All-Star Saturday predictions: Who will be champs?


Slam-Dunk Contest: Moon Walking

By Jalen Rose | ESPN.com

I appreciate the dunk contest at the All-Star Game from the perspective of a longtime fan, from back when many of the game's top players participated.

The drama of MJ vs. Dominique. JR Rider's great jams. Vince Carter.

Now, the contest is often just the top dunkers, and this year brings one of the most interesting crops I can remember.

Also, one of the great new features in this year's contest is fan voting in the final round. Normally, the winner is determined just based on the judges' votes, but ultimately the fans should have a say. Now they will. Here's the complete rules.

Here's how I rank the dunkers:

1. Jamario Moon, Raptors forward -- The 27-year-old rookie has played everywhere, including a stint with the Harlem Globetrotters. Having experience with traveling showmen like the Globetrotters makes him my pick to win. I would assume he knows some tricks we may not have seen (beside the confetti bucket).

2. Gerald Green, Timberwolves guard -- I expect the defending champ to have something up his sleeve.

3. Rudy Gay, Grizzlies forward -- Silky smooth and having a tremendous year. He's a dunker who has style and skill. He should also have plenty of options because he asked for dunks on YouTube.

4. Dwight Howard, Magic center -- The superstar of the bunch. At 6-11, he's going to show power and agility. I think it's harder for the tallest guy to win, and it's harder to get fans excited and appreciating what he does, like last year when touched the top of the backboard with the sticker.

As a big man, he needs an advantage, which explains his request for the 12-foot hoop. Request denied. Seems like everybody should have the same playing field.

3-Point Contest: Peja's Party

By Tim Legler | ESPN.com

When I won this contest in 1996 (still a record three-round total of 65 points), I was confident that I was the best pure shooter in the field but I was nervous that I might press and rush. Once I warmed up and was stroking it, I knew it was over. Also, I went first, which was a huge advantage because I had just warmed up and didn't have to sit and wait. Keep an eye on who goes early in the first round because I think it'll be big.

Here are the rules, according to NBA.com: "The players will compete in the two-round competition with the top three finishers from the first round advancing to the finals. Five shooting stations will be set up around the 3-point line, with four Official Spalding NBA game balls worth one point each and one Spalding NBA All-Star 2008 commemorative teal- and gold-colored "money ball" worth two points at each location. Each player will have one minute to shoot as many balls as he can. In the final round, players will shoot in ascending order of first-round scores. At the discretion of the referee, television instant replay may be consulted for clarification of rules compliance."

Here's my predicted order of finish:

1. Peja Stojakovic, Hornets forward -- Having won it twice tells you that Peja has the right tempo and rhythm on his release to have a big night. Shooting in front of the home crowd will also help him focus just a little more than the rest of the field. It's been a special year for the Hornets and the good times will continue on Saturday nght.

2. Steve Nash, Suns guard -- He may be the best all-around shooter in the league. When he gets hot, Nash can be scary in his ability to lock in. My only reservation is that he holds his follow-through longer than most guys, and that could force him to rush trying to make up time on the last rack.

3. Jason Kapono, Heat forward -- Jason has a pure stroke and won it last year, so he's as dangerous as anyone in the field. I just don't know if he can be the hottest guy on the court two years in a row with a field this strong.

Also competing: Richard Hamilton, Dirk Nowitzki and Daniel Gibson

The Skills Challenge: CP3's The One

By Jon Barry | ESPN.com

This is the competition on Saturday that most resembles the old classics "The Superstars" or "Battle of the Network Stars."

The Skills Challenge, held yearly since 2003, consists of four players competing in a two-round timed "obstacle course" consisting of dribbling, passing and shooting stations.

The two players with the fastest times from the first round advance to the finals with the order of competition determined by inverse order of the first-round times.

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade comes in as the two-time defending champ.

Here's how I see the competition playing out:

1. Chris Paul, Hornets guard -- The hometown hero has the overall ability needed to win this. On the court this year, he's shown he has the whole package from 20-assist games to 40-point games. He's one of the best at his position in just his third year.

2. Deron Williams, Jazz guard -- He's the best 3-point shooter of the bunch. He's also a big assist guy who has no trouble passing. If you make the top-of-the-key shot on the first try, you give yourself a great chance to win. He has the advantage here.

3. Jason Kidd, Nets guard -- The old, crafty vet is the best passer of the bunch. However, he's going to have to do everything perfectly because when he gets to the top-of-the-key shot, he could be there a while.

4. Dwyane Wade, Heat guard -- Surprise repeat champion the last two years. Kudos to Wade for getting it done, probably not the best passer or shooter or fastest guy in any competition. But as the Heat's struggles continue this season, so will Wade's here.