NEW ORLEANS, LA – FEBRUARY 18: Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic competes in the 2017 Verizon … [+]
NBA All-Star Weekend 2020 continues Saturday evening with a jam-packed slate that many consider even more exciting than the actual All-Star Game itself. The action—which will be televised via TNT and live streamed via the TNT website and app—gets started at 8 p.m. ET with the Skills Challenge, a unique obstacle course that tests the participants’ ball-handling, passing and dribbling abilities while under pressure. This will be followed by the 3-Point Contest, a self-explanatory measure of shooting ability with the added wrinkle of certain “money balls” being worth double and even triple the points as a normal attempt, before All-Star Saturday Night concludes with its crown jewel, the Slam Dunk Contest. This year’s edition features some of the league’s most notable high-flyers, including a pair of Dunk Contest veterans in Dwight Howard (’08 champion, ’09 runner-up and ’07 participant) and Aaron Gordon (‘16 runner-up, ‘17 participant).
While the action on the court at the United Center in Chicago is sure to be worth tuning in for, fans can up the ante by placing wagers on these All-Star Saturday Night events. Oddsmakers have released lines for each competition and you might be surprised at which players Vegas thinks will bring home some hardware tonight. Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie is the favorite to capture his second Skills Challenge crown in three years at +300 odds (a bet that would return $3 for every $1 risked), but the books are projecting a tight race, giving five other participants odds greater than 6-1 to win it. Duncan Robinson—the Heat sharpshooter who has connected on 191-of-436 (a blistering 43.8%) from beyond the arc this year—is the clear-cut favorite in his first ever 3-Point Contest, standing above the field at +300. Aaron Gordon is projected to finally earn a Slam Dunk champion title during NBA All-Star Weekend 2020, going off at +140 to win the competition in his third career appearance at the event.
Favorites are far from guaranteed to cash tickets during NBA All-Star Saturday Night, however, as those who have been paying attention through the years have seen plenty of longshots come through to win one of these three thrilling competitions. If you are looking for some help betting on the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest and/or Slam Dunk Contest, then look no further than this article. Vegas expert Jon Price of SportsInformationTraders.com has sent along his picks for each competition and you won’t want to miss who the pro handicapper has winning tonight. Before getting to those, take a peek at the complete schedule, start times, viewing info, updated odds and more the remaining slate at 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend.
NBA All-Star Weekend 2020 Schedule
Saturday, Feb. 15
State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, 8 p.m. ET, TNT/WatchTNT
- Skills Challenge (First Event)
- Three-Point Contest (Second Event)
- Slam Dunk Contest (Third Event)
Sunday, Feb. 16
NBA All-Star Game (69th Edition), 8 p.m. ET, TNT/WatchTNT
Click here to see the 2020 NBA All-Star Game rosters for Team LeBron and Team Giannis.
NBA All-Star Weekend 2020 Odds
Odds courtesy of SportsBetting.ag
Skills Challenge Winner
Spencer Dinwiddie: +300
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: +400
Jayson Tatum: +500
Pascal Siakam: +500
Khris Middleton: +600
Patrick Beverley: +600
Domantas Sabonis: +800
Bam Adebayo: +1200
3-Point Contest Winner
Duncan Robinson: +300
Davis Bertans: +450
Joe Harris: +450
Trae Young: +450
Devin Booker: +500
Buddy Hield: +750
Devonte’ Graham: +1000
Zach LaVine: +1000
Slam Dunk Contest Winner
Aaron Gordon: +140
Derrick Jones Jr: +175
Pat Connaughton: +400
Dwight Howard: +500
2020 NBA All-Star Game Odds
Team LeBron: -5
Team Giannis: +5
2020 NBA All-Star Game MVP
Anthony Davis: +400
LeBron James: +450
Giannis Antetokounmpo: +500
James Harden: +600
Luka Doncic: +900
Trae Young: +1000
Kawhi Leonard: +1400
Joel Embiid: +1800
Full list of MVP odds for All-Star Game can be found at SportsBetting.ag
2020 NBA All-Star Weekend – Saturday Picks
As mentioned, 2018 Skills Challenge champion Dinwiddie is the favorite tonight, but he is closely followed by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The electrifying Thunder guard will be making his first appearance in this event and has been given +400 odds to win it after coming onboard as an injury replacement for Derrick Rose. Rounding out the list of favorites is a pair of players at +500 that includes Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, the competition’s reigning champion, and Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, who earned his first All-Star Game nod for a breakout 2019-20 campaign.
