NBA Pick: Team LeBron -3 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)
The NBA All-Star Game returns to Salt Lake City for the second time ever Sunday night, but we won’t know the rosters for the two teams until right before tipoff. Yet Team LeBron James is the betting favorite at the top-rated US betting sites. Is backing LeBron’s club the right NBA pick?
2023 NBA All-Star Game
Sunday, February 19, 2023 – 08:00 PM EST at Vivint Arena
The NBA’s stars converge on Salt Lake City in Utah this weekend for All-Star festivities. Usually, that means Party Central, but SLC isn’t exactly known for that. The only other time the Utah Jazz hosted the ASG was way back in 1993 when the Western Conference beat the East 135-132 in overtime with Jazz legends and future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and John Stockton sharing MVP honors.
To add some intrigue to the game, the NBA did away with West vs. East ahead of the 2018 matchup and instead installed a captains’ draft to fill out rosters – the two captains are the leading vote-getters via fans in each conference.
LeBron James is the most popular player in the league by far, so he has been a captain in every game since the first three from the East while with the Cleveland Cavaliers and now three in a row from the West with the Lakers. The other captain is Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, his third time as such.
For the first time, the captains’ draft will not happen a few days before the game but instead about a half hour before tipoff – like a typical playground game where teams pick sides. Interesting but pretty tough to handicap. Yet BMR’s top-rated books list Team LeBron at -3, and he will have the first overall pick in the draft.
The NBA loves to tout that it’s the most international major pro league in the USA, and there are a record-tying nine international All-Stars overall this year and a record six starters: Antetokounmpo (Bucks; Greece), Luka Doncic (Mavericks; Slovenia), Joel Embiid (76ers; Cameroon), Kyrie Irving (Mavericks; Australia), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets; Serbia), and Lauri Markkanen (Jazz; Finland).
It's actually not a sure thing that Giannis plays after he left Thursday night’s win in Chicago early with a sprained wrist, but he’ll still serve as captain even if not. Too late to replace him in that regard.
"We're hopeful the X-ray was clean," coach Mike Budenholzer said following the win of Giannis’ status out of the break. "He's got a sprain. We'll just see how he feels (Friday), see how he feels the next few days, and continue to evaluate it." When asked if Antetokounmpo will travel to Utah for the All-Star Game on Sunday, Budenholzer said "I have no idea."
LeBron and Giannis will alternate picks in the draft, first with the eight starters and then with the 14 reserves – the Greek Freak will have the first pick among reserves. Conference affiliation is thrown out in the draft.
Who Goes First?
The Mavs’ Doncic is the +310 favorite to go first overall and he probably should. James has picked him each of the past two years, but LeBron’s No. 1 overall pick in each of those was Giannis.
His No. 2? Steph Curry, who is out injured. Curry has been replaced among the starters by the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant. Utah’s Markkanen, a first-time All-Star, is replacing the injured Kevin Durant among the starters, and the Sixers’ Embiid is replacing the Pelicans’ injured Zion Williamson.
It’s no sure thing that Embiid plays, either, as he has been battling through a foot injury for weeks and listed as questionable for every Philadelphia game in that stretch. Embiid is a +400 second favorite to be the top overall pick, followed by the Mavericks’ Irving (LeBron’s former teammate in Cleveland) and Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, both at +425. Denver’s Jokic is +450. Markkanen is the +3000 long shot.
Both Giannis and LeBron are +400 favorites to win the Kobe Bryant MVP Award, but again all these NBA odds are fluid right now with the injury issues. James has won ASG MVP three times, one shy of the record four by Kobe and Bob Pettit. Curry won it last year.
So, why is Team LeBron favored? Because his teams are 5-0 in this captain vs. captain format, twice beating Team Giannis (2019 and ’20), twice Team Durant (2021 and ’22), and once Team Curry (2018).
Target Score Ending Remains in Place
As an example, if Team LeBron is leading Team Giannis 100-97 through three quarters, the first team to 124 points wins the ASG. The 24 points – one of Kobe’s former numbers with the Lakers – is added to the total of the team leading after three quarters. There is no clock in the fourth quarter as the game ends with a made basket or a made free throw.
The format has been a hit with players and three of the five previous games have been decided by three points or fewer, including last year when it finished 163-160. There will be NO defense played in the first three quarters but players generally do perk up on that end in the fourth.
NBA Pick: Team LeBron -3 (-110) at BetOnline
NBA Pick: Luka Doncic - No. 1 Overall Pick (+315) at BetOnline
NBA Pick: Ja Morant - MVP (+1200) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.