Everybody From the Players to Bookmakers Seem a Little Bit Unsure About the New NBA All-Star Game Rules

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Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images.

  • The new rule changes for the 2020 All-Star Game have bookmakers unsure how to set lines.
  • How will players and the books respond to the new quarter-by-quarter format?

CHICAGO — The NBA All-Star Game is … complicated.

It’s technically a game, but hardly a game since there is no actual competition. It’s a meeting of the game’s best to give their worst, and a moment to celebrate the sport by having fun and not going too hard.

And on top of all these contradictions … they changed the rules this year to make it even more complicated. Each quarter will be scored separately, with the winning team donating more money to local charities to provide incentive before the scores are combined heading into the 4th. This year will incorporate the “Elam ending” where after three quarters, the leading score will have 24 added to it (in honor of Kobe Bryant), and the first team to reach that number wins.

So to use last year’s game as an example, after three quarters, Team LeBron led 132-131. So 156 would be the new target score, and the first team to reach that figure would win.

It’s confusing, and the sense of the players at Media Availability Saturday was that they weren’t sure what the effects would be. Some players seemed to genuinely not be certain of what the new rules were.

The books are even less sure.

Jeff Sherman, Vice President of Risk Management for the Westgate Superbook, said the changes are bad for the common bettor.

“It’s definitely not conducive to the betting public,” Sherman told The Action Network. “Simpler the better for action. We will offer a side, total, and money line for each the 1st quarter, 2nd quarter and 3rd quarter.  We can offer just a pregame price on the overall winner, and after the 3rd quarter we can update the price on the overall winner.”


Circa Sports decided the new rules will inhibit 4th quarter scoring, and as a byproduct, they lowered the total to 287.

PointsBet similarly found the new changes to be a challenge. Via a statement from their bookmakers:

“On All-Star Game, the total is definitely tricky.  In recent years, the market has shaped it pretty drastically down from the opener, so we have to keep that in mind.

Then you have the fact that:  1) the first three quarters figure to feature more defense than we’re accustomed to seeing in the All-Star Game given the incentive to win each quarter, and 2) the new format means it’s unlikely we’ll see more than 50 points in the fourth.

We’re currently up with player point totals for the starters, which will help guide our linemaking process on the game total, as those are derivative markets. On the side, we hung Team LeBron -4.5, which is simply a reflection of the clear talent edge they have over Team Giannis.”

There’s a lot to test here. Will the quarter-by-quarter changes really result in better effort? The players are pretty constant in their “We’re just here to have fun” and “It’s a break for us too” talking points. They don’t want to set the bar actual effort defensively.

Meanwhile, the final frame scoring is also interesting. Let’s say it’s a blowout, with Team LeBron up 15 going into the 4th. Do they let up off the gas to let Team Giannis back into it so it feels competitive and is that enough to get the over to hit? The total is still up at 303.5 at some books, so you’re seeing a big disparity in that figure.

The team dynamics play a part as well. Team Giannis absolutely, 100% have better defenders. If it’s a close game in the 4th, they may just lock down and actually try. So I lean a little towards what the books have said regarding the under.

There is real motivation to win this one. Some All-Star Games feel more special than others. That’s not really fair, but it’s how it is. This one, in Chicago, the year of Bryant’s death, in the house Jordan built, has more meaning and that may mean the players change their approach. There’s momentum in this one meaning something.

So take all this in, and be aware of how complicated this All-Star Game is.

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