Everyone has an opinion on the NBA’s annual All-Star Game. For some it’s 48 minutes of excitement, the game’s best players battling against one another in a laid back setting that allows for high-flying dunks, mystical passes and the deepest of ridiculous 3-pointers.
For others, it’s no fun at all. The lack of defense makes it look like too much of an exhibition, and there’s too much isolation and not enough cutting that makes the NBA one of the world’s most popular team sports.
Whichever side you fall on – and most go pretty hard to one side – there’s money to be made when it comes to wagering on All-Star Sunday’s festivities. The game’s format changed beginning in 2018, where the two leading vote-getters draft teams from the pool of All-Stars instead of the traditional East vs. West format. We’ll get into what kind of difference that makes in NBA betting on both the spread and the over-under.
But let’s begin with the real trophy all the players after more so than a simple win or loss.
NBA All-Star Game Betting Tips
Best of the Best Win All-Star MVP
Every All-Star is talented, seeing as they were chosen as one of the best 24 players in a pool of roughly 450 players. But the cream rises to the top even in the All-Star Game, and the best players eventually find a way to take over even exhibitions with no real impactful outcome.
The first MVP of the NBA All-Star Game in 1951 went to Ed Macauley, a 6-foot-8 center who would go on to appear in each of the next six All-Star Games. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1960. And why is that relevant? Because MVPs of All-Star Games have found themselves in the Hall of Fame with almost no exceptions.
From 1951 to 2012 the MVP was handed out 61 times. Only four times was the winner of the MVP not a Hall of Famer (or on pace to become one): Adrian Smith in 1966, Edward Smith in 1978, Tom Chambers in 1987 and Glen Rice in 1997. A whopping 57 times the MVP of the All-Star Game went on to have a Hall of Fame career. And the more recent winners are on the right track. They include: Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis.
Those guys are all on track to make it to Springfield, Mass., one day. So don’t get cute with your MVP pick. Guys with long odds are that way for a reason. Find yourself a future Hall of Famer and someone who is going to shoot a lot. Because…
Scoring and Winning
Just like the regular season MVP goes to a player who does plenty of scoring and winning, it’s an important distinction in the All-Star Game, too. From 2000 to 2016, a total of 17 winners, each MVP came from the winning team and all but twice that player led his team in scoring. The only two exceptions were in 2008, when LeBron James flirted with a triple-double (27 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists) and in 2013 when Chris Paul had 20 points and a whopping 15 assists to lead the West.
There were six instances in that span where the winner wasn’t the leading scorer of the game itself, but that’s still a 65 percent hit rate on finding the game’s leading scorer to find your MVP. There are tons of factors and stats that pile up in such a free-wheeling, open game, but at the end of the day it still comes down to points.
It Helps to Host
It doesn’t happen as often as you’d think, but there are some years where players on a specific team help a player whose team is hosting All-Star Weekend win MVP. Ironically it happened during the first All-Star Game, when the Celtics’ Macauley won the award in 1951 while playing in Boston.
Since Macauley won in his host city, it’s happened 13 other times from then until 2017, when Anthony Davis won MVP while playing the All-Star Game in New Orleans. It’s not a huge bump but it happens, on average, about once every five seasons. So if you’re looking for a tiebreaker that’s certainly a way to go.
Drafting Teams Makes Betting Difficult
In years’ past it was easy to distinguish which team had the advantage in the All-Star Game: West vs East. It’s no longer that simple. With the leading vote getters drafting teams it’s a more jumbled roster on both sides that can be difficult to analyze.
There aren’t any real trends because of the format change in 2018, but we will say that starters are always going to wind up playing the most minutes, so instead of analyzing the roster as a whole, look at the star power at the top. And again, if you’ve got a hunch as to who might win MVP then you’ve likely got your winner both straight-up and against the spread.
Expect Point Totals to Shrink
Perhaps the teams took pride in being drafted to specific teams, but there was somewhat of a shift in scoring after the format change. In 2017, an NBA record 374 points were scored in the West’s 192-182 victory. But the following year, Team LeBron beat Team Stephen 148-145, the first time the game total had gone under 300 points since 2013.
That came at a time when scoring efficiency was at an all-time high in the NBA, but that could be the norm going forward. The 48-minute track meet clamps down on defense in the fourth quarter, so the under may be in play more going forward. The over had hit in six of the previous seven seasons before the formatting change, and then the under hit in 2018. We may see the score of these games shrinking as teams take it more seriously. Oddsmakers will adjust, but our hunch is game totals keep decreasing.