NBA All-Star Weekend picks and best bets


An action-packed NBA All-Star weekend begins Friday night and continues Saturday at 8 p.m. 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 p.m. ET.

So who are the players and teams to bet on this year? Which events should you stay away from? And which longshots could be worth a look?

Here are ESPN’s betting experts Doug Kezirian, Andr√© Snellings and Eric Moody to offer up who they are looking at 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 a half-court shot is involved, I am tempted to take any longshot. However, that comes into play in the final round with the last two remaining teams. Given that, I will take Team Jazz. The Antetokounmpo brothers have limited shooting skills and the rookies are also fairly limited. 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. have also shown off their athleticism frequently this season. It takes teamwork to win the skills challenge, and despite not being on the same team, the trio is very skilled, has adequate speed and ballhandling skills, and can shoot well enough to win the final round. Team Rookies is well-positioned to win Saturday night at Vivint Arena.

Snellings: I’ll 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 point for the Magic. That’s two players who should thrive in all aspects of pass/dribble/shoot. And quietly, Smith Jr. is one of the best pure long-range shooters in the game, which is a strong kicker in this sort 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 Herro (+750)
Julius Randle: (+950)

Kezirian: Honestly, each guy has a chance to win. All have relatively easy motions and are capable of getting hot. I just cannot pull the trigger on any particular guy. I do not want Herro or Haliburton so I would take Tatum at +700 just because it has a large payout, if I had to take one person, because he has been vocal about his desire to win. However, it’s hard to think anyone is not. This would purely be a recreational bet.

Moody: I’d bet on Markkanen to win the 3-point contest on his home floor in Utah if you are looking for an under-the-radar option. He’s 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 off his versatility and won the contest as a betting longshot. At 6-foot-11, Towns became one of the tallest players to do so. The 7-foot Markkanen should not be overlooked by bettors.

Snellings: I’ll go Lillard. He has been stuck in flamethrower mode for more than a month now, and if he’s still on that energy I can see him taking it. Honorable mention to Hield as well. When I looked at the names in the field without considering odds, those were the two that 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 do think Martin has some value. Sims is 6-foot-10 and sometimes taller players have difficulty impressing judges. Granted, Obi Toppin won last year and other bigs have also won. However, for the most part, wing players typically turn in dunks that are perceived as more acrobatic. At 6-foot-7, Martin has the perfect frame and seemingly glides on every dunk. Plus, judges may enjoy Martin’s lineage.

Moody: McClung is one of the biggest wild cards for the slam dunk contest. After signing a two-way league contract earlier this week, the 24-year-old was called up to the 76ers roster the other day. His highlight reel dunks 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 contest that lacks star power, he will bring some unique ideas. McClung is the one I would bet on.

Snellings: 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 a legacy kid, and I feel like he finds a way to get his dad into the mix and build crowd buzz; and he’s the most impressive in-game dunker of the group as well. McClung is the wild card, but he’s also the shortest and the one who relies on the spectacular. I feel like KMart Jr. is the more reliable option and the one more likely to land his dunks without a lot of misses.

All-Star Game

Team Giannis (+3, +130, 325.5 o/u)
Team LeBron (-3, -155)

Kezirian: I cannot bet on this without knowing the rosters. We only know the captains. Plain and simple.

Moody: Antetokounmpo’s sprained wrist makes his status in the All-Star game unclear. Because of this, I’d 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.

Snellings: I’m not touching Team Giannis vs. Team LeBron until we know who is actually on each team.

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