With lineups set for NBA All-Star 2017 Weekend, participants were announced for the State Farm Saturday Night events.
Players are eyeing the break in the calendar with the NBA All-Star 2017 Weekend set to take place in New Orleans on February 17th – 19th. Perhaps this scribe is biased, but the 2016 event was arguably the best in All-Star history. Stars will have their work cut out to equal the overall show delivered in Toronto. Here’s the full list of participants:
NBA All-Star 2017 Taco Bell Skills Challenge:
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Last year in Toronto this event got a major revamp. In the tweaked format the NBA capitalized on the ever expanding glut of mobile big men pitting them against guards. The new format was highly entertaining with the big men seemingly taking it more serious than the guards. No doubt home town Pelican’s star Anthony Davis will want to put on a show. Or could ‘The Process’ look to make a statement to get a leg up to position himself entry in next season’s All-Star Sunday Game.
While the bigs tend to be more entertaining to watch in this competition, will the guards look to reclaim their title in an event they should dominate? If based strictly on talent, John Wall should be the favorite given his speed and ball handling prowess.
Although the slam dunk event is considered the marquee event the past few seasons it’s the three-point competition which has offered more intrigue. In Toronto, the Splash Brothers went at each other with Thompson prevailing. And, if it weren’t for LaVine and Gordon delivering the best dunk competition since Vince Carter they may have been the highlight of Saturday night.
Klay Thompson of the Warriors is the defending champion. Thompson looks to repeat in the event for the first time since Jason Kapono did so in 2007-08. His 3-point shooting efficiency is 40.4% this season.
Kyle Lowry of the Raptors leads the NBA in 4-point plays this season and has the highest three-point shooting efficiency in the competition at 42.1% percent.
Kemba Walker of the Hornets brings a three-point shooting efficiency of 40.2% percent to the competition.
Eric Gordon has reinvented himself with the Rockets and brings a three-point shooting efficiency of 38.5% percent to the competition.
C.J. McCollum and Blazers teammate Damian Lillard may be feeling the All-Star snub and could be the dark horse in the competition. McCollum has a three-point shooting efficiency of 42.0% percent.
Kyrie Irving won the event in 2013, and makes his fourth appearance. The Cavaliers star has a three-point shooting efficiency of 39.5% percent.
Wes Matthews of the Mavericks is a shooter who doesn’t need to dribble into his shot, unlike Lowry, Walker or McCollum. That said he brings the lowest three-point shooting efficiency of 38.3% percent to the competition.
Nick Young of the Lakers brings his ‘Swaggy P’ swagger to the three-point event and boasts a shooting efficiency of 41.9% percent.
NBA All-Star 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Competition:
Aaron Gordon – is the prohibitive favorite this year after arguably winning in Toronto. At the very least, he had the most exciting dunk of the night when he jumped over the Magic mascot and put the ball under both legs. Although the Orlando Magic forward has struggled to meet expectations on court his athleticism is undeniable.
The show Gordon and winner Zach LaVine delivered in Toronto rivaled the year Vince Carter shut down L.A. Gordon will be the odds on favorite to win. The only question is whether any of his rivals can elevate the competition to the same level as Gordon did for LaVine did last year.
Glenn Robinson III The Pacers guard is the son of former NBA great Glenn Robinson. Definitely the underdog in the field.
Derrick Jones Jr. has the distinction of playing only 11 minutes in total for the Suns varsity team. But the youngster has hops and may present the biggest challenge for Gordon.
DeAndre Jordan at 6’11 and 280 lbs the Clippers Jordan represents the lone big man in the field. Jordan leads the league with 152 dunks this season.
Oklahoma City Thunder players in action in NOLA:
Two Oklahoma City Thunder players will head to New Orleans to participate in the NBA 2017 All-Star Weekend. Russell Westbrook who was shockingly left off the starting lineup thanks to fan votes made the reserve squad.
It will be interesting to see if he attempts to three-peat as All-Star M.V.P or simply lays back and rests his weary body. Hard to believe Westbrook wouldn’t take a shot, but with 4 Warriors on the squad, Steve Kerr coaching and home town Pelicans fan Anthony Davis vying for the award, he may not get the chance.
Also participating is Thunder rookie Domantas Sabonis in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night. It’s unlikely Sabonis will be in the ruing to win MVP of this game given both Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns will likely be vying to prove why they should have been selected to play in the big game Sunday.
In previous seasons the All-Star break lasted approximately five or six days for most teams. That was until LeBron James complained and the Association responded to its figurehead star. Starting in 2014-15 the break was extended to a full week (or in most cases eight days), so the All-Stars themselves could get a few extra days off.
This season 28 teams will play on Wednesday, February 15th with just 2 teams idle. Thursday February 16th the 2 inactive teams from the night prior (Wizards and Bulls) play along with the Celtics and Pacers.
Following NBA All-Star 2017 weekend teams continue their break with 12 teams returning to action after a week off on Thursday February 23rd and the remainder (including the Thunder) after an 8-day break on Friday, February 24th.
Surviving the dog days of winter is always challenging, but for teams like the Thunder the brief respite, can’t come soon enough. As frustrating as the Enes Kanter injury was, the fact eight days of his recovery comes during the All-Star break is oddly fortunate. Kanter broke his arm January 26th, had surgery the following day and was projected to miss between a month to 6-weeks.
Most reports have Kanter earmarked to return March 8th which would be the lengthier 6-week term. Hopefully the Turkish big man proves to be a quick healer and returns sooner. Fortunately the Thunder hold a six game lead over eighth place.
That said, ideally the Thunder’s goal is to finish higher up the ladder, somewhere between 4th and 6th. Prior to Kanter’s chair battle the prospect of making up ground on the Clippers was realistic. Now the goal will be to do everything possible to catch the Grizzlies (a half game ahead) while staying within reach of the Jazz and Clippers (2.5 games ahead).
Inexplicably this under manned OKC group has hung tight behind the cyborg efforts of Russell Westbrook. They keep winning games they seemingly have no right to versus teams with more talent and depth on their rosters.
For now the goal is to reach February 16th without losing ground on the teams in front of them. With six games remaining before the break it represents arguably the toughest test of the season. Three of those teams are on 5 and 6-game win streaks as well as both conference leaders.
Though remaining focused for the next 12-days is key, one date certainly won’t require any added inspiration. That of course is February 11th when a certain forward returns to the Peake sporting a different jersey for the first time since the franchise’s inception.
And while Westbrook might not end up playing much in the actual big game All-Star weekend, this date might matter more to him anyway. Guaranteed it will for Thunder fans!