There is another former champion lurking in the field as well, as Patrick Beverly is back in the Skills Challenge for the first time since he won it in 2015. The Clippers guard is most known for his defensive abilities, but he possesses the type of well-rounded skillset required to navigate through the bracket tonight. At +600, Beverley has the third-worst odds of any of the competitors, but he shouldn’t be slept on as a legitimate candidate that could become the first player to win this event twice since the format changed to brackets five years ago.
NBA on TNT tweeted a clip of Jayson Tatum claiming he will defend his Skills Challenge title and then retire from the competition:
Unsurprisingly, a pair of bigs are at the bottom of the Skills Challenge odds table. Pacers center Domantas Sabonis (+800) and Heat power forward Bam Adebayo (+1200) have the longest shot of winning tonight, at least according to Vegas. For whatever reason, the big men tend to be discriminated against in this event, even though recent history has shown they can not only keep things competitive, but outright win against guards and swingmen. Karl-Anthony Towns became the first non-guard to win the Skills Challenge in 2016 despite having the worst odds going into the event, while Kristaps Porzingis followed that up with a victory the following year with the second-worst odds of any competitor in the field. Dinwiddie snagged the “W” in 2018 to grab another guard title (the Nets star was the longest shot in the field that year) before Tatum was able to break through as a forward last year, so it would be rather unwise to write off the two bigs participating in this year’s Skills Challenge.
There has also been a trend of underdogs winning the Skills Challenge over the last half-decade, making this an event you traditionally do not want to go chalk in when betting on it. A smart strategy would be to bank on the ‘dogs to bark once again, perhaps playing both Sabonis and Adebayo for value. If you are going to go with only one player here, make it the Heat big man at +1200. Adebayo, who will be participating in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game after making it in as a reserve, is more known for his hard-nose defense and bruising, physical style of play, but could surprise everyone by showing off some underutilized abilities in this event. Zach Lowe published an excellent piece on Adebayo recently, revealing all the extra work he has put in to improve his handling, passing and other abilities traditionally prized by guards. It also revealed his relentless mentality to win, so don’t be surprised if the Heat big goes all in to capture the 2020 NBA Skills Challenge title as the biggest underdog in the field.
Skills Challenge Pick: Bam Adebayo (+1200)
Duncan Robinson, the 3-Point Contest favorite at the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend, prepares to shoot. … [+]
This can be one of the most difficult contests of All-Star Saturday Night to handicap, as just about every participant in the field can get hot and riding that streak to victory. There are also some rule tweaks that bettors should keep mind for the 2020 edition of the Three-Point Shootout that could impact which player lifts the trophy this evening.
As usual, each shooter will take turns firing from five racks spaced out along the three-point arc, with all but one of these racks containing four regular basketballs (worth one point) and one “money ball” (worth double). The league has opted to return the “all money ball” rack, worth a maximum of 10 points for making every shot, as well as add a pair of special “three balls” that will be set six feet behind the line near the top of the arc. These are worth three points each, making the best possible score an even 40 for a round. Competitors will have 70 seconds—up from the usual minute—to launch their shots, with the three players that score the highest advancing to the championship round. The winner will be determined by whichever player scores the highest in the final round, with any ties settled by an additional tiebreaker round that follows the same format.
There are few, if any contestants coming into the 2020 All-Star Weekend with more momentum from deep than Duncan Robinson. The favorite owns the best three-point shooting percentage of any player in the field this year, with his 43.8% make rate well above just about everyone besides Davis Bertans, who is connecting on a very respectable 42.4% of his threes. Since the calendar flipped to February, Robinson has made 34 shots, with just a single one of those coming from inside the arc. The Michigan product is a three-point specialist through and through, quickly becoming one of the most dangerous shooters the league has to offer. He’s made at least five treys in each of Miami’s four games leading up to the All-Star break and done so despite defenses being keenly aware that he takes over 90% of his shots from range.
Ira Winderman pointed out how drastically Robinson’s odds changed after a number of bettors backed him to win the 3-Point Contest tonight:
Robinson credited his time in the G League—he played in just 15 NBA games last year and was buried at the end of Miami’s bench—for his development into a game-changing shooter over the course of one offseason (via SI.com):
Opportunity is a huge part of it. I’ve improved and grown a lot as well. My biggest improvement, something I really got to practice a lot in the G League, is flying around, flying off screens and handoffs, being aggressive in those settings. And just developing that mentality to always have shots. Part of that is confidence and also understanding what your role is.
