NBA All-Star Weekend Betting
Few events on the NBA calendar generate more excitement among fans and bettors alike than All-Star Weekend. An annual tradition since 1951, the league’s mid-season showcase has grown from a single exhibition game into a can’t-miss three-day event featuring concerts, celebrity games, and Hall of Fame announcements. At any given moment, you’re likely to see Justin Bieber posting up Kevin Hart, Beyonce belting out “Crazy in Love,” or Kevin Durant chatting amicably with Bill Russell.
The All-Star Game is still the weekend’s biggest attraction, but the Rising Stars Challenge, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, and Slam Dunk Competition routinely produce some of the most memorable moments. Ask any true fan and they’ll tell you exactly where they were when Larry Bird won the three-point shootout without even removing his warm-up jacket or how they felt when they witnessed Michael Jordan taking off from the free-throw line.
Sportsbooks have recently begun cashing in on the excitement of All-Star Weekend by allowing fans to bet on the various events. Here’s the lowdown on precisely what you can wager on, along with key tips to keep in mind before laying down your hard-earned cash.
NBA All-Star Game
How It Works: The NBA All-Star game is a high-octane, 48-minute affair showcasing the world’s best players. The game is divided into four, 12-minute quarters, and generally features more scoring than a Ron Jeremy film.
Beginning in 2018, the format of the NBA All-Star game changed from a matchup between top players from each conference to a competition between two squads drafted by the most popular player from each conference. Rather than East vs West, we now see match ups such as “Team Lebron vs Team Steph” or “Team Lebron vs Team Giannis.”
How to Bet: There are three primary ways to bet on the NBA All-Star Game: 1) picking against the spread, 2) selecting the over/under point total, or 3) choosing the MVP. Just make sure to lay your wagers at one of the best places to bet on NBA basketball.
When betting the spread, you are not picking an outright winner or an outright loser. Depending on whether you back the favorite or the underdog, the team you select must either win by a certain margin (favorite) or not lose by that same margin (underdog).
For instance, in 2019, many popular betting sites listed Team Lebron as -5.0 favorites and Team Giannis as +5.0 underdogs. If you bet on Lebron’s squad, they would have had to win by at least six points for you to successfully cover the spread and win your wager. Conversely, if you had picked Team Giannis, they would have needed to win outright or lose by four points or fewer for you to cover the spread.
Picking the over/under point total is even more straightforward. You simply have to choose whether the final score of the game will be higher (over) or lower (under) than the projected total established by the sportsbook. In 2019, most betting sites set the over/under at 315, and the final score of the game amounted to 342. Clearly, those who took the over cashed in with winning wagers.
Choosing the most valuable player is just a matter of selecting the one player from the 24 competitors that you think will win the award. Sportsbooks rank the players according to their chances and popularity, assigning odds that reflect their likelihood to win the event and attract betting action.
Unique Considerations: The first thing to know about the NBA All-Star Game is that it’s less of a basketball game and more of a 48-minute track meet. Players race up and down the court at breakneck speeds while displaying an almost pathological aversion to defense. Three-pointers are launched and full court alley-oops are tossed before the shot clock even has a chance to start ticking down. The game’s outrageous pace and high-scoring nature was especially evident in 2017 as the players combined for a record 374 points. By comparison, the average point total of a regular season NBA game in 2017 was 211.
How It Works: Each year, a select group of media cast their votes for the All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player immediately following the conclusion of the game. It’s worth noting that this award differs from the overall NBA MVP Award granted at the season’s end, and voters are supposed to consider only the impact each player has on the All-Star Game itself.
How to Bet:
Selecting just one MVP from such a star-studded group can be a challenge, but there are a few things to keep in mind. More often than not, the MVP is usually the top scorer on the winning team, they’re almost always a starter, and they’re typically a ballhandler. Since 1990, the award has been won by 18 guards, ten forwards, and four centers.
