2019 NBA All-Star Weekend Skills Challenge: Predictions, Odds and Roster Notes
How to Watch
What: 2019 NBA All-Star Skills Challenge
Where: Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC
When: Saturday, February 16th at 8:00 PM
How (TV): TNT
The NBA Skills Challenge, is an NBA contest held on the Saturday before the annual All-Star Game as part of the All-Star Saturday Night. The inaugural Skills Challenge was held in 2003. It is a competition that tests ball-handling, passing and shooting ability.
The format was changed in 2015. In its current version, two participants race against each other on identical courses by dribbling between five obstacles while running down the court. Next, the player must throw a pass into a net that does not touch the ground. Then, the players must dribble back the full length of the court for a lay up. Shortly after, the players must dribble back down the court and hit a three pointer from the top of the key. The matchup ends when the first player hits the three pointer.
Currently, the champion is decided via a single elimination bracket-tournament format, with a backcourt player and a frontcourt player guaranteed to face off in the final.
|(G) Mike Conley Jr||Memphis Grizzlies||6-1 | 175lb|
|(G-F) Luka Doncic||Dallas Mavericks||6-7 | 218lb|
|(G) De’Aaron Fox||Sacramento Kings||6-3 | 175lb|
|(C) Nikola Jokic||Denver Nuggets||7-0 | 250lb|
|(F) Kyle Kuzma||Los Angeles Lakers||6-9 | 220lb|
|(F) Jayson Tatum||Boston Celtics||6-8 | 208lb|
|(C) Nikola Vucevic||Orlando Magic||7-0 | 260lb|
|(G) Trae Young||Atlanta Hawks||6-2 | 180lb|
Odds to Win
The Skills Challenge is one of the most volatile, skills based competitions of the weekend. With so many challenges – dribbling, passing, shooting – the odds of error affect the odds greatly. Thus, you won’t see much of a stretch between heavy favourite and long shot.
|(G-F) Luka Doncic||+350|
|(G) De’Aaron Fox||+450|
|(F) Jayson Tatum||+500|
|(G) Mike Conley Jr||+500|
|(C) Nikola Jokic||+500|
|(G) Trae Young||+500|
|(F) Kyle Kuzma||+700|
|(C) Nikola Vucevic||+800|
It is no surprise that Luka Doncic is the opening favourite to win the event. He is not only the biggest name in the competition, but he is one of the leagues best point forwards.
Doncic has been one of the worlds most skilled players, even since his time at Real Madrid. Passing, dribbling, and shooting are all his strengths. Unfortunately in the race format, Doncic’s speed is likely to hurt him.
De’Aaron Fox very well may be the fastest player in the NBA today. Baseline to baseline he is lightning fast both with and without the ball. Fox isn’t a brilliant playmaker, but the passing obstacles are mostly fundamental. If Fox could struggle anywhere it would be shooting the ball.
Fox shoots 73% at the rim, 36% from 3ft to 10 ft, 40% from 10ft to 16ft, 35% from 16ft to 3-PT range, and 36% from three. In-game Fox takes most of his shots unassisted, so the format bodes well for him. But his shooting is certainly not at the top of his skills.
Trae Young is ranked low on the favourites list due to his current shooting percentages. Overall he shoots 41% from the field; more specifically he is awful from beyond 16ft at an average of 30%.
Do not let Young’s shooting percentages fool you though. On the Hawks he has the green light to make pretty much any play he wants. Also he his shot from his time at Oklahoma has gained the respect of NBA veterans and he’s not been given much daylight. In a competitive setting like this, Young’s true abilities may very well shine.
Best Long Shots
Mike Conley Jr
Mike Conley is still one of the NBA’s best point guards, regardless of accolades. Conley is an all-around player with impressive quickness at his age.
The best thing Conley has going for him is his composure. While the format of the competition is a race, Conley has a calm about his game that will surely translate to the Skills Challenge. Don’t expect Conley to be cold with his shot or mishandle ball.
It is tough for Jayson Tatum against all of these speedy guards. Due to his length alone he will be slightly slower than the guards and he’s never had the primary ball handling duties to suggest he should be quick in the obstacle section.
Regardless Tatum has shown that he is a jack of all trades with the ability to perform at a high level. His shooting is top-notch – if not as good as last season – and certainly has the ability to get beyond every obstacle without a problem.
Tough to Bet On
Jokic may be in the MVP conversation, but this competition ill-suits him. Yes he can pass, shoot, and handle the ball like a guard. Unfortunately Jokic just doesn’t have the body to suggest he can succeed in this competition.
At 250lbs Jokic is the second heaviest player in the competition. He certainly isn’t fleet-of foot either. While he may succeed in a favourable matchup against Vucevic, you can’t expect he’d win a race without an error on the other side.
Nikola Vucevic is having a good year but it is a wonder why he was selected for this competition other than the fact that the NBA wouldn’t need to pay for another plane ticket.
Vucevic has shown the ability to shoot the ball from range a capably pass from the high-post. Unfortunately Orlando doesn’t run the kind of offence that suggests Vucevic is an agile ball-handler or passer.
The Los Angeles Lakers Kyle Kuzma is a skilled young player. He is versatile scorer for a modern power forward.
Kyle Kuzma doesn’t show much play making skill though. While his scoring ability is noted and valuable for the shooting portion of this competition, nothing about LeBron James’ singular responsibility to handle the ball for LA has allowed Kuzma to show off his playmaking skills.
The NBA All-Star Game’s second leading vote-getter is a terrifying point-forward. Having him in this competition would be great exposure for the NBA’s next star. Perhaps they were put off by his shooting.
The Australian point-forward gets up and down the court with the best of them. For a 6-9 point-forward, Simmons’ speed is impressive. While there’s a good chance he wouldn’t make a single jump shot with his ability, it may have been the only way NBA fans would see him make one.
Never mind his likely snub for the NBA All-Star Game, Pascal Siakam has transformed himself from reserve energy player to a point-forward that has taken responsibilities away from Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard. Siakam has the full package and is very likely the fastest pure front court player in the NBA. His exclusion is a big miss for the NBA.
2019 NBA All-Star Skills Challenge Predictions and Odds
There are a number of capable and likely winners for the 2019 NBA All-Star Skills Challenge. The odds makers have Luka Doncic as the odds on favourite to win the competition at a +350. WSN’s sleeper to win the competition is G Trae Young, whose odds are at a +500.