NBA Tier List: Raptors looking like all-star MVPs atop the league

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) and guard Kyle Lowry (7) celebrate during a break in play. (Frank Gunn/CP)

This weekend is NBA all-star weekend and is, in this author’s opinion, unquestionably the best of the major North American sports’ all-star festivities if for nothing else than the sheer volume of events to check out, both on the ground in the host city and watching from home on TV.

As such, never one to pass up an easy peg opportunity, on this week’s edition of the NBA Tier List, we’re grouping teams according to the best and worst all-star events, past and present.

Three-point Contest

You’re likely surprised that we have the three-point contest as all-star weekend’s top event or, maybe, to see the Toronto Raptors standing alone at the top of the heap this week. Don’t be.

Like the Raptors this season, the three-point contest, no matter who’s in it every year, always provides the most consistently enjoyable experience because it’s inherently going to be the most competitive contest as every player selected can definitely shoot, particularly while unguarded.

Additionally, the three-point shot, in general, is analytically the best shot in basketball – threes are worth more than twos, you know – plus, the Raptors are on a league-best 14-game winning streak right now.

Are you going to try to dispute those numbers in regards to who is the best team in the league at this very moment?

Slam Dunk Contest

The dunk competition is the final event of All-Star Saturday Night and is treated as the main event of the evening.

Like this collection of teams, generally speaking, the dunk contest will be pretty entertaining with occasional flashes of pure brilliance that will have people buzzing. Conversely, though, when the dunk contest is bad, it’s mind-numbingly poor. Again, something that can be said of these five teams.

Take the Los Angeles Clippers’ demolishment at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves as an example. The Clippers were down 81-59 at halftime and ended up losing 142-115 – a complete embarrassment. After that game, though, the Clippers then went out and handed the Cleveland Cavaliers – a team on paper nearly as bad as Minnesota – Cleveland’s worst home loss in franchise history.

Extreme highs, extreme lows and pretty good in between. That’s what the dunk contest is.

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Skills Competition

The obstacle-course-fuelled chaos the skills competition provides every year almost always makes for a decent show – and is always underappreciated.

This trio of Western Conference teams aren’t the best in the league – heck, the Portland Trail Blazers aren’t even in a playoff spot right now – but they’ve all played very well as of late and, for the most part – Damian Lillard’s heroics aside, of course – have gone unnoticed by most.

If you give these teams, and the skills competition this Saturday, a chance, though, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Rising Stars Challenge

The old rookie-sophomore game. It’s a good idea, in theory. The concept of a young players all-star game is good for growing future stars and for giving a little shine on teams that may otherwise not get it.

However, this game, if you like to see competitive basketball, is a drab, boring affair with occasional highlights that will be hyperbolized because it’s a fun exhibition.

The six teams listed above have all performed in a manner they’d probably rather forget over the last little bit, but you may not have been entirely aware that they’re struggling because of how high profile some of them are.

Ultimately, this bump in the road is just that and all of these squads are pretty solid in their own right, but like the Rising Stars Challenge, at the moment, they leave a fair bit to be desired.

If there is a podcasting odd couple, this might be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t agree on much, but you’ll agree this is the best Toronto Raptors podcast going.

The all-star game itself

Hey, do you know what’s even more mediocre than the Rising Stars game? The big Sunday showcase itself.

At least with the Rising Stars, you’ll get young guys who may not actually know how to ease up and are still hungry enough to look to try to make a name for themselves.

The actual all-star game is generally made up of established stars who look like they’re going through a glorified walkthrough for more than 90 per cent of the event before finally turning it on to something actually watchable for the closing moments of the game – if it’s even remotely close by then, that is.

All of this is to say that the all-star game is just alright. Which is the best way to describe the two teams listed at this level.

H-O-R-S-E Competition

Hey do you remember when all-star weekend had a H-O-R-S-E contest? No? Well at least Kevin Durant will remember.

But if you are confused of such an event existing that’s perfectly understandable as this is something that last only two years, 2009 and 2010, before getting axed, both with Durant coming out on top with a steady diet of mid-range jumpers.

So, in honour of this incredibly forgettable event at all-star weekend, these five teams that you may also have forgotten about this season are placed here.

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Celebrity Game

Full disclosure: This author watches the Celebrity Game every year and even finds some enjoyment in it, but that doesn’t mean this is an event that’s actually good by any standards.

Look, if you want to watch scrubs get shots up, go to your local YMCA and take a peek at any of the infinite number of open runs that are going each week. Don’t put this on national television.

In fact, to bring this back to the teams at this tier, there are some fun players to watch on each of these teams, but at the same time, you really shouldn’t have to watch them play, particularly on a national stage. Ever.

The Wheel

Never again will we make the mistake that was the dunk competition wheel in 2002. It is, unquestionably, the worst thing to ever happen at all-star weekend.

So, in this vein, the Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers are very wheel-like right now.

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