LaVine, Towns shine at All-Star Weekend


For the second consecutive season, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ young talent dominated the Friday and Saturday events of All-Star Weekend.

Rising Stars

It began Friday night with the Rising Stars game. The past two number one overall picks, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, suited up for the World and U.S. teams (respectively), but it was Minnesota’s third representative, Zach LaVine (also suiting up for the U.S.) who stole the show, winning game MVP honors:

LaVine finished with 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Towns chipped in 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists for the U.S. team, who emerged with the 157-154 victory. Wiggins, playing in front of his hometown fans in Toronto, put up 29 points and dished out 5 assists in the loss.

For most rebuilding teams, having three great performances in the Rising Stars game would be enough positive publicity for the weekend. But these young Wolves were just getting started.

Skills Competition

There was a slight tweak to the Skills Competition this year – four big men competed in one bracket, four guards in another, with the winners facing off head to head for all the marbles. Towns is nimble and coordinated for a big man, with a pretty decent handle, but he was still facing stiff competition among his fellow bigs – Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are all frontcourt players with serious backcourt skills.

But Towns was just a bit better – he knocked out Draymond in the first round, annihilated Boogie in the second, and edged the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas in the title round to win the Skills Competition crown:

Dunk Contest

If you scrolled right down to this, I understand. There’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen each of these videos already, but what the hell, why not take one more spin through one of the most epic Slam Dunk contests in All-Star history?

It was, for all intents and purposes, a two man show. Andre Drummond underwhelmed on both of his opening round dunks, and while Will Barton came out with a terrific first effort, he never even completed his second slam. That left it up to Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine to carry the load.

They did not disappoint.

To the tape:

Let’s break a few of these down, shall we?

First things first, it sucks that there had to be a winner and a loser in this competition. I know that’s probably a really lame thing to say, but seriously – both LaVine and Gordon brought their A-games, and each made it look so effortless. It was one of the most entertaining contests of all time. As someone said on Twitter immediately after it ended – Gordon didn’t so much lose as he ran out of amazing stuff to do. Because this is, for instance, is the most bonkers dunk I’ve ever seen:

And this one’s right up there, too…

But LaVine’s overall theatrics just couldn’t be matched. His first dunk (even though it got a 50) was really underrated, I felt…

What won the competition for Zach, ultimately, was his long-jumping abilities. Three times he took off from the free throw line area – once to catch a lob from Andre Miller, once to do a tomahawk, and once to go between the legs.

It was almost as much fun watching the reactions to the dunks as it was to watch the dunks themselves…


Perhaps the nicest reaction came after it was all done, on Zach LaVine’s own Instagram account. We’ll close on this…

LAVine for Flip

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18 Responsesso far.

  1. pyrrol says:

    These events helped put our bright future in perspective.

    That skills thing was pretty fun. I thought Towns would do well (funny to hear the doubter announcers who have obviously not seen the Wolves play much) but winning it was really impressive.

    The dunk contest was epic. I have this weird feeling–it feels like a Timberwolf got favored on a national stage. This was basically a tie, but LaVine got the benefit of the doubt. To me, LaVine won the horizontal dunk contest, and Gordon won the vertical. Gordon’s ‘sitting’ dunk is one of the most amazing ever. It is worth noting that he did push off on the ball to get a little air before picking it up, so maybe it wasn’t all magic. On the other side, LaVine kept doing amazing things from the free throw line and seems to be the greater dunk wellspring. I feel a little guilty we won, because Gordon was so impressive. It helps that LaVine showed good sportsmanship and gave a great honor to Filp by dedicating the award to him. It feels good to have guys like that on your team.

    A couple of notes on format: I felt the simplified format worked well. I do feel like they need to pick a better field of dunkers (and maybe a couple more). When I saw the line up, I felt like the only guy with the vertical to give LaVine any competition was Gordon. I didn’t know how right I was. But the other guys may as well not have been in it. I think the league can choose better and maybe force some bigger names to compete. The accidental overtime was very exciting, but it was also just felt right. Maybe the final one on one dunking round can be several dunks, even five each, not just a one or two. There’s no reason these guys can’t come up with more dunks to fill out the event like this. It worked out well even though it was an accident.

  2. gjk says:

    Looks like LaVine has reached the point where I’d be nervous if they traded him. That probably shouldn’t be the case, but unless they were able to make him the centerpiece of a deal for an All-Star, I’d probably be at least a bit nervous that it would come back to bite them. I still don’t think he’s the third cog in a Big 3, but there’s also doubt if deals for guys like Rodney Hood or Mario Hezonja would be worth it (not that any of those have been proposed or that the other team would have interest). The analytically-savvy teams would probably stay away, but those who aren’t would maybe see that as a guy who sells tickets during a rebuild.

    It was funny to read all the “Gordon was robbed” chatter when the contest has always been about the best compilation of dunks. About half the time, the guy with the best dunk doesn’t win because they may have had a dud or two. If Gordon’s dunk was the best in contest history, LaVine’s Eastbay Funk from a step inside the FT line was the 2nd best, and emphasizing one diminishes how good the other one was.

    • mikeskunes says:

      Just to play devil’s advocate– I think this would be the perfect time to trade LaVine. All-Star Weekend is the perfect place to shine for a guy like Zach who is great at dunking and 3pt shooting but who isn’t a strong defender or is more erratic when being D’d up.

