NBA All-Star Weekend begins on Feb. 17 with the Ruffles NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. Photo courtesy of Stephen Gosling/Getty Images.
By: TJ Morin
We are halfway through the NBA season, meaning the season’s most anticipated event is upon us other than the NBA Finals itself, and that is All-Star Weekend. The best of the best in the NBA will play a fun game for all fans to watch, and the best dunkers and 3-point shooters will put out their best as well, to prove they are the best at what they do in the league. In this article, predictions will be made about who will win the main events of the All-Star game: The Skills Challenge, The 3-Point Contest, and the Dunk Contest, and will talk about who the biggest snub from the All-Star game was.
The 2023 Skills Challenge will be teams of three this year, with three teams participating. The teams will be Team Antetokounmpo, made up of the brothers Giannis, Thanasis, and Alex, Team Jazz, which is made up of 3 Jazz players, Walker Kessler, Jordan Clarkson, and Collin Sexton, and Team Rook, a team made up of the top rookies, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith Jr, and Jaden Ivey. Team Jazz seems like they will take home the Skills Contest Trophy due to their overall versatility. Being made up of two guards and a forward, their team is the most prepared for what is entailed in the contest.
The participants in this year’s 3-point contest have a bunch of new faces but are some of the best shooters in the league this year. Damian Lillard, the All-Star point guard of the Portland Trail Blazers who has been in 3-point contests before, is the only real familiar face in this year’s contest. The other contestants include Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, Kevin Huerter of the Sacramento Kings, Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat, Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield of the Indiana Pacers, Julius Randle of the New York Knicks and Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz.
The frontline candidates to win are either Damian Lillard or one of the Pacer players. Lillard has been in multiple contests, and his veteran status might help him with the pressure of making as many shots as possible in a short amount of time. However, both Hield and Haliburton have been some of the most consistent shooters this year, and if they can translate that consistency into the contest, they both have a real shot at winning.
The dunk contest is usually the most anticipated part of All-Star Weekend other than the actual game. This year, we have four brand new faces, and something is happening that has never happened. This year’s contestants are Trey Murphy of the New Orleans Pelicans, Kevin Porter Jr of the Houston Rockets, Jericho Sims of the New York Knicks, and for the first time ever, a G-League player in Mac McClung, a superstar dunker in high school and college, and plays for the Delaware Blue Coats, the affiliate for the Philadelphia 76ers.
I honestly think that Mac McClung will win the Dunk Contest and make history. While his overall game might be lacking, his ability to dunk the basketball is as good as anyone else in the NBA.
Since for the past few All-Star games teams have been drafted instead of the classic Eastern Conference vs Western Conference, we will just go over the players selected from each conference. The players nominated from the Western Conference are all great choices for the All-Star game. The starters, LeBron James, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic are all MVP Candidates, and Ja Morant and Lauri Markkanen are All-Star level players this year, both the leaders of their teams. The West’s bench is seemingly equal to the East’s, however, Damian Lillard puts them over the top, having his best season ever this year. As for the Eastern Conference, they also have three MVP candidates in their starting lineup, with their captain, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, and Joel Embiid, and the other two starters, Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell are having amazing seasons as well, especially Mitchell. Their bench is no slouch either, while it may have had some more snubs than the West’s, it is filled with star players, and amazing second options for great teams this year.
Out of everyone in the East, the fact James Harden did not make the All-Star game is absurd. He’s averaging 21/6/11, and he is the second-best player on his team who currently sits third in the East. He is one of the most diverse players in the NBA and is one of the greatest offensive minds in the league. Harden has been a cornerstone for the Sixers since he came over in the trade and has really been impressive this year, even as he ages. Harden is not an MVP-caliber player anymore, but he still should have been recognized as an All-Star.