With NBA All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City upon us, we have a ton to look forward to in the coming days. Action starts Friday evening with the Celebrity All-Star Game and Skills Challenge and continues Saturday with the fan-favorite 3-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest. The main attraction of the weekend, of course, will be the All-Star Game between Team LeBron and Team Giannis. Let’s unpack all the odds and make our predictions for every major bet related to the NBA’s midseason classic, including players drafted to each team, moneyline, spread, and over/under bets, and the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award.
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The NBA has made great strides throughout the years to transform its All-Star weekend into one of the best in professional sports. Commissioner Adam Silver has introduced the ASG draft and adopted the Elam Ending, two unorthodox concepts that have quickly become popular among hoops fans. Now we have a new wrinkle to look forward to this weekend — LeBron and Giannis will be picking their squads pickup-hoops style in a school-yard draft immediately before the All-Star Game (7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday). Starting with James, the two superstars will first pick from the pool of 14 reserves, then choose from the eight remaining starters until their rosters are full.
MORE NBA ALL-STAR GAME DRAFT: Who will be the first starter picked? | SN experts mock draft as LeBron & Giannis
As fun as all this sounds to fans, it certainly creates more volatility (or should we say downright unpredictability) for sports bettors. Not only do we not know which players are on each All-Star team — and will not until just before tip-off — but we also have no clue how the sportsbooks will handle the No. 1 pick odds. So, before we even get into our betting advice and predictions, here’s a quick word to the wise: be sure you understand completely how your sportsbook is handling each betting situation before you lock in a wager. The last thing we want is to be caught off-guard by something with money on the line!
That said, let’s jump right into the odds for all things All-Star weekend. We’ll start by predicting the players who will be drafted to each team, then picking a winner, and last but not least, predicting the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award. Let’s get it!
NBA All-Star Game 2023 Betting Guide: Team LeBron and Team Giannis draft picks
We can’t very well pick a winner of the All-Star Game before we predict which players LeBron and Giannis will draft to their squads. Well, maybe we can. Since the NBA adopted the captain/draft format, LeBron has perennially built his ASG rosters like a champion GM (how ironic!). His squads have gone 5-0, including victories over Team Giannis in both 2019 and ’20. So, needless to say, we expect LeBron to once again compile a well-rounded lineup that moves the ball and flows well offensively.
My colleagues Scott Rafferty and Gil McGregor executed a mock draft on Thursday in which they role-played as LeBron and Giannis, and I must say that I largely agree with a bunch of their picks. We do differ with some selections, however, so I’ll make my predictions here for good measure. Here’s my full mock for the All-Star Game draft this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Reminder: As of Friday, Feb. 17, we learned that the captains will draft from the pool of reserves first, and then pick from the remaining starters. Be sure to check with your sportsbook to see how it will handle this sudden announcement, so that you know how this wrinkle will affect your open and/or future bets related to the ASG draft.
|Pick||Team LeBron||Team Giannis|
|1st||Damian Lillard, Blazers||Jrue Holiday, Bucks|
|2nd||Paul George, Clippers||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder|
|3rd||Bam Adebayo, Heat||Pascal Siakam, Raptors|
|4th||Jaylen Brown, Celtics||Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies|
|5th||Domantas Sabonis, Kings||Tyrese Haliburton, Pacers|
|6th||Anthony Edwards, Wolves||De’Aaron Fox, Kings|
|7th||Julius Randle, Knicks||DeMar DeRozan, Bulls|
|8th||Luka Doncic, Mavericks||Jayson Tatum, Celtics|
|9th||Nikola Jokic, Nuggets||Joel Embiid, 76ers|
|10th||Donovan Mitchell, Cavaliers||Ja Morant, Grizzlies|
|11th||Kyrie Irving, Mavericks||Lauri Markkanen, Jazz|
As you can see, I’m expecting LeBron to build his squad emphasizing a pace-and-space approach. His teams traditionally move the ball well and have strong outside shooters to knock down open triples on drive-and-kicks. Many of my projected picks for LeBron’s side are his personal friends, players he has lauded or even recruited in the past, or just flat-out elite scorers and/or passers. Lillard seems like a no-brainer first reserve pick, as he’s been on an absolute heater lately, and LeBron once tried recruiting Dame to the Lakers. Doncic as the first starter off the board also seems like a lock. LeBron has made it clear that he “loves” Luka, while the current NBA scoring leader has publicly stated plenty of times that he drew inspiration from King James growing up.
