NBA All-Star Saturday Night
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, La.
When: Saturday, Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET
TV: TNT (U.S.); TSN (Canada)
Overture, curtains, lights. This is it, you’ll hit the heights. And oh what heights we’ll hit. On with the show this is it.
NBA All-Star Saturday Night is where the league’s best and brightest assemble to watch awe-inspiring acts of aerial athleticism, elite marksmanship from some of the Association’s premier shooters, and, yes, even some passing through adequately sized hoops.
Over the years, basketball fanatics have favored these events over the All-Star Game itself, which has gradually become less and less competitive. Here, the players take more pride in their performance, and as a result, our time spent watching is that much more fulfilling.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
|Isaiah Thomas||Boston Celtics||5-foot-9||2/1|
|John Wall||Washington Wizards||6-foot-4||9/4|
|Devin Booker||Phoenix Suns||6-foot-6||4/1|
|Gordon Hayward||Utah Jazz||6-foot-8||8/1|
|Anthony Davis||New Orleans Pelicans||6-foot-11||10/1|
|Kristaps Porzingis||New York Knicks||7-foot-3||10/1|
|DeMarcus Cousins||Sacramento Kings||6-foot-11||15/1|
|Nikola Jokic||Denver Nuggets||6-foot-10||15/1|
- Starting point
- Dribble between four obstacles
- Perform a chest pass through target
- Grab ball
- Hit layup
- Hit 3-pointer
The field of eight will be placed into a tournament bracket, with centers battling centers and guards/forwards doing the same. The competition will eventually come down to the top center and guard/forward squaring off in the final round to crown a winner.
Thomas survived his side of the bracket last year after going out in the opening round in 2015, so he comes in with the most experience of any of the competitors.
The only reason he didn’t win north of the border was because of his 3-point shot, which, in this type of setting, is hard not to rush at the very end. Thomas is shooting nearly three percentage points better from behind the arc (38.5) through 52 games, so if he gives himself enough breathing room during the dribbling and passing portions, he could set himself up for a smooth victory.
Or, it could be Wall … or Booker … or Hayward … or any of the big men. It’s probably going to come down to sheer dumb luck. Really, did anyone see Patrick Beverley or Trey Burke as favorites when they won?
JBL 3-Point Contest
|Klay Thompson||Golden State Warriors||182||42.2||11/10|
|Kyrie Irving||Cleveland Cavaliers||118||38.9||4/1|
|C.J. McCollum||Portland Trail Blazers||138||41.1||8/1|
|Kyle Lowry||Toronto Raptors||185||41.7||9/1|
|Eric Gordon||Houston Rockets||184||38.5||9/1|
|Nick Young||Los Angeles Lakers||147||41.3||9/1|
|Kemba Walker||Charlotte Hornets||149||37.1||11/1|
|Wesley Matthews||Dallas Mavericks||144||38.1||11/1|
- Five shooting stations consisting of five balls are spread out around the 3-point line.
- Four of the balls (standard orange) are worth one point, while the “money ball” (red, white, and blue) is worth two. Instituted in 2014, one rack will consist entirely of “money balls,” raising the maximum score to 34.
- Competitors take turns trying to score as many points as possible in the qualifying round, with the three best scores advancing to the finals, where the process is repeated.
Splish splash, Thompson is going back to back.
Stephen Curry chose to pass on the 2017 shootout, and considering how he’s been Thompson’s biggest competition the past two years, his absence will go a long way in helping his Bay Area teammate repeat.
That’s not to say it’s a foregone conclusion he’ll pull it off, though. Irving is a former winner himself (2012-13), Lowry, McCollum, and Young are all converting over 40 percent of their attempts like Thompson this season, and Walker, Gordon, and Matthews have it in them to get hot and keep the tallies close.
Verizon Slam Dunk Contest
|Aaron Gordon||Orlando Magic||44||13/20|
|Derrick Jones Jr.||Phoenix Suns||3||13/10|
|DeAndre Jordan||Los Angeles Clippers||165||8/1|
|Glenn Robinson III||Indiana Pacers||17||9/1|
- Each competitor is given two dunks in the opening round, with three attempts for each and no time limit.
- Their dunks will be scored on a scale of 6-10 by five guest judges.
- The two dunkers with the highest combined scores will move on to the finals.
- There, each participant will get two more dunks.
- The finalist with the highest combined score will be crowned the Slam Dunk champion.
Anyone who caught Gordon using a hoverboard and jumping over the Orlando Magic mascot at Air Canada Centre is, in all likelihood, pegging him to waltz his way to a title that he really should have won a year ago.
Well, contrary to popular belief, it’s not going to be that easy. Gordon is nursing a bone bruise in his right foot, which can’t make taking off feel very comfortable. The 21-year-old also put down six insane dunks in his classic with LaVine, so how could he possibly top himself this go around? Has the well run dry?
Giants not named Dwight Howard haven’t shown much moxie in recent iterations, and since Jordan feels like more of an in-game power dunker, it’s hard to have much confidence in him taking the crown.
Jones Jr. is a dark horse who no one outside of the D-League really knew existed until the announcement that he was taking part. The same goes for Robinson III, who’s on his third team in three years and just the ninth-leading scorer on an underwhelming Pacers squad. They’re here for a reason, though, and could surprise a ton of folk with what they have in their respective arsenals.
Then again, it’s just so difficult to pick anyone other than Gordon, even if his foot isn’t 100 percent. Go with your gut here.
(Odds courtesy Bovada.lv)