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All-Star Weekend is upon us, and expert handicapper Stephen Rodriguez is bringing us his top picks for the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest and Sunday's game

BET OF THE WEEKEND: (2u) Team LeBron -4.5 @ -110

Team Giannis @ Team LeBron, Sunday at 8:00 PM:

The reason we’re backing Team LeBron.

LeBron James has been the best player/GM in the NBA since his days in Miami when he joined up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. He would then do the same in Cleveland with Kyrie Irving, and now in Los Angeles with Anthony Davis. James has also brought those talents into the All-Star Game where he has drafted two consecutive winning teams.

This year, Team James seems poised again for yet another All-Star win as they feature six of the top eight MVP candidates, and five of the last seven All-Star MVPs. The starters: James, Davis, Luka Doncic, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard. The reserves: Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Nikola Jokic, Ben Simmons, Domantas Sabonis, Jayson Tatum, and Russell Westbrook.

Team Giannis starters: Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam, Kemba Walker, Trae Young. The reserves: Bam Adebayo, Brandon Ingram, Jimmy Butler, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Khris Middleton

Looking at the rosters alone, the 2020 All-Star game seems very similar to an East vs. West matchup. If that were the case, the West won six of the last seven All-Star games between 2011-2017 prior to changing the format with team captains.

Team James is loaded with scoring, starting with the NBA’s leading scorer Harden (35.3 ppg), as well as six other players ranked amongst the league’s top-10 scorers.

As if scoring wasn’t enough in a game that will feature very little defense, the team will have chemistry featuring the best duo in the NBA between James and Davis, and they’ll be partnered with another pair of dynamic teammates in Harden and Westbrook. Mix in the reigning NBA Finals MVP, Leonard, and one of the youngest superstars in the NBA, Doncic, and Team LeBron should pull away over time and win by more than enough to cover the spread (-4.5).

(1u) Joe Harris @ +400

3-Point Contest, Saurday at 8:00 PM

The reason we’re backing Harris.

The reigning NBA three-point contest winner Joe Harris will return to the hardwood in Chicago to defend his crown. Harris won the contest in Charlotte by edging out two-time NBA MVP and 2015 three-point shooting champ Stephen Curry 26 to 24 after netting each of his money balls on the final rack.

Harris will be looking to become the third player in the last 20 years to win back-to-back three-point challenges (Peja Stojakovic ‘01-’03, Jason Kapono ‘06-’08). Although it’s only happened twice in the last 20 years, since this event was established back in 1985 there have been four other players (six in total) to win in consecutive years, including Larry Bird (‘85-’88) and Craig Hodges (‘89-’92) who won three straight times.

Harris is having a down year in terms of three-point shooting percentage at the break - he ranked second in the NBA at 47.1 percent last year and ranks 20th at 40.8 percent currently. With that said, in-game shooting and set shooting are much different concepts and I’m anticipating he finds his rhythm when defending his shooting title.

(1u) Pascal Siakam @ +500

Skills Challenge, Saturday at 8:00 PM

The reason we’re backing Siakam.

Since the Skills Challenge began in 2003, only two big men have won the title over the guards - with those players winning in consecutive years (Karl-Anthony Towns 2016 and Kristaps Porzingis 2017).

Although the likelihood of Pascal Siakam may seem long, with his value strong at +500 and sitting at the best of all big men in the contest it’s worth the gamble. That’s mainly because Siakam will be on the opposite side of the bracket with the other big men challengers - Domantas Sabonis and Bam Adebayo - and should have a manageable path to the Championship round if he can get past the first two matchups.


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