The NBA All-Star Weekend is here and Saturday’s Three-Point Contest is set to be the main event for those who have grown disappointed of the lack of fireworks from the Dunk Contest in recent years.
There will be 10 participants for the first time in the history of the league, a field full of sharpshooters with potential to take the crown — but only one can bring home the trophy and the bragging rights that come from it.
There are wannabe-contenders and actual real threats to walk away with all the marbles in an art that has now been elevated to the highest levels of marksmanship.
The rest of the field
Despite having won the contest once before in 2006, Nowitzki is shooting the lowest 3-point percentage of his career since his rookie season, making only 30.8 percent of his attempts.
The 7-footer’s acumen hasn’t diminished, but his opportunities have — no longer the talisman the Dallas Mavericks ran their offense through, but a bench cog whose main function is to mentor younger players, as he passes the torch to young Luka Doncic.
This sixth opportunity in the contest is just one last chance to see the big German hoist them up, hoping to put on a Larry Bird-like performance in what’s likely to be the last season of his 21-year NBA career.
This will be Lillard’s second time in the contest since first appearing in 2014. The Blazers point guard has shot the ball well, making 2.9 treys per game at a 37.3 percent clip, but his game relies on balance and rhythm, rather than spot-up opportunities.
As the point guard, Lillard has the ball in his hands the majority of the time and is the creator of his own openings, making this task a rather tough one with five racks of five balls each to fire away in succession.
Walker started the season with great success from beyond the arc, but the averages eventually caught up to him later down the road. Despite getting off to a 40-percent-and-better clip, he’s now down to 36.2 percent on the season even after taking and making a career-high from long-range.
The Bronx native benefits from his explosiveness and herky-jerky crossover move to find openings for his 3-point shot, but is unlikely to do very well in a snipedown contest relying in pure repetition.
A first-time participant in the NBA Three-Point Contest, Green is a support player extraordinaire, who actually ranks among the league leaders in plus-minus due to his skilled perimeter defense and undoubtable ability to knock down open jumpers.
He’s shooting a studly 42.1 percent from deep this season after a few down years, but the veteran sniper shot 40 percent or above for five straight seasons as a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
Green could be dangerous if he catches fire, but there are questions about his ability to fire from all spots, though the corners will surely have the money balls racked up for him.
Last year’s champ scored an NBA Three-Point Contest record 28 of 34 possible points, putting on a show in front of the Staples Center as he was crowned the winner in 2018, beating out former champion Klay Thompson in the finals.
Booker canned 20 of his 25 shots once all chips were down, securing a memorable victory in Los Angeles and becoming the first Phoenix Suns player since Quentin Richardson (2005) to win the contest.
Sadly for the reigning champion, there hasn’t been a back-to-back winner since Jason Kapono of the Miami Heat did it in 2007-08.
Booker is shooting a career-low 32.5 percent from deep this season and with the field growing to an all-time high of 10 participants, his odds don’t look great to defend his throne as the NBA’s 3-point king.
The sneaky picks
The Milwaukee Bucks marksman is taking and making a career-high from deep, shooting a respectable 37.8 percent from long-range through 54 games this season.
Middleton has been encouraged to reduce his mid-range attempts and take more threes by his new head coach Mike Budenholzer. He’s listened, taking six per game as a support sniper for Bucks phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The 6-foot-8 sharpshooter has shot over 40 percent in three of his seven seasons in the league and is one of the deadliest spot-up threats in the league. Watch out.
Joe Cool is third in the NBA in 3-point shooting at a deadly 47.1 percent. The hot-shooting wing is a catch-and-shoot specialist and bound to make anyone that dares leave him open pay a steep price.
Take for example his last two games, where he’s shot a combined 11-of-13 from deep (84.6 percent) — catching fire at the right time.
Harris can make it rain at the Spectrum Center just like he has at the Barclays Center for most of this season, making him a sneaky selection to wind up in the finals.
The dark horse
Hield is fourth in the league in 3-point shooting with a 44.9 percent clip, but he is by far the one attempting at the highest volume of any of the players ranked in the top-five.
The Sacramento Kings shooting guard already has 195 made threes to his name through 57 games and he could surprise in his first appearance in the contest. Hield has elevated his game into becoming an explosive 20-point scorer, so he is surely not shy of confidence entering NBA All-Star Weekend.
The Oklahoma product has started to benefit from his ability to run off screens as well as punching a hole off the dribble, making him a well-versed opponent worthy of consideration.
Close, but no cigar: Runner-up
In true poetic fashion, Seth Curry has more than a puncher’s chance to claim a place in the Three-Point Contest finals after ranking third in the league with a strong 46.5 percent mark on the season.
This is hardly the first time in which Seth has shot the ball this well, having done so for the Dallas Mavericks in 2016-17 with a sparkling 42.5 percent through 70 games and during the 2015-16 for the Sacramento Kings, hitting an impeccable 45 percent from long-distance through 44 games.
Seth sat out the entire 2017-18 season with a stress fracture in his lower left leg and ensuing setbacks, but has bounced back formidably and has clearly returned to his sharpshooting ways.
Seth (44 percent 3-point career shooter) actually has a whisker’s lead on his older brother Stephen, who has connected in 43.7 percent of his shots from beyond the arc through a 10-year career.
The Golden State Warriors sharpshooter will enter the contest for the sixth time after a two-year absence from the festivities since losing to teammate Klay Thompson in the finals of 2016 and winning it all in 2015, ahead of his first MVP season.
There is no one more motivated to win this crown than Curry, who is perhaps more celebrated and revered in Charlotte than Hornets point guard Kemba Walker.
A finals against his brother Seth would make this All-Star Weekend in Charlotte a true fairytale, with two siblings doing what they often did in their very own driveway, but in front of thousands of fans at the biggest stage of them all.
Furthermore, Steph has had a relatively disappointing month of February thus far, connecting in only 36.5 percent of his shots from deep through his last six games.
Curry has a reputation from busting out of slumps in true flamethrower fashion, and a three-day break after going 5-of-14 in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers might be just what he needs to take the trophy and put on a show in front of his hometown crowd.