Western Conference Finals - Golden State Warriors v Portland Trail Blazers
Noah Graham

Betting on All-Star Weekend is tricky business. You never know how seriously anyone is going to take the festivities. The rosters are hastily constructed and without chemistry. The Saturday events have little in common with actual regulation game play. It's a bit of a mess. If you're a squeamish bettor, this may not be your weekend.

But if you're a risk taker? There's profit to be had. Our best bets for All-Star Weekend are far from fool-proof, but there are trends to work within many of these events that can at least point us in the right direction. And remember, especially where the Saturday events are concerned, the odds are going to be long enough here for one victory alone to give you a profitable weekend. So let's dive into the All-Star Events and make some picks.

Skills Challenge

I'm leaning Team Pacers (+190) here largely because they have the longest odds, though this is an event I typically stay away from. You'll get the home-crowd boost and the subsequent added motivation that comes with this. Team Top Picks notably has two players competing on Friday night in Paolo Banchero and Victor Wembanyama, and Banchero is playing on all three nights as he is also an All-Star. Team All-Stars, obviously, has three players participating on Sunday. But Bennedict Mathurin and Myles Turner only get one event to shine, so expect them to be the most motivated to take advantage of it.

Steph vs. Sabrina

My favorite bet on the board this weekend: Sabrina Ionescu (+200) to win her one-on-one 3-point shootout against Stephen Curry. Why? Because you're getting two-to-one odds on what is basically a toss-up.

Curry is the greatest shooter in NBA history ... yet he has only won two of the six 3-point contests in which he has competed. If this was as simple as picking the "best" shooter, wouldn't Curry win it every year? It's not that simple. We're dealing with an inherently random act. Even Curry, the greatest shooter of them all, makes only 45.8% of his wide-open 3's in games. He misses more than he makes. If the contest comprised a 1,000-shot sample, Curry might win it every year. But it doesn't. In the tiny sample we're working with here, it's easy for one shooter to get hot or for the other to go cold. It is, essentially, random.

That still might not be enough to convince you to bet against Curry, but there's not an overwhelming statistical case in his favor, even when you dive deeper. Since 2014, when the money ball rack was added, Curry has averaged 25.5 points per round in the 3-point contest. Ionescu has only competed once in the WNBA, but in the first round, she came in around Curry's average (26), and then she broke the all-time single-round record by scoring 37. 

If one thing should make you queasy, it's that Ionescu plans to shoot from the NBA's deeper 3-point line, but she doesn't seem especially worried. "Personally, I shoot from that range to begin with," Ionescu said. "I practice from that range, wanting to be a better shooter and a better basketball player. Just get better as a whole. Knowing I had that opportunity to pick what line I wanted to shoot from, it was a no-brainer from when it was first presented that I wanted to shoot from the NBA line."

I just see no compelling reason not to take 2-to-1 odds on a two-person competition in an event so inherently random that I wouldn't feel comfortable favoring anyone.

3-Point Contest

Maybe you're too afraid to bet against Curry to pick the underdog in that 3-Point Contest. Fine. The overall lesson that shooting is inherently random should push you toward underdogs in this event. Remember, only two players have won this event three times (Larry Bird and Craig Hodges) and only five have won twice. Two years ago, a big man won in Karl-Anthony Towns. We have two recent role player wins from Buddy Hield and Joe Harris. Daequan Cook once won this event and he never even averaged double figures for a season. In short: stay away from the famous people.

That immediately rules out favorite Damian Lillard (+420), but honestly, those odds were already out of whack, considering his 34.1 3-point percentage this season. You could argue that Tyrese Haliburton (+440) makes a bit more sense as he'll have the Skills Challenge to use as a warmup, but remember, he's been on a minutes restriction playing through a hamstring strain, so I'm just not willing to take such low odds.

Everyone else is between +600 and +700, and that's where you're going to find more value. Malik Beasley (+650) would be my pick in that group. He's having, by far, the best shooting season among these players. Only Young has made more 3-pointers this season ... but that's a gap of 11 makes against 99 attempts. Beasley flies under the radar here because he's not as accomplished as everyone else, but "not as accomplished" suits us just fine in an event Daequon Cook once won. Gimme the role player with longer odds over the star any day.

Dunk Contest

Look, you probably should just bet Mac McClung (-190). He's literally here because he dunks. That's the only thing he's known for. He put on a show last year. He'll probably do so again this year. Nobody would fault you for taking the professional dunker in a slam dunk contest.

Allow me to pose an alternative. Is Jaylen Brown (+420) known for his dunking? Not really, no. But he's the first All-Star to compete since DeAndre Jordan in 2017. Stars typically sit this event out because the upside is minimal, and the fear of embarrassment is high. That is especially true now when Brown could easily be branded as the All-Star who lost to a G-Leaguer.

And yet ... he chose to compete. He must've done so for a reason. When high-profile players take part, they usually do so when they're young. Brown is in his eighth NBA season. He could've chosen to take part at any time, yet he's doing so now. I don't think he does so without feeling reasonably confident that he can win. Maybe he has a few tricks up his sleeve. 

At +420, that's a risk I'm willing to take, especially when, frankly, this is not an objective competition. There are judges. Judges want to see stars compete in this event moving forward. They are going to lean toward the star who stuck his neck out to compete if it's close. Hopefully, that compels more stars to try their luck in the future. Jaylen Brown winning is in this event's best long-term interest. If the odds were even, that wouldn't be a reason to bet it. But they're not. 

All-Star Game

You shouldn't bet on the All-Star Game itself. It's a glorified exhibition. If that compels you to take the three points you'd get on the underdog Eastern Conference, so be it, but there's just no responsible way to bet on the outcome of this game.

The point-total? That's a bit more interesting. The current line is 364.5. The final score has gone under that total six years in a row. Coincidentally or not, those happened to be the six years in which captains drafted their rosters. The last All-Star Game to go above 364.5 points was the 2017 event, which was played between the Eastern and Western Conferences. The 2016 All-Star Game went over as well but before that? No All-Star Game in history reached 365 points. I'd, therefore, still lean the under.

There are a few good rules of thumb for picking MVP. First, lean towards a perimeter player. In the past 14 years, the only big men to win the award are Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Second, we're only really looking at starters. We haven't had a reserve MVP since Russell Westbrook in 2015. Lastly, we can probably cross a few other names off of our list immediately. LeBron James and Kevin Durant, with 34 combined selections, probably won't play enough minutes to win MVP. Haliburton's minutes restriction likely takes him off of the ballot as well. I'd also imagine that Doc Rivers is careful when it comes to managing the minutes of his own veterans, Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, so let's take them off of the board as well.

So that leaves us with three suitable bets: Jayson Tatum (+800), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+1200), and Luka Doncic (+1400). Let's rule out Doncic from there, as he more or less sleeps through All-Star Games. He's played in four of them and never scored more than eight points. So that leaves us with last year's MVP, Tatum, and a possible regular-season MVP, Gilgeous-Alexander. Either is a viable option, but I'd lean toward Gilgeous-Alexander. This is his first start, and he's likelier to make a serious run at MVP than Tatum, who has already won it. Those longer odds don't hurt either.