The field is set for the 2016 NBA Skills Challenge, which will take place in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 13, during All-Star Weekend.
The NBA All-Star Twitter page gave fans a glimpse of the participants Thursday:
The Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns, the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green, the Portland Trail Blazers’ C. J. McCollum, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson, the Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas and the Houston Rockets’ Patrick Beverley will battle for the crown.
NBA Events' official site said the challengers will “compete for the title in a two-round timed ‘obstacle course’ consisting of a series of passes, free throws, layups and agility drills.”
Cousins and Davis may be superstars in the league, but Green is the name that immediately jumps out because of what he does for the defending champion Warriors. The versatile playmaker is the Robin to Stephen Curry’s Batman and is a triple-double threat every time he takes the floor.
Green is averaging 14.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists per night as a forward and already boasts 10 triple-doubles in Golden State’s first 49 games. This is a “skills” competition, and there is very little the first-time All-Star cannot do on the court.
Elsewhere, the inclusion of Cousins, Davis and Towns stands out because the skills competition is usually associated with guards. Here is a look at the past champions, per NBA.com:
|2015||Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets|
|2014||Team West: Trey Burke (Utah Jazz) and Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)|
|2013||Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers|
|2012||Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs|
|2011||Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors|
|2010||Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns|
|2009||Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls|
|2008||Deron Williams, Utah Jazz|
|2007||Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat|
|2006||Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat|
|2005||Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns|
|2004||Baron Davis, New Orleans Hornets|
|2003||Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets|
Cousins is a monster down low, but he is also shooting 33.1 percent from three-point range, 72.7 percent from the free-throw line and 36 percent from 15-to-19 feet, per NBA.com. That soft touch will be critical if he hopes to keep up with faster guards who can use their speed to go through the obstacle course quickly.
As for Davis, he possesses a versatile skill set like Green and can handle the ball, shoot (76.6 percent on free throws) and even fill the lane in transition. In fact, Davis was a guard in high school before a growth spurt and will need to harken back to that skill set if he wants to win in Toronto.
There may be more prominent names in the field, but Beverley has to be considered one of the early favorites in the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s announcement. He won the title last season by coming from behind against the Atlanta Hawks’ Jeff Teague and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Brandon Knight, thanks largely to his ability to drill his jump shot on the first try in multiple rounds.
He has experience in this event and understands what it takes to win, which will prove beneficial in such a deep field. Beverley won’t panic if he falls behind because he already overcame early deficits in 2015, but he will need to hit those jumpers once again.
If he does, it could mean a repeat title in Toronto.