The NBA All-Star break doesn’t really represent the halfway point of the season. Most teams have played around 60 games so far, which would equate to about 73 percent of the 82-game regular season. The symbolic “second half” is really the stretch run before the playoffs where teams will fight for seeding and players will put up their closing arguments for individual awards.
Before the playoff push really begins, the NBA’s best and brightest will be in Salt Lake City, Utah for the 2023 NBA All-Star Game. Festivities get underway on Friday, Feb. 17 with the NBA Celebrity Game and and Rising Stars Challenge. The dunk contest, three-point contest, and skills challenge will be held on Saturday, and the All-Star Game itself will be held on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET. The All-Star draft will be held one hour before the game with leading vote-getters LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo serving as captains, and both will be broadcast on TNT.
While the All-Star Game is the crown jewel of the weekend on Sunday, oftentimes the dunk contest and three-point content on Saturday will steal the show. This year’s full field of participants in All-Star Saturday have been announced, and it should be a fun night for everyone involved. Here’s our full preview of All-Star Saturday, with predictions for who will win each event.
2023 NBA dunk contest predictions, preview, and time
All-Star Saturday kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on TNT. The dunk contest will be the third and final event of the night. You can bet on the dunk contest at DraftKings Sportsbook. Here’s a look at who is competing:
K.J. Martin, F, Houston Rockets: KJ Martin is the son of Kenyon Martin, the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. Kenyon Junior is a 22-year-old forward for the Houston Rockets who is starting to carve out a role as a combo forward in his third season. While KJ is a couple inches shorter than his dad at 6’6, he’s one of the most explosive leapers in the league and might be the favorite to win this competition. Martin put down one of the best dunks of the season earlier this month:
OH MY KJ MARTIN— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) February 7, 2023
wow. wow. wow. pic.twitter.com/d46N5CuGRO
Mac McClung, G, Delaware Blue Coats/Philadelphia 76ers: McClung hasn’t played in an NBA game this season, but the G League guard in the 76ers’ system was invited anyway to add some excitement to the contest. McClung was a mixtape star as a high school player, and went on to have a solid college career at both Texas Tech and Georgetown. He’s only appeared in two NBA games — with the Lakers and Bulls — since entering the league, but he still has a big fanbase from his days as a prospect. McClung is a great leaper whose dunks will look even cooler because he’s only 6’2. This is McClung’s big moment in the spotlight, and he promises to have something good ready to go when the lights come on.
There's no doubt Mac McClung will be a wild card in the 2023 NBA Slam Dunk Contest: pic.twitter.com/ykoLKjCyEe— Moody (@EricNMoody) February 16, 2023
Trey Murphy III, F, New Orleans Pelicans: Murphy is in his second year with the Pelicans. The 6’9 wing is mostly known for his shooting ability, but he’s been dunking the hell out of the ball all season. Murphy already has 62 dunks this year after dunking just 17 times last season as a rookie. The Pelicans lobbied to get him in this contest, and the NBA went with it.
Jericho Sims, C, New York Knicks: Sims was a workout warrior when he entered the draft out of Texas a couple years ago. The 6’10 center recorded a 44.5-inch max vertical, which is one of the best ever in the history of the draft combine. Big men usually have a hard time wowing the judges in a dunk contest, but Sims’ leaping ability is so spectacular that he should have no problem accomplishing that. He’s famous for getting his eyes above the rim on his dunks.
2023 NBA dunk contest predictions
I’m going to go with Martin. Sims’ leaping is spectacular, but I’m not sure he has the flexibility or creativity to shine in this event. Martin has quietly had a nice season for a terrible Rockets team, and it feels like a big showing in this contest could help him become a household name.
2023 NBA three-point contest predictions, preview, and time
The three-point contest will be the second event of All-Star Saturday after the Skills Challenge. Here’s a look at the field:
- Tyrese Haliburton, G, Indiana Pacers: Haliburton loves to remind people that some draft analysts thought his shot was too slow and too funky to translate to the NBA when he entered the draft out of Iowa State. The first-time All-Star has made the leap in large part because he’s an outstanding shooter: he’s made 39.9 percent of the 346 threes he’s attempted this year.
- Tyler Herro, G, Miami Heat: Herro is more of a pure scorer than a pure shooter, but his ability to hit shots off the dribble or the catch is a key ingredient to his success. His taking more threes than ever before this year with the Heat (more than eight attempts per game), but his percentage has ticked down a bit to just below 37 percent.
