State Farm ASSN 2017
Gordon, Thompson and Porzingis highlight contestants for All-Star Saturday Night
Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan part of Verizon Slam Dunk while Joel Embiid joins other big men in Taco Bell Skills Challenge
Verizon Slam Dunk
At least Aaron Gordon won’t have to worry about losing the dunk contest to Zach LaVine this year at State Farm All-Star Saturday Night.
Last season, Orlando’s Gordon pulled off several spectacular dunks that in most years would have guaranteed him victory, only to eventually lose to Minnesota’s LaVine, who completed a series of spectacular dunks to win the contest for the second year in a row.
But this year, LaVine will not be flying on Saturday night, leaving Gordon the favorite to win the Verizon Slam Dunk, albeit it with some interesting competition.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan will compete against Gordon, looking to challenge the conventional wisdom that big men generally struggle to score well in dunk contests. Also in the contest will be Pacers guard Glenn Robinson III, who has had several highlight dunks this season, as well as Suns small forward Derrick Jones Jr., who has a robust body of dunking work available for view all over the internet. Jones may be the least-known participant in this dunk contest, but he may provide the toughest challenge to Gordon.
Verizon Slam Dunk field: DeAndre Jordan, Glenn Robinson III, Aaron Gordon, Derrick Jones, Jr.
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JBL Three-Point Contest
The field for the JBL Three-Point Contest is stocked with sharp shooters. Golden State’s Klay Thompson will return to defend his 2016 title, which he won against his teammate Stephen Curry. While Curry, who leads the league in made 3-pointers this season, is not participating in this contest, several of the runners-up will be there.
Houston’s Eric Gordon is second in the NBA in 3-pointers made (170), and knocking them down at a 38.6 percent clip. Kyle Lowry and Wesley Matthews are among the top 10 in 3-pointers attempted, and Lowry, at 42.7 percent, has the best three-point shooting percentage in the contest. Portland’s C.J. McCollum has already said he is participating in the contest because his girlfriend has a test and they can’t vacation together.
JBL Three-Point Contest field: Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker, Eric Gordon, Wesley Matthews, C.J. McCollum, Nick Young
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Taco Bell Skills Challenge
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge has been reworked to feature guards against big men, pitting them in a test of their speed, ball-handling and shooting. Last year, Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns won in the finals against Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, sparking a wild celebration among the competing big men.
While Thomas will return this season, several intriguing big men will make their debuts, including the tallest player in the NBA, 7-foot-3 Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis, and Philadelphia’s multi-talented rookie Joel Embiid.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge field: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall, Devin Booker, Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid
Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here or follow him on Twitter.
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