The NBA heads to Air Canada Centre in Toronto where it’s best and brightest talent will be on display in the 65th annual All-Star Game (8pm ET, Sunday on TNT).
Entering the game, the West are five point favorites, being the sportsbooks’ picks to win for what would be their fifth time in the last six years and 11th time in the last 17 years. Needless to say, the Western Conference all-stars are on a run and have every bit the roster to extend their recent streak.
Eastern Conference Roster
The biggest name on the Eastern Conference’s roster is of course LeBron James (pictured). James, who only recently has had to pass the mantle of best player in the game off to Stephen Curry, sits with the third (+800) greatest betting odds to win the MVP, the shortest odds of any player on his East team.
James ranks fifth in the NBA in total scoring, averaging 25 points per game, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers as the East’s top team. While this year he will not be joined by any of his Cleveland teammates, he will be starting alongside some familiar faces as the East’s starting lineup features three players who combined have made a total of 33 all-star appearances.
With 12 all-star appearances to his name, Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade has been having a bit of a renaissance season averaging just over 20 minutes per game and scoring 18.7 points, 4.7 assists and four rebounds. Wade and Chris Bosh, who after missing last season due to blood clots also had to pull out of the all-star game with injury, are a big part of why Miami remains in the top five of the Eastern Conference standings.
Joining Wade and James is their Team USA teammate, Carmelo Anthony, who is making his ninth all-star appearance. While Anthony’s New York Knicks are among the worst teams in the league, this hasn’t stopped him from having another all-star worthy year. Anthony ranks 13th in points per game with 21.4 and adds a line of 4.2 assists and 7.9 rebounds.
The biggest strength for the East is going to be in these three players as well as first time starters Isaiah Thomas and Andre Drummond, and one of the young stars of the game, John Wall, and of course Toronto Raptors’ hometown favorites, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. The depth of the East is not quite as strong as it has been in recent years and this is in large part due to some injuries. However, the team is still quite loaded and while not favored, could give the West some trouble in the exhibition game.
Western Conference Roster
Leading all starters based on a fan vote is Kobe Bryant, who will be making his 18th and final appearance in the game. Bryant, despite shooting a career low 35 percent from the floor and career low 80 percent from the free throw line, Bryant will be making the start, more than likely a result of sentimentality given his retirement looms at the end of the season.
Bryant probably won’t play a lot of minutes and may not have a huge impact on the game but his Golden State Warriors teammates are sure to be difference makers. If the West wins the exhibition game, it will no doubt be a result of the playmakers from Steve Kerr’s squad even if the man himself will not be the West’s head coach.
The Warriors lead all teams with three selections even if only one of them will be starting in the game. That player of course is Stephen Curry, the NBA’s leading scorer (29.8 PPG), fourth best three point shooter (45%) and second best free throw shooter (91%). Bryant is the early MVP favorite not just for the season but for the all-star game as well. Curry is second favorite at +500 to take home the trophy.
Although, given the game is meaningless in terms of standings, don’t be surprised to see Bryant’s Western conference teammates do everything in their power to get him the award and with it his 5th and record breaking MVP.
Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Curry’s teammates, will provide a huge boost off of the bench that the Eastern Conference is unlikely to be able to match. The two Warriors have been instrumental all season in the team’s success and their current pace to best the 72 win NBA record held by the Chicago Bulls. Thompson is 14th in the NBA in points per game with 21.3 and 10th in free throw shooting percentage with 42%. Green meanwhile is no slouch, leading all players in the league with his impressive 10 triple-doubles, which is two more than one of the West’s other starters, Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook and Kevin Durant finish out the starting five and give the Oklahoma City Thunder the only team with two starters. The two rank seventh and third respectively in points per game, leading the third place Thunder to a 40-14 record. Not to mention, both Durant and Westbrook are former all-star game MVPs and have the fourth and fifth highest odds of winning the award again.
Add in James Harden, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and LaMarcus Aldridge on a team coached by Gregg Popovich and you have a team that is one of the best assembled in recent memory. The West looks incredible on paper and given that seven of the 12 players are on the NBA’s top three teams, it shouldn’t be surprising that they are favored to win the game once again.
Our Preview’s NBA All-Star Game Betting Picks Predictions
The West is just too good and have been too good for some time. The top team in the East ranks just fourth in the entire league and no Eastern Conference team has 40 wins. The West has three such teams. Their all-star game roster is stronger and abounds with youth. There really is no reason for this preview to suspect that the outcome on Sunday will be anything other than a Western Conference win.
As for the MVP pick, our prediction is that it will go to bookies’ favorite Bryant. This is the last time he’ll be in the game and the last time fans will really get to shower praise on him and his extraordinary career. No matter the outcome, they will find a way to get Bryant the award and with it the history-making performance.
- Back Bryant for All-Star Game MVP @ best odds of +150 with BetOnline Sportsbook.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.