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NBA All-Star Game, Slam Dunk and 3-Point Contest Picks

Western Conference All-Stars() @ Eastern Conference All-Stars()

  • Where: Smoothie King Center. New Orleans, LA
  • When: February 19, 2017 8:20 pm EST
  • Spread: Team East +5.5 (-110) vs. Team West -5.5 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Team East (+185) vs. Team West (-225)
  • Over / Under: Over 343.5 (-110) vs. Under 343.5 (-110)

Those few out-dated critics who still complain that defending is a lost art in the NBA should pay attention to what happens in the All-Star Game, where ballers ignore defense in favor of having fun.

Last year’s final tally was an eye-popping 196-173 in favor of Russell Westbrook (who won MVP for the second year in a row) and the Western Conference. The squads shattered the all-time event record for scoring, putting up more points in each of the first two quarters (99) than many college or pro teams can manage in 40-plus minutes.

Westbrook is a popular betting pick to win his third-straight Most Valuable Player award in New Orleans on Sunday night. A fierce fan-voting push to start Golden State’s veteran defensive specialist Zaza Pachulia was nixed by Pachulia’s rotator-cuff injury and an intervention by the league’s media panel, which slightly improves the West’s chances to win. The slow, gritty defender would be a liability in a friendly bucket-fest.

Take the West on the money line

NBA East vs. West PicksThere is always a danger of drawing too heavily on recent results in making ML bets. That being said, the Western Conference has won all but one All-Star Game since 2010, and it’s not entirely a coincidence.

The West’s four guards in New Orleans will be Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and James Hardin. Without a motivated opponent to stop them, that’s a murderer’s row of scoring threats. Kevin Durant will cash in when he’s on the court, and DeMarcus Cousins should rack up easy buckets inside.

The Eastern Conference is suiting up as strong as ever, with LeBron James heading the front-court. Carmelo Anthony tends to shine in exhibition games, and young Celtics star Isaiah Thomas is hungry to prove himself on a national stage. But if the NBA were a non-contact sport, the physically-imposing James would fall to a competitor like Curry every time. LeBron’s death-defying leaps into the paint that marked the climax of Game 7 against the Warriors will be missing on Sunday. So will Kevin Love, who is injured.

James will want to win, but won’t sacrifice his body. Meanwhile, Curry can play his usual freewheeling finesse game and knock down shots. The Western team is deeper, healthier and more comfortable in a pure pass-and-shoot scenario.

Bet on the Western Conference All-Stars money line at the Bovada Sportsbook

Three-Point Contest – Odds and preview

Thompson (+110), Irving (+400), McCollum (+800), Lowry (+900), Young (+900) 

Stephen Curry is sitting out the three-point shooting contest, which is good news for non-Golden State Warrior shooters who would actually like to win it someday.

2015’s beyond-the-arc derby was won by Curry, while teammate Klay Thompson won the event last season with a terrific final-round score (27 points, seven short of perfect). Curry finished second in ’16. Devin Booker of the Suns finished third, but is not participating in 2017.

That means the field is Thompson and everyone else, reflected in his solid-favorite odds. But there is more value in a wager on Kyrie Irving, who finished runner-up to Curry two summers ago after tying with 23 points in the preliminary round. Something about the national stage seems to put Kyrie in a shooting groove – he is nearly 45% from three-point range in the postseason.

Also, a recent rule change could benefit a long-shot bid to steal the shooting crown. Before 2014, ABA-style “money” balls were placed on the end of the rack, and carried a bonus of two points instead of one for a made shot. Now, players can place five of the ABA balls anywhere in the rack they prefer.

That means a strategic shooter with knowledge of his own tendencies could suddenly get hot and steal the mantle. Nick Young is a high-payoff upset pick, as a streaky three-point artist who punished Milwaukee and other opponents early in 2016-17 with a hot hand from long range. Young plays for the woe-begone L.A. Lakers, so this weekend will be his moment to shine.

NBA Slam Dunk Contest – Just four on the floor

Gordon (-155), Jones Jr. (+130), Jordan (+800), Robinson III (+900) 

Bet two-units on Aaron Gordon (-155) at Bovada

With only four players competing in the Slam Dunk competition, odds are somewhat more favorable for picking a winner. But the dunk contest is judged, not objective, so it’s worthwhile to look at recent history to see what types of artists the NBA’s judges are kindest to.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon is the favorite after out-dueling Zach LeVine in 2016’s acrobatic final round. LeVine is injured and cannot take part this season, and Gordon’s amazing mascot-leaping slam in Toronto is still fresh in gamblers’ minds.

Derrick Jones Jr. comes highly touted with a great high-jump and classic form, but the youngster has never won or participated in a dunk contest above the High School level. He is likely to over-reach (literally and figuratively) and miss the mark on at least a couple of attempts. Meanwhile, DeAndre Jordan is considered too tall to win a dunk contest at 6’11”. Judges do not make allowances for big, awkward leapers – if you’re too tall, too bad.

But Glenn Robinson III of the Pacers is our long-odds upset pick to surprise in the Big Easy. Robinson is barely legal-drinking age but agile and balanced, with a more mature frame than Jones and capable of tremendous hang-time.

If you are looking to wager one or two units on a winner regardless of payout, Gordon is an acceptable pick to repeat. But for a gamble that could pay off in spades, the +900 money line bet on Robinson offers a lot of value – and potentially a lovely windfall you can brag about while cashing out.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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