Welcome to Wednesday Weekly, where I go over your need-to-know water cooler talk, provide some of my favorite upcoming wagers, and have a bit of fun with things I like and dislike. If you’re not a fan of sports, gambling, politics, pop culture, or fun, then still read it anyway because I do it for the pageviews.
So the All-Star game eventually boils down to a meaningless exhibition game that nobody really cares about. But the NBA is one of, if not the, best league at making All-Star weekend fun. The highlights:
Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade turning back the clock. Dirk coming into the All-Star game for just 4 minutes and going 3-3 from deep (really deep) might have been the coolest thing to happen this season. Wade went back in time and connected on a pair of alley-oops with former-teammate LeBron James (first from and then to), the latter of which was reminiscent of their time together in Miami. It was fun to watch the legends of the game get on the court and they didn’t play too many minutes to steal the show. It was perfect. Giving Nowitzki and Wade special commissioner selections also sets a good precedent for the All-Star voters – no need to vote your favorite old stars into the game and steal more worthy players’ spots; they’ll get selected as commissioner additions.
Jayson Tatum in the Skills Challenge. The Skills Challenge is usually pretty lackluster, and only serves to warm up the crowd for the 3-Point and Dunk Contests. This year was largely the same, except for the finale. As Trae Young and Jayson Tatum raced through the course in the final round, Young took a large lead heading in to the final 3-point shot. Tatum, realizing he was out of time, hoisted a half-court shot that rattled in for the victory.
Team LeBron Comeback. Everyone likes a close game, especially in the All-Star game. Throughout the first half, it was all Team Giannis, and looking like it could become a blowout. Some great 3-point shooting from Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard (among others) brought Team LeBron back and it was a hard-fought battle late into the 4th quarter. You don’t normally see much defense being played, but in the second half, the intensity quite clearly went up. This is what fans expect, and it was good to get a taste of competition in an exhibition game. Now, they just need to provide a better reward for winning the game to get these guys to lock in for more than a few minutes at a time.
Hamidou Diallo Winning
Me Money the Dunk Contest. The dunk contest was average at best, highlighted by John Collins breaking a plane while (kinda) dunking over it. But I bet on Diallo winning it all (he did), and I bet on Dennis Smith Jr. and Diallo both making the Finals (they did). So despite the lackluster affair, it was a good night for my wallet. The Shaq dunk was pretty cool, too.
Bucks Showing Off. Giannis drafted his teammate Khris Middleton first overall of all the reserves in the All-Star game. I definitely didn’t say this was a mistake (please don’t verify) and boy was it not a mistake. The Antetokounmpo and Middleton teammate connection was on full display as Middleton hit 6 triples en route to 20 points. It was exciting to watch a first time All-Star get hot from his first minute in the game. Plus teammates at All-Star weekend always seem like they’re having more fun than those going solo.
Top 5 of the Week
With Space Jam 2 officially announced, I think it’s the perfect time for my Top 5 players who I’d like to see in the movie. For those who haven’t seen Space Jam (first of all – shame on you), a group of aliens challenge the Looney Tunes to a game of basketball. To help them win, the aliens steal the basketball talents of 5 NBA players – Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, and Muggsy Bogues transforming from puny bug-like creatures into basketball giants, nicknamed the Monstars. Meanwhile, the Looney Tunes recruit Michael Jordan from his baseball team (the 90s were amazing) to play basketball with their team.
LeBron James is starring along with the Looney Tunes for Space Jam 2. Assuming that plot lines hold relatively steady, James will need to use his basketball skills against aliens who have stolen other NBA talent. For this to work, there needs to be NBA players in the movie. This list goes over who would be my top 5 picks for players to get their talent stolen in Space Jam 2. As in the original, my list isn’t necessarily the 5 best players, but rather the 5 best for the movie. This could be based on their starpower, their uniqueness, or any reason I’d want to see them in a movie.
5. Luka Doncic
Doncic has been great as a rookie, but more importantly, he’s already one of the most exciting players in the league to watch. He’s not athletic (by NBA standards), but is still extremely effective. You could replace Doncic with Jokic and the result would largely be the same: a player who dominates based on vision, skill, and creativity, and who is already extremely popular. Plus, a Mark Cuban cameo would be awesome.
4. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is the biggest trend setter in terms of NBA fashion in the league, maybe in all professional sports. He’s also got a huge temper and crazy athleticism. It would be absolutely hilarious to see what Westbrook looks like and how he acts when he gets his talent stolen. Count me in.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
As his moniker (the Greek Freak) indicates, he has a freakish body type with long limbs and top-tier athleticism. His alien counterpart would fit perfect in the movie. He’s got a fun personality, he’s potentially on his way to an MVP award, and would be an awesome Monstar. The only problem with this pick is that it (probably) rules out Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid, and Karl-Anthony Towns. You could do a combination, but similar body types don’t work great. I’m taking Giannis from the group.
2. Steph Curry
Curry is (in my estimation) the most popular player in the NBA not named LeBron James. A few years ago, no qualification may have been needed. He’s also unique in the style he plays, and with his slight stature he’d be clearly distinguishable from the others. Watching an alien with Curry-stolen 3-point ability would be wild. Also I can picture him being perfect for the therapy scene explaining how he can’t shoot anymore. (If you don’t know what I’m talking, go watch Space Jam. Seriously!)
