NBA All-Star Weekend 2018: LeBron, Kyrie Irving among players with most to gain

NBA All-Star Weekend is an exhibition, but that doesn’t mean that it’s irrelevant.

A strong performance in any of the events or the game itself can do wonders for a player’s confidence and notoriety among fans, and a truly outstanding moment (the 2016 dunk contest between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine, for example) can be cemented in NBA lore for eternity.

With that in mind, here is a list of players that have the most to gain from All-Star Weekend.

Players with most to gain from All-Star Weekend

NBA All-Star Weekend 2018: LeBron, Kyrie Irving among players with most to gain

Donovan Mitchell

Utah Jazz SG

In the midst of a sterling rookie season, Mitchell isn’t a household name for casual NBA fans quite yet due to the fact that he plays in Utah for a team that hasn’t been very good until recently. With the Jazz on a serious hot streak, a strong performance in the Rising Stars Challenge and the dunk contest could catapult Mitchell from insider darling to mainstream star.

NBA All-Star Weekend 2018: LeBron, Kyrie Irving among players with most to gain

Andre Drummond

Detroit Pistons C

Drummond was originally an All-Star snub before the rash of injuries to Team LeBron. The 7-footer has turned into one of the best centers in the league this season, and he’s finally starting to realize the potential he displayed during his rookie season. With a strong performance in the All-Star Game and the Skills Challenge, Drummond could join the national conversation as one of the game’s best young players. You forget because he’s been in the league so long, but he’s still only 24 years old.

NBA All-Star Weekend 2018: LeBron, Kyrie Irving among players with most to gain

LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers SF

There’s a major subplot going on this particular All-Star Weekend, and that’s the relationship between the league’s most famous jilted ex-teammates, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. LeBron has used selective language referring to Kyrie asking out of Cleveland last summer, generally calling him “the kid,” which seems a bit patronizing. James already won some points by selecting Irving to play for Team LeBron, but he can further gain public favor if he proves to be the bigger man by burying the hatchet with Kyrie over the weekend.

NBA All-Star Weekend 2018: LeBron, Kyrie Irving among players with most to gain

Kyrie Irving

Boston Celtics PG

Kyrie is nearing the point of no return when it comes to his off-court personality. Depending on how he deals with the media over the weekend (and what possibly insane things come out his mouth), Irving could come back to the very round Earth with the rest of us, or stay in orbit around his own planet. We’ll have to wait and see.

NBA All-Star Weekend 2018: LeBron, Kyrie Irving among players with most to gain

Victor Oladipo

Indiana Pacers SG

Last year Oladipo was ridiculed for not being good enough to become Russell Westbrook’s running mate in OKC. This year he’s among the league leaders in scoring for an overachieving Indiana team, and he has a chance to get on the national radar. If he can go out and win the dunk contest on Saturday, then put together a strong showing in Sunday’s game, he could truly elevate himself to star status.

NBA All-Star Weekend 2018: LeBron, Kyrie Irving among players with most to gain

Damian Lillard

Portland Trail Blazers PG

Lillard is the first one to tell you that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. He’s got a chip on his shoulder after being kept out of the All-Star Game the last couple of seasons, and Dame legitimately thinks he should be listed among the league’s best point guards — this is his time to prove it. He may be gunning for the MVP on Sunday.

NBA All-Star Weekend 2018: LeBron, Kyrie Irving among players with most to gain

Bradley Beal

Washington Wizards SG

Some think that Beal has already eclipsed teammate John Wall as the Wizards ‘ best player, and now he gets to show off on national TV. He’ll make his first All-Star appearance on Sunday, and will also compete in the 3-point contest on Saturday. If he can show off his sharpshooting and his playmaking over the weekend, he could come closer to becoming the league’s favorite Wizard.

NBA All-Star Weekend 2018: LeBron, Kyrie Irving among players with most to gain

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Milwaukee Bucks PF

Most NBA fans know about Giannis by now, but some of them probably don’t know just how good he really is. He has his chance to show everyone on Sunday in his first All-Star Game start, and if he manages to win the MVP (which is more than possible), he’ll officially join the elite of the elite in the NBA.