All-Star Weekend!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the state of the NBA here. This week I want to write specifically about the All-Star game. It has always been one of my favorite events. I can remember as a child recording the games and re-watching them a few times. I may be wrong, but I do not think the game is as competitive as it used to be. There is very little defense that is played. Even though that has changed it is still very entertaining to watch the best players in the World show off their talent. Even though the game is fun to watch, it is the rest of the weekend’s events that make All-Star weekend great. On Friday, the Celebrity game and Rising Stars game are played. On Saturday we will get to see a skills challenge, 3 pt contest, and the ever popular dunk contest. The game will follow on Sunday. The format is different because the teams were drafted and are no longer East vs. West.

The first event of the weekend is the Celebrity game. You can watch last year’s game here. Quavo was the MVP of the game last year and will be looking to repeat the accomplishment again this year. Some of the contestants will be the retired football player Steve Smith, performing artist JB Smoove, along with retired professionals Jay Williams and Ray Allen. The Rising Stars game will follow the celeb game. The format is Team USA vs. Team World. Both rosters are stacked with tons of young talent from across the globe. In looking at the rosters, I would like to think that Team USA has the edge, but nothing is a given in competition.

The first event on Saturday will be the Skills Challenge. It will feature plenty of talent with a couple of All-Stars and a few rookie of the month winners. Almost all of the players are young, except the veteran Mike Conley. Let’s hope the old guy can hold off the youngsters, it would be a win for all of us that are aging. The 3pt contest is the next event. This should be great to watch because we have the defending champion Devin Booker, retiring all time great player Dirk, and the Curry brothers. Here is a great video showing some of the all time great performances in the shootout. Hopefully this year’s event can produce a moment like this from Larry Legend! The final event of the evening is the slam dunk contest. The contest seemed to be losing steam over the years, but the contest in 2016 featuring Gordon and Lavine really brought it back to life. I really hope that the momentum carries forward. I would love to see the contest be as popular as it was when I was younger. The best contest was quite possibly this one, but there are plenty to choose from.

The all star game will take place on Sunday and the format is just a little different than years past. The game will feature Team LeBron vs Team Giannis. They were allowed to draft their teams based on getting the most votes. Obviously, the teams are loaded with talent. Picking a winner is almost impossible. I would imagine that no defense will be played until the 4th quarter and only if the game is tightly contested. Do not be surprised if the home town player, Kemba Walker, wins the MVP award.

Even though the players do not play as hard during the game and the format has changed, the game is still very entertaining. In my opinion, the game is only a small part of the all-star weekend. I believe that all of the other contests help make up a great weekend of entertainment. I hope you will have a chance to sit down with your family and friends and enjoy a little of the action.

—Victor Mandalawi

State of the NBA

This is usually a great time during the season to start paying attention to the game. Most teams have played around 50 games, so we have a pretty good idea if a team in contention or not. You are able to weed out the pretenders at this point. Also, the all-star game and trade deadline both fall within the next couple of weeks. Even the fans of teams that are in the tank have something to look forward to because there are potential stars emerging from the college game. I wanted to take a look a closer look at who the favorites for the championship may be. I also wanted to discuss any potential trades that could shake up the landscape of the league and what college players are being coveted by the teams in the lottery.

Let’s start with the teams that are in the tank! Those teams are the Bulls, Cavs, Knicks, and Suns. Those are the 4 teams that will probably end the season with the best shot at the number one pick. There are usually a few “can’t miss” prospects every year and this year is no different. The Duke Blue Devils have two on their team, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. ESPN offers a great look here at the top prospects. Many pundits are very high on Williamson because of his combination of size, strength, and athleticism. He would certainly help put fans in the seats.

A few days ago Anthony Davis created shockwaves throughout the league by saying he would not re-sign with the Pelicans. That will cause the Pelicans to trade him so they can recoup some assets before he departs for nothing. He is a top 5 talent in the game and every team in the league would love to have him. You would think he has no say in where he should end up but that is not the case. He can not veto trades, but he can say that he will not re-sign with any team that trades for him. That will cause teams to not waste assets hoping to land him. When this move happens, it will cause major dominoes to fall. Another massive deal that has already happened was the Porzingis trade. The Knicks unloaded a few players and gained a few future picks and some decent players. The main thing they gained was cap space with the thought of targeting Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. The deadline is over a week away, I am sure there will be a few more moves.

Who will win it all this year? Is it too early to make a selection? Anyone can make a prediction, but I personally do not think it will matter because the Warriors will win it all again. The Warriors have not played as well this year as they have in the past, but they are getting hot now and hold the best record in the Western Conference. They will end up with home court advantage and that should be enough to get them into the Finals. The Eastern Conference is not so clear cut in my mind. The Raptors, Sixers, Bucks, and Celtics all seem to have a legitimate shot at advancing to the finals. I think the Celtics have the most talent and they should advance. That would give us a Celtics and Warriors title matchup!

As mentioned previously, if you are fan of the NBA this is a great time to really start focusing. There has been one massive trade with the possibility of more to come. The All-Star game is around the corner and it will display the awesome talent in the league. The season is more than halfway over and teams will be looking to find their groove and start playing their best basketball heading into the playoffs. Good luck to the rest of the league but I believe the Warriors are the cream of the crop!

—Victor Mandalawi