An action-packed NBA All-Star weekend begins Friday night and continues Saturday at 8:00 PM ET with the skills challenge, 3-point contest and slam dunk contest. Then on Sunday, the 72nd NBA All-Star Game tips off at 8:30 PM ET.
So who are the players and teams to bet on this year? Which events should you stay away from? And which longshots might be worth a look?
Here are ESPN betting experts Doug Kezirian, André Snellings and Eric Moody to share who they’re watching this weekend.
NBA Skills Challenge Champion
Team Jazz: Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler, Collin Sexton (-120)
Team Rookies: Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey, Jabari Smith Jr. (+165)
Team Antetokounmpo: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Alex Antetokounmpo (+450)
Kezirian: This competition has relatively new rules. Since it’s a half-court shot, I’m tempted to take any long shot. However, it comes into play in the final round with the last two remaining teams. Given that, I’ll take Team Jazz. The Antetokounmpo brothers have limited shooting skills and the rookies are pretty limited as well. I have to ride with the favorite.
Moody: My recommendation is to bet on Team Rookies, which includes three of the top five picks in the 2022 NBA draft. This unit is led by Rookie of the Year front-runner Paolo Banchero. Jaden Ivey and Jabari Smith Jr. has also shown off his athleticism often this season. It takes teamwork to win the skills challenge, and despite not being on the same team, the trio are very skilled, have sufficient speed and ball handling skills, and can shoot well enough to win the final round. Team Rookies is well positioned to win on Saturday night at Vivint Arena.
Snelling’s: I will also go Team Rookies. I like the strength in all three members. Ivey plays a lot of point guard for the Pistons, and Banchero has played some points for the Magic. There are two players who should thrive in all aspects of passing/dribbling/shooting. And quietly, Smith Jr. one of the best pure long-range shooters in the game, who is a strong kicker in this type of 3-man contest and an advantage over more traditional center Kessler on the Jazz.
3-point contest champion
Damian Lillard: (+380)
Buddy Hield (+420)
Kevin Huerter (+500)
Lauri Markkanen (+700)
Jayson Tatum (+700)
Tyrese Haliburton (+750)
Tyler Hero (+750)
Julius Randle: (+950)
Kezirian: Honestly, every guy has a chance to win. All have relatively simple movements and are capable of becoming warm. I just can’t pull the trigger on any particular guy. I don’t want Herro or Haliburton, so I’d take Tatum at +700 just because it has a big payout, if I had to take one person, because he’s been vocal about wanting to win. However, it is hard to believe that some are not. This would be purely a recreational game.
Moody: I’d bet on Markkanen winning the 3-point contest on his home floor in Utah if you’re looking for an under-the-radar option. He is in the midst of a career season. So far this season, Markkanen has made 164 triples, the ninth most in the league. He’s also shooting a career-best 41.2% from beyond the arc. Last season, Karl-Anthony Towns showed his versatility and won the competition by a longshot. At 11 feet, Towns became one of the tallest players to do so. The 7-foot Markkanen should not be overlooked by players.
Snelling’s: I go to Lillard. He’s been stuck in flamethrower mode for over a month now, and if he’s still on that energy I can see him taking it. Honorable mention to Hield as well. Looking at the names in the field without considering odds, those two stood out to me, so I think it’s fitting that they have the two shortest odds.
Slam dunk contest
Mac McClung (+160)
Jericho Sims (+200)
Kenyon Martin Jr. (+250)
Trey Murphy III (+320
Kezirian: I think Martin has some value. Sims is 6-foot-10 and sometimes taller players have trouble impressing referees. True, Obi Toppin won last year and other greats have also won. But for the most part, wing players usually hit dunks that are perceived as more acrobatic. At 6-foot-7, Martin has the perfect frame and seemingly slides on every dunk. In addition, judges can enjoy Martin’s pedigree.
Moody: McClung is one of the biggest wild cards for the slam dunk contest. After signing a two-way minor league contract earlier this week, the 24-year-old was called up to the 76ers roster the other day. His highlight reels this season have made him a star in the NBA G League. McClung is the first G League player ever to be invited to the contest. In a competition that lacks star power, he will bring some unique ideas. McClung is the one I would bet on.
Snelling’s: I’m going Martin. He’s the perfect height at 6-6/6-7 (two of the guys are 6-9 or taller, and it’s rare to see big men win); he’s an old kid and I feel like he’ll find a way to get his dad into the mix and build up the crowd; and he is also the most impressive dunker in the game. McClung is the wild card, but he is also the shortest and the one who relies on the spectacular. I feel that KMart Jr. is the more reliable option and the one more likely to land his dunks without many misses.
Team Giannis (+3, +130, 325.5 o/u)
Team LeBron (-3, -155)
Kezirian: I can’t bet on this without knowing the rosters. We only know the captains. Easily.
Moody: Antetokounmpo’s sprained wrist makes his All-Star Game status unclear. Because of this, I would bet on Team LeBron. There is no doubt that the Western Conference is stronger. Despite Stephen Curry and Zion Williamson’s injuries, Team LeBron still has James, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic, among others. In the last four All-Star games, Team LeBron has won and the trend is likely to continue.
Snelling’s: I’m not touching Team Giannis vs Team LeBron until we know who is actually on each team.