Monday, February 15, 2016

All-Star Saturday Night Breakdown

20130403 MCDAAG Aaron Gordon alley oop from Aaron Harrison (6) cropped.jpg
By TonyTheTiger - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
All-Star Saturday Night is one of my most favorite nights of the year. It's entertainment at it's best. You have the dunk contest, three point contest, and the skills competition along with things in between for our amusement. I've decided to breakdown every event from All-Star Saturday Night so everybody can see how every player participated and what their outcome means.

First off, it just didn't feel right when we started off with the Skills competition. I was very disappointed that there was no Shooting Stars competition. That was such a fun event. I felt like, once the first half court was made, that is when All-Star Saturday Night officially began. In case you don't know what the Shooting Stars event was, there is a video on it below. Anyways, onto the Skills competition...

The Skills Challenge had a different format this year as the "bigs" went up against the "smalls", the smalls being guards and the bigs being F/Cs. I'll breakdown each participant's performance below.
  • Jordan Clarkson had a tough time as he was out in the first round. He wasn't that fast dribbling and did absolutely horrible in the passing section of the competition missing all 3 passes. He let C.J. McCollum get the layup before him and Clarkson was out before he even got to put up a shot as sharpshooter C.J. made his first shot. Clarkson isn't the most talented guard as you could see in the competition even though he is a dynamic scorer.
  • Emanuel Mudiay struggled in this competition as he went up against Isaiah Thomas. He ended up losing because he couldn't get the passing as he missed all 3 tries while Thomas got it on the first. Mudiay then came down and lost control of the ball. By the time Mudiay made it to the 3-point shot, Thomas had already made the shot on his second attempt. Mudiay might have had a better shot if he was able to make the pass on his first try, but considering how this guy averages quite a bit of turnovers per game, maybe that is why he struggled with the passing station.
  • Draymond Green did pretty well in this contest, though he didn't make it past the first round. He zoomed through the dribbling course and made the pass on his first try. He then did the layup with ease but failed to make a three pointer as he clearly rushed the first one and it was flat. He then missed the second and Karl-Anthony Towns made his before Green could get up another shot. However, Green had given us a look at his guard like skills for a big man and they were impressive to say the least.
  • Anthony Davis really took it easy in the contest going pretty slow throughout the whole thing. He couldn't seem to get the three point shot to fall either as DeMarcus Cousin got the shot before he could. Davis looked really tired and slow in the game and if you looked at his face, he looked like he had been a victim of fatigue.
  • DeMarcus Cousins had a big disadvantage in this competition. He was probably the slowest one out their. He was no match for Karl-Anthony Towns' speed and Cousins isn't the best ball handler. While we didn't see that much skill from him in the passing as he really couldn't get on pass though, we did get to see Cousins' range as he did hit a clutch three against Davis.
  • C.J. McCollum did great in the first round as he went through the competition with ease and hit his first 3. The second round was a different story. He lost the ball through the dribbling course to start it and couldn't catch up with Isaiah Thomas. It is clear that he may be a sharpshooter, but McCollum could work on his dribbling and passing a little more.
  • Isaiah Thomas was amazing in this competition. He was so speedy through the dribbling course and he never missed a pass at the passing station. In the final he sped past Towns to get his layup first. In the other rounds, he hit the 3-pointer easily. Of course, when he went against Towns in the finale, he couldn't make the 3-pointer. Isaiah Thomas really showed the world just how talented he was though.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns was a beast as he lead the bigs to the win. He showed off his speed dribbling and gave the most effort out of all of the contestants. Towns made it to the end and shot the 3 well enough to win. He is a really talented big man and like Green he shows guard like skills with his passing ability. It was a joy to see Towns in this competition.