- Buddy Hield, G, Indiana Pacers: It feels like just yesterday that Hield was the most electric scorer in college basketball at Oklahoma, but somehow he’s already 30 years old. Hield has won this event before in 2020 and remains on of the most accurate shooters in the league. He’ll be among the favorites to win the contest.
- Kevin Huerter, G, Sacramento Kings: Huerter has had a breakout season in Sacramento following an offseason trade from the Hawks. The 6’8 wing is one of the best movement shooters in the league, which could help him as he runs around the arc to shoot off the racks. He openly campaigned for an invite to this contest on the Lowe Post podcast earlier this season. Let’s see him back it up.
- Damian Lillard, G, Portland Trail Blazers: Lillard is somehow having perhaps the best season of his Hall of Fame career at age-32 for the Trail Blazers. He’d been putting up league-leading scoring numbers since the calendar turned to 2023, and continues to be one of the most deadly pull-up shooters on the planet. He’s taking a career high 11.2 attempts per game from three this year, and he’s hitting them at his career average of 37 percent.
- Lauri Markkanen, F, Utah Jazz: Markkanen will have the hometown fans behind him in Utah, but it’s fair to wonder if the pressure will get to him. The 25-year-old forward has had a remarkable breakout season for the Jazz, becoming a first-time All-Star and putting himself in position to win the league’s Most Improved Player award. He’s finally living up to his college billing as a shooter by hitting a career-best 41.2 percent of his threes.
- Julius Randle, F, New York Knicks: Randle is the injury replacement for Anfernee Simons. He’s enjoyed a nice bounce-back year as a shooter after struggling last season, but he’s still only hitting 33.8 percent of his triples. He’s pretty clearly the worst shooter in this contest.
- Jayson Tatum, F, Boston Celtics: Tatum has put his name in the MVP conversation this season by being the best player on the best team in the NBA. He’s only hitting 35.7 percent of his threes, but he rarely gets an easy catch-and-shoot attempt with opposing defenses always keyed in on taking away his scoring chances. Tatum and Lillard are the two biggest names in this contest, and it will be fascinating to see if they can out-shoot everyone else.
What are NBA three-point contest rules?
Each competitor is allotted 70 seconds for the course. There’s a maximum of 27 balls available in five locations around the court. “Money balls” will be placed at the end of each rack and are worth two points. There will also be one rack full of money balls. The three players with the highest score from the opening round advances to the championship round. From the NBA: “Like last season’s three-point contest, there will also be two Mountain Dew Zone spots further back on the wings with one ball worth three points.”
2023 NBA three-point contest predictions
We’ll pick Damian Lillard to win the three-point contest. He’s on fire shooting the ball right now, and he feels destined to win this competition at least once.
2023 NBA Skills Challenge predictions, preview, and time
The skills challenge will be the first event of All-Star Saturday. It features a new format than the one we’ve seen the last few years with three teams :
- Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey, and Jabari Smith Jr. make up the rookie team.
- Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler, and Collin Sexton will represent the Jazz in Utah.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brothers Kostas and Alex will compete as the third team.
2023 NBA skills contest rules
There will be three rounds in the skills challenge followed a championship round to determine the winner. Here’s how it works.
• Shooting round: There will be five different spots on the floor between 10-feet and 30-feet. Players will shoot from each location with their teammates rounding. Shot have different values based on location. Players can’t shoot the same shot twice. The winner of the first round will get 100 points toward their team score.
Passing round: Players will have 30 seconds to pass into three moving targets. The passes will have different values based on how difficult they are. “Each team must make at least one pass attempt at each target, and individual players cannot make consecutive passes at the same target.” The winning team will earn 100 points towards their score.
Relay round: There will be a relay course all players from the team must complete. The course will be timed and fastest time wins. The course includes outlet passing into a moving target from the baseline, a dribbling challenge through cones, a short shot near the basket, a three-pointer from the corner against a defender, and a full court sprint to score. The winning team will earn 200 points to the score.
Final round — half-court shot: The two teams with the highest scores will advance to the championship round. Teams will have to make a halfcourt shot as quickly as possible. The first team will set the time and the second team will have to beat it. The clock will have 90 seconds max.
Skills contest prediction
We’ll take Team Jazz to win.