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  • NBA All-Star Weekend can create momentum that carries over to the season. Because this can have a long-lasting effect, the Open Floor podcast tries to forecast the next big winner.
By Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver
February 16, 2018

For players who step out on the All-Star Weekend stage, a good showing can create momentum that carries over for the rest of the season. And more often than not, the winner of All-Star Weekend often comes from the skills events, not the actual All-Star Game. With that in mind, the latest Open Floor Podcast episode tries to forecast who the next great star of the weekend will be. 

Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. (The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity).


Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Andrew Sharp: The last thing I wrote down is All-Star Weekend in general. Let's start here: Who do you think is going to be the standout performer this weekend?

Ben Golliver: Look, I went a little loose lips on the last podcast, took some real wild shots at the Mountain Time Zone. I don't know if I should have done that. There wasn't really a lot of thought there. 

Sharp: Those are also your people. That's your base. 

Golliver: Yeah, maybe that's why I'm feeling guilty about it. Long story short, let's just say I think Donovan Mitchell might be the one who's coming out of this. 

Sharp: You think so? Here's my worry with Donovan Mitchell. He's probably the best in-game dunker we have right now, but what makes his dunks great is his power. He looks like he's trying to tear the rim down. That does not play as well in a dunk contest setting. I'm worried that he's not going to be creative enough to really sell it on All-Star Saturday night. 

Golliver: He's adidas family, right? He's stripes. So theoretically he's had some text message conversations with Damian Lillard, who can give him the Dunk Contest experience. If I'm adidas, I'm trying to locate a breakaway rim. Get it up there, tamper with the hoop, have Donovan Mitchell corkscrew dunk and just tear the rim off—automatic 10s will come, the biggest night in dunk contest history. I'm certainly considering that. I mean, adidas has had its fair share of ethical lapses here in the last 12 months, so this would be small potatoes. 

Sharp: But they've served them well, OK. Adidas is like the hottest product on the street right now. I guess... I don't know... Neither one of us are cool. 

Golliver: You're the fashion consultant over. Look, I think he's got a shot at it because the guy flies at the rim like a scud missile and I don't really like the rest of the dunk contest field, and usually the winner comes from the dunk contest, right? Either that or everybody says the whole weekend's a bust because there wasn't a good dunk contest. I don't really see Nance being a great dunk contest guy. 

Sharp: He's a legacy entry, though. 

Golliver: Oh, we give points for that now? You East Coast guys, you really believe in legacy. Out here in Pacifica we believe in doing it yourself. But, getting back to the topic, I don't think the dunk contest field is an A+, and I think Mitchell does have the benefit of a lot of momentum. He'll be getting a lot of the corny commentary during the dunk contest. They'll be hyping him up as a Rookie of the Year, get in on him now guys, he's the new NBA star. They're going to be doing that pretty thoroughly, and that can matter. 

Sharp: I only asked this question to clear out and let you carry the flag for Giannis Inc. You just really disappointed me, but I think we've all been sleeping on Giannis for the last month or so. And this weekend could be an opportunity for him to remind the whole world that he is the next in line. He is the heir to the KD and LeBron throne. 

Golliver: What does that involve besides his risque joke on Instagram live yesterday? 

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Sharp: Giannis is impossible to root against. I'm predicting Giannis as All-Star MVP. 

Golliver: Hold on, though, go back to the philosophical question here: Are you the winner of All-Star Weekend if you're the All-Star Game MVP? Do you know who won last year's All-Star Game MVP?

Sharp: Hasn't Russ won it a couple times? 

Golliver: He's won it a couple times, but he didn't win last year. Anthony Davis won it last year, setting an All-Star Game points record. The only problem was that his team traded for DeMarcus Cousins during the third quarter so nobody remembered the fact that he had done it, and he was the hometown hero and no one cared. So I guess my takeaway is, I don't think Team Steph vs. Team LeBron is going to save the All-Star Game.

Therefore that's going to continue to be an afterthought. I'm real worried about what the L.A. nightclub scene could do to the game on Sunday. So that's why I'm going to go to the tried-and-true route, which is pick whoever I think is going to win the Dunk Contest as the winner. That's going to be Mitchell. Who do you think is going to win? 

Sharp: Dennis Smith Jr. He's smaller than Donovan Mitchell, and the spectacle of watching him get up and be ridiculous is going to probably outshine everyone else. I don't really want to see Oladipo dunk. I'm happy that he's found a home in Indiana. Have you seen clips of him singing? I prefer to have him serenade the crown than pretend to get into the Dunk Contest. 

Golliver: You have really strange tastes. But Dennis Smith Jr. also has more creativity in the air. Maybe that's how he beats Mitchell? If Dennis Smith Jr. does his best dunks, he's probably going to win. 

Michael J. LeBrecht II/Getty Images

Sharp: Right, he's very much a late '90s point guard. He reminds me so much of Steve Francis, and Steve Francis should have won a dunk contest. It wasn't his fault that he came along during the peak of Vince Carter's reign. But maybe this one is for Stevie Franchise. 

Golliver: Let's also say this: The people who win All-Star Weekend are probably not the guys who are in the events. 

Sharp: Right, I'm thinking Giannis is going to make some headlines one way or another. The Instagram story was a good start; we'll see where it goes from here. 

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Golliver: One last thing on this subject that I wanted to run by you: Did you see the Uninterrupted video that Kevin Durant and LeBron James did, where they're going through Akron talking about various topics and their upbringings. But the subject of the All-Star Game came up, and they repeatedly referred to themselves as the two best players in the game, saying the pressure was essentially on them to set the tone for the rest of the game and everyone else would sort of follow their lead.

Not invited on the ride along, even though it took place before the most recent Cavaliers-Warriors game in Cleveland... I didn't see Steph in the car. Maybe he was in the third row seat in the car and they just folded him down. I don't know, maybe he just got into the car No. 2. Maybe there was a second car. What was your reaction? Is it on LeBron and KD, the two best players in the NBA, to set the tone? 

Sharp: Steph is a captain, KD is not a captain, KD did not want to be a captain. So make of that what you will. I'm not here to cast judgment on Kevin Durant's character, but the facts are the facts. 

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