The 3-point contest was cool to see as the Splash Brothers took on the rest of the contestants. Let's take a look at how they all did
  • J.J. Redick started off great. He hit his first 5. Then he cooled off. Last year if you remember, Redick kept stepping on the line so they didn't count. Well this year, he made sure he was behind the line. Redick started to get tired and that is probably a result of how much jump he has on his shot. Redick tried to win in the tie breaker to get into the final round, but he was taken down by Devin Booker. He really isn't made for the contest because of the jump he has to his shot.
  • James Harden just isn't made for this contest. He never seems to be able to just set up and hit shots. Honestly, he can't seem to make them consistently in this contest and he is more of an in game shooter. Nevertheless, I was surprised that Harden did as well as he did.
  • Kris Middleton did horrible in this contest. He just couldn't make that many shots. If looked at his shot, it seemed really off center. I was disappointed that Bosh wasn't in the contest, instead we got Middleton who didn't perform well in the contest at all.
  • Kyle Lowry shot the ball flat and strong in the contest. That is why he had such a hard time getting shots to fall. He kept hitting back rim. Towards the end, he got tired and started shooting short. It just wasn't that great of a contest for Lowry.
  • Devin Booker came out with the jitters. He started off poorly but ended great. This kid is going to be the next Steph Curry in the league. He is a great shooter and he will win this contest sometime in his career. He was nothing short of amazing. I was really impressed with how he played.
  • Stephen Curry played real well, hitting the clutch 3 to get him to qualify for the final. He did even better in the final, he just couldn't compete with Klay's 27. The thing I liked about Curry is he didn't really jump on his shot. It was a great set-shot.
  • Klay Thompson lit it up just like Curry did last year. He had 27 in the final round. Klay is such a great shooter and if you think about it, it's kind of scary to think that both him and Curry are on the same team. Both of them are too good of shooter.

Now if you know all-star weekend, you know that the dunk contest is usually where it's at. And it was true for this year. The contest was thrilling. Let's take a look at how the players did.
  • Will Barton was really disappointing. He just couldn't make the dunks that LaVine and Gordon could make. He just can seem to get enough air on his dunks.
  • Andre Drummond was pretty disappointing too. I thought he was going to do great in the contest. When he brought Steve Nash onto the court, I was expecting something really special, but it wasn't that great of a dunk.
  • Aaron Gordon was great. He had the style. He did great, especially for a two foot jumper. His under-the-legs dunk was the dunk of the night by far. What he did was beyond amazing. He really set the bar high. In fact, he might have set it a little too high as he ran out of dunks towards the end and couldn't find something really creative like his other dunks. But that is besides the point. Gordon put on a show, a great show for the whole NBA nation. Even though he didn't win, he did some amazing dunks that left my jaw dropping from a dunk contest that hasn't been that good for years.
  • Zach LaVine was just as great as Gordon was. The two dueled it out with some amazing dunks. Just when you saw one of Gordon's spectacular dunks, LaVine would could out with something spectacular as well. He gave us an alley-oop, between the legs, and a windmill FT line dunks, dunks that have never been done in an NBA dunk contest before from that far out. While Gordon had the better dunk, Zach LaVine's performance was just as amazing as he came out to win the contest. When Zach was handed the award, he said that Gordon was the dunk contest too. Not to mention, after the dunk contest, LaVine said that the dunk contest win was a win for his old head coach that recently passed away, Flip Saunders. Flip was the won who drafted LaVine and LaVine said that "He's the one that always believed in me and drafted me!". LaVine and Gordon's performance was completely amazing and I'm still in awe about that contest.

As you can see, All-Star Saturday night is one of the best event of the year. It is sad though, that it is once a year, and we have to wait another year to see the next one. But that, it was makes it so amazing. It doesn't happen that often. And it doesn't happen that often when we get to see an All-Star Saturday night as great as this. As Kenny Smith always says, "it's over ladies and gentlemen, it's over". Now we wait, til next year.

Those Rising Stars Could Go Far

Devin Booker against Gators 2015.jpg
By Dennis Adair from Gainesville-StPetersburg, FL - Devin Booker Scored 12 Points, CC BY-SA 2.0,
The Rising Stars game on Friday showed us a lot about some of these young talented players and what their future could hold.

I really only noticed two disappointing players out there and they were Bojan Bogdanovic and Elfrid Payton. I was pretty disappointed by these two players just in the overall game. Payton just didn't seem involved at all and Bogdanovic just hovered around the three point line the whole time not really looking to score at all.

I did see a lot of great things from multiple players though. Let's start with the USA and their players.

