It’s all eyes on New York and the NBA All Star Weekend but with the big names dropping like flies, who will come up stellar and who will come crashing down to Earth?
Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant all sit out Sunday’s showpiece game at Madison Square Garden. Carmelo Anthony and Jimmy Butler coming in hobbled. Yup, it’s an indication of where priorities lie with the forthcoming playoff race taking precedence.
But that’s not to say it won’t be fun watching the titans of the Eastern Conference battle out with their Western brethren. And that we can expect lots of acrobatics and uncontested scores in the opening three quarters before the duel truly heats up in the fourth.
The West, blessed with a few more true A-Listers, are 1.71 favourites and a backcourt that will include Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard and James Harden seems perfect for an All Star contest.
In particular, Lillard – coming in with a point to prove – is tremendous value at 41.00 to be the game’s MVP.
LeBron James is 5.00 to land that award for a third time but the Cavaliers star is at a stage where he’d gladly save his energies. And although Eastern chemistry gets a lift with four Atlanta Hawks players together under their own head coach, it’s difficult to see them coming up trumps, even on a handicap of +2.5 at 1.91.
What we might not see is a repeat of last year’s record score that saw the East win 163-155. Look at taking under 199.5 total points as a safer bet.
Friday night brings the Rising Stars Challenge with a new format: USA versus the World. With more call-offs there, the global roster – priced at 2.45 for victory - looks much the stronger with Giannis Antetokounmpo a good shot for MVP honours at 8.00.
Best bet: Take the West on the handicap of -2.5 over the East in the All Star Game at 1.91