2021 NBA All-Star Preview: Predictions and Picks

Team LeBron or Team Durant? The Crossover makes their All-Star weekend predictions.
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The Crossover staff makes their All-Star weekend predictions ahead of tonight’s action.

Chris Mannix

Skills: Luka Doncic
Three-point: Stephen Curry
Dunk: Obi Toppin
ASG winner: Team LeBron

The biggest question comes in the dunk contest. Specifically, who is Cassius Stanley? The anonymity of the NBA’s once marquee Saturday event is something the league needs to address, but for now I’m expecting something spectacular from Toppin, the Knicks hyperathletic rookie. And I like the games within the game on Sunday: Giannis vs. James Harden, Jokic against Embiid in a battle of MVP candidates. And the return off the Elam ending guarantees a compelling ending. I’m taking Team LeBron, with a duel between Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving deciding the game at the end.

Michael Pina

Skills: Chris Paul
Three-point: Stephen Curry
Dunk: Anfernee Simons
ASG winner: Team LeBron

This might be Chris Paul’s last All-Star game. He’s 35 years old and 15 assists short of tying Magic Johnson for the all-time All-Star lead. So, not only am I predicting him to win the Skills Challenge, but Paul’s placement on Team LeBron all but guarantees their victory. He’ll be directing traffic in crunchtime, treating defense like it’s do-or-die, coaching up teammates from the sideline, and making sure the game’s overall competitiveness stays higher than an exhibition probably should be. Just give him the MVP now.

Chris Herring

Skills: Nik Vucevic
Three-point: Jaylen Brown
Dunk: Cassius Stanley
ASG winner: Team LeBron

In what's been a strange year, why not make a couple of upside-down picks?

Vucevic seems like a bit of a long shot, because of how much slower he is than the wings. But assuming he doesn't lose too much ground in the dribbling phase, he's the best three-point shooter of the group, and will hit his above-the-break triple.

Jaylen Brown isn't even perceived as the best shooter on his team in this competition, so he'll be participating with the fewest expectations, and I'll give him the edge in the three-point competition.

And with the dunk contest, I'm going to go with Stanley, who owns a 44-inch vertical, and looks like he might be able to pull off some Aaron Gordon-type magic with the hang time he gets.

As for the game itself? I'll take Team LeBron, which, for at least the second year in a row, has the best roster. Must be nice to have the first pick as the leading vote-getter each year.

Howard Beck

Skills: Fun fact: I have never watched this event. But it involves skills, so Chris Paul will win.

Three-point: If you pick anyone other than Steph Curry, you’re just being a contrarian doofus.

Dunk: When in doubt, pick the shortest guy. The higher you have to jump, the more spectacular it looks. So, Anfernee Simons.

ASG winner: When in doubt, go with the guys who are irrationally, obnoxiously competitive, even in a silly exhibition game. Giannis, CP3 and Dame on the same squad? Yeah, it’s Team LeBron.

Jeremy Woo

Skills: Domantas Sabonis
Three-point: Stephen Curry
Dunk: Cassius Stanley
ASG winner: Team LeBron

I do not feel especially good about any of my picks, but I kind of like the pared-down fields for the different events this year. Maybe we should just keep it like this forever. Give me Team LeBron, which feels unfairly stacked, somehow. And also, we need a snake draft format moving forward (because why wouldn't that make sense?)

Ben Pickman

Skills: Domantas Sabonis
Three-point: Stephen Curry
Dunk: Anfernee Simons
ASG winner: Team KD

Here’s my lock of the weekend: Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis to win the skills challenge. The two-time All-Star finished second in the Skills Challenge last year, defeating Jayson Tatum and Khris Middleton in his head-to-head matchups before losing to Bam Adebayo in the final round. Last year, Sabonis was 3/3 on his chest-passes in the event, but shot just two-of-eight on three-pointers, which eventually did him in against the Heat forward. That 25% number was actually consistent with how Sabonis shot in the regular season more broadly last year, making just 25.4% of his threes. This season,, Sabonis has improved his three-point shooting, making 33.3% of his threes on 2.7 attempts per game. It should pay off this weekend. He’s still a master distributor—Sabonis is No. 1 in the NBA passes made per game throughout the first half of the season—and a sound dribbler—he is No. 2 in the NBA in touches per game. Plus, a frontcourt player has won this challenge in four of the past five seasons. Give me Sabonis to win.

Elizabeth Swinton

Skills: Julius Randle
Three-point: Donovan Mitchell
Dunk: Anfernee Simmons
ASG winner: Team KD

Some new faces will have an opportunity to earn an All-Star weekend crown. Julius Randle will be carrying momentum from his first All-Star season, Anfernee Simons has the potential to surprise in the dunk contest and Donovan Mitchell will be motivated after losing to the Sixers and being picked near the end of the All-Star draft. As for the All-Star game, Team KD gets the edge for chemistry already formed between Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

Michael Shapiro

Skills: Chris Paul

The competition doesn't exactly appear too stiff, with a crop of frontcourt players joining Luka Doncic and Chris Paul. You can imagine Luka playing this competition a little fast and loose, a stark contrast to Paul's intensity and precision. CP3's delightful season will continue in Atlanta.

Three-point: Stephen Curry

I liked Devin Booker as a dark horse before he dropped out. Instead, we’ll go with Steph Curry here as he is, well, the greatest shooter in NBA history.

Dunk: Cassius Stanley

Stanley appears to be the best leaper of the three, and Toppin may suffer from an aesthetic standpoint as a larger player. Toppin winning would (sadly) be one of the best Knicks moments of the last half-decade. But much like New York's season, doesn't this all feel a little too good to be true? My heart says Toppin, but based on some hastily-assembled research, Stanley is the pick.

ASG winner: Team LeBron

Team LeBron is pretty heavy favorites here, and rightly so. The simple trio of LeBron, Giannis and Steph is perfectly assembled to rack up free points early and often, and Ben Simmons should provide the small modicum of defense necessary to build a lead. Perhaps the lopsided rosters leads to a blowout, but that shouldn't distract us from the big picture. The All-Star Draft is a delightful piece of annual programming. We get to see the game's biggest stars take things back to the playground, and more importantly, we get some (guarded) insight into the league hierarchy amongst the players. The Jazz could very well sprint to the Finals this summer. But based on Thursday's draft, it doesn't seem like they have the league's respect just yet.

Robin Lundberg

Skills: Chris Paul. I like the chances for Domantas Sabonis or Nikola Vucevic to win this given bigs with some touch have fared well in the past, and Sabonis did finish second last year. However, Chris Paul is too competitive and has taken part in this competition too many times without winning for me to pick against him finally taking it.

Three-point: Steph Curry is the easy pick here, especially with Devin Booker out. But I'll go for history, as Zach LaVine can become the first player to win both the dunk contest and three-point competition. LaVine said he learned a lesson last year and will put his moneyballs in the corner this time around. And he is shooting 59% from the left corner and 43% overall from three this season on eight attempts a game.

Dunk: Let's be real. Most people aren't too familiar with the participants here at the NBA level. But it doesn't take too many clips of Cassius Stanley to see he has serious bunnies. Given elevation is the best trait to have for this, he's my pick.

ASG winner: Team LeBron. I don't see the huge gap between the squads that I've seen others talk about, because the level of talent is so absurd writing off either team is silly. And Durant's team has plenty of shooting and scoring ability. However, I'll lean LeBron not just because of his ridiculous roster but since Team Durant doesn't actually have KD.