As for Giannis, he tends to draft guys who play intense, physical basketball on both sides of the floor. He cares more about whether guys play defense and seems to have an affinity for players like himself who slash to the rim and do the little things like pound the glass. There is no doubt in our minds the Greek Freak will pick teammate Jrue Holiday first, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. No doubt Giannis will have the better defensive squad, but he will still have plenty of scoring with SGA, Tatum, Embiid, Morant, and of course, the hometown favorite Markkanen.
Best bet for first starter picked: Doncic (+320)
NBA All-Star Game 2023 Betting Guide: Odds and best bets
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and BetMGM
|Team LeBron||-3.0 (-110)||-155||Over 325 (-110)|
|Team Giannis||+3.0 (-110)||+130||Under 325 (-110)|
Caesars has the full list of odds listed (see above), well before we even have an idea of how the captains will draft. That’s a testament to how much respect LeBron the ASG GM has garnered over the past half-decade. BetMGM seems a bit more cautious, currently only listing the moneyline (LeBron -150/Giannis +125). The best bet out of those eight options is Team LeBron -150 on BetMGM. You can’t argue with history — he’s the greatest player of the 21st century, the all-time scoring leader, and a brilliant basketball mind. He’s going to pick winners and gun for the “W” to maintain his undefeated streak as All-Star GM.
As for the total, I would lean UNDER 325 (-110). A handful of offensive stars are missing from this Sunday evening’s action, including Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Zion Williamson. The presence of defensive studs like big men Jaren Jackson Jr., Bam Adebayo, Joel Embiid, and Giannis could also impact scoring, as will the perimeter clamps of the perennially underrated Jrue Holiday and Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Want to get creative with your money and also reduce your level of risk? Bet a six-point teaser and couple Giannis +9.0 with the UNDER of 331. With the Elam Ending, the chance of an all-out bloodbath victory is greatly reduced, and with a ton of banged-up stars (including Brown and DeMar DeRozan, who have missed time leading up to All-Star Weekend), we just don’t see either squad flirting with 165 points.
NBA All-Star Game 2023 Betting Guide: MVP odds, trends, and best bets
|Jaren Jackson Jr||+8000|
Before delving into who we think might be good bets to win the Kobe Bryant MVP trophy, it seems prudent to review which players are not likely to come away with the honor. First off, centers rarely win All-Star Game MVP. The last time a center won was Shaq in 2009, and he was co-MVP with Kobe (who owns the distinction of modern All-Star GOAT, having tied Bob Pettit for a record four career All-Star MVPs). This is not a center’s exhibition, as defense often takes a backseat to alley-oops, perimeter drives, and long-distance bombs.
Another trend we notice is that some guys just don’t gun for the award, while others don’t go for it if they already have one in their trophy case. Curry won his first All-Star MVP last year in Cleveland after putting on a three-point show for Team James, and Giannis took down the honor the previous year when he helped LeBron’s squad win by 20. LeBron himself has won the award three times, while KD and Russell Westbrook are the only other players since Kobe and Dwyane Wade to win multiple awards.
Lastly, storylines count for a lot. When the contest was held at Smoothie King Center in 2017, we saw then-Pelican AD ball out and score a whopping 52 points, smashing Wilt Chamberlain’s single-game All-Star scoring record of 42 points. A year later, LeBron went off at Staples Center, which he would call home just months later after signing with the Lakers. We’ve also seen Chef Curry light it up in Cleveland, and Kobe and Shaq both take down MVPs on their home court in L.A.
Knowing all these factors, we could see a hot flamethrower like Damian Lillard (+700) or Jayson Tatum (+900) going for it and taking down the award. Lillard has arguably been the most dominating scorer this calendar year, while Tatum just keeps impressing the league as the best player on the NBA’s best team. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+2500) has also been blisteringly hot lately, and Anthony Edwards (+2500) has already stated he would be gunning for the award, but he might not get enough playing time to put up the requisite stats.
Ja Morant (+1000) always plays with a chip on his shoulder. Other strong options are pure scorer Donovan Mitchell (+1400), who spent his first five NBA seasons with Utah, and we can’t forget about the captains themselves (assuming they play) at +600 apiece.
Want a dark-horse candidate? Check out Lauri Markkanen (+4000), who has the home-court angle at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City and has enjoyed a career year with the young, upstart Jazz. Who are we to suddenly doubt this kid? He has defied probability the entire season.
Prediction: Jayson Tatum (+900). We would honestly spread our bets out like a roulette wheel. Consider putting 60 percent of your MVP wager on Tatum, 30 percent on Mitchell, and 10 percent on Markkanen.