With All-Star weekend coming up next week, the NBA has announced their participants for the Slam Dunk Contest, Three-Point Contest and Skills Challenge. These three competitions are all precursors to the main event, the All-Star game which will be held on Sunday February 14th in Toronto, the home of the Raptors. There’s much excitement over the fact that all three of the reigning champions in these competitions are coming back to defend their titles.
In the Slam Dunk Contest, Zach Lavine (pictured) will be back to defend his title. The second year guard from UCLA has video game hops, which he features regularly in games. He dominated the contest last year as a rookie and edged out Giannas Antetokounmpo (pronounced exactly as it appears), Mason Plumlee and Victor Oladipo. This year, Pistons center Andre Drummond, Nuggets guard Will Barton and Aaron Gordon of the Magic will try and steal his crown. Aaron Gordon is probably the guy who has the best chance to knock off Lavine. The second year power forward soars when he gets airborne and throws down with ease.
But ultimately, this should be Lavine’s contest to lose. In last year’s contest, he earned two perfect scores for his dunks. He’s already the best dunker in the game and as you can see from the gif above, he’s also very creative. I’m anticipating another show from the bright young star.
Another reigning champion is Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who won the Three-Point Contest last year in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center. Curry is the best shooter in the league, and maybe already of all time. Last year, Curry dominated from beginning to end and beat fellow Golden State Warrior teammate Klay Thompson and Cleveland Cavalier Kyrie Irving in the final round to take home the hardware.
On the year, Curry is shooting 45% from downtown and is taking almost 11 per game. He’s a certified sniper from deep and has serious unlimited range. In this competition Curry will take on Thompson, J.J Redick of the Clippers, Khris Middleton of the Bucks, Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat, Rockets shooting guard James Harden, rookie Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns and hometown hero Kyle Lowry. This is quite a strong field, except the addition of Bosh is a bit puzzling to me. He’s not a great shooter like the rest of the field and could struggle in this competition. Redick and Booker are about as pure as it gets from behind the arc and they do most of their damage coming off screens and getting open without the ball. Even with a stronger field, I think Curry is the hands down favorite to win this contest for the second straight season.
Last year’s Skills Challenge came down to Patrick Beverley and Brandon Knight, with Beverley pulling a surprise win over the current Phoenix Suns guard. Beverley is back again, but there’s a new wind blowing in the Skills Challenge. For the first time ever, players who play in the front court are participating in this event. This competition was always made up out of guards to show off their on court abilities. But this year, big men, like Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, Pelicans star Anthony Davis, do-it-all Warriors forward Draymond Green and rookie sensation Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves, are crashing the party. One the shorter end of the stick, guards C.J. McCollum of the Trailblazers, Jordan Clarkson of the Lakers and Celtics pint sized point guard Isaiah Thomas will join Beverley to round out the field.
On a quick side note, it’s very interesting to see that Isaiah Thomas is the only player from the East participating in this event, even with quality point guards Jeff Teague and Kyle Lowry roaming the East.
This is tough competition to project, because Beverley was certainly a surprise last year to win the contest and I don’t think he’s favorite this season either. My money is on either Isaiah Thomas or Draymond Green to take home the crown this season. Am I little Boston biased? Sure, but Isaiah is the only pure point guard in this contest, which historically favors point guards.
The competitions the NBA puts on before the All-Star game are arguably more enjoyable to watch than the actual All-Star game.
Everybody loves to see guys throw down the most outrageous dunks they can. With high flyers like Lavine and Gordon, the Dunk Contest should be fantastic to watch.
The Three-Point Contest may not be as entertaining, but people love to watch Steph Curry, and quite frankly, he’s passed LeBron James as the face of the NBA. Not saying he’s the better player, but it seems as though everyone loves Curry and everyone hate LeBron. Anyways, it should be fun to watch the Splash Brothers that are Curry and Klay Thompson go head to head, as well as James Harden who claims that he was “the people’s MVP” last year.
The Skills Competition will be interesting as it features big men for the first time. Will the big men be able to keep pace with the guards? That’s the question that will have to be answered next weekend.
I’m a bigger fan of the NHL’s All-Star weekend than I am the NBA’s, but hey, anything is better than the Pro Bowl, am I right?
Cover Photo via USAToday
Gif via WatchLoud