NBA All-Star Game 2022 betting preview: Will Team LeBron win 5th straight exhibition?
The story heading into this year's NBA All-Star Game will sound familiar to anyone who's followed in recent years: it's Team LeBron's game to lose. The Lakers star is a captain for the fifth straight year, and his side has won each of the previous four contests ahead of Sunday's showcase.
Can Team LeBron (-5.5) make it five straight wins, or will Team Durant surprise without its headlining star?
Who will win the game?
Since the NBA ditched its original All-Star Game format of East versus West in 2018, Team LeBron has completely dominated this event, capping off a four-year win streak with last season's 20-point victory over Team Durant.
It helps that Team Durant played, ironically, without Kevin Durant, who will also watch from the sidelines in this year's contest. After drafting a subpar team in 2021 - and getting clobbered as a result - Durant's crew is again the inferior side on paper.
Here's a look at Team LeBron:
And here's the roster for Team Durant:
No disrespect to the incredible talent on both sides, but did Durant think he was drafting for the Rising Stars Challenge? His group has a combined 28 All-Star appearances, with Joel Embiid (five) the only player with more than three showings. Compare that to Team LeBron, which boasts a combined 68 (!) All-Star appearances and a ridiculous nine MVP trophies.
Even the names on Team LeBron's bench are daunting. Former All-Star MVP Chris Paul leads the league in assists and is a perfect fit in this format. Luka Doncic has scored 45-plus points in three of his last four games. Jimmy Butler quietly ranks sixth in win shares per minute (.250) and is a walking bucket in isolation.
How in the world did those three land on Team LeBron's bench when Team Durant is starting *checks notes* Andrew Wiggins? How does any of this make sense? Sure, either team can win in a game where effort is scarce, but there's no excuse for one side to be so overwhelmingly talented. Never doubt the power of LeBron James as a general manager.
This year's total (321.5) feels a bit high considering that three of the last four All-Star exhibitions have fallen below this mark. Scoring always grinds to a halt in the fourth quarter, which means these two sides will likely need to tally around 270 points through the first three frames.
We've seen fourth-quarter explosions before, but the better bet is to hit the under and hold your breath on a reasonable pace through the first three quarters. Or, alternatively, don't bet the total. This is an All-Star Game, after all.
Who will win MVP?
The NBA All-Star MVP rarely comes from the losing side, which means we ought to be targeting the stars on Team LeBron to win this year's trophy. Fortunately, there's plenty of value on that side:
The only players in this year's All-Star showcase to have previously won this award - Giannis Antetokounmpo (+425), James (+450), and Paul (+6000) - are all on Team LeBron, which makes each of them attractive bets. That's especially true for the long shot Paul, who finished with 15 assists in his 2013 MVP run and could legitimately top that mark this year if he wants to.
The biggest wild card in this market is home-court advantage. In the last 35 years, seven of the All-Star MVPs have played for the host team. That's a 20% hit rate, which is remarkably high considering how infrequently one of the best players in the event actually plays for the hometown club.
With that in mind, I've got my eyes on Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (+6000), who is making his All-Star debut amid a breakout third season. He has the smooth stroke and elite playmaking ability to put on a show in front of the Cleveland faithful if he gets the playing time. If this game gets away from Team Durant early, expect a heavy dose of Garland and the rest of Team LeBron's reserves.
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