NBA

NBA Betting Guide: 2021 All-Star Game, 3-Point Contest, and Skills Challenge

This year's NBA All-Star festivities won't be quite like we're used to.

There are a lot of tweaks, including having everything on one day and nixing the Rising Stars game altogether, but we can still sit back and enjoy the show this weekend.

We can also look to FanDuel Sportsbook for some betting action.

So let's do just that and examine the skills challenge, the three-point contest, and the All-Star game itself and apply a little numberFire touch to the exhibition contests.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

The Taco Bell Skills Challenge will feature just six players as opposed to eight this year. Here they are, along with their FanDuel Sportsbook odds.

Player Position FanDuel
Sportsbook Odds
Chris Paul Guard +230
Luka Doncic Guard +250
Nikola Vucevic Frontcourt +480
Julius Randle Frontcourt +600
Robert Covington Frontcourt +750
Domantas Sabonis Frontcourt +750


Overview and Trends:
- There will be individual head-to-head matchups in each round, and two players will receive a first-round bye. It's not yet announced who will receive a bye. It's possible it's the two guards, but it's uncertain. Whomever gets a bye would hold a significant advantage.
- Since taking on the guard/frontcourt split in 2016, frontcourt players have won four of the five contests.
- This will be Chris Paul's fifth skills challenge but first since 2011.
- Only Julius Randle is a first-time participant.
- Bam Adebayo won last year at +1200 odds, and Jayson Tatum won the year prior at +700, so we may as well look to some of the longer shots here.

Analysis:
Last year, Adebayo won despite making only four career threes entering the contest, and Domantas Sabonis made the finals after shooting only 31.7% from his career entering, so it's easy to overanalyze this event that encompasses, well, a lot of different skills.

This could be entirely irrelevant, but the past two years featured winners who had solid average speed -- on defense. Maybe it's a hustle thing.

If there was any merit to the defensive speed angle, then that should put us on Sabonis (+750), who leads the field at 3.88 and was a finalist last year. Robert Covington (+750) ranks second at 3.67 but is in a cluster with the other two bigs. I'll be on Sabonis simply for the value.

MTN DEW 3-Point Contest

The MTN DEW 3-Point Contest implemented a small twist on the typical three-point contest format, with two added deep ball zones. Makes from there are worth three points. Players are given an extra 10 seconds (70 in total) to complete their round.

Player FanDuel
Sportsbook Odds
Stephen Curry +195
Zach LaVine +390
Devin Booker +480
Donovan Mitchell +550
Jaylen Brown +650
Jayson Tatum +650


Overview and Trends:
- With the new format implemented last year, there are 27 total shots involved: 5 from each corner, 5 from each wing above the break, 5 from straight on above the break, and 2 extra between the wings and straight-on rack -- but deeper than the rest of the threes.
- So that means 18.5% of the 27 shots will be from either corner and 63.0% of the shots will be from above the break. In total, just 7.4% of the threes will be deep, but they count for three points from the MTN DEW Zone.
- This will be Stephen Curry's seventh contest. He has won only once.
- This will be Devin Booker's fifth contest. He won once. Zach LaVine debuted last year.
- It's the debut, then, for Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown.

Analysis:
I adjusted each player's shooting splits based on those zones and weight for a deep three to get a "3-Point Contest" percentage. I also grabbed each player's stats for wide open threes, which these will be. Players are listed by odds.

PlayerRaw
3P%
3-Point
Contest 3P%
DifferentialWide
Open 3P%
Differential
Stephen Curry (+195)41.142.6+1.539.4-1.7
Zach LaVine (+390)43.543.5-0.351.5+8.0
Devin Booker (+480)36.233.5-2.739.0+2.8
Donovan Mitchell (+550)38.239.4+1.245.6+7.4
Jaylen Brown (+650)38.838.4-0.446.4+7.6
Jayson Tatum (+650)36.836.8+0.648.1+11.3


Stephen Curry's elite above-the-break frequency can mask a sheer lack of corner three attempts, though he surprisingly has gone just 37 of 94 on open threes, the second-worst rate in the contest.

The longshots have been great on open threes, which helps account for their generally lower field goal percentages.

Booker is an outlier with the lowest three-point field goal percentage overall, the worst adjusted three-point field goal percentage, and the worst wide open three-point percentage.

It's scary to fade Curry, but the odds are just so much better for Mitchell, Tatum, and Brown -- whose weighted three-point percentages and wide open threes percentages are passable at worst. (And last year, Buddy Hield won at +700, and the year prior, it was Joe Harris at +450. The favorites are far from locks.) Mitchell is my top priority.

All-Star Game

Team LeBron comes in as a 3.5-point favorite in this game.

Rising Stars Challenge Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Team Durant +3.5 +142 308.5
Team LeBron -3.5 -168 308.5


Trends and Game Notes:
- Under the new quarter-by-quarter format last season, we saw a total of 312 points and a tight 157-155 win for Team LeBron.
- The first two games under the team captain format totaled 293 and 342 points, for context.
- LeBron's teams are 3-0 under the team captain format.
- The median offensive rating for teams under these six captain-drafted games is 120.7, so they operate like, roughly, the NBA's best offense (a little better).
- The first two team captain games had a median pace of around 123.5, which is around 20 extra possessions from this year's fastest team.
- Under the new format, the pace was up around 131.7 last year.
- However, the teams hovered around the 118.5 offensive rating mark (down from 128.4 for the other two games in this format).

Analysis:
Here is how the rosters stack up in a few relevant metrics. Starters average 24.2 minutes per game under the team captain format; reserves average 16.7, so some weighted adjustments were made.

Weighted
Roster Averages
Points/
Game
Offensive
Rating
Defensive
Rating
Net
Rating
numberFire
Efficiency
nERD
Team Durant 26.9 117.4 110.5 8.2 3.3 4.5
Team LeBron 24.9 118.6 108.1 12.0 3.9 5.9


This is setting up to be a close one for sure, and we shouldn't really expect players to play to their usual efficiency levels, but it's telling that Team LeBron has better efficiency through better defensive play and that Team Durant has more of the pure scorers.

The edge with the starters definitely belongs to Team LeBron, though, with a net rating of +12.0 to Team Durant's +8.2. Given the added importance there, that's the moneyline I like. I would lean toward Team Durant +3.5. It was a two-point game last year, and two of the three team captain games were within three points by the end of it, but I'm just more comfortable going with Team LeBron outright.

Given the extra possessions from the new format, I'd be inclined to go with the over 308.5 number, as well.