A clash of the last two Skills Challenge champions, a change in the format of the Three-Point Contest and the possibility "Superman" may don his cape one more time in the Slam Dunk Contest highlight NBA All-Star Saturday Night at the United Center in Chicago this weekend.
How to Watch:
When: Saturday, Feb. 15
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
While the Skills Challenge does not have the legacy of the Three-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest, it has quickly gained popularity among the players, especially as it has broken into a contest between guards and big men. Defending champion Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics and 2018 winner Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets headline the field, while Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) are the true centers in the eight-man field.
Rounding out the group are Patrick Beverley (Los Angeles Clippers), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors), and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder). Gilgeous-Alexander was selected as an injury replacement for Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose. The three-round contest will have two players pitted head-to-head in an obstacle course that challenges the players’ dribbling, passing, and shooting skills, with the player recording the faster time advancing.
The three-point shootout has a big change this year, as defending champion Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets attempts to repeat in a challenging eight-player field. In addition to the traditional five racks of balls—four of which reward a player one point for each made shot and one rack of multi-colored balls for two points per make—there will be two green balls set six feet beyond the arc, and each make on those shots is worth three points.
The additional two shots have also resulted in a 10-second add on for each shooter, as the round will now last 70 seconds. Everyone competes in the first round, with the top three advancing to the championship round. The third-place shooter from the first round will go first and the player with the highest score in the championship round is the winner.
Seven of the top nine players in the league in three-pointers made are in the field, with Harris, the lone outlier of the group tied for 24th. Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers) and Buddy Hield (Sacramento Kings) rank behind only Houston's James Harden in trifectas with 210 and 203, respectively. Miami's Duncan Robinson has been the most accurate shooter of the bunch in the regular season at 43.7%.
Davis Bertans (Washington Wizards) and Harris are the only other players shooting at a clip above 40%. The field is rounded out by Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), and Devonte' Graham (Charlotte Bobcats).
The Slam Dunk Contest likely will be decided between 2008 winner Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers) and 2016 runner-up Aaron Gordon (Orlando Magic.) The 6-foot-11 star brought the house down in New Orleans when he took off his Magic jersey to reveal a Superman shirt and donned a cape before throwing down an alley-oop from teammate Jameer Nelson.
Gordon had one of the most electric Slam Dunk Contest performances in recent memory four years ago as a second-year player when he and LaVine kept one-upping each other throughout the contest. On one throwdown, Gordon was able to take the ball from the Magic mascot while clearing enough space between the mascot's head and his legs to transfer the ball from his right to left hand and reverse dunk.
Derrick Jones Jr. (Miami) and Pat Connaughton (Milwaukee) round out the four-player field. Each participant will get two dunks in the first round, with five judges rating them between six and 10 points. The two highest scorers move to the championship round, where they will get two dunks. The highest combined score from the championship round is declared the winner.