A lot of players like utilizing the All-Star break as a week off. A chance to take a break from the grind of an 82 game season, go somewhere warm, and heal their bodies (or drink and eat their bodies out of shape).
Even though the Toronto Raptors finished the “first half” of the season with a 103-91 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, it was still evident that this Raptors team needed a break. Their recent eight-game winning streak came at the expense of an uptick in minutes for Toronto’s starting five, and it was clear that the playing time was wearing them down.
For three-and-a-half members of this Raptors team though, the break would commence a few days late: Alex Antetokounmpo, Precious Achiuwa, Scottie Barnes, and first-time All-Star, Fred VanVleet. Three of whom took place in tonight’s activities for the first time in their respective careers: Fred VanVleet in the three-point contest, and Scottie Barnes going up against Alex Antetokounmpo in the skills competition.
For a lot of fan bases, a player winning a Saturday night competition on NBA All-Star Weekend can feel like a championship. Even for a fairly successful franchise like Toronto, who just won a championship in 2019, Raptors Twitter will take every opportunity to rub something in the faces of the fans of all 29 other teams.
There were some skeptics out there who believed that a lot of the young guys put the “rising” in rising stars last night. Specifically, Scottie Barnes, and after laughing off four consecutive missed push-shots, I honestly hope that was the case.
Listen, I’m not saying that the NBA stole my idea, but a friend and I have discussed the concept of running the skills competition as a teamed event. Unlike the dunk competition, this is the right contest to change into a team format. This arrangement was interesting. I personally liked it better than the usual skills competition, the old format was starting to get boring and repetitive.
The contest consisted of three teams.
Team Antetokounmpo - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, & Alex Antetokounmpo
Team Rooks - Scottie Barnes, Josh Giddey, & Cade Cunningham
Team Cavs - Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, & Darius Garland
First off, I want to give a shout out to the announcers for drooling over Team Cavs for their chemistry, like it actually meant something in these competitions.
Team Rooks most definitely acted too cool for school. They’re fortunate that the Antetokounmpos never learned to shoot as kids, and that Team Cavs didn’t listen to the announcers and “just chuck it” during the relay race.
Scottie Barnes is also lucky that he’s good at actual basketball, because I don’t think all star weekend Saturday nights (or shooting) are his calling cards. Fingers crossed he has a handful of future Sunday appearances.
The Raptors had a 2-out-of-3 chance of taking home this competition, but they fell short. Team Cavs was the best team all contest, and deserved it. It’s alright, Toronto will take them out come playoffs.
Overall, the new format was a W. My only suggestion for next year would be to build teams of guys who typically would be in the skills competition, instead of these themed teams they went with.
Contestants: Fred VanVleet, Karl Anthony-Towns, Desmond Bane, Luke Kennard, Zach Lavine, CJ McCollum, Patty Mills, and Trae Young.
The 3-point contest should feel fortunate that I’m covering them second, because they were actually the third contest of the night. Shout out to the Currys for making everything about themselves.
Unlike the skills competition, this one stayed the same this year. Which is good, because the changes they’ve made in the past couple of years have been good ones, and they have yet to run their course.
Also, I know I just made fun of him, but Stephen Curry should be forced to compete in the 3-point competition every year until he’s retired. It is way more fun watching Curry vs The Field.
I wish I could say Fred VanVleet wasn’t the worst tonight. At least he can hang his hat on the fact that he’s the only one in this contest with a ring. Never mind... Patty Mills has one as well. Well at least he can say that he’s the only one who won a championship for the Toronto Raptors! That’s something Raptor fans can hang their hat on.
VanVleet finished with a sad 16 points. The good thing for him is that he still has an opportunity to follow up his poor performance with a strong showing for Team LeBron tomorrow. If he can’t do that, then the best thing for Toronto fans this weekend may have been Achiuwa’s showing in the Rising Stars.
Karl Anthony-Towns did his best Curry impression putting up 29 in the final round. Luke Kennard and Trae Young were the other two contestants in the finals, and they put up respectable scores, both finishing with 26.
I was satisfied with this outcome. If it wasn’t going to be Freddy, I’m happy it was KAT because he represented my fantasy team in this contest. I know it doesn’t actually mean anything towards my fantasy season, but mentally it does a lot for my ego.
Slam Dunk Contest
Contestants: Cole Anthony, Obi Toppin, Jalen Green, Juan Tuscano-Anderson
The Slam Dunk Contest is the Saturday night contest that is looked forward to the most, but sadly the most underwhelming every year as well; aside from that Aaron Gordon vs Zach Lavine showdown in Toronto, the best thing Toronto has contributed to All-Star weekend since Vince Carter.
Kidding, Kyle Lowry taking two charges in the 2020 All-Star Game was maybe one of the best things I have ever witnessed.
I miss the days when the judges would hold up cards. Just something about that brings me so much nostalgia.
In my opinion, there are two things that make the dunk contest lose some of its luster. The first is when guys don’t make their dunk on the first attempt (which happened a lot tonight). I’m sorry, but if I were a judge, I wouldn’t give anything a 10 unless the contestant gets it on his first try.
The second is when Shaquille O’Neal isn’t on the sideline with a giant video camera. I’m surprised someone hasn’t tried to use Shaq with his huge camcorder as a prop yet.
Do you remember when Dwight Howard came out of a phone booth, or Blake Griffin jumped over a car? The show is what makes the dunk contest special. It’s all about pairing a great dunk, with an experience.
A final of Obi Toppin and Juan Tuscano-Anderson also doesn’t necessarily scream billboard. Once again, great dunkers, but not great showmen and not big names. Here’s a question: If the dunk contest is already using lesser popular players, would you prefer it if they just brought in professional dunkers instead of NBA players? It would take away part of the glitz and glam of watching NBA players, but you know we’d see some freaky stuff.
Well, with no Raptors in the dunk contest, it didn’t really deserve to get covered. Congratulations to Obi Toppin. Now let’s start looking forward to watching Fred VanVleet make his all star appearance as an undrafted player!