More often than not, the MVP is usually the top scorer on the winning team, they’re almost always a starter, and they’re typically a ballhandler.
Unique Considerations: There’s also a certain amount of bias that goes into selecting the game’s top player. Since 1987, a hometown player has won All-Star Game MVP seven times.
|1993||Salt Lake City||Karl Malone and John Stockton||Jazz|
|2004||Los Angeles||Shaquille O’Neal||Lakers|
|2011||Los Angeles||Kobe Bryant||Lakers|
|2017||New Orleans||Anthony Davis||Pelicans|
NBA Slam Dunk Contest
How It Works: The Slam Dunk Contest is the NBA’s annual FU to gravity. All four competitors get two dunks in the first round. The two players with the highest combined score advance to the finals, where they throw down two more jams each. The player with the highest combined score is then deemed the winner.
How to Bet: Select the one player from the Slam Dunk Competition’s four-man field that you think will win. Sportsbooks rank the players according to their chances and popularity, assigning odds that reflect their likelihood to win the event and attract betting action. In 2017, one popular betting site selected Magic power forward Aaron Gordon as their odds-on favorite at -110, meaning his implied probability to win the event was 52.4%. The eventual winner was Bucks reserve Glenn Robinson III, who was originally considered a longshot. Bodog gave him +900 odds, which carried only a 10% implied probability. Needless to say, odds for the Slam Dunk Contest should be taken with a grain of salt.
Unlike the All-Star Game, where every player is a household name, the Slam Dunk Contest usually features emerging players who have yet to make their mark in the league. In 2017, the four-man field featured Suns rookie Derrick Jones Jr., who had logged just 24 minutes in the NBA, and Bucks forward Glenn Robinson III, who had started just five games in his first two years in the league. The relative anonymity of players in the contest can make choosing a winner especially difficult.
Another factor that makes the Slam Dunk Contest a particularly risky bet is the fact that the event is judged by a panel of former players. Their personal bias (and in some cases relationships with the dunkers) can skew the results of the competition. In 2017, the panel featured five judges who had all played against Robinson’s father and had known the 6’6” Robinson III since he was smaller than Mugsy Bogues.
Fortunately, there are a few trends that bettors can count on regardless of who the competitors or judges are. For starters, shorter players generally fare very well, since their dunks inherently have a much higher level of difficulty. The 5’6” Spud Webb won the contest in 1986, as did 5’9” Nate Robinson in 2006, 2009, and 2010.
The dunker who wins the crowd usually wins the event.
The dunker who wins the crowd usually wins the event. This fact was evident in 2011, when Blake Griffin brought along his own choir and tabbed Kenny Smith as his hype man to whip the crowd into a frenzy. It was also apparent in 2008 when Dwight Howard became that rare big man to win the event after donning a Superman cape and literally flying through the air.
How It Works: An annual tradition since 1986, the Three-Point Contest is a two-round competition in which players have one minute to launch 25 shots from five designated spots behind the arc.
How to Bet:Select the one player from the Three-Point Contest’s eight-man field that you think will win. Sportsbooks rank the players according to their chances and popularity, assigning odds that reflect their likelihood to win the event and attract betting action. In 2017, one popular betting site selected Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson as their favorite at +110, meaning his implied probability to win the event was 47.6%. The eventual winner was Rockets gunner Eric Gordon, who was given +900 odds, which carried a 10% implied probability, just like Glenn Robinson III in the dunk contest. Clearly, you should not accept Three-Point Contest odds as a clear indication of which player is most likely to ultimately emerge victorious.
Unique Considerations:The Three-Point Contest is another notoriously difficult event to predict, as the event is often won by the shooter that gets hot at the right time. That was the case in 2017, when Gordon blew everyone away with an opening round of 25 points and a pair of 20-plus-point performances in the second round and overtime. The Rockets guard was considered something of a longshot at the time – he’s a career 37% three-point shooter and was hitting just 38.5% of his three-point attempts prior to the All-Star Break.
