NBA 3-Point Contest Preview: Desmond Bane, Luke Kennard Among Our Best Best

Find out how the Action Network Staff is betting Saturday night's loaded field for the NBA 3-Point Contest.

NBA 3-Point Contest Odds

Shooter Odds
Luke Kennard +400
Patty Mills +460
Trae Young +550
Fred VanVleet +550
Desmond Bane +650
Zach LaVine +650
CJ McCollum +850
Karl-Anthony Towns +1200
Odds as of Friday and via FanDuel.

If you needed any more evidence that the NBA is all about 3-pointers, look no further than this year’s competition, which features a former dunk contest winner and a 7-foot center in the field of eight players who will compete in Cleveland.

Patty Mills was the favorite when these lines opened, but Luke Kennard has become quite popular over the past 24 hours — hitting 8-of-9 3s in his last game might have something to do with that.

Here’s a look at how our NBA experts are approaching Saturday’s 3-Point contest.

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NBA 3-Point Contest Picks

Click on a writer to skip to their pick
Brandon Anderson Desmond Bane
Joe Dellera Desmond Bane
Raheem Palmer Luke Kennard
Munaf Manji Desmond Bane
Austin Wang Fred VanVleet
Kenny Ducey Luke Kennard

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Brandon Anderson

Pick Desmond Bane +650
Book FanDuel

The 3-point contest is typically the highlight of the weekend for me, though this isn’t as strong a field as we’ve seen in recent years.

Still, I like to go with the pure shooters in an event like this, as opposed to better all-around players or big men shoehorned into the contest. I’m looking for guys who have done 3-point events like this before, because they’re literally in the NBA because of their elite shooting ability.

Trae Young is a volume chucker, not a 3-point specialist. At 35%, I have no interest in him. The favorite, Patty Mills, shoots almost all his shots from right at the arc, which hurts for those goofy Mountain Dew spots. CJ McCollum and Zach LaVine are good players but haven’t done well here, both striking out in the first round in each of their two appearances. KAT is the token big guy. FVV is little enough that I worry he could tire some over the contest length.

That brings me to Desmond Bane and Luke Kennard, two guys who are definitely in the NBA because of their elite shooting. Both guys shoot 42% for their career behind the arc, and neither of these two is going to get tired jacking a ton of shots up quickly.

I don’t love that Bane is in all the Friday night events, too, which could leave him a bit tired by the finals here. He would be my favorite if rested, but instead I’ll play both Bane and Kennard at +600, effectively giving me that combo at +300 vs. the field.

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Joe Dellera

Pick Desmond Bane +650
Book FanDuel

The 3-point contest is a blast — I think it’s actually the most exciting of the weekend because it feels like these guys are actually competing and you can feel the tension as players run low on time or they need a “buzzer beater” to win.

One important factor is not only that these players are excellent 3-point shooters, but how they perform with this specific motion. The 3-point contest requires the player to reach to the side in quick repetition and then hoist the shot over and over again. This motion is most similar to a handoff, which is something has tracking data on.

I looked to see not only who had the best shooting percentage on handoff shots, but also who took them the most often. The top percentages were Desmond Bane (45.6%), Karl Anthony Towns (45%), Patty Mills (+42.9%) and Zach LaVine (42.3%). Towns is immediately ruled out — he’s a big man and he only took this type of shot 2.2% of the time.

Of these options for frequency, Mills was at the top (16.8%), then Bane (12.7%), and LaVine was relatively low (5.8%). The issue with Mills is he takes the bulk of his shots from the same location like Brandon pointed out, and this is a competition that rewards those who can can 3s from all around the arc.

Based on this combination of factors, I settled on Bane, who is a top option with a 43.2% 3-point percentage overall. He’s also already familiar with and converted his handoff opportunities.

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Raheem Palmer

Pick Luke Kennard +450
Book Caesars

With the decline of the dunk contest in recent years, the 3-Point contest has become the main event during All Star weekend.

The NBA has become a 3-point shooting league with teams shooting 35-40% of their field goal attempts from behind the arc, so it’s great to see the best shooters in the league compete for the chance to be crowned the 3-point champion.

