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The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

All-Star Saturday Predictions: Young Stars Shine Bright

It’s that wonderful time of the year again: NBA All-Star Weekend. Charlotte will be buzzing and Spectrum Center will be packed with celebrities, fans, and the world’s best basketball players.

The All-Star weekend officially started last night with the Rising Stars Challenge as Team USA beat Team World 161-144 with Kyle Kuzma earning MVP honors. The festivities continue tonight with All-Star Saturday featuring the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest, and the Slam Dunk Contest. The weekend then comes to a close on Sunday night as Team LeBron plays against Team Giannis in the NBA All-Star Game.

The fan favorite day of the weekend is All-Star Saturday based off the excitement and incredible skills showed off by players whether it be draining threes, making crisp passes, or dunking the roof out of the arena. With that being said, here’s what to expect from tonight’s events.

Skills Challenge

Participants: G Luka Doncic, G De’Aaron Fox, G Trae Young, G Mike Conley, C Nikola Jokic, C Nikola Vucevic, F Jayson Tatum, F Kyle Kuzma

Predicted Winner: G De’Aaron Fox

A widely underrated event, the Skills Challenge tests a player’s ability to pass, shoot, and dribble. The event features four guards and four big men with a guard usually winning the contest. However, this year’s Skills Challenge is definitely an “anyone can win” contest. Rookies Trae Young and Luka Doncic occupy the pool of guards along with speed demon De’Aaron Fox and veteran Mike Conley. Don’t sleep on the bigs however, with versatile players in Nikola Jokic, Nikola Vucevic, Jayson Tatum, and Kyle Kuzma.

For the bigs, I’m liking Nikola Jokic and see him making the finals. Often, competitors waste time on the passing section of the course, but, Jokic has showcased all year that he’s one of the best passers in the league and it will be no different tonight. Equipped with a set of handles and an accurate shot, Jokic is a dark horse to win this event.

For the guards, I’m loving De’Aaron Fox’s chance to take the trophy. Playing the best basketball of his life, Fox has been blazing by defenders all season and knocking down jumper after jumper. Speed is a huge factor in this challenge and there’s no one else in the field even close to as fast as Fox. He could miss a shot or pass, but his speed will keep him at pace with the others, so I’ve got Fox winning the Skills Challenge.

3-Point Contest

Participants: G Stephen Curry, G Buddy Hield, G Seth Curry, G Damian Lillard, G Devin Booker, G Danny Green, G Kemba Walker, F Joe Harris, F Khris Middleton, F Dirk Nowitzki

Predicted Winner: G Stephen Curry

An event featuring the deadliest shooters in the NBA, the 3-Point challenge is going to be dripping wet. This event is already set to be a fan favorite as both the Curry brothers are competing as well as former contest winner Dirk Nowitzki and first time participant Danny Green.

Out of all these shooters, underdog Joe Harris is the leader in three point field goal percentage and No. 2 in the league on the season with 47.1%. Harris is vastly underrated as his shooting from deep has been a huge contribution to the Nets’ success. My prediction to win this event, however, sits No.6  in three point field goal percentage with 44.4%. Who you ask? No other than Stephen Curry.

Yes, I know; everyone thinks Stephen is going to win and you were hoping I said someone else, but Steph is just too accurate to count him out. One possession, he’ll pull up from half court with ease and drain it, and then later he’ll throw a ball up, get fouled, and still make it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we’re witnessing the greatest shooter of all time and as long as he’s giving his best effort, he’ll win this contest with ease.

Dunk Contest

Participants: F John Collins, F Miles Bridges, G Hamidou Diallo, G Dennis Smith Jr.

Predicted Winner: F John Collins

Although it may not include any stars, i’m loving the selection of players in the most highly anticipated event of the night. All are fresh faces in the NBA and have jaw dropping bounce. It’s more than bound to be an electrifying contest that could topple all past contests.

For tonight, Dennis Smith Jr. is by far the player to keep an eye on. Being the shortest one in the pool at 6’3”, Smith Jr. has the most room for impressive dunks. Since high school, his unreal athletic dunks have made him a guard you don’t want driving right towards you. I’m expecting many celebrities and players to jump out of their seats for him. However, my pick for tonight’s dunk contest has got to be John Collins.

Standing tall at 6’10” with a 6’11” wingspan, Collins is going to utilize his reach for some incredibly acrobatic slams. A max vertical leap of 37.5 inches, Collin’s athleticism combined with his body frame makes up for a human highlight reel. Just last night, Collins threw down a powerful self alley-oop and then later slammed an insane 360-degree lob. The kid is an absolute monster and he’ll be doing big things tonight, taking the slam dunk crown and dropping jaws in the process.

-Mateo Gutierrez

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