Although you should always expect the unexpected when betting the NBA All-Star Weekend,, there are some key indicators you should look for when handicapping the Thee Point Contest. The first thing to consider is mechanics. Players who have a consistent stroke and use a minimalist jumping motion tend remain fresh longer, allowing them to perform better than classic jump shooters. This was the case for Larry Bird from 1986-88, Peja Stojakovic from 2002-3, Dirk Nowitzki in 2006, and Kevin Love in 2012.
You should also consider a player’s past performance in the contest. Past performance is always the best predictor of future events. Look for players who have made it to the final round before. Finally, consider which player is the hottest shooter coming into the competition. Take a look at monthly splits and see which competitor has the highest three-point percentage in the months of January and February.
Rising Stars Challenge
How It Works: The best first and second-year players from America face off against the best first and second-year players from the rest of the world in a fast-paced and frantic 48-minute game.
How to Bet: Betting on the Rising Stars Challenge typically involves wagering on the game’s most valuable player. Select the player from the Rising Stars Challenge that you think will be named MVP. Sportsbooks rank the players according to their chances and popularity, assigning odds that reflect their likelihood to win the event and attract betting action. In 2017, one popular betting site selected Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns as their odds-on favorite at +250, meaning his implied probability to win the event was 28.7%. The eventual winner was Nuggets rookie Jamal Murray, who was given +2000 odds, which carried a 4.8% implied probability.
Unique Considerations: The Rising Stars Challenge has undergone more facelifts than Mickey Rourke. The game was introduced in 1994 as the Rookie Challenge and featured only first-year players until 2000 when the NBA tweaked the format to include the league’s best rookies and sophomores. The format was altered again in 2015 to feature the best first and second-year US-born players against the best first and second-year foreign-born players.
Since 2000, a sophomore has won the Rising Stars Challenge MVP award 11 times, making them a far better bet than the rookies.
Since 2000, a sophomore has won the Rising Stars Challenge MVP award 11 times, making them a far better bet than the rookies. Second-year players are generally stronger, savvier, and more accustomed to the pace of the game than their younger counterparts.
You may also want to keep in mind that Team World has beaten Team USA in two of the last three years, giving them a slight upper hand in the competition. Foreign players in their first and second year are often older than their American peers and often began playing professionally in their teens.
How It Works: Introduced in 2003, the Skills Challenge is a three-round obstacle course competition that tests passing, dribbling, and three-point-shooting skills. Think of it as Wipeout for mutants.
How to Bet: Select the one player from the Skills Challenge’s eight-man field that you think will win. Sportsbooks rank the players according to their chances and popularity, assigning odds that reflect their likelihood to win the event and attract betting action. In 2017, one popular betting site selected Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas as their favorite at +200, meaning his implied probability to win the event was 33.3%. The eventual winner was Knicks unicorn Kristaps Porzingis, who was given +1200 odds, which carried a 7.7% implied probability.
Unique Considerations: The Skills Challenge was formerly reserved for fleet-footed ballhandlers, but that changed in 2016, when frontcourt players were invited to compete for the first time in a new bracket-style tournament. Many scoffed at the thought of seven-foot behemoths dribbling around pylons and lofting threes, but these skeptics had their minds blown when Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (7’0”) put on an expert passing and shooting clinic to win the event. The big guys came out on top again in 2017 when Kristaps Porzingis defeated Utah’s Gordon Hayward in the final round.
It’s easy to dismiss the big men winning once as a fluke, but two wins in two years is starting to feel like a trend. Keep your mind open when deciding who to bet on in the Skills Challenge, and don’t dismiss the pivots. Their size and strength are far from their only skills.
Start Betting this NBA All-Star Weekend
All-Star Weekend can be an excellent introduction to the world of NBA betting. If you’re looking for an overview of basketball betting more generally, visit our NBA betting primer this article to get a primer on NBA betting to learn how to make your very first wager.
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