This article is part of our NBA Picks series.
Welcome to the way-too-expansive 2021-22 NBA All-Star betting preview. This weekend's competition will take place in Cleveland, Ohio at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse and will showcase a number of different competitions in the lead-up to Sunday's All-Star contest featuring a battle between Team LeBron and Team Durant (sans Durant). With the NBA on a near week-long hiatus starting Friday, this article will essentially cover the only way to get your NBA gambling fix for the next six days, though there are certainly some portions of the weekend that might see your money (*cough* Skills Competition) go to more useful places.
Maybe it was because Kevin Durant was distracted in some facet while making his selections, but whatever the reason may be, LeBron James pretty unanimously bested the Nets star in the All-Star roster selection draft for the second consecutive season. The injury loss of James Harden (Team LeBron) won't matter dramatically with Team Durant missing its name bearer (knee) along with Draymond Green (back).
It's probably no surprise to many that Team LeBron has been dominant ever since the All-Star captain formula was enacted back in 2018 as LeBron's team has won each of the last four outings by an average margin of 9.75 points. Considering the roster discrepancy in this go around, my favorite lean of the entire weekend has to be Team LeBron winning and covering the -6 spread, but even just grabbing Team LeBron as the winner at -230 is a comfortably safe choice.
There probably will be some All-Star prop bets that surface on some betting platforms prior to Sunday's contest, but the overwhelming money placed on All-Star weekend will come in the form of the NBA All-Star MVP award. Just sticking in the same All-Star captain timeframe, the winning team has claimed the MVP award each of the last four seasons. In fact, the last time the losing All-Star team managed to snag the MVP award dates all the way back to 1990 when Magic Johnson won the honor despite scoring just 22 points in a 17-point loss.
Considering I believe Team LeBron should come out of this victorious that pretty significantly narrows the field. Yes, this game will be played in Cleveland so it's entirely possible we get a vintage All-Star performance from the kid from Akron, but James played just 13 minutes in last year's All-Star game and saw close to the fewest All-Star starter minutes back in 2020. There will probably be a point -- and likely soon given LeBron's career might be coming to a close in the near future -- that the ever-conscience student of NBA history might want to play enough to push for a record-tying fourth NBA All-Star MVP award, but I'm not convinced it's this year. James, who shares the co-favorite MVP betting odds (+600) with Giannis Antetokounmpo on certain platforms, would easily be my favorite of the two, but there are some better long shots to at least explore.
First, it's important to rule out most All-Star reserves. Russell Westbrook won the All-Star MVP back in 2015 as a reserve, but that game saw the guard take a stunning 28 shots, the second-most by any player over the last decade aside from Anthony Davis' 39 attempts back in 2017 when the Western Conference team was clearly trying to feed the MVP to the hometown favorite with the game being played in New Orleans. In short, it just doesn't happen too much as the starters play just enough minutes to siphon off showcase time from the reserves.
While flashy three-point shooters are all the rage currently in the NBA, the All-Star MVP award hasn't really reflected that sort of change as the ahem....indifferent defensive attitude in the league's marquee matchup generally allows for slashing dunkers to thrive. In fact, nobody who has attempted 10 or more threes in the past 10 years has won an MVP. Stephen Curry tried to buck that trend last year, but Giannis' uber efficiency rightfully won out. That knocks out Curry and Trae Young, with the former probably more well-positioned being on LeBron's team.
Sticking on the winning side, Nikola Jokic theoretically has the type of game to be successful given All-Star MVP's have won off passing merit (see Chris Paul in 2013), but I think Joel Embiid on the other side would neutralize some of the offensive power needed. Ja Morant or Jayson Tatum would be interesting selections if you believe Team Durant has a shot, but Morant specifically is naturally being priced up as a prohibitive favorite given his name value.
That whittles the list down to one of my favorite overall bets, DeMar DeRozan at +2500 for All-Star MVP (on DraftKings as of 1:31 PM CT on Friday). Primarily a mid-range scorer, it's not hard to imagine DeRozan working his yeoman game successfully in the interior to go along with a couple of rim-rattling dunks and he'll certainly have narrative working in his favor given his quietly emerging overall MVP push in recent weeks. I'll probably have action on both LeBron MVP at +600 or DeRozan MVP at +2500 with the latter also being a target if individual prop bets emerge for that game.
Three-Point Contest/Slam Dunk Contest
I don't really know what to make of either of these contests. I'm always trying to look for trends to have some sort of edge, but it's difficult to really assess how seriously players will take either of these awards -- especially the Slam Dunk contest which has been completely neutered from its early 2000's peak.
Five of the past seven winners of the Three-Point Contest have at least participated in the competition at least once prior with 2017 winner Eric Gordon and Joe Harris back in 2019 operating as the only two to buck the recent trend. Prior to that though, numerous first-time participants successfully captured the gold with "major" names such as Marco Belinelli, James Jones and Daequan Cook each winning in their respective first years since 2009. I intentionally omitted Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love from that list to be funny, but suffice to say it's sort of a mixed bag with this competition. I think experience matters at least somewhat because finding your rhythm in between breaks each round feels difficult; albeit that's an opinion coming from someone who is shooting 12 percent from deep at our weekly Rotohoops matchups. That leaves CJ McCollum, Zach LaVine and Trae Young with experience in the aforementioned field. Specifically, LaVine has participated each of the last three years. The Bulls' guard has one of the lower odds to win overall +650 on FanDuel, but curiously is a near favorite to advance to the championship round at +128. Do with that information what you want.
I really don't know what to make of the Slam Dunk competition so when that occurs I default to people smarter than me. Cue your jokes about getting info from everyone (which probably isn't wrong).
My colleague Alex Barutha essentially ruled out Juan Toscano-Anderson on relatively good merit which means you essentially have 1/3 odds between Jalen Green, Obi Toppin and Cole Anthony. The only lean I have is on Green who likely is the people's favorite given his social media presence, but needless to say, I'm staying away from this overall.
Look, reader. I value you as a person. Because I value you as a person, I strongly recommend avoiding this at all costs. The NBA itself is telling you not to care about this event by putting in a player with a total of 87 minutes across his entire career (Kostas Antetokounmpo).
Yes, the quirky nature of the three teams -- split between Team Rookies, Team Cavs (remember, the All-Star is hosted by Cleveland this year) and Team Antetokounmpo -- will surely lead to plenty of laughs and even more memes, but I promise it's not worth your time. The rookies are considerable favorites presumably because they can do all the categorical "rounds" relatively well whereas the Cavs are hampered by center Jarrett Allen and the Antetokounmpo's are well...you get the gist. I don't know what more to say other than to implore you to do literally anything else with your money. It has to be more valuable than betting on this.