This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
The NBA world descends on downtown Chicago this weekend for the league's annual All-Star festivities. For the second straight year, Team Giannis will take on Team LeBron in Sunday night's main event, but the action runs all weekend, beginning with the Rising Stars Game on Friday night.
While All-Star Weekend is mostly fun and games, it brings plenty of opportunity for bettors, so let's take a look at the odds, and the top bets, for Friday night.
Team World vs. Team USA – Friday, 9:00PM ET
Fanduel: Team USA -6; Total: 304
DraftKings: Team USA -5; Total: 302.5
Rising Stars might be even more of a crapshoot than the All-Star Game itself. Last year's game was a 17-point blowout in favor of Team USA, marking the third consecutive year with a final spread of at least nine points. Back in 2016 in Toronto, Team USA prevailed 157-154, but that was the only time since 1998 that the game was decided by fewer than six points. I'd lean toward Team USA covering.
As far as the total goes, this game tends to be extremely high scoring, despite it being eight minutes shorter than a typical NBA game (two 20-minute halves). Rising Stars will not employ the same Elam-ending style as the All-Star Game, so the total is actually a few points higher than Sunday's night's.
Last year's game – a 161-144 Team USA win – came in at 305 points, so the number makes sense. But consider that since the game switched to the USA vs. World format, the total has gone under 300 in three of five years. This year's rosters feature some elite shooters in Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Devonte' Graham – but that's about it. Tyler Herro won't play, and he was in a walking boot at practice. A ton of threes will go up – at practice Friday morning I heard one coach tell Team World they want 50-plus attempts – but I'm not convinced all that many will fall. I like the under.
Rising Stars Game MVP favorites (DraftKings)
Zion Williamson: +275
Ja Morant: +450
Trae Young: +450
Luka Doncic: +500
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: +700
Williamson is the heavy-ish favorite, and for good reason. Compared to the All-Star Game, Rising Stars tends to distribute minutes more evenly, but Williamson has already proven he can rack up counting stats in a hurry. Even if he only plays 25 minutes, he could easily approach 30 points – and likely a few memorable highlights. Last year's MVP, Kyle Kuzma, went for 35 points and six rebounds, though he hit just 3-of-10 attempts from beyond the arc.
I like Morant quite a bit at +450. Zion may grab more headlines, but Morant is the more natural showman – as a passer, finisher and ball-handler. He'll have the ball in his hands as often as anyone on either side, and if he gets even relatively hot from three, his combination of scoring and assists could be enough to sway voters. Given the pace and overall lack of defense, point guards tend to rack up assists at an extreme rate. De'Aaron Fox had 16 assists (and just two points) last year, while Jamal Murray put up 36 points and 11 assists en route to the MVP in 2017.
Young is another decent bet at +450. The volume should be there, though there's some concern that he could save his best for the main event Sunday night. Same goes for Doncic, whose odds would probably be lower if he'd played more than one healthy game heading into the break.
In terms of the longer odds, Brandon Clarke (+3300) is reasonably appealing for the World team. He's an elite finisher who could put up points in a hurry – especially if he expends any effort on the offensive and defensive glass.
Other props (DraftKings)
Zion Williamson: O/U 23.5 points
Trae Young: O/U 24.5 points
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: O/U 21.5 points
Luka Doncic: O/U 24.5 points
Ja Morant: O/U 20.5 points
The prop offerings are pretty limited, and while you can bet first team to 10 points, 20 points and 50 points, I wouldn't recommend getting involved with that.
In a game like this one, betting any point total unders feels dirty. But not everyone can be the star. Over the last five years, an average of five players per game topped 20 points, individually. The most was in 2016 (7), and the fewest was the year before, when only three players – Andrew Wiggins, Victor Oladipo, and Zach LaVine – reached the mark. To be fair, in 2015, the two teams combined for 52 three-point attempts. Last year the number was 103, which is probably around what we'll see Friday night.
I like the over for Williamson and Morant, and though I'm concerned about Young's workload, he could easily catch fire early and get to 25 points. I like the under for Doncic and Gilgeous-Alexander.