Sunday, Mar. 7 is our last shot at NBA DFS until Wednesday’s two-game slate. If you are looking for an escape from spring cleaning this weekend, then we’ve got you covered. In addition to this article, check out Awesemo’s All-Star Game projections, which will be posted Sunday afternoon. Let’s dive into the DraftKings and FanDuel NBA All-Star Picks
NBA DFS Building Blocks: NBA All-Star Sunday | March 7
Sunday will be a unique version of NBA All-Star Weekend. In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, the standard events will be taking place on the same day. This includes the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest, All-Star Game and during halftime of the marquee event, the Dunk Contest. Though players have been named to the Rising Stars Challenge, that event will not take place this season.
The Skills Challenge will get the exhibition started at 6:30 p.m. ET with the usual format. Luka Doncic and Chris Paul are the favorites, and the field is rounded out by Domantas Sabonis, Julius Randle, Nikola Vucevic, and Robert Covington.
At the conclusion of the Skills Challenge, the 3-Point Contest will commence. Reigning champion Buddy Hield is not participating this year. Stephen Curry, who won this event in 2014, is the odds-on favorite. Zach LaVine, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and replacement Mike Conley will be the other participants. This will be the eighth contest for Curry and the third for LaVine. Everyone else is a first-timer.
In a unique twist, the Dunk Contest will be taking place during halftime of the All-Star Game. There will be just three participants this year. Anfernee Simons, Obi Toppin, and Cassius Stanley. Most avid fans will be familiar with Simons, who is a third-year wing for the Trail Blazers. Toppin, of course, has name recognition as the eighth player selected in the most recent NBA Draft, playing for the Knicks. Dookies will be familiar with rookie Cassius Stanley who was selected by Indiana in one of the final picks of the 2020 Draft.
Obi Toppin is by far the tallest of the competitors at 6’9″ and while we have seen taller players far well in this event over the years, it is the “shorter” players that seem to get a little more love from the crowd and even the judges. The audience will be very limited in Atlanta with no general fans gaining admission. Anfernee Simons is 6’3″ and while he has some hops, he does not see many in-game dunks. The wildcard will be the Pacers rookie. Even though Stanley has seen action in only eight games, he was a marvel at the NBA Draft Combine, where he posted a 44″ vertical, which is a top-three mark over the last twenty years. Here is a post from the Duke Chronicle with a video of Zion Williamson setting the Blue Devils record only to have it surpassed one year later.
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NBA All-Star Game
The crown jewel of the NBA midseason exhibition is, of course, the All-Star Game. This will be the 70th edition, and for the fourth time, LeBron James has been named as one of the Captains. Kevin Durant received the second most votes trailing only James, so he will be the other captain ending a two-year run by Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The NBA All-Star draft was completed on Thursday, with LeBron making the first selection. While he is one of the captains, Durant (hamstring) will not be participating in the game, and Jayson Tatum has been named as his replacement in the starting lineup, with Domantas Sabonis selected as his replacement on the Team Durant roster.
UPDATE per Adrian Wojnarowski: Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were in contact with a barber who tested positive for COVID-19 in Philadelphia and are RULED OUT for today’s All-Star Game. Zion Williamson will be replacing Embiid as a starter. Source Tweet
- Starters: Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Jayson Tatum
- Reserves: James Harden, Zach LaVine, Ben Simmons, Jaylen Brown, Julius Randle, Domantas Sabonis, Nikola Vucevic
- Injured: Kevin Durant who was replaced by Domantas Sabonis on the roster and by Jayson Tatum as a starter
- Starters: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, and Nikola Jokic
- Reserves: Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul, Mike Conley Jr., Paul George, Zion Williamson, and Rudy Gobert
- Injured: Anthony Davis, who was replaced by Devin Booker, who has been replaced by Mike Conley Jr.
For the second year, the game will be using the “Elam” format, which has been employed to spice things up a bit. Each of the first three quarters will be scored as individual games. Each team has designated a charity that will receive a donation for each quarter that their team wins. After three quarters have been played, the scores will all be added together. A target score will be calculated by adding 24 points (in honor of Kobe Bryant) to the leading team’s score.
Previous Box Scores
2020: Team LeBron 157 – Team Giannis 155 click here
2019: Team LeBron 178 – Team Giannis 164 click here
2018: Team LeBron 148 – Team Stephen 145 click here
2017: West 192 – East 182 click here
2016: West 196 – East 173 click here
2015: West 163 – East 158 click here
Narrative Connections to Atlanta
While there will not be fans in attendance who can sway things for any “hometown” players, it is still fun to see who has ties to the host city.
