It’s been a controversial few months in the United States of America. The country stands divided with Donald Trump in the White House, and while it’s no question he won the presidential election, he didn’t win the popular vote (voter fraud investigation notwithstanding).
Joel Embiid can relate – sort of. The big man got the popular vote for this year’s NBA All-Star game (February 19th), meaning his place in the lineup should have been automatic, but Embiid didn’t even crack the roster.
And that’s not the only controversy surrounding this year’s event. To the surprise of many, Russell Westbrook wasn’t named a starter, but a reserve.
And we can’t forget about why the game is in New Orleans for the second time in three years. It was originally slated to be played in Charlotte, North Carolina, but because of controversy surrounding the state’s “bathroom bill”, the league pulled the game out of the city and moved it to Louisiana.
With the event not for another few weeks, the league is likely hoping fans will forget about all that and focus on what an All-Star weekend is really about: showcasing the game through the league’s top talent.
Here are a few odds.
2017 NBA All-Star Odds:
Odds on who was the biggest snub:
Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers: 3/2
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia: 2/1
Rudy Gobert, Utah: 7/2
How could the number one player in Real Plus Minus be left off the team? Not to mention the fact Chris Paul has also helped carry the Clippers through the season without Blake Griffin. Granted, he has a broken thumb and might not be able to play in the All-Star game, but he’s still be one of the best players in the league so far this year.
Joel Embiid sits a close second on the snub list. As mentioned, Embiid won the popular vote, but didn’t even make it on the team! However, basketball is a team sport and the 76ers aren’t great. Embiid is also young and has years of All-Star weekends ahead of him.
Last but not least, Rudy Gobert. The simple fact that he plays in a small market may be enough reason for his non-selection, or is it? Hard to argue sending a guy who is has shown consistency day in and day out this season and hasn’t missed a game due to injury.
Player most likely to get a triple-double:
Lebron James, Cleveland: 2/1
Russell Westbrook, OKC: 5/2
James Harden, Houston: 9/2
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee: 7/1
Kevin Durant, Golden State: 15/1
It’s hard to score a triple-double in a regular season game, let alone one you hardly play in. Since it’s “for the fans”, starters and reserves share the court time but I can’t imagine that if someone is on track to getting a triple-double, they would be sitting on the bench.
So far this season, Russell Westbrook has an astounding 23 triple-doubles, so I have no clue how he wasn’t voted in as a starter. He is a reserve, though, and could see enough court time to make magic happen.
Lebron also has the hot hand these days, having just recently recorded his fourth triple-double against the Kings, tying him for most against a single opponent.
Player likely to score most points:
James Harden, Houston: 7/2
Stephen Curry, Golden State: 4/1
Lebron James, Cleveland: 9/2
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland: 5/1
Russell Westbrook, OKC: 17/3
James Harden is always putting up points. He sits second in the league behind only Russell Westbrook. But with Westbrook voted in as a reserve, Harden may just get the extra court time he needs to drain the most shots. In saying that, all five of the above players have put up some sort of ridiculous numbers this season, so it really is anyone’s game.
Players likely to win the Slam Dunk contest:
Aaron Gordon, Orlando: 2/1
Andrew Wiggins, Minnestoa: 4/1
Terrence Ross, Toronto: 5/1
Larry Nance Jr., L.A. Lakers: 7/1
Jonathon Simmons, San Antonio: 11/1
Vince Carter, Memphis: 50/1
The list hasn’t been released, but if these guys are on it, this is how I see it playing out.
While he would be my number one, two-time defending slam dunk champ Zach LaVine has reportedly declined his invite to this year’s event. That means there will be no epic rematch between LaVine and Aaron Gordon, and no three-peat for LaVine.
That opens the door for Gordon, who many believed was robbed of the title last year. What he put on display in 2016 was impressive. Looking forward to seeing what moves he reveals this year.
And finally, you can’t round out a Slam Dunk contest list without Vince Carter. He’s a legend in the event after his 2000 performance and is considered one of the best dunkers the league has ever seen. Even Carter has said participating would be possible, although he was quick to add he probably wouldn’t win.
Players who didn’t make it this year but will next year:
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia: 3/2
Rudy Gobert, Utah: 3/1
Damian Lillard, Portland: 4/1
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks: 15/1
D’Angelo Russell, L.A. Lakers: 15/1
As mentioned, Embiid is young, and after falling short this year, will likely be a shoo-in for next year. Same goes for Gobert.
Damian Lillard is another player who could have made the team. He has been a point-scoring machine this year, and as long as he and CJ McCollum continue to improve, the Blazers will only get better and earn more respect from the rest of the league.
Finally, Kristaps Porzingis and D’Angelo Russell are both early in their NBA careers but are already showing signs of being future stars for their respective teams.
Photo credit: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/official-nhl-expansion-draft-exempt-list-contains-surprises/