NBA All-Star Weekend Betting Guide
One of the best points of the NBA season is finally here. No, I'm not referring to the trade deadline, Christmas Day or the seemingly annual LeBron James-team meltdown. Two of those things are behind us, and the other might just be on the horizon.
NBA All-Star weekend is about to get underway, and just like every night in the Association we have a chance to get in on the action by laying bets on our favorites and darkhorses. It all gets started Friday night (9:00 p.m. EST) with the Rising Stars Challenge, the precursor to All-Star Saturday night (8:00 p.m. EST), and finally the weekend is capped off by the 71st NBA All-Star Game in primetime Sunday night (8:00 p.m. EST).
Who are the favorites to take the hardware? Which darkhorses should you take a chance on?
Odds are subject to change over time. For live and up-to-date odds you can refer to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Rising Stars Challenge
This year marks the fifth for this Team USA vs. Team World format.
|USA||-4.0 (-110)||-164||Over 288.5 (-110)|
|World||+4.0 (-110)||+140||Under 288.5 (-110)|
Through four games, the average margin of victory has been 13 points, though that is influenced heavily by last year's 155-124 win for Team World. Outside of that, the three other editions have been decided by single digits with the closest one a 157-154 Team USA victory in 2016. World has an overall 3-1 advantage through four iterations.
With the help of OddsPortal.com, we see that Team World was the underdog in each of the last two games, both of which they've won (we don't have data for the first one). In the only matchup -- 2015-16 -- Team USA won they were -238 on the moneyline after opening at -270 at William Hill. In other words, betting on an underdog World team has been profitable, returning a net of $100 and $170 (on a $100 bet), respectively, in the last two games.
Both sides have great players, but the World owns the top two rookies by total win shares in Deandre Ayton (4.6) and Luka Doncic (4.6). Some would argue that Doncic has played well enough to play in Sunday's game, so the 19-year-old could be out to prove a point and capture MVP honors in a winning effort.
As far as the total is concerned, the under has won out in the last two games, and by decent margins. However, the over/under hasn't been this low since 2015-16, and when it was the over hit as a result of a game that totaled 311 points. Through four games, the averaged combined points is 278.5, though the last three years are held down by a mere 233 total in the first USA-World game.
Picks: World +4, World +140, Over 288.5.
Skills Challenge Contest
The Skills Challenge has now been around since 2003, when Jason Kidd won the inaugural competition, which tests ball-handling, passing and shooting ability. For today's version (in its fifth year), two participants race against each other while completing various challenges. To get the champion, a guard is pitted against a big man in the final.
This year's eight competitors are as follows (first-round matchups will be announced later).
|Trae Young (Guard)||+300|
|Luka Doncic (Guard)||+375|
|De'Aaron Fox (Guard)||+450|
|Nikola Jokic (Big)||+550|
|Mike Conley (Guard)||+600|
|Jayson Tatum (Big)||+700|
|Kyle Kuzma (Big)||+700|
|Nikola Vucevic (Big)||+900|
It isn't 100% clear, but it appears Jayson Tatum is grouped with the bigs alongside All-Star centers Nikola Vucevic and Nikola Jokic, and stretch-five Kyle Kuzma. The ever-versatile Doncic heads a list of four guards, including fellow rookie Trae Young (the favorite) and two other point guards in De'Aaron Fox and Mike Conley.
In this current version, two guards (2015 and 2018) and two bigs (2016 and 2017) have won. Before that, point guards were usually the only representatives at this with guys like Steve Nash, Dwyane Wade and Damian Lillard each taking the crown at least two times. Given the combination of "obstacles", players have to be quick, good with their handle, on target with passes and efficient with their final three-point shot.
Per NBA Stats, Fox leads the group with an average speed of 4.46 miles per hour (mph), though he and Young tie for the fastest average (5.00 mph) on the offensive end alone. Surprisingly, Kuzma is second in overall speed (4.43 mph), while it almost goes without saying that Jokic (3.94 mph) and Vucevic (3.92) are at a severe disadvantage. In terms of players who are most comfortable or used to operating on the dribble, Young tops the list at 5.32 dribbles per touch this season. He is followed by Conley (4.41) and Fox (4.06) with Vucevic last (0.67).