Jayson Tatum CORRECTION Jaylen Brown was born just outside of Atlanta and played his high school ball in Marietta, which is just outside the Georgia capital. Luka Doncic, of course, was part of a trade between the Mavericks and Hawks for Trae Young and a first-round draft pick. Finally, we have Mike Conley Jr., who will be an All-Star for the first tie in his fourteen NBA seasons.
Premium Subscribers click here for NBA All-Star player projections. These will be live Sunday afternoon.
We know that not a lot of defense is played in these exhibitions unless the game is close in the last few minutes. Most of the players do not want to make each other look bad, nor do they want to expend the extra energy or risk injury.
The starters and particularly the captains tend to play the most minutes. Reserves and BIGs tend to draw the short straw. With Durant out, it will be interesting to see how things play out for his squad. My guess is that Jayson Tatum,
with his ties to Georgia and as the KD replacement, may get the edge. CORRECTION Jaylen Brown was born just outside of Atlanta, I still like Tatum as a potential minutes leader. Especially with Joel Embiid (health and safety) being ruled out.
Generally, blocks are limited, and steals have mostly been a byproduct of errant passes. However, last year with the newly introduced ending format as well as a prize going to charity each quarter, we did see actual defense, and even late in the game, Kyle Lowry was trying to take charges. It will be interesting to see if that continues or if it was just an aberration.
- 2020: 14 blocks, 25 steals
- 2019: Seven blocks, 17 steals
- 2018: Eight blocks, 20 steals
- 2017: Two blocks, 32 steals
- 2016: Two blocks, 31 steals
- 2015: Two blocks, 32 steals
Only three times in the last six years has a team shot less than 50% from the field. During this stretch, there have been 18 double-doubles and one triple-double (Kevin Durant 21-10-10 in 2017, though technically, James Harden got there as well with 12-7-12 and 10 turnovers). Players seem to be just as likely to get double-doubles with rebounds or assists to go with their points.
First-timers often get the short shrift on minutes. Last year none of the eight newbies saw more than 20 minutes, and this included starters Trae Young and Luka Doncic. This year Zion Williamson, Jaylen Brown, Julius Randle, and Mike Conley Jr. are making their debut, so it may be harder to pinpoint who is going to see lower minutes. Additionally, with the “untimed” final quarter, it is hard to allocate specific playing time, but it makes sense the “biggest stars” will see the lion’s share.
Team LeBron NBA DFS Picks
Team LeBron will be led by first-time coach Quin Snyder and his staff from the Utah Jazz.
LeBron James: This is his fourth go-around as the captain and his 17th All-Star Game appearance. We know what we are getting here.
Giannis Antetkounmpo: The two-time reigning NBA MVP saw his two-year run as a Captain in this event come to an end. In a savvy move, LeBron made him the first overall selection of the draft. Is this a manufactured narrative – you bet it is, so let’s have some fun!
Luka Donic: In his second All-Star appearance, Doncic will also be taking part in the Skills Challenge. This should not have an impact on him at all, and his all-around game bodes well for playing time in the final frame.
Stephen Curry: The long-range marksman is perfect for All-Star games with his unlimited range.
Nikola Jokic: Last year in his second All-Star Game, Jokic saw 12 minutes off the bench with five points, two rebounds, an assist, and a steal. Two seasons ago, in his debut, he saw 13 minutes with six points and nine rebounds. As a starter, he should see 16-17 minutes, but with so many players boasting more quickness, even his superb all-around game may not get him in the closing unit.
Chris Paul: This will be the 11th All-Star appearance for Paul, who has received the honor for a second consecutive season after not being selected between 2016 and 2019. Last year he played significant minutes and was a key contributor down the stretch.
Damian Lillard: Last year, a groin injury cost Lillard the opportunity to take part in the mid-season exhibition, and he was replaced by Devin Booker. Similar to Curry, Lillard has a limitless range, and he is excellent at getting to the rack. This makes him an intriguing option where some may shy away from.
Ben Simmons: Last year in his second appearance, Simmons was crucial down the stretch when the Elam ending changed things up and had both sides actually trying hard on defense. Even off the bench, it would not be a surprise to see him vying for the most minutes on Team LeBron.
Paul George: After a one-year absence, George is back for his seventh All-Star Game. As a key defender with an all-around offensive game, it would not be a surprise to see him closing over Jokic for the Elam endgame.
