As the NBA season hits its unofficial mid-way point, the top stars from both the Eastern and Western conferences will be competing today in the 67th NBA All-Star Game, taking place at Los Angeles’ Staples Center (8pm ET Sunday).
Never really considered to be a game of intensity, this year’s outcome could be a little different. Not only will the game’s format, which features two teams chosen by captains, affect the storylines and rivalries we see play out on the court, but the winning team’s players will each get $100,000 compared to just a quarter of that going to the losers.
This changes what we have been conditioned to expect from this annual playground pick-up game and could change how you wager your money on it with the best sports betting sites as well. It is something for this preview to take into account when we conclude with our NBA All-Star Game predictions and betting picks.
Team Lebron vs Team Stephen
In the past, the NBA All-Star Game was contested between the league’s two conferences. Both the East and West sent teams comprised of players who represented the respective conferences and the game was fought essentially for bragging rights. Now, bragging rights are still on the line but it has nothing to do with conference affiliation.
For the first time in the game’s history, the two teams were chosen entirely by the team captains in a draft-style format. Those captains were Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. No strangers to facing each other as the two have competed head-to-head in each of the last three NBA Finals, James and Curry were chosen as captains because they were the highest vote getters among the initial fan vote to decide the game’s starters.
Breaking Down the Rosters: Team Lebron
In no particular order, since the draft positions of the players selected was not revealed, James’ starters, in addition to himself, will be: Kevin Durant (GSW), Kyrie Irving (BOS) and New Orleans Pelicans’ duo, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Reserves include LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS), Paul George (OKC), Victor Oladipo (IND) and Russell Westbrook (OKC).
Two things immediately stand out when you look at James’ roster and both of them could involve tense reunions. Not only will James be reunited with former Cavaliers’ teammate, Irving, who wanted out of Cleveland because he was tired of being in the shadow, but it will also mark the second year in a row where Durant and Westbrook will be sharing the same court. Last year, Westbrook and Durant shared the court briefly and had an alley-oop. Most expected the two former teammates of eight seasons to have some awkwardness given Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder for the Warriors in free agency, but all was well in that moment. That’s not to say Durant and Westbrook are suddenly best friends again but being able to co-exist should be a good primer for what we’ll see this year with James and Irving.
The James/Irving situation is quite different as well given the same amount of bad blood isn’t really there. Sure, Irving felt overshadowed and wanted to leave as a result but it wasn’t like James was pushing him out. The dynamic between the two players is no doubt different now, especially with Irving going to Cleveland’s biggest Eastern Conference rival in the Celtics, but they should be able to take the court together without much issue.
Another thing to watch for on Team James will be guys like James and George playing together as both are rumored to have the Los Angeles Lakers at the top of their free agency destinations.
Looking at the starters, James has a great team no doubt, but this is an All-Star game after all, and Curry’s team is just as good if not better.
Breaking Down the Rosters: Team Stephen
Led by Mike D’Antoni of the NBA’s best team, the Houston Rockets, team Stephen is like a better version of the Warriors, which if their back-to-back championships are any indication, means this is one really strong group of players.
Curry’s starting line includes himself, James Harden (HOU) and a trio of Eastern Conference players in DeMar DeRozan (TOR), Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) and Joel Embiid (PHI). His bench, which unlike James’ has been unaffected by injuries, incudes Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, as well as Damian Lillard (POR) and Jimmy Butler (MIN).
When the rosters were first announced, the edge went to James and when you look at his starting five it’s easy to see why. Team Lebron has high volume scorers and next-level defenders, plus they’ve got last year’s record-breaking MVP Westbrook, coming off the bench. But, injuries really hit James’ team hard whereas they pretty much avoided Team Stephen all together. Curry has a strong starting line-up as well, in addition to a much deeper bench.
Now, is it likely this game comes down to bench play? That really depends on how many minutes each of these guys end up getting. With the exception of Embiid, who is still somewhat minutes restricted, all of the starters on both teams are guys who ordinarily play most of their team’s 48-minutes. But, it’s an all-star game and the goal will be to get everybody at least some playing time. And when that happens, look for Curry’s team to make use of their bench strength.
Our Preview’s NBA All-Star Game Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
The NBA All-Star Game has come under fire the past several years for not being very good at all. This is because the game became less about being competitive and more about exhibition. It became less of an actual game and more of the guys showing off and not playing defense. While this new format doesn’t guarantee that changes, the players have been adamant that this year’s game will be different.
$100,000 being on the line to each winner is a large part of the reason why but wanting to beat their teammates and get those bragging rights seems to have a place of importance as well. That being said, it’s much less likely we see the kind of lopsided games we’ve gotten in the past. So now this preview comes to its NBA All-Star Game betting predictions:
- The sportsbooks have Team Lebron as 2.5 to 3-point favorites with the total points currently around 338 to 339pts. Although, considering the history of these games, that number may not be as large as it seems. Even with a higher emphasis on defense, both teams should almost easily go for 150-160. I like the under on 339pts @ -115 with Bovada. The total is set at 338.5pts with Bookmaker and 338 with Intertops.
- As for the winning team, if James’ starters were playing the bulk of the minutes, it would be an easy pick, but since the bench will factor in, look for Team Stephen to stay competitive and win-or-lose, stay within the point spread. Our pick here is to bet on Team Stephen +3pts @ -115 with Bovada. The spread is 2.5pts with most other betting outlets.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & 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.