Breaking Down the Form of Worthy NBA 3-Point Contest Candidates
There are a lot of things that go into winning the NBA's three-point contest, but the most important will always be form.
When getting off up to 25 successful three-point shots in a span of just 60 seconds, consistency in your form is of the utmost importance. Even the strongest of players can tire over that grueling stretch, but if your form is correct, the pressure is exerted over a spread and practiced area of your body. That is what should allow the final money-ball to be as accurate as the first rack.
Strength is the underrated aspect of what goes in to making a three-point contest champion. Long-range shooters are often seen as smaller, less physically-gifted players. However, size and strength are what helped Kevin Love to the title last season, as well as players such as Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce in previous years.
Since the turn of the century, eight of the 12 winners have stood 6'7" or taller. It was rare that a power forward like Love took home the award last season, but in reality, his frame and strength should have made him a popular pick.
With Love out for the foreseeable future with a broken hand, there will be no repeat in 2013. We will have a new champion crowned at All-Star Weekend in Houston.
The runner-up to Love, Kevin Durant, is another player with size who has participated in each of the last two contests. It has become increasingly rare for stars of his caliber to participate in these events, and after back-to-back appearances, the 41-percent three-point shooting Durant may take this one off.
Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Hornets has rocketed off 364 treys this season, 37 more than anyone else in the NBA. He participated in the contest last season, representing the Orlando Magic. The Hornets have given him a license to gun away from the outside, which he has taken and run with.
Anderson's 6'10" frame allows him the ability to get off a high volume of shots from that distance with minimal effort. He is a big, strong power forward who can sink shots from beyond the arc, not unlike Kevin Love. The three-point contest doesn't account for defense or post moves, thereby eliminating Anderson's weaknesses.
Another player with the size to effortlessly jack up threes is the New York Knicks' Steve Novak. While he probably should have been in the contest last season, before novelty wore off and a lack of defense forced the Knicks to taper his usage, he is still gunning at 45 percent from outside.
He is a catch-and-shoot player in the vein of Jason Kapono, who won the contest twice. Novak catches high, and his 6'10" size allows him to release high, making his shot one of the most efficient three balls in the business. Nearly 86 percent of his field-goal attempts this season have been threes, so nobody is more prepared for the 25-shot volume of this contest than Novak.
Korver's greatest strength as a three-point shooter is his ability to square up to the rim in the blink of an eye. This is what Ray Allen does in wrapping around picks. Korver can catch on the fly to shoot, while Novak and Anderson prefer to be standing to spot up. Unfortunately, standing still is what this competition is all about.
Korver is on the lower end of the size argument at 6'7", but with 74 percent of his makes coming from three-point land, he should have the stamina to compete. He is also a veteran of the competition, having competed and lost in 2004 and 2005. Winning eight years later would make a great redemption story for the first-year Hawk.
Nipping on Korver's heels is Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Curry is second in both three-point percentage at 45.7 percent and made threes (behind Anderson) with 139.
Curry represents the other end of the spectrum. Standing at just 6'3" and 185 pounds, I'm unsure he can hold up through the minimum of two rounds of 25 threes it would take him to win. Love had to go another round to break his tie with Durant. Both of those guys have a killer size advantage over Curry.
What Curry can do that these other candidates cannot is take the three off the dribble. His stroke is the most fluid of any player listed, and maybe anyone in the NBA. He can seamlessly go from dribbling around a pick and into his stroke better than anyone I've seen this season.
If he is able to maintain that flow from the waist up, then he'll have a decent shot at winning. His experience comes from a try in the competition back in 2010, when Paul Pierce won. After putting in 18 points in the first round, Curry slowed and only got to 17 in the finals.
Pierce, who held the size advantage, went from a 17-point first round to a 20-point finals.
Rhythm will only carry you so far in the three-point competition. Eventually, time runs out on streaks, and you have to rely on strength and form to get the balls to the rim.
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