For measuring the precision of passes, we look to potential assists, which indicate that a pass was on the mark and could have resulted in a made bucket. In that area, Young excels with 14.2 per game, trailed closely by Fox (13.1) and Conley (12.1). However, Jokic (11.7) and Doncic (10.8) are in double-digits as well with Tatum (4.1) and Kuzma (4.0) lacking here. And finally, for that crucial and final three-point shot, we use three-point percentage and volume from the top of the arc, where the shots will be taken from. While Vucevic leads by percentage (37.2%), he does so on just 78 attempts compared to Young, who has knocked down 37.0% of his 119 attempts. Doncic (35.9%) and Kuzma (34.9%) are both above the league average of 34.0%, while the other four fall below it; Tatum is last at 25.0%.
It appears Young is properly valued as the favorite, but if you're looking to cash in big Kuzma is a sneaky good choice. He is tied for the second-longest odds despite ranking fourth by our combined standards here.
Pick: Kyle Kuzma +700
At the top of a great field of contestants, Stephen Curry -- winner in 2015 -- returns to the city in which he attended high school and where his farther spent most of his professional career. But so does his brother, Seth Curry, while Devin Booker aims to maintain his three-point crown. And Dirk Nowitzki makes it three former winners in search of their second title.
Curry's win odds imply a win probability of 28.57%, over 9.5% higher than the next-highest shooter. But is it justified?
To evaluate the rankings of these 10 marksmen, we look at their three-point shooting marks on zero dribbles and pull-ups -- since players are picking up off racks -- as well as wide open (closest defender 6+ feet away) attempts.
Without even putting any extra weight on volume, Curry is second among the field in both pull-up and wide open threes, while he comes in fourth in three-point percentage on zero dribbles. However, when we combine everything Joe Harris is the best candidate, sitting first in pull-up percentage, fourth in wide open shots and second on zero dribbles. He is the only player shooting over 45% in all three areas. In comparison, Booker doesn't shoot higher than 37.3% in any category and is being overrated by the oddsmakers.
If you're looking for a higher return than Harris, the lesser-known Curry is third in our ranks. A 14.29% implied probability is much too low, and $600 for every $100 sounds like a steal for the hometown kid.
We don't know them ahead of time, but the setup of each shooter's moneyballs can have a big impact on scores, and therefore the final outcome. Ideally, it would be wise for Steph to have his bonus-balls situation on the left wing and in the left corner, where he shoots 49.7% and 54.9%, respectively (14.5% and 15.9% above league averages). As for his brother, Seth, he's shot really well (78.6%) on just 14 attempts from the left corner, from where he also knocked down 46.9% of shots back in 2016-17. However, he could spread his out between there, the top of the arc (52.6%) and the right wing (45.8%), as he's been well above average in all three spots. And to round out the top three candidates, Harris has a tough choice to make, having knocked down at least 50% from three spots. But taking volume into consideration the left wing is the go-to; he's converted 32 of 64 attempts.
Pick(s): Joe Harris +450
Slam Dunk Contest
Odds for the Slam Dunk Contest are not currently listed on FanDuel Sportsbook, but keep an eye out for them going back up. For now, we'll reference those listed by Sports Insights.
|Dennis Smith Jr.||+225|
Dennis Smith will look to avenge last year's snub job, where he was held out of the final despite having arguably the best dunk of the night. He is joined by fellow second-year player John Collins and two high-flying rookies in Miles Bridges and Hamidou Diallo.
The tale of the tape has Collins, at 6'10", as the tallest of the four and Smith the shortest at 6'3". However, DSJ owns the highest reported vertical (48"). Diallo is the second-highest jumper (44.5"), and while Bridges didn't jump at the combine he's estimated to be around 40" to 42"; Collins is down at 37.5" (as of last year's combine). Most are enamored by a shorter, bouncy guy like Smith, but both Bridges and Diallo have the hops to challenge him, and Collins might just have enough style to get it done.