      The only reason not to sell high is that he’s on a very reasonable contract and is still young enough to improve. Not saying he doesn’t belong on the team, but I’m betting his career arc peaks closer to Gerald Green than to even a DeMar DeRozan.

      • Frank North says:

        I don’t want this to come off like I know the guy, I don’t but from everything I have read or heard, he is a hardcore gym rat. A hardcore gym rat + a freak athlete = future All Star. I would be bummed if they traded him. He’s bleeping 20 imagine when his game is second nature and no thinking…..

        • sportsbygreg says:

          Agree. Trading LaVine would be idiotic. Only a organization like the Wolves would entertain that idiotic thought.

          • Mebert says:

            You do realize that someone saying that they would be nervous about trading Lavine in the comments section is not the team entertaining trade ideas right?

            You are so far gone with this crap that you somehow spin innocent statements NOT from the Wolves as examples of Front Office ineptness.

          • sportsbygreg says:

            Look here Mebert the bum mind your own damn business. I was referring to the Wolves past inept Ness that it wouldn’t surprise me. Go kick rocks.

          • sportsbygreg says:

            Lol. Just playing with you man, you good. But you took my comment out of context. Let’s not act like the Wolves front office has been making A-1 quality decisions over the years, the record speaks for itself. They have drafted well the last couple years and acquired Wiggins by trade. But I am not gonna be the guy who posts positives all the time and sugar coat stuff for a team that destined for the lottery again. There is enough nice and sweet analytical posts on this blog to go around. When they get consistent as a team and organization (and I hope they will), then I’ll be Mr. Nice guy.

          • Mebert says:

            I absolutely agree that the Timberwolves Front Office has been atrocious, but that is why you don’t need to imagine new slights, there are plenty of real world examples for you to use.

          • sportsbygreg says:

            Good point! I do tend to go against the grain a bit on this particular blog and play devil’s advocate, and I’ve realized since day ! that would alienate most of you guys or rub Wolves fans the wrong way.. I actually have the ability to flip the script and leave the exact kind of posts (mainly positive & optimistic-big picture.. very eloquent and analytical) you guys leave on here. But since I don’t live in Minny and can’t watch every game, I choose not to do so for now, at least on a more regular basis; actually have my own very unique blog (sports, creative writing, poems, world news, ect). On here, a lot of it is just venting frustration because my expectations were so high for a playoff push, and I’m still pissed at the record, so I highlight their pass ineptitude way too often to correlate the continued failure. Trust me, I’m aware I need to slow my venomous role a bit with my adopted favorite squad. Lol. I guess it’s just tough love, but a bit much at times. Hey, although I may continue to dwell on negatives (as well as positives) going forward, as I stated recently, I have lowered my expectations for the remainder of this season–so I definitely won’t be spewing as much venom. I like the positives I’ve been seeing lately. Hell, I’m willing to admit I’m somewhat of a conspiracy theorist, especially going back to Ewing (Knicks), LeBron (Cavs), ect. And I said the Wolves wouldn’t get Simmons, but man do I hope I’m wrong. Could you image that guy on this team at the 4 with all this young talent (rhetorical question). Wow! I’m now starting to have dreams of that happening. Mebert…Keep up the good work bro!

          • Mebert says:

            Yeah the record is a bummer. I don’t live in Minnesota either, before the season me and a Co-Worker debated about whether the Wolves would be in the hunt for a playoff spot. I still hear about it every day. I really thought this team would be ready to compete, and that was before we knew how good Towns would be as a rookie. Passing last years win total by the All-Star break is nice, but not near where I thought it would be.

            The Jazz are on a similar path as the wolves, only a few years further along. The progress there has been just as slow, but it looks like their playoff drought is going to end this year. I think the Wolves have a brighter future then the Jazz, but patients is hard when things have been bleak for so long.

          • sportsbygreg says:

            I agree, and those are great points you made. The Jazz are very talented young team, and should only get better.

      • gjk says:

        I agree with you; it’s just that his recent stuff has made me question whether it’d be a good idea when I didn’t question that before. There are legitimate questions if his hard work would actually pay off for areas of his game where he struggles, like court vision or post defense against bigger 2s. And the names that I brought up are clearly ones where they’d be close to winning the trade; he’s probably one of the 7-8 most valuable assets from his draft class now, depending on the organization. And if there’s any worry about one of these younger guys being vastly overpaid with their next contract, it’s him; his game has “leading scorer on a bad team” written all over it if he ends up in the wrong situation.

        • sportsbygreg says:

          You make very valid points. I see. I was taking a shot at the Wolves organization more than anything. Zach has potential but I get your take.

  3. Mebert says:

    Anyone else think the Rubio trade rumor is BS?

    • College Wolf says:

      For the FO’s sake, I sure hope so…

    • gjk says:

      Most of the rumors are, to be fair. No one had Tobias Harris for Ilyasova and Jennings or Courtney Lee for PJ Hairston and picks out there. I don’t think Taylor can allow Milt to trade anyone besides Martin unless they’re clearly winning the trade; they can’t have possible lame ducks like Milt and Sam shaping this franchise’s future. And there’s little need to trade anyone at this point when the summer might lead to better offers, especially since no one seems to want to give up things for Martin.

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