What I tend to look for in these contests are specialists, the role players who are in the league specifically to shoot catch-and-shoot and hand-off 3-balls. Buddy Hield, Joe Harris, Marco Belinelli, James Jones, Steve Kerr, Jason, Kapono Peja Stojakovic, Joe Harris and Tim Legler — those are the guys who I tend to find value in when it comes to the 3-Point contest.

That leads me to the hometown kid in Luke Kennard who is from Middletown, Ohio and is second on the all-time Ohio high school basketball scoring list — three spots above LeBron James. This should be a homecoming for Kennard, who will have his entire family in Cleveland to support him on Saturday night.

Hometown support aside, Kennard is now the favorite to win the 3-point contest for a reason. He’s a career 42% 3-point shooter and is shooting nearly 45% from behind the arc this season. While catch-and-shoot 3s aren’t necessarily a good indicator of how a player will shoot in the contest, Kennard is shooting 46.2% on catch-and-shoot 3s.

He’s also shooting 46.5% on 3-point attempts with no dribbles. With defenders 6+ feet away, he’s shooting 50.9%. When his touch time range is two seconds or less — which could be a good simulator of what we’ll see in the contest, with him grabbing the ball off the rack — he’s shooting 45.6%.

Overall, we’re looking at the best pure shooter in the contest.

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Munaf Manji

Pick Desmond Bane +650
Book FanDuel

Let’s just go ahead and say it: The 3-point contest is now the most exciting All-Star contest on Saturday night.

The dunk contest has lost the excitement and does not feature the best dunkers in the game. However, every year we get the best 3-point shooters in the league in this contest, and it makes for exciting competition seeing the best of the best compete against each other.

There is one shooter who has caught my eye since he entered the league: Desmond Bane.

Bane won the 3-point contest in college and in high school, so there’s only one box left to check off for his career. This season, Bane is shooting 41.9% from the 3-point line. He ranks No. 9 in makes league-wide and has the least number of attempts per game among this year’s participants at just a shade under seven.

Even though the experience was at the collegiate level, I like the experience and confidence of Bane to win the 3-point shooting contest. Furthermore, Bane is shooting above league-average from around the arc. In fact, Bane is shooting 40% or better from four of the five spots from around the arc.

Furthermore, from the straight on and to the right side of the arc, Bane is shooting 44% or better. There is a bit of value with Bane to win the 3-point contest with those stats at +600.

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Austin Wang

Pick Fred VanVleet +550
Book BetMGM

Fred VanVleet has been the underdog his entire career. Undrafted in the 2016-17 season, the undersized, sixth-year point guard has improved every single season and has now been selected for the All-Star Game for the first time in his career. He is only the fourth undrafted player (and the first since 2006) to be awarded this prestigious honor.

He averages 40.1% from behind the arc on 10 attempts per game. He has hit 201 3-pointers this season, the second-most in the league behind Stephen Curry. Out of the top-20 players with the most 3-point attempts per game, VanVleet is the only player who shoots it at a 40%-plus clip. His volume and efficiency are unparalleled. He has a quick release and a short elevation on his shot, which should ensure that he will have no trouble beating the clock.

While him missing Wednesday’s game against the Timberwolves with a knee injury may deter some from backing him, I consider that an advantage to give the league’s leader in minutes per game a breather. As of writing on Friday, he is still expected to participate in this weekend’s festivities, so I do not have much concern that this injury is serious.

The man is fearless and undaunted by the bright lights. I like his clutch and confidence factor to give him that slight edge over the other first-time participants.

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Kenny Ducey

Pick Luke Kennard +450
Book PointsBet

I’m going to hop on the same bet here as Raheem, which is oftentimes a good idea. More than that, though, I’m going to back the guy who could be entering with the most momentum in the field.

Kennard is having a whale of a year, shooting nearly 45% from three, and in his last 12 games he’s been white-hot with 51.6% of his looks from 3 falling. The southpaw also just hit eight threes in nine tries in a blowout win over the Rockets on Thursday night and has the aforementioned narrative going for him hailing from Ohio and winning Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior and senior in high school.

Kennard has to be considered one of the top shooters in the contest and these odds don’t really do him justice.

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