NBA 3-Point Contest 2012: Evaluating the Contestants and Picking a Winner
Since the 1985-86 NBA season, the three-point shootout has been a staple of the NBA's All-Star Weekend. Over the years, it has featured NBA stars as well as lesser-known players to create an interesting and often dramatic showcase of the best three-point shooters in the business.
This year should be no different, as the NBA has once again offered its fans a chance to enjoy six worthy contestants dialing it up from behind the arc to name this season's three-point shootout champion.
Rules and Contestants
Rules: The rules of the NBA's three-point shootout are simple. Each of the six contestants will have 60 seconds to make as many three-pointers as possible. With five spots to shoot from, the players will navigate their way from one corner, to the wing, to the top of the arc, to the other wing and then finish at the other corner.
Each rack has five balls, all worth one point, except for the last one—the multi-colored "moneyball"—which counts for two points. This makes for a maximum total of 30 points.
Once the first round is over, the top three scorers will move onto the final, with the best score deciding NBA All-Star Weekend three-point contest champion.
Contestants: This year's competitors are as follows...
Mario Chalmers (MIA) – First appearance
Ryan Anderson (ORL) – First appearance
James Jones (MIA) – Second appearance, defending champion
Anthony Morrow (NJ) – First appearance
Kevin Love (MIN) – First appearance
Kevin Durant (OKC) – Second appearance
Evaluation: Mario Chalmers
Over the years, Miami Heat players have been dynamite in the three-point shootout. Glen Rice won as a member of the Heat in 1995, Jason Kapono won in consecutive years in 2007 and 2008 (though in the latter, he was as a member of the Raptors), Daequan Cook won the following year and James Jones won last year.
This could bode very well for Chalmers if the trend sustains itself. Chalmers is shooting an impressive 45.6 percent from downtown this season, good for sixth in the NBA and the best of anyone in the competition. His 68 three-pointers made ties him for fourth in the league.
His three-point shooting has given the Heat a valuable fourth scoring option in addition to the Big Three. While part of his success should be credited to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade finding him open looks, there's no reason he can't bring another three-point title to South Beach.
Evaluation: Ryan Anderson
Unknown by many fans prior to this season, Ryan Anderson has exploded onto the scene this year for the Orlando Magic. His average of over 16 points per game can be credited almost completely to his success from downtown.
His role as the Magic's second leading scorer has given Orlando a 22-13 record at the All-Star break, good for fifth in the Eastern Conference, despite the ongoing drama of the Dwight Howard trade dilemma.
He's first in the NBA in three-pointers made, with an astounding 99 triples. He's converting on 43.4 percent of his attempts, which ties him for 16th in the league.
He's proven in the first half of the season to be arguably the NBA's most lethal outside weapon. The fact that he'll be playing in front of his home crowd in a very familiar environment may give him an extra advantage.
Evaluation: James Jones
James Jones' spot in this year's competition was booked last year in Los Angeles, as he was the 2011 NBA three-point shootout champion. He scored 15 in the first round and 20 in the second round to take away Paul Pierce's three-point crown.
It can be argued that if not for James Jones' outside shot, he might not be on an NBA roster. He's a three-point specialist through and through, and his efforts were a big contribution in Miami's run to the NBA Finals.
This year, however, he's struggled to get playing time. While he's displayed a productive 42 percent success rate from downtown, he's only been able to make 21 three-pointers this year, tying him for an unimpressive rank of 123rd.
His lack of consistently getting to shoot in games this year may work against him in a pressure-filled competition where everyone is watching. The fact that he is the defending champion, though, still makes him a force to be reckoned with.
Evaluation: Anthony Morrow
Despite being on the (once again) lowly Nets, Anthony Morrow's three-point prowess should not be overlooked.
Without his presence of 13 points per game, the Nets might be in a deeper hole than they're already in. The fourth-year man out of Georgia Tech has been dynamite from long range 68 times this season, tying him for fourth in the league in that category, while knocking down his threes 40.2 percent of the time, good for 31st in the league.
It goes without saying that Morrow can heat up in an instant from three-point land, and the shootout could be one of those occasions. If you're looking for a dark-horse contender, Morrow may be your guy.
Evaluation: Kevin Love
Go figure—arguably the best rebounder in the league in the three-point shootout. While he may not shoot the three-ball as well as he dominates the glass, it's no secret that Kevin Love's three-point shot is a weapon, and one that the Minnesota Timberwolves rely on often.
The majority of his impressive 25 points per game don't come from behind the arc, but he's still worthy as a three-point shooter. His 34.8 percent success rate from long range may not strike you as overwhelmingly impressive, but his 49 three-pointers so far this season show he has the potential to win this competition.
He can also knock them down with the game on the line.
In a game where guards are the best shooters on the court more often than not, Love may be ready to make a statement in showing basketball's bruisers can shoot the three as well.
Evaluation: Kevin Durant
My apologies to Kobe supporters, but Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the NBA, bar none. He can score in bunches and in a variety of ways, with his three-point shot being one of them.
His three-point shooting will never be the biggest aspect of his game, but he's managed to knock down 58 triples this year, good to tie him for 17th in the NBA, while converting on 36.5 percent of his attempts.
He's a late addition to the competition after Joe Johnson ruled himself out of any All-Star Weekend festivities due to injury. Durant participated in the three-point shootout last year, but failed to live up to expectations, scoring only seven points and being eliminated in the first round.
His competitive spirit will have him wanting to show fans that he can do better, and that motivation makes him a serious contender to win it.
You can make a valid case for each of this year's six competitors to win the three-point shootout. However, there can only be one winner, and through process of elimination, I see this year's 3-point shootout happening somewhere along these lines:
Anthony Morrow has shown himself to be a streaky shooter throughout his career. That could work for or against him, but in a competition like this, I think it makes him susceptible to a shooting slump that he may not be able to get out of before it's too late.
Kevin Love is certainly a worthy competitor, but I don't believe he quite has the outside shot to outduel everybody else from downtown.
James Jones has done it before, but I think his lack of playing time so far this season will hurt him in this competition. He just hasn't had the opportunity to shoot under pressure much this year, and that will make him come up short.
Kevin Durant will be ready to prove to everyone that he can get it done this time around after his poor showing last year. I think that motivation will do a lot to help him, but in the end, I expect him to once again show that he's more of a scorer than he is a shooter.
This leaves me picking between Mario Chalmers and Ryan Anderson. Chalmers' sky-high percentage from behind the arc this year leads me to believe that he can get it done, in addition to the trend of success Heat players have had in the three-point shootout.
Anderson, on the other hand, has made more three-pointers than anyone in the league, and will have the home crowd behind him in Orlando.
It's a tough choice, but in a down-to-the-wire finish, my prediction for the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend three-point shootout goes to...
Remaining predicted order of finish:
2. Mario Chalmers
3. Kevin Durant
4. James Jones
5. Anthony Morrow
6. Kevin Love