NBA Article: Four takeaways from NBA All-Star Weekend

Boston Celtics Jayson Tatum participates during the NBA All-Star skills session basketball contest, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

With All-Star Weekend behind us, NBA players will get a few days off to rest and get ready for the second half of the season. We saw brilliant displays of high-flying, precise shooting, accurate passing and even a half-court shot. Since we won’t see any NBA action until Thursday night, let’s take a minute to look back and reflect on the weekend of events.

The Skills Challenge can actually be exciting

When it comes to Saturday night’s events, the skills challenge is often the one that people pay the least attention to. After all, the 3-point contest and dunk contest have historic moments attached to them with players like Larry Bird and Michael Jordan having made their iconic impact. Meanwhile, the skills challenge has only been around since 2003.

This year, however, it was probably the most exciting event. In every single matchup, the player who was trailing after the mid-court pass ended up winning and advancing on the crucial final part of the event: the 3-pointer from the top of the key. Trae Young upset the odds-on favorite De’Aaron Fox by hitting a running 3-point attempt after Fox missed his first try from behind the arc. Though Young then beat Nikola Jokic to move on to the final round, he ran into Jayson Tatum in the finals, who had a highlight shot of his own up his sleeve.

The Celtics sophomore fell behind Young, who was 2-2 on his 3-point attempts so far in the contest. Luckily for Tatum, Young missed his first 3-point attempt, leaving the door open for Tatum to throw a running heave up from half-court. Tatum’s shot hit the glass and dropped through the net, securing the victory. Tatum is the third non-guard to win the competition, following in the footsteps of Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis.

Is Joe Harris the next JJ Redick?

Saturday’s 3-point contest confirmed one thing: Joe Harris was put on this planet solely to hit shots from behind the arc. Harris won the competition by scoring 51 points while going perfect on both of his moneyball racks. He had 25 in the first round, trailing Buddy Hield’s 26 and Steph Curry’s 27, then closed it out with 26 in the final round, edging out Curry by two.

Though Curry was the odds-on favorite for this contest according to Vegas, Harris came into the weekend with the highest 3-point percentage in the field with 47.1 percent. Though it shouldn’t come to many spectators’ surprise that Harris won, it still shocked NBA fans. Not everyone has heard of Harris, and he may have been the lowest-profile player in the contest. But it’s time for people to learn who this