For the first time in possibly the history of NBA All Star Saturday, the Slam Dunk Contest is not the most anticipated Saturday event.
That title goes to the Three Point Shootout, which is absolutely filled with superb three point stars. Four of the eight competitors are in the All-Star game, and two are previous champions. What will the final standings be?
8. Wesley Matthews, Portland TrailBlazers
Career- 39.5% 3PT, Season- 39.8%
Nothing against Matthews here, he’s a lethal three point shooter, but he isn’t quite on the level of these other contestants. He’s an excellent all around player, but not an elite three point shooter like some of the other players in this. He also struggled mightily from the right corner, with a 26.2% from that area. Matthews also leads the league in threes attempted.
7. Marco Belinelli, San Antonio Spurs.
Career- 39.4% 3PT, Season- 37.5% 3PT.
The reigning champion, Marco Belinelli is having a rough year. He’s played in only 31 games, as he’s been hampered with a groin injury throughout the year. This has also resulted in a dip in his performance, as his numbers have dropped all around the board. His 3Pt percentage dropped from 43% last season to 37.5% this season. The last repeat champion was Jason Kapono in 2007 and 2008. He still is in it and has the experience and confidence, so he also may be a sleeper candidate to win this.
6. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Career- 37.2% 3PT, Season- 38.9%
The Rockets bearded star is quite possibly the MVP in the league at the break, but that doesn’t give him an edge in this contest. Harden is deadly from the corners, hitting 58.8% from the right corner and 42.9% from the left, but those areas are scarcely used by Harden, as only 2.9% of his total shot attempts came from those areas. Harden could escape the first round of he knocks the majority of his corner shots, but he could struggle from the top.
5. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers.
Career- 35.5% 3PT, season- 40.5% 3PT
This will be Irving’s third time in the contest, and he won it in 2013 before coming in fourth last season. Irving is having a bounce back year from a shooting perspective, raising his three point % from 35.5 to 40.5. He is shooting a good 39.8% above the break, and over 50% from both corners. Don’t count “Uncle Drew” out, he has experience in this competition and is deadly from the corners. That could carry him to the second round, and possibly a win.
4. J.J. Reddick, Los Angeles Clippers
Career- 39.6% 3PT, season- 43.2%
After an awful start to the season (4-23 from deep in his first three games), Reddick has rebounded nicely. He hit 49.1% of his long balls in December, and then 44.8% in January to raise his season percentage to 43.2%. The Clipper specialist is a great shooter all around, hitting 41.2% of his attempts above the break, well above the league average of 33.7%. His numbers inflate in the corners, where he converts 46.2% from the left side and 48.4% from the right. While Reddick isn’t exactly a big name in this, he still could be a sleeper candidate to win the tournament.
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors.
Career- 43.4% 3PT, season- 40.5%.
This is where it gets tough. This is Curry’s fourth time in this contest, and he wants to win it badly. This contest is perfect for him, if he gets on a hot streak. He can unconsciously make shots when at his best, exploding for 30+ points regularly. He should get off to a quick start, as he shoots 52.9% from the right side, but above the break he struggles. He made only 1-5 shots from that spot last year, resulting in a first round exit for the Splash Brother. If he can make it to the final round, this contest could very well be his. Curry also tied an NBA record, having his second career game of double digit three pointers. He tied J.R. Smith for the most games with that mark.
2. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Career- 41.8% 3PT, season- 44.7%
The second half of the Splash Bros, Klay Thompson also makes it look easy. Just look to his infamous game against the Kings last month, where he made an unbelievable 9-9 threes, for 37 points in a single quarter. His performance could rely on his right corner performance. He’s unbelievable from that side, converting 56.7% of his threes. He then drops to a below average 36.8% from the other side. He’s going to have to dominate the right side if he wants a chance to win this.
1. Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks
Career- 43.3% 3PT, season- 53.3%
Korver has been lights out this year, on his way to a historic season. His 53.3% shooting would put him at second all time, second to only his performance in the 2009-2010 season. Korver competed in this performance twice, in both 2004 and 2005, losing both times. Korver is the definition of automatic, as he is a full seven percentage points above Courtney Lee, who is second in the league in 3PT%. If Korver can play this like it’s any other warmup, this should be his to win.
This could shape up to be one of the most memorable three point shootouts of all time. Including two MVP candidates, two previous champions, and four All-Stars, this should be one to watch for.