2019 NBA Skills Challenge: Luka Doncic, Trae Young Highlight Participants

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorFebruary 6, 2019

Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic (77), from Slovenia, drives past Cleveland Cavaliers' Cedi Osman (16), from Turkey, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The 2019 NBA Skills Challenge doesn't receive as much notoriety as the three-point and slam dunk contests, but that may change this year thanks to a star-studded field.

Two 2019 All-Stars (Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic) will take part. Rookie of the Year favorite Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks will be there as well.

Below you can find the participant list, event information, the format, additional background and a prediction.

        

Participant List

Dallas Mavericks G/F Luka Doncic, Atlanta Hawks G Trae Young, Sacramento Kings G De'Aaron Fox, Los Angeles Lakers F Kyle Kuzma, Boston Celtics F Jayson Tatum, Memphis Grizzlies G Mike Conley, Orlando Magic C Nikola Vucevic, Denver Nuggets C Nikola Jokic

        

Event Information

The challenge will take place on Saturday, February 16, at 8 p.m. ET in Charlotte, North Carolina. It will be televised on TNT.

        

Format

The NBA Skills Challenge is an eight-person, single-elimination tournament. Here's a look at how it works, featuring Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid competing last season:

     

Additional Background

The event has been held in various forms since 2003, when ex-New Jersey Nets guard Jason Kidd won the event. The challenge changed to its current tournament format in 2015.

Former Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams recorded the fastest time (25.5 seconds) ever in 2008, and Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie won it all last year.

       

Prediction

No player ever seems to have an issue with three parts of the course: the basketball slalom, the layup and the sprint.

The problems arise with the pass into the net and the event-closing three-pointer. It's not uncommon to see a player rush the pass and get stuck while his competitor advances five to 10 seconds ahead.

However, players can also go cold from three-point range, enabling a potential comeback. If players don't set themselves before unleashing the shot, then that could invite the trailer to catch up.

While the bracket hasn't been released yet, my guess is the player who aces the pass and three-point shot most consistently will emerge as the winner.

The three-point shot is more important given its placement in the competition. With that in mind, look for Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic to emerge as a dark horse here. Although the big man may lose pace during the full-court dribbles, he has a field-best 38.6 percent mark on above-the-break three-pointers, per NBA.com.

Vucevic also has a career-high 3.8 assists per game, so he's a competent passer for a big man.

Fox has the edge on the full-court runs, and Doncic may do the passing part better than anyone, but Vucevic could be the one who surprisingly emerges as the winner. He's the upset pick.

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