Jam-packed with the league’s most lethal shooter and reigning MVP, as well as his Golden State Warriors teammates, point guard Stephen Curry and the Western Conference All-Stars are five-point favorites over the Eastern Conference ahead of Sunday’s 65 th annual showdown at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
According to odds makers at VegasInsider.com, the West is favored to win the NBA’s premier talent showcase for fifth time in the last six games following last year’s 163-58 victory at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Curry will alongside 2015’s MVP Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, with the Thunder’s Kevin Durant, the Spurs Kawhi Leonard, and the Lakers Kobe Bryant manning the frontcourt.
The East counters with 12-time All-Stars and former teammates Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, with Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, Pacers forward Paul George, and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony completing the starting lineup.
In the midst of his farewell tour and retirement just a few months away, Bryant will make his 18th All-Star Game appearance and his the heavy favorite to claim MVP honors over Curry. Bovada.lv slots the 37-year-old Bryant at +135 odds to win MVP and Curry at +500, with Westbrook and James behind at +800.
The leading fan-vote getter Bryant is currently tied for most All-Star Game MVPs won in history, tying former St. Louis Hawks power forward Bob Pettit with four all-time. Bryant last won the award in 2011 when the game was played in Los Angeles, and though he’s shown a significant decline in skill and ability this season a scoring barrage and lax defense could help him own the MVP record.
As if a combo of Curry and Westbrook weren’t enough for the East to fret over, the West holds a significant edge chemistry wise with Warriors guard Klay Thompson and forward Draymond Green waiting on the bench.
A smooth and dangerous shooter just like Curry, Thompson’s currently No. 14 in the NBA with 21.3 points per game and knocks down 42 percent of his three-point attempts while Green leads all players with 10 triple-doubles for the Warriors historic 48-4 squad.
The West can also present matchup problems should head coach Gregg Popovich decide to role out a second unit of Clippers point guard Chris Paul, Rockets shooting guard James Harden, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins.
The East’s depth, particularly on wing defense, suffered a major blow after Bulls guard Jimmy Butler suffered a left knee strain last week and was ruled out of the All-Star Game. Teammate and forward Pau Gasol was chosen to fill in for Butler, however the East may struggle against the West’s guards with Washington’s John Wall and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas the only true backcourt relief for Wade and Lowry.
This year, Thomas is one four first-time All-Stars. The Celtics floor general is joined by Pistons center Andre Drummond, Leonard, and Green as players new to the All-Star festivities.
After Bryant, Wade, and James, Heat forward Chris Bosh is next up on the All-Star tenure list. He’ll make the 11th appearance of his career.
Odds To Win MVP
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers +135
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors +500
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers +800
Russell Westbrook, OKC Thunder +800
Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder +1000
James Harden, Houston Rockets +1800
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors +2000
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors +2200
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs +2500
Paul George, Indiana Pacers +2500
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors +2500
John Wall, Washington Wizards +2800
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans +3500
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors +4000
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics +5000
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings +5000
Chris Paul, LA Clippers +5000
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks +6000
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs +6600
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat +7500
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons +7500
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat +8000
Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls +8000
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks +8000