Domantas Sabonis: This will be the second appearance for Sabonis, who was chosen as the Eastern Conference replacement for Kevin Durant. With the duplication of his size and skillset across Team LeBron, he will likely be on the short-end of the playing time allocation. He is a fine mix and match option who could still flirt with a double-double in limited minutes.
Jaylen Brown: This has been a tough season for Brown, who has been dealing with a few different nagging injuries. That compiled with him being a first-timer have me thinking something in the fifteen-minute range will be where his playing time settles.
Rudy Gobert: The Stifle Tower will be making his second appearance in an All-Star Game. Unfortunately, he will be losing out to Jokic for the frontcourt minutes, and his limited offensive game likely will keep him with potentially fewer minutes than budding star Zion Williamson.
Team Durant NBA DFS Picks
Team Durant will be led by third-time coach Doc Rivers and his staff from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Kyrie Irving: After missing last year’s festivities, Irving is back in the All-Star Game for the seventh time. His teammate and buddy Durant used his first pick on him, which bodes well for his minutes. Of course, the mercurial Irving could easily become disinterested or distracted at any time. Caveat Emptor!
Kawhi Leonard: Last year, we did see Leonard play more minutes than he typically has in this exhibition. This will be his fourth appearance in the last seven seasons. This year for the first time since his San Antonio days he has been playing back-to-back games. With his defensive ability and the new ending format, it would not be a surprise to see Leonard with 24-25 minutes. Last year he was heavily involved in the untimed fourth quarter.
Bradley Beal: This marks the third time Beal has been honored after being snubbed last season. Currently, he is leading the league in scoring with 32.9 points per game which is 2.7 more than Joel Embiid.
Joel Embiid: This will be his fourth time as a starter, having received this honor in his last three appearances as well. Defense and a strong inside-out game have Embiid on the shortlist to see upwards of 20 minutes in the revamped format. Last year he had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and a double-double is once again in play.
Jayson Tatum: This will be the second appearance for Tatum, who made his midseason debut last year. He moved into the starting lineup to replace the injured Durant. Last year he saw the second-fewest minutes off the bench for Team LeBron, but he should see around 20 as a starter Sunday.
James Harden – No stranger to this event, with this year marking his ninth time in the midseason classic. The last six times he was a starter, however, with nine, 13, 13, nine, 12, and 12 3-point attempts. He should still flirt with double-digit attempts from the bench and is a candidate to close out the game.
Donovan Mitchell: Last year in his debut, Mitchell was not afraid to look for his shot with ten field goal attempts in 14 minutes off the bench. We know he can handle the ball in a pinch and is a good scorer and outside shooter. This season, he is 18th in the league with 24.7 points per game, and he is converting his 8.7 3-point attempts at a 38.2% rate.
Mike Conley Jr.: There is a decent chance that Conley actually sees 15-16 minutes as a reserve since he is the most tenured veteran making his first All-Star appearance of his career. For the last few seasons, his name has been brought up as someone who may never appear in the midseason classic, despite a lengthy and distinguished career. Sadly his coach Quin Synder will be patrolling the sideline for Team LeBron.
Zion Williamson: Lack of a crowd and a strong outside game will likely have the 2020 Rookie of the Year runner up logging around a dozen minutes. Update: making lemonade out of lemons, Zion will be moving into the starting lineup. Who knows what this means for his minutes, last year youngsters Luka Doncic and Trae Young each started for their respective squads and combined for just over 33 minutes.
Julius Randle: This is the first midseason accolade for the seventh year forward. Randle is deserving of this honor after helping turn around a sketchy New York squad by playing heavy minutes all season. He is not going to get them tonight, but he should at least be productive in his 13-14 minutes on the court.
Zach LaVine: Despite being a two-time Dunk Contest champion and participating in the 3-Point Contest for a second straight season, this is LaVine’s first All-Star nomination. While there are fewer debutants this year than most, this group will see lighter minutes. LaVine is great on offense and shaky on defense which normally would not matter in this exhibition. However, as mentioned several times in this article, the Elam ending seems to potentially have changed things for the better. It will be tough for LaVine to top 17 minutes on Sunday.
Nikola Vucevic: Vooch should be able to hoist a few three and corral some rebounds, but as articulated several times in this analysis, it is highly improbable that centers see significant minutes.
This is a fun event, and there is a little bit of an edge if you have read this far. For those of you wondering, Terry “TMcB” McBride and I will be anchoring a special episode of NBA All-Star Live Before Lock show on the Awesemo YouTube channel beginning at 7:00 p.m. EST Sunday for all of the up-to-date information.
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