The NBA’s All-Star is weekend is arguably the most entertaining one in professional sports, with Saturday night’s slate of events trumping the All-Star Game to an extent.
All-Star Saturday Night is comprised of three events: the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the JBL Three-Point Contest and the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. As years have gone on, the NBA has made changes to the skills challenge and dunk contest to make them more entertaining, and the players that get selected are more than capable of showing out.
The first event, Skills Challenge, features four frontcourt players and four backcourt players competing against each other on a course that tests the contestants’ abilities to dribble, pass and shoot.
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After that, the Three-Point Contest is set up, and eight players attempt to out-shoot their opponents. Participants are giving one minute to shoot 25 shots, with each rack having four balls worth one point and a “money” ball that’s worth two. An added wrinkle is each shooter gets one of their five racks to be made entirely of “money” balls, and they can place that wherever they please.
Rounding out the night is the Slam Dunk Contest. And that’s pretty self-explanatory. After last year, the bar is raised, and the four contests get two dunks per round with three attempts to finish them. The two with the highest combined scores go onto the final, where they’ll hope to replicate the duel we saw between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon last year.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
- Devin Booker, Suns
- DeMarcus Cousins, Kings
- Anthony Davis, Pelicans
- Joel Embiid, 76ers
- Gordon Hayward, Jazz
- Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks
- Isaiah Thomas, Celtics
- John Wall, Wizards
Joel Embiid has said how he wants to play point guard at some time in his career, and this would be an excellent way to showcase his versatility. In a game setting, Embiid doesn’t get the chance to be a primary ball handler or playmaker; usually, he’s fed the ball in the post has sets ran for him.
The reality is that any of the eight guys in the event can win it, but Embiid’s having the kind of season where he’ll take the floor at the Smoothie King Center and just demolish the other seven guys. Plus, it’s far more impressive seeing forwards and centers dribble through an obstacle course, make pinpoint bounce and chest passes and connect on long-range jumpers.
Guards do that on the regular. And the guards lacing up for this contest do it exceptionally well. Wall is a top-three passer who has a wickedly quick handle; Thomas isn’t as scintillating a passer, but he’s always weaving in-and-out of traffic.
I’m picking Embiid as the victor, but, if I had to pick someone from the backcourt as the closest to beating him, it would have to be Wall.
JBL Three-Point Shootout: Nick Young, Los Angeles Lakers
- Eric Gordon, Rockets
- Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers
- Kyle Lowry, Raptors
- Wesley Matthews, Mavericks
- C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers
- Klay Thompson, Warriors
- Kemba Walker, Hornets
- Nick Young, Lakers
Firstly, let’s realize how blessed we are that Swaggy P is competing in something this year. There’s a solid chance he gets shot out of the gym, but who’s ready for the post-round commentary?
The only player who would shock me if they won is Matthews, but all the others have the potential to take the trophy home. Thompson is rightfully the favorite, but I just can’t bring myself to not believe in Nick Young. He’s the 15th best shooting in the NBA with a 41.6 percent clip, and he’s made for an event like this. He may be a questionable shooter at times, but he, just like every other contestant, can get hot if given enough shots.
If this were a real game, Young would shoot each of his 25 shots like he knew they were going in, even if they rim out when his back turned to them. Don’t expect anything less on the NBA’s most entertaining night.
Verizon Slam Dunk Contest: Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
The Dunk Contest can play out one of two ways — Gordon’s victory is premeditated because of what happened last year, or he fails miserably because 2016’s performance set the mark so high.
I’m picking the former, but it’s not because of last season’s results. Gordon showed us that he’s a very talented dunker who utilizes power, finesse and props to achieve Twitter-shattering dunks, and he can also finish the most ambitious ones.
DeAndre Jordan has a chance, but, historically, big men haven’t fared well in the dunk contest and the Clippers’ center hasn’t showcased anything besides power yams — that could also play into his advantage because we haven’t seen an extensive catalog from him.
Derrick Jones is the sleeper in this year’s event, and his style is similar to LaVine’s. Both are about the same size and can absolutely soar, but Jones being a “no-name” plays against him. For Jones to get recognition, his dunks will have to be flawless; to win, not one miss can take place.
As for Glenn Robinson, I don’t know what to make of him. He’s the contestant no one talks about and hasn’t had many highlight slams this year. Judging from the eye-test, he gets most of his dunks off lobs, which would lead me to believe he won’t deviate too much from that during the contest. Much like Jordan, not having much of a resume could work in his favor if everything goes right.
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