Not only has Collins converted 111 of his 123 dunk attempts this season, but -- according to NBA.com -- he has 2 reverse dunks, 12 tip dunks and 29 alley oops, including one nasty one-handed finish. Bridges is second among the group with 40 dunks on 50 attempts, consisting -- in part -- of three tip dunks, seven alley oop dunks and six of the cutting variety, with this posterizer chief among them. Smith, after totaling 40 dunks a year ago, has 25 to this point in the year, including 2 alley oops, 11 on the drive and 7 with a running start, much like this hammer over Julius Randle. And finally, Diallo -- who has played the fewest minutes (515) -- has 22 dunks on 23 attempts, made up of two alley oops, nine running dunks and this rim-rocking tip slam.
Clearly, Collins has the volume and variety you like to see, particularly in the alley oop category. He makes sense as the favorite, and Smith really isn't a bad second, but Bridges has two things going for him in 1) he's a fresh face and 2) he is the hometown guy. He's going to be amped up and there will be added pressure for the judges to hand him favorable scores.
Pick: Miles Bridges +250
This year is the second running under the captain format, where teams are drafted and conference affiliations are ignored. LeBron James takes to one side and Giannis Antetokounmpo the other, with The King getting first pick as the top overall vote-getter and selecting Kevin Durant for the second straight year.
Last year, James' team won 148-145 over Team Steph as LeBron took MVP honors behind 29 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. The 2.5-point favorites took the win and barely covered as the 293 total fell far short of the massive 342 over/under.
|LeBron||-6.5 (-110)||-290||Over 314 (-110)|
|Giannis||+6.5 (-110)||+230||Under 314 (-110)|
James is now 6-8 in his 14 All-Star appearances, having won three MVPs all in Western Conference cities. He is 0-3 in games held on Eastern Conference floors, for what it's worth. Giannis is win-less in his two tries (both as a starter), though his team has lost by a mere 10 and 3 points with the Greek Freak averaging 23.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.5 minutes.
As for the two rosters, they can be found in full here. Team Giannis has the height advantage with seven-footers Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Nikola Vucevic and Dirk Nowitzki on top of himself at 6'11" and Blake Griffin at 6'10". They also boast two former MVPs -- Curry and Russell Westbrook (also a two-time All-Star MVP) -- and two of the top three MVP candidates in Giannis and Paul George, and have the lone representative of the Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker.
LeBron's squad only has a single seven-footer -- Karl-Anthony Towns -- but is full of point guards -- Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard -- and has two other MVPs -- Durant and James Harden -- not named James. They also possess seven All-Star MVPs among them, and only Simmons and Towns are younger than 24 years of age; Giannis has four players aged 24 or younger.
By number of top-10 players in our power rankings (based on our nERD metric), James has the advantage 5 to 4. The total nERD of the starting lineups is 50.2 to 49.2 in favor of Giannis, who just so happens to be our top player. Walker is the lowest-rated player (3.6 nERD; 47th) of the 10 and LeBron is the lowest (5.8; 22nd) of his own starting five. And as for the bench edge, that goes to Team LeBron by a margin of 11.2, so Giannis might just rely on their starters to get the work done early.
Per Sports Insights, Team LeBron opened as six-point favorites, and at most books they are between -270 and -300 on the moneyline after opening at -300 or shorter. Team Giannis is between 225 and 235 at other sportsbooks after opening, on average, in the +240 range.
According to The Action Network's John Ewing, exhibitions underdogs are 59.6% against the spread and 45.7% straight up since 2005. Let's play the percentages and split the picks with a close one in favor of LeBron and his crew of soon-to-be free agents (wink, wink).
The over/under has really been on a roller coaster ride as it was closer to 300 earlier Thursday after opening closer to 320. Since 2013 the over is 8-5 in All-Star games, but I think this is being bet down for a reason. Last year, defense showed its head a little more than the usual final two to three minutes, and with all the storylines flying around the league right now it seems like everyone's out to make a point. For me, the under is the most confident play of the three.
Picks: Team Giannis +6, Team LeBron -290, Under 314