NBA All-Star Game: West vs East Preview & Picks

James HardenIt’s East vs West in the one game of the NBA season that is as much for the fans as it is for the players. That’s right, it’s the NBA All-Star Game today and in a lot of ways, this year’s could be one of the most exciting yet (Sunday 8:30pm ET live on TNT).

If you look at last year’s all-star game roster, you’ll notice it is littered with players whose pedigree needs no introduction. The names included Dwayne Wade, a 10x All Star, Kobe Bryant, a 17x time All Star, Lebron James, an 11x All Star and the list goes on. Up and down the entire starting lineups, there was that all star experience. In fact, of the 10 starters, only Stephen Curry, who you can expect to start building the resumes of James and Bryant, was a first year selection.

This year however due to injuries and just a general changing of the guard, there will be two first-time starters and six first-time players overall.

For some, this is a good thing. The game itself is evolving and the best players will still be. They just have different names and are members of different teams. For example, you’ll see only one member of the Spurs, one of the Lakers, one of the Mavericks and none from the Celtics. Replacing them are players from new top of the ranking teams such as the Hawks, who have four all-stars, and the Warriors and the Trailblazers who have two all-stars apiece.

It’s certainly not your father’s all-star game. But maybe, that’s not a bad thing.

The Coach’s Kids

One of the storylines that seems to follow all-star games in all of the major sports revolves around who is coaching the game. This year, two of the coaches are Mike Budenholzer of the Eastern leading Atlanta Hawks and Steve Kerr of the Western leading Golden State Warriors.

These coaches have six of their pupils playing in the game and they are chasing the playoffs with a great shot at winning it all. So don’t be surprised if that means limited minutes for the Splash Brothers and the Atlanta foursome.

Despite being a starter, Curry is unlikely to see significant minutes. Since the NBA All-Star Game, like the NHL All-Star Game and the NFL Pro Bowl, really has no value other than fan entertainment, there is no reason to risk an unnecessary injury to the players of the most importance for both teams.

Ultimately, from a betting standpoint, this could have a slight impact. Curry is a scoring machine and one of the best at his position. He is a pure shooting guard and his impact on the game is understated. He’s a huge part of the reason why the Warriors are where they are in the East.

If Curry’s minutes are limited, that could mean more of someone like James Harden (pictured above) of the Rockets or Damian Lillard of the Blazers. This isn’t exactly a bad thing for the West but there’s a reason why Curry was voted a starter.

When it comes down to it, neither Budenholzer nor Kerr really care who wins this game. The truth is, they just want to coach against each other later in the year, in a much more important setting.

All-Star Game Betting Picks

This year’s All-Star Game is going to be different but that is a good thing. Young players, guys with less than three all star appearances make up the bulk of the rosters. They represent teams who are the best of the best even if those teams were nothing more than last place cannon fodder in recent years.

The NBA is quick to change and as the typical all stars get up there in age and injury, the newbies are ready to take the stage.

In addition, the NBA is a league filled with brothers, some of whom even play on the same team. But despite all of these siblings playing together, this will be the first year two were voted into the same all-star game in the form of the Spanish duo of Pau and Marc Gasol. The Gasol brothers will be starting against each other and ironically enough, it’s Pau’s recent move from the Lakers to the Bulls that makes this possible.

Finally, there’ the MVP. The odds favor Curry (5/1) with James (5/1), Harden (6/1), Kevin Durant (13/2) and Carmelo Anthony (17/2) all in the top five of voting. As I mentioned earlier, Curry could be limited. That leaves the field open. Someone like Durant has a lot to prove as he ranks as the best player currently without an NBA championship. And then there’s James, whose own individual game could be on display. Ultimately, my vote though is Harden. He leads the NBA in scoring, will likely be out there for enough time to garner a decent share of shots and he always seems to show off when the cameras are out.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean the West will win. In fact, it is common in the NBA All-Star Game for the winner to be the best player on the court regardless of if he is on the winning team or not. That said, the West is the best. The team standings show it, the records show it, the players show it.

The East’s best are in the form of four Hawks and a bunch of young upstarts. One day, they’ll be the ones to watch but for now, pick the West to win. All-Star dominance may not be the most important and it may not be relevant to the strength of the conferences, but still, the better players represent the West and often, the better players, even in an exhibition, come out on top.

  • Take the Western Conference -3.5pts @ -110 with 5Dimes Sportsbook to get the victory and beat the spread.