The NBA three-point contest will belong to Davis Bertans
NBA All-Star weekend is here, and it’s fair to say it offers the best spectacle of exhibition entertainment across the sports continuum.
While the All-Star Game is a thrill to watch, Saturday night’s three-point contest has become a must-see, stand-alone event. This year’s event features a new twist—the addition of 10 seconds and two additional "three-point" balls from new locations on the floor.
Let’s break down the rules, the field, and pick a winner.
Many of the NBA's best shooters are absent
It is interesting that none of this season’s top three-point shooters are in the competition.
The field features Trae Young, Duncan Robinson, Joe Harris, Davis Bertans, Buddy Hield, Devin Booker, Zach LaVine, and Devonte’ Graham. None of these players are in the top four of three-point shooting percentage this season.
Robinson is first among those in the field, with a 43.8% conversion rate. Behind him only Bertans finds himself in the top 10 (42.4%). It is fair to say this year’s field is not as good as it could have been.
Joe Harris will try to win back-to-back titles
Harris won the competition last year, and defending champions have fared well in the past. Eight repeat winners have occurred in the 34 years the event has existed.
Booker also won two seasons ago, but the last champion to repeat was Jason Kapono in 2008.
There is likely a competitive advantage for players who have participated previously, but that perceived advantage can lead to underlays on the odds board.
Now let’s look at each player.
Devonte' Graham (Charlotte Hornets)
Graham has had an outstanding season and certainly surprised Hornets fans with his offensive production this year. While he was considered an elite three-point shooter in college, he isn’t yet an elite three-point shooter in the NBA.
He makes a lot of threes, but that's because he shoots a lot. In this competition he only gets to shoot the same amount as everyone else. Pass.
Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls)
LaVine went nuts from three when he set a Bulls record with 13 made three-pointers, but he’s not a stop-and-shoot three-point shooter. He’s a dunk contest winner! While it would be impressive to have both trophies on his mantle, he’s the 53rd-best three-point shooter in the NBA this year. Pass.
Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
The 2018 champ will get play—in part because he’s won, and in part because of name recognition. But he is only a 35% shooter from three-point range this year. He is the worst bet on the board.
Buddy Hield (Sacramento Kings)
Hield is a better all-around shooter than LaVine, but he has the same three-point percentage. Hield is a threat because of his ability to shoot well from all positions on the court, but I'm going to look elsewhere.
It isn’t reasonable to expect someone to do something they don’t do, and Hield has only shot 38.5% from three-point range this year.
Davis Bertans (Washington Wizards)
From a wagering perspective, Bertans does not have the name recognition that will motivate casual fans to place money on him. He is the value play on the board and a threat to win.
Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)
Harris never takes shots from the added locations, which will likely swing points in this year’s competition. He is shooting 40.8% from three-point range this year, but he was shooting 47.4% before last year's win. He will regress in this competition, as well.
Duncan Robinson (Miami Heat)
Statistically the best shooter of the bunch (43.8%), he deserves to be the favorite. Given the gap in ability, he has a great chance to make the final round and is a trendy pick to win.
Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
He will likely be the fan favorite and the player most likely to cherish the six possible extra points available through the extra-distance shots. But he’s 81st in the NBA in three-point percentage (36.9%), so there’s no value at short odds.