While Robinson has every reason to be the favorite, he still must prove he can sustain his successful shooting in a 3-Point Contest format. One player that already has done so is reigning champion Joe Harris, although Vegas doesn’t expect the Nets shooter to win again in 2020. Harris, who beat out brothers and Three-Point Shootout co-favorites Seth and Steph Curry to win the title in 2019, led the league in three-point percentage in 2018-19 after making a blistering 47.8% of his treys. The Nets sniper has come down to earth a bit this season and is canning just 40.8% of his attempts from deep. He’s currently +450 to emerge victorious, but it’s worth noting that there hasn’t been a back-to-back champ in this event since Kyrie Irving won consecutive 3-Point titles in 2012-13.
There are some other intriguing candidates in play here, including some streaky shooters such as Buddy Hield and Trae Young, who could catch fire and make a run to the title, but ultimately the safest way to bet on the Three-Point Contest is to bet on the best shooter with the most momentum coming into the All-Star Weekend. Right now that guy is Duncan Robinson, so go with the favorite at 3-1 odds and put yourself in the best position to cash a ticket once the money balls are done flying.
3-Point Contest Pick: Duncan Robinson (+300)
Slam Dunk Contest
Aaron Gordon is considered to be one of the best dunkers to have never won the Dunk Contest, something he has a chance to rectify in Chicago tonight. His 2016 duel with eventual champion Zach LaVine was one for the ages, a competition in which Gordon threw down jams that would have easily won in most other seasons. It seems that this is finally his time to shine and Vegas clearly agrees by making him a +140 favorite. The title won’t be gifted to the Magic star, however, especially with Derrick Jones Jr. set to make things interesting for the crowd.
Jones, up on the board at a respectable +175, is also a Dunk Contest veteran whose best finish was a runner-up after the Heat forward placed just a few points behind Glenn Robinson III in the 2017 edition. The 22-year-old is capable of some absolutely ridiculous jams and you can be sure he won’t be pulling any punches with these other competitors ready to up the ante. At 6’6”, Jones is the second shortest dunker in the competition this year and one of the most powerful, so get ready for him to put on quite a show in the Windy City.
The dark horse in this competition is Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton. The Bucks forward wasn’t the league’s first choice—he was only extended an invite after rookie star Ja Morant declined the invite—but the 6’5” athlete could easily surprise everyone at the United Center tonight with an unexpected display of elevation. Connaughton is a bona fide high-flyer, proven by his 44-inch vertical measured at the NBA Draft combine, the second-best mark on record. He doesn’t flush with authority, however, but there is still a chance the Notre Dame product wins the crowd over by coming up with some creative dunks and beats his +400 odds.
Ballislife demands to know why LaVine isn’t participating this year after he nearly put home a 360 from the free throw line:
The dunker with the longest odds in the field is the one with the most experience throwing down jams in a competitive setting. Dwight Howard, a +500 long shot, is surprisingly back in the Slam Dunk this year, his first appearance in over a decade. Howard’s last showing in this event was back in 2009 and the veteran center hasn’t exactly been healthy or showcasing his formerly otherworldly athleticism in the years since. Should the Lakers center defy the odds and win the crown, he’d be by far the oldest player to accomplish the feat. Dominique Wilkins holds the current record for oldest Dunk Contest champion after he beat out Kenny Smith for the 1990 title at the age of 30. That gave Wilkins his second victory in the event, five years after the Hawks legend overcame Michael Jordan in the 1985 competition for his first title.
Expect the 2020 Dunk Contest to go chalk, with Gordon and Jones battling it out in the final round for the title. Both have a chip on their shoulder from losing in the championship round before and each knows how to work the judges and wow the crowd thanks to their experience dunking competitively. Ultimately Gordon is the safest pick here, as barring a mistake or inability to flush, the Magic high-flyer should generate the highest scores from the judges for his artistry. He is the best participant in the field at coming up with unique dunks that show off his top-class leaping ability, incredible athleticism and powerful finishing. Jones will stop Gordon from just waltzing to a title, but the Heat dunker doesn’t have the same showmanship as the event’s favorite and comes up just short on the final scorecards.
Slam Dunk Contest Pick: Aaron Gordon (+140)