  • Okafor gave us a look at his improved jumpshot and his ability to handle the ball. I was real impressed with just his overall footwork.  
  • Rodney Hood gave us a look at his pure athleticism and his great defense. That is what I love about Hood, his defense. He is a great young guy to have on your team because he has potential, but he already comes with great defense which is what you want from a role player on your team. 
  • DeAngelo Russell was putting away the worries that he will turn in to a "Ricky Rubio" type player where all he can do is pass and can't score that well. He shot well from three (4-7) and looked to score at a great rate.
  • Devin Booker honestly came out as the winner of this game. Last month, I was convinced that this kid was going to be the next Steph Curry with just the way he shoots and his ability to move without the ball. He showed the world that he can shoot. He went 5-8 from 3-point and finished the game with 23 points. I have a lot of confidence that this kid has a bright future in the NBA.
  • Marcus Smart didn't give us any offense from himself really, but he proved that he can run the point; a topic that was very debatable when he first came into the league. He also gave us great defense in a Rising Stars game.
  • Jordan Clarkson has a lot of confidence. That is definitely a bright spot for that kid. He thinks he can do it. He is going to look for any way to score because he feels like he can take it at anyone. Scoring 25 points last night, that is pretty good for a second round pick.
  • Jabari Parker was amazing in this event considering he came back not long ago from an ACL injury. He showed off his athleticism and his ability to play the PF spot no problem. And that will be a big thing for Jabari. A player that I compare him to is Anthony Bennett. He is really more of an undersized PF and that was a big problem for Bennett which is why he really didn't have success in this league (so far). 
  • Karl-Anthony Towns really struggled in the first half of the game. He looked kind of confused like it was an actual game going on, but he caught on in the second half that their wasn't that much defense being played and grabbed 18 points and 7 rebounds in the end. He also showed off his passing ability with some great dimes. 
  • Zach LaVine gave us his explosive ability as always, but made sure that people knew that he wasn't just a dunker as he had some nice 3 pointers and mid-range shots. He also showed off his passing and rebounding abilities a little bit. He also gave us a look at his ability to play the 2-guard position, something that was concerning with Zach coming into the league was what positions could be play. He is a little bit undersized at the SG position but is also not really a PG. Zach was great in this game as he grabbed the MVP trophy at the end.

While the winning Team USA was vey impressive, The World Team was just impressive. Let's take a look at them.
  • Trey Lyles really never got a chance to prove himself in this game I thought. He played a little over 12 minutes and only made 1 shot. Hopefully he is back next year and shows us a little more.
  • Neto was great from a PG stand point. He passed the ball really well as he usually does. While he only took and made 1 shot, he was having too much fun passing to think about scoring.
  • Clint Capela gave us a lot. He didn't do lot last year til the playoffs and looked great as a role player. Capela can play defense and rebound, but offense is really where he struggles. He looked great getting dunks in the Rising Stars game though. Hopefully he can develop a post hook move or something so he can become a more dominant player on the offensive end.
  • Dwight Powell's ability to rebound is amazing. This guy should be in the dunk contest because his timing and jumping ability is pretty amazing. He can play defense and run the floor well as he showed us in this game, he looks like he will have a bright future in this game.
  • Mario Hezonja did a little bit of everything in this game. He had 19 points, 7 assists, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, and 3 three-pointers. He will be a great all-around player in this league if he is able to put up numbers like this. He is a highly intelligent basketball player with a great basketball IQ because of his great decision making.
  • Nikola Jokic, pronounced  Nee-Co-La Yo-Kik-ch, played well. The reason why I put up the pronunciation is because I'm tired of people saying his last name as it sounds. It's not to be taken as a joke, mis-pronounced last name pun intended. This guy deserves to have his name pronounced right after that preformance. He was so physical inside battle for rebounds with Towns just getting into players. His hustle in the Rising Stars challenge was great, couldn't have asked anymore out of him.
  • Andew Wiggins put on a show for Toronto, dunking anytime he could. He gave us some great post-up game and passed well too (although he did have a couple pretty bad passes). He reminds me a lot of DeMar DeRozan except with a better post game. He can attack the paint really well.
  • Emanuel Mudiay shot the lights out from 3. I was very impressed with his scoring mentality. However, he isn't the best point guard as even in the Rising Stars game, he turns the ball over a ton. He had 5 turnovers in 25 minutes of play. That's a lot. He really needs to cut that down. But if he can pass better and attack the rim better, Mudiay will be a great prospect.
  • Kristaps Porzingis has the hype. Is the hype what he is. Yes, he showed the world that the Porzingis hype train or whatever you want to call it isn't exaggerating. The unicorn is real. This guy is over 7 ft. tall and can shoot the three like Dirk and can dunk and play defense like Dwight. Well, not that good yet, but he could end up being that great. Porzingis had 30 points and shot 5-8 from three. Not bad. I was a little skeptical of Porzingis considering he was getting all of this hype and he plays for the Knicks. But Porzingis is real. I'll tell you that.
It was nice to see all of these young guys play as well as they did in one game. It really gave us a chance to look at how these players could be in the future. These guys are the future of the NBA. They are going to be the future stars, the future role players, the future championships, and the future All-Star teams so it was nice to see them play in this game to give us just a taste.