1. Boban Marjanovic
Boban is PERFECT in every way. He’s the biggest player in the NBA, he’s hilarious, he’s goofy enough to play the role, and he’s already acted in a movie before (check him out in the John Wick 3 trailer – can’t wait!) so he’d be solid on the non-basketball part. He’s not a star by any means, but he’s perfect for the Shawn Bradley role. GIVE ME ALL THE BOBAN!
2018-19 NBA Record: 12-11-1
I’m still sitting at around .500 for NBA this season, so not terrible, but I’m definitely hoping to start hitting a winning streak (I’ve actually done quite well overall, but since I only drop picks once a week at most, you’re missing out. I’ve said for a few months that I’ll figure out a way to deliver all my picks, so just keep waiting, I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon). With that being said, as the season progresses, teams usually begin to get easier to evaluate and their identities are easier to place, thereby making games easier to bet on. Let’s hope that trend continues this season, and we can make some money heading into the playoff race.
San Antonio -4.5 vs. Detroit
The Spurs look absolutely awful, and just finished an 8-game road trip where they went 1-7. That includes coming off consecutive double digit losses at the Knicks and the Nets. As Popovich said before the game in Brooklyn, “We’re just not a consistent team. We might play great tonight, or we might lose by 20.” They didn’t play great and lost by 16. But the Spurs are great at home, with a 22-7 record. The Pistons are 11-17 on the road. This should be the game San Antonio gets back on track, or we’ll have to start worrying about the playoff streak.
Brooklyn -5 vs. Washington
Brooklyn has been solid, and the All-Star game seems to have given D’Angelo Russell and Joe Harris some additional confidence. I mean look at this! The Nets are good, and should take care of business at home against a Washington team whose only wins in their past 9 games were against the tanking Cavaliers and Bulls.
Minnesota -4 at Atlanta
This feels like a homer pick to me, but I can’t see the Timberwolves losing. The Hawks have been much improved on the back of John Collins increased production and Trae Young’s late-season ROY push (It’s still Doncic’s award to lose, but if you thought Doncic was running away with the award, then you haven’t watched much Atlanta basketball). Trae Young is very streaky and has shot the Hawks out of a lot of games, but when he’s feeling it, he’s FEELING IT. The Hawks are exciting and fun, but they don’t have anything to play for and the Timberwolves should really take care of business. Karl-Anthony Towns has been on an absolute tear, and the Wolves have won 4 of 5, despite injuries across the roster. In a race that has 6 teams within 4.5 games vying for 3 playoff spots, this is a must-win for Minnesota.
Portland +2.5 at Boston
Since the All-Star break, the Trail Blazers have been arguably the best team in the NBA. The Celtics are coming off a blowout loss to the Raptors last night, and the team seems to hate playing together. I still expect Boston to figure it out by the playoffs, but they have bigger problems than they can address in a back to back. Portland takes advantage and pushes their winning streak to 5.
Milwaukee -5 at Sacramento
The Bucks are the better team. Plain and simple. Sometimes you just need to take the best team and expect them to take care of business. I call it the Warriors rule (who are -230 to win the championship, and haven’t dropped below -175 all season). Take the Bucks.
Things I Like and Things I Don’t Like
Harden’s streak ending. After 32 straight games scoring at least 30 points, Harden’s incredible run finally came to an end.. he scored “only” 28 against the Hawks on Monday. It was fun to watch, but I’m sick of everyone talking about Harden as the prohibitive MVP favorite, when he’s barely in my top 5. Streaks are fine stories, but they shouldn’t blind you (shoutout to people recognizing this with Russell Westbrook, finally).
I don’t like
Karl-Anthony Towns streak ending. After 308 straight games (including playoffs) without missing a game, big KAT finally missed a game due to injuries from a car accident. He returned Monday with a stat line of 32 points, 21 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks. I think he’s gonna be okay. Crossing my fingers for another 308 straight injury-free games.
Paul George not being overlooked. It’s crazy how everyone knew that 2-way wings were valuable, but somehow PG13 wasn’t considered a superstar-level player. I had him ranked 12th in my trade value column from last June, and noted how people (stupidly) didn’t see him as the alpha in OKC. Well they do now.
I don’t like
Kawhi Leonard being overlooked. I’ve seen MVP lists that have Leonard as low as outside the top 10. He’s basically having the same season as Paul George! He’s at least as good of a defender, he’s scoring at nearly the exact same rate, and his team is 6 games better! Leonard’s only real drawback is that he’s missed 17 games so far. But he should still be in the MVP conversation, and just as touted as Paul George.
The Timberwolves next 7 games. With 22 total games left, Minnesota’s opponents over their next 7 games have a combined win percentage of 44.5%. This is equivalent of playing a 36-win lottery team… every game. To stay alive in the playoff hunt, they need to win at least 5 of these games, and probably more. Because…
I don’t like
The Timberwolves final 15 games. Minnesota’s opponents over their final 15 games have a combined win percentage of 59.1%. This is the equivalent of playing a 49 win team (almost always enough for a home court playoff series)… every game… for 15 straight games. Woof.