).
Brow will reign supreme on Friday.
Shooting Stars Competition
Team Curry: +190 favorites to win
The Shooting Stars Competition isn’t the appetizer to the main course, it’s the drink at the bar you get before being seated. You don’t have to buy it, but there’s nothing else to do while waiting so you go and get it to stay occupied. I’m not sure why the NBA still conducts this other than for promoting former NBA players and current WNBA players.
Regardless, this “event” is highlighted by four teams (two from each conference) being led by Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Chris Bosh.
Stephen Curry will be joined by a familiar face: his father Dell, who isn’t a bad shooter in his own right (46% for his career). The Curry family will be joined by WNBA player Becky Hammon.
Team Curry is the easy pick, but the correct one as well. They have the two best shooters in the field and should be able to roll through the designated spots with ease.
Curry: 7/4 favorite to win
To no one’s surprise, Curry is the odds on favorite to win the 3-Point Contest on Saturday night. Curry leads the league in made threes (171) and is shooting 42% from deep through 50 games. Curry is often regarded as the best shooter in the game and can make shots in a myriad of ways that no other player can. Pull-up, off screens, curls, with a defender in his face, catch and shoot; it doesn’t matter.
Curry failed to advance to the final round in last year’s contest, hitting 17 shots but failing to overcome both Kyrie Irving and Matt Bonner. Curry struggled in his first two racks by earning only two points and making Warriors fans nautilus in the process. He seemed to be rushing early, but finished strong by making ____________.
Other participants in the field include last year’s champion Kyrie Irving, Joe Johnson, Bradley Beal, Aaron Afflalo, Damian Lillard, Marco Belinelli and Kevin Love.
While I still believe the East vs. West team competition is fine, it paves the way for snubs from players within the same conference. Klay Thompson has yet to participate in a 3-Point Contest, and while he will assuredly compete in some before his career is over, having the Splash Brothers compete against each other would make for an extremely fun sight. While there wouldn’t be a Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother final in the current format, seeing two Warriors in the same competition would be more than welcome (and deserving).
Curry is the best pure shooter in the competition, and he’s my pick to take it down in the final round against Joe Johnson. You won’t be making much money in Las Vegas off this pick, but expect this to be the first of multiple 3-Point Contest victories for the Davidson product.
Slam Dunk Contest
Barnes: 11/2 to win
The selection of Harrison Barnes into the dunk contest was a surprising one. Early reports had Barnes as being one of the final competitors, but it wasn’t until ESPN confirmed the report where I actually believed it. The first Warriors player since Jason Richardson to compete in the dunk contest, Barnes will have some added pressure.
He still carries a big name from his time in high school and with North Carolina, and his dunk over Nikola Pekovic is still one of the best dunks of the last two seasons. While Barnes hasn’t dunked much this season, he’s shown the ability to fly in the past. My concern is his ability to dunk on or over someone is eliminated in this competition, and we haven’t seen Barnes show any signs of creativity when nobody is around.
The East side of the competition is stacked, featuring the three best dunkers in the contest: John Wall, Paul George and defending champion Terrence Ross. Barnes has the second highest odds to win trailing just Damian Lillard. Barnes being such a quiet, humble guy also hurts his chances. Vince Carter, Jason Richardson, Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard won not only because of their dunks, but they brought flare.
Harrison doesn’t carry that same flair.
I’m picking John Wall. Wall is a fresh face in the competition, he has a history of impressive slams, carries the flare to win and will be forced by his East teammates to bring out the best dunks out early. The new format allows the lesser names a greater chance at the upset, but given how fans still vote for the winner, odds are it’s going to be a star.
Curry: 7/1 favorite for MVP
Curry was the 11/1 favorite for MVP just days ago, but Vegas caught on to his greatness and subtly lowered the line. He has the game to steal the show, as his shooting runs put up points quick and always turns into must-see TV. Judging from my experience with players and media, not one person doesn’t like Curry either. He has everything going for him.
Kevin Durant is also on his team, so maybe not everything is in his favor.
The Western Conference has ridiculously better talent than the Eastern Conference, so his team winning shouldn’t be an issue unless LeBron James turns on his God Mode. At any given time Curry can make one, two, three or more shots consecutively and that might be all it takes for the MVP. Like John Wall in the 3-Point Contest, Curry is the fresh face on campus with all the swag in the world.
Curry will be your All-Star Game MVP for these reasons and more. This is a Western Conference building, Curry is in the midst of establishing himself as a true superstar and carries the shooting (and now passing) gifts to produce numerous highlights. LeBron James, Paul George and Kevin Durant all have great chances as well, but Curry is running this show.