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Opinion: My predictions for 2018 NBA All-Star weekend

By Garrett Baker, Livestream Managing editor

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The 2018 NBA All-Star weekend in Los Angeles from February 17 to 19 is packed with the most exciting action for fans of all types of basketball. With the Verizon Dunk Contest, JBL Three-Point Contest, All-Star game and other events scheduled, the weekend is sure to entertain. Here are my predictions for each event of the weekend.

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game presented by Ruffles

The first game of All-Star weekend is the All-Star celebrity game, starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16. Historically, comedian Kevin Hart has previously stolen the stage in this game, winning the Most Valuable Player award four of the last seven years, but he is not on the roster this season.

Even without Hart, this year’s lineup has plenty of entertainment value with the combination of celebrities such as Nick Cannon, Common and Caleb McLaughlin mixed with former NBA stars like Paul Pierce and Tracy McGrady and WNBA star Candice Parker.

But the stars can also benefit charity with their skill. Ruffles has introduced the 4 point line or “Ridge and, “for every shot made from “The RIDGE” during the second half of the game, Ruffles will make a $4,000 donation to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, with a minimum of $20,000 going to the charity (up to $40,000),” according to NBA.com.

The combination of real players on Team Lakers such as McGrady and Nate Robinson next to Stranger Things star Caleb McLaughlin is unbeatable. In the competition I predict a lot of charitable donations and Team Lakers defeating Team Clippers in a fun loving but competitive game to kick off the All-Star festivities.

Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Game

The second All-Star event will start directly after at 9 p.m. and has the NBA’s up and coming stars split up into two teams, the World team and U.S. team. The world team is made of players born outside of America such as Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. They will go against a team of homegrown players which includes rookies Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell.

The setup for this game is a brilliant idea put on by the NBA. It showcases the best talent from all around the world which draws in interest from viewers abroad but also encourages foreign children that their dream is not impossible for someone in their country. Despite the talent from all over the world, the U.S. team has this one locked down.

The World team is filled with power forwards and centers who will one day be NBA stars but they lack severely in guard play. Comparing that to the U.S., which has three of the best rookies guards seen in years, the rest of the world will have to struggle in this game.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

The first part of the State Farm All-Star Saturday night is the skills challenge, which had players weave through obstacles dribbling a ball and passing into rings. The line-up for the challenge is a bit silly with obviously less skilled players such as Andre Drummond and Al Horford against quick point guards like Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray.

Kristaps Porzingis was originally going to star in the challenge but unfortunately he went down a few weeks ago with a torn acl, ending his season. With Porzingis out the clear favorite is Lou Williams of the Los Angeles Clippers, who will go on to win the event.

Williams will be starring in the city where he plays and has improved his game tremendously this season averaging 23.3 points per game compared to the 14.9 he averaged the year prior. Including this Williams has been vocal on Twitter showing his disbelief in not being selected as an All-Star and with that chip on his shoulder he is bound to prove himself.

JBL Three-Point Contest

One of the most skilled events, the three-point contest, has the NBA’s best sharpshooters prove their talent. Reigning champion Eric Gordon has returned, but with former champion and record holder in the event, Klay Thompson involved, it will be a battle.

Klay Thompson will return as a champion once again and regain his title as the best spot up shooter in the league. This season, he is second overall in three pointers made with 181 and for the first time in years has passed his fellow splash brother, Stephen Curry, in the three point category.

In the competition each contestant has four racks of five balls with the last ball worth two points, but they also get to decide what position they want a rack of 2 point balls at on the court. With this advantage and Thompson’s impressive season, no one will stand a chance.

Verizon Slam Dunk Contest

Finally, the most exciting, high-flying and impressive event of All-Star weekend, the dunk contest. The contest will also wrap up State Farm All-Star Saturday night and will begin at 8 p.m. The four competitors are Victor Oladipo, Larry Nance Jr., Donavon Mitchell and Dennis Smith Jr.

In this field of dunkers, the NBA really picked the wrong crop of people. The majority of the players are power dunkers but the exception is Smith Jr. who is young, athletic and one of the best finesse dunkers in years.

Mitchell and Oladipo are not bad dunkers and I do not doubt their ability but their dunk impact relies more on power than style. Nance Jr., although his father was the first dunk contest champion, is all power and won’t be nimble enough to perform skilled dunks. For this reason, Dennis Smith Jr. will win the contest.

67th NBA All-Star game

The NBA has introduced a brand new system for how the all-star game is picked. Straying away from the traditional eastern conference versus western conference format, the teams are now selected by the top voted player from the west and east. This year’s captains are LeBron James and Stephen Curry and they each selected their teams from a pool of twelve selected all-stars.

At the first glance of the selection it seemed that team LeBron would sweep away team Curry but after multiple injuries the odds have evened. For team LeBron, Kevin Love, John Wall and Kristaps Porzingis are all out which has caused less talented players to step in.

With the newest line-ups, the game has become more competitive and with it team Curry will take the underdog win. Curry has offensive powerhouses such as Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard that can provide loads of scoring in an all offensive game.

The final event of a highly anticipated and shining all-star weekend in the city of angels should wrap up with LeBron James winning all-star game MVP, plenty of generous charitable donations and the set up for a great second half of the NBA regular season.

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Opinion: My predictions for 2018 NBA All-Star weekend