Some of the best shooters and stars the NBA has to offer will take over New Orleans Arena for the annual Three-Point Shootout on Saturday night during All-Star Weekend festivities.
Bookended by the Skills Competition and the main event Dunk Contest, the shootout has of late been a showcase for some of the best young talent that has entered the league in recent years.
Defending champion and Cleveland Cavalier All-Star starting point guard Kyrie Irving will defend his title and hopes to become the first player to win back-to-back shootouts since 2008. Jason Kapono was the last to win back-to-back titles and also took his second crown when New Orleans first hosted the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
The odds on favorite and arguably the premier all-around shooter in the league is Golden State point guard Stephen Curry. Set to appear and start in his first ever All-Star Game, Curry leads the NBA in three-pointers made with 171 at a 41.5 percent clip, and is also the fifth leading scorer in the league.
Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love won the shootout in 2012 with a final score of 17, at the time the lowest total of any champion in nearly a decade. Enjoying the best year of his already stellar young career, Love will be the tallest of all the competitors at 6-foot-10.
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The other contenders include Orlando combo-guard Arron Affalo, Washington Wizard second-year guard Bradley Beal, Portland Trail Blazer and reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Belinelli and the Brooklyn Nets Joe Johnson.
Lillard will be the first player to ever compete in all three of the contests, but enters the three-point contest a little cold, posting a 32.5 percent rate from beyond the arc in February. Still Lillard is third in the league with 149 threes knocked down, and overall is shooting 40.4 percent from three.
Named a reserve for his seventh career All-Star Game, Johnson will make his second appearance in the contest since 2005. Then playing for Atlanta, Johnson finished behind all-time three-point leader Ray Allen.
Shaking off injuries that plagued his rookie year, Beal has shown tremendous improvement in his second year, ranking second in points per game and three-point percentage for upstart Washington.
Prediction: Curry seems like the safest bet, but the contest typically comes down to whoever can stay hot from round to round. Beal is a dark horse, and shouldn’t be underestimated. Look for Beal to win it all, and Irving to come in second by a narrow margin.