Five NBA All-Stars headline this year’s All-Star Saturday Night 3-Point Contest, but it is 2020 winner Buddy Hield who appears to be the favorite coming into this season’s festivities.
Hield hit his last money ball three years ago to beat the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker by one point in the final round and secure the win.
The 30-year-old Hield is having his best three-point shooting season this year since 2019, hitting 42.6% of his nine attempts per game. His name was repeatedly floated in trade rumors from the beginning of this campaign, particularly with the Los Angeles Lakers, as his elite three-point shooting was in demand around the league.
If Hield does win, he will become just the eight player to win the 3-Point Contest multiple times, joining an elite group of shooters led by three-time winners Larry Bird and Craig Hodges.
However, he will have to hold off a few All-Stars who will be gunning for their first win in the annual shootout. Seven-time All-Star Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers will be appearing in his third 3-Point Contest and will be one of the main threats to Hield’s bid for a second title.
Though Lillard’s 37.3% career three-point shooting average may seem pedestrian, the degree of difficulty of his attempts, which are often contested by double teams, makes this number lower than it should be.
The Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum is another All-Star who will be suiting up and it will be his second time to participate in the 3-Point Contest. After falling short in last year’s NBA Finals, Tatum has bounced back in strong fashion for the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics.
The 6’8 forward is averaging 30.6 points, 3.3 three-pointers, 8.6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game this season which are all career-highs. Like Lillard, Tatum’s 35.7% three-point shooting is quite deceiving given that he is the nightly focus of opposing defenses.
Meanwhile, first-time All-Star Lauri Markkanen of the host team Utah Jazz is a dark horse contender for this year’s 3-Point Contest and the home court advantage may work in his favor, especially come the later rounds. After a lukewarm start to his NBA career, the 25-year-old forward has come alive in his sixth season and first with the Jazz to blossom into an All-Star.
Markkanen is averaging a career-best 24.9 points per game on 51.2% field goal and 41.2% three-point shooting which are also the highest norms that he has recorded since entering the league. He has played with a newfound level of confidence with Utah this year and it will come as no surprise if this carries over to his performance in the 3-Point Contest on their home floor.
Hield’s Indiana teammate Tyrese Haliburton, also a first-time All-Star, is another underdog who should not be overlooked. Although he is known primarily for his steady playmaking, Haliburton is a career 40.7% three-point shooter and it would not come as a surprise if he came away with the trophy.
The fifth All-Star suiting up for the competition is the New York Knicks’ Julius Randle who is replacing the injured Anfernee Simons of the Trail Blazers.
Randle, a below average three-point shooter, is a curious inclusion in this year’s contest as he is making only 33.4% of his three-pointers this year which is actually slightly better than his career average. However, it is difficult to count him out completely given the high variability that the contest format provides.
Rounding out this year’s field are the Sacramento Kings’ Kevin Huerter and Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat. Both shooting guards are playing crucial roles as floor spacers and secondary ball handlers on two teams that are in the thick of the playoff race in their respective conferences.
These two players have had their fair share of hot shooting games this season, with Huerter already having seven games with five three-pointers or more in his first year on the Kings while Herro has been even more prolific–and streaky. The 23-year-old Herro has hit at least five threes in a game 11 times in this campaign, highlighted by a game with 10 three-pointers last December when the Heat beat the Houston Rockets.
This year’s field is loaded with talent and potential winners, which will make it difficult for Hield to bag a second trophy. Though it is difficult to guarantee a winner, this year’s competition is sure to have its fair share of moments given the talent that will take the floor which will provide fans with yet another memorable moment in what has become the highlight of All-Star Saturday Night.
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