All-Star Preview: Plenty at stake during D-League festivities

While most of the attention will be placed on the 24 NBA all-stars and the participants in NBA All-Star Saturday Night, the 2016 All-Star Weekend isn’t just about the NBA stars.

Of course, there are the many, many NBA and basketball-themed parties that will be going on all around Toronto during the weekend, but if you still want to stick with sports— without breaking the bank— the D-League all-star festivities should suit your needs fine.

Set up like a combination of the Saturday and Sunday of the NBA events, the D-League’s all-star events include a three-point contest, a dunk contest and, you guessed it, the game itself.

Each event will feature members from the Raptors 905, the Toronto Raptors’ D-League affiliate. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect:

What: NBA D-League Three-Point Contest

Where & When: Feb. 13, 1:30 p.m. ET, Ricoh Coliseum

Participants: Jimmer Fredette (Westchester Knicks), Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns), Andre Ingram (Los Angeles D-Fenders), Omari Johnson (Maine Red Claws), Nick Minnerath (Canton Charge), Scott Suggs (Raptors 905)

What to Watch? Of the six participants, Fredette is probably the most recognizable name to NBA fans. Taken 10th overall in 2011, Fredette’s NBA career hasn’t gone the way a lottery pick’s one usually does, but in a three-point contest that doesn’t really matter as the one thing he’s never had issues with is his beautiful shooting stroke.

Suggs has enjoyed a respectable season with the expansion 905 and should have the home crowd support behind him that could help boost his chances.

Johnson also has a small Canadian connection as he played a season for the Summerside Storm of the NBL Canada in 2011-12.

What: NBA D-League Slam Dunk Contest

Where & When: Feb. 13, 1:30 p.m. ET (at half time of D-League All-Star Game), Ricoh Coliseum

Participants: Jarvis Threatt (Rio Grande Valley Vipers), JP Tokoto (Oklahoma City Blue), DJ Stephens (Canton Charge), Walt Lemon Jr. (Fort Wayne Mad Ants), Keifer Sykes (Austin Spurs), John Jordan (Raptors 905)

What to Watch? Unlike the much more regimented NBA Verizon Slam Dunk, the D-League dunk contest is much more akin to one you’d see in the college or high school ranks. Props and gimmicks are the norm and, oh yeah, a lot of the time the stuff you see on that Saturday afternoon ends up being better than in the evening. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

Looking at this year’s field, the name that immediately jumps out is defending champion Threatt who shut it down last year in New York with a self-alley-oop between-the-legs jam.

Also of note, the 905 will be represented by the shortest competitor in the 5-foot-10 Jordan, who, interestingly enough was actually just acquired by the club last week in a trade with the Erie BayHawks.

What: NBA Development League All-Star Game

Where & When: Feb. 13, 1:30 p.m. ET (following three-point and slam dunk contest), Ricoh Coliseum

Eastern Conference
Jordan Bachynski (Westchester Knicks)
Keith Benson (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
Rakeem Christmas (Fort Wayne Mad Ants)
Quinn Cook (Canton Charge)
Jimmer Fredette (Westchester Knicks)
Tre Kelley (Sioux Fall Skyforce)
Sean Kilpatrick (Delaware 87ers)
Jordan McRae (Delaware 87ers)
Ronald Roberts Jr. (Raptors 905)
Alex Stepheson (Iowa Energy)
Jarnell Stokes (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
Scott Suggs (Raptors 905)

Western Conference
Brandon Ashley (Texas Legends)
Jeff Ayres (Idaho Stampede)
Vander Blue (Los Angeles D-Fenders)
Will Cummings (Rio Grande Valley Vipers)
Michael Eric (Texas Legends)
Justin Harper (Los Angeles D-Fenders)
Tu Holloway (Texas Legends)
Vincent Hunter (Reno Bighorns)
Cady Lalanne (Austin Spurs)
Ricky Ledo (Reno Bighorns)
Xavier Munford (Bakersfield Jam)
Raphiael Putney (Rio Grande Valley Vipers)

What to Watch? Unlike the big show on Sunday night, which is essentially just a glorified pick-up game, the D-League all-star game actually has something at stake.

There will be more than just curious fans in attendance at Ricoh Coliseum on Saturday. Pro NBA scouts will also be in the building looking for guys who could potentially help their respective teams down the stretch.

So while the result of the game ultimately won’t matter, players won’t be slacking and will be trying to impress without over-doing things as they must also show they’re able to work within the confines of a role.

This is especially the case for 905 forward Roberts Jr. who has dominated this season with the Mississauga-based club (averaging 18.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game on 61.7 per cent shooting), but hasn’t been able to pick up an NBA deal, despite being among the top potential call-ups, according to the D-League’s official site.

Suggs is in a similar position as his 905 teammate but isn’t listed among the top potential call-ups, even though he’s recognized as a strong three-point shooter as a participant in the contest on Saturday afternoon and the fact he’s averaging 16.3 points per game that includes an excellent 43.6 per cent three-point clip.

So for Roberts, Scott and the 22 other guys playing in the contest, this game matters. And because it matters to them, it always makes for a spirited and competitive game that’s definitely worth checking out.

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