NBA All-Star 2011: Saturday preview

With the Rookies/Sophomore game in the bag, day two of the NBA All-Star festivities will get underway tonight at 7pm CT and will go through 10pm CT.

The four events tonight will be the Haier Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker 3-point Contest, and Sprite Slam Dunk competition.

Let's take a preview at the events and the predicted winners:

Haier Shooting Competition -- Predicted Winner: Team Texas
There will be a representative from the state of Texas, and the cities of Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. Each team will consist with a current player, an ex-player, and a WNBA player.

For example, Team Chicago will run out Gibson, ex-Bull Steve Kerr, and the Chicago Sky's Cathrine Kraayveld.

Team Texas, with Dirk Nowitzki, Kenny Smith, and Silver Stars' Roneeka Hodges. They won it last season, and with Nowitzki and Smith, two very good shooters, it is there's to lose.

Skills Competition -- Predicted Winner: Russell Westbrook

The field will consist of Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Stephen Curry.

Out of the group, the only contestant to win the competition is Rose, who won it back in his rookie season (2009).

Fans had to vote Rose, Westbrook, Wall, and Curry into the competition, as the NBA announced Paul as a contestant from day one. It's puzzling how Paul is an automatic pick by the NBA -- he hasn't won the event despite being in it a few times.

Rose, who will start in the All-Star game on Sunday, will likely take it easy, relaxed tonight. So relaxed he won't have his knee pads on.

Wall can join Rose as the only rookie to ever win the event, although it will be tough because his mid-range jumper isn't as polished as even Rose's in his rookie season.

Westbrook will win this one because he's in the same camp as Rose, but a close runner-up pick is Curry, who will surely blaze right past the jump-shot section of the course.

Three-point shootout -- Predicted Winner: Ray Allen

Allen is the easiest, safest choice in this year's competition; he is joined by reigning three-point contest winner Paul Pierce, Kevin Durant, Daniel Gibson, James Jones, and Dorell Wright.

Wright leads the NBA in three's made with 135, but this is the first time he'll be partaking in an event like this.

Pierce won the contest last year, but he wasn't considered a favorite last season. Fellow Boston Celtic Allen has been in the contest for a few years and won it in 2001. It's been a while for Allen, who's arguably one of the best shooter of all-time, so this is the year he'll break through and win the three-point shootout crown.

With Gibson in the finals with him.

Slam Dunk contest -- Predicted Winner: Blake Griffin

This competition is Griffin's to lose. He has been the darling of the NBA and quite frankly, he can have average dunks for his standards and still win it.

However, TNT analyst Kenny Smith announced last night on Inside the NBA that Griffin has some crazy, never-seen dunks up his sleeve. Sure, this could very well be Smith blowing smoke so TNT gets more viewers tonight, but it's certainly believable. Griffin can jump that high.

Serge Ibaka, JaVale McGee, and DeMar Derozan will join Griffin in the contest. DeRozan, in his second season, participated in the dunk contest last season and lost in the finals to Nate Robertson, who became the first-ever three-time winner of the dunk contest.

McGee is one of the most athletic big-men in the NBA, as is Ibaka, so it wouldn't be surprising if either of them give Griffin a run for their money.

Nonetheless, this contest is Griffin's to lose. It's tough to see him lose tonight, but McGee will face him in the finals in the battle of athletic big-men.

Final thoughts
Saturday night is always interesting because you never know what you'll get. There's a lot of good participants in the events, so hopefully this one will be better than years past.

The big game comes Sunday night, but the most entertaining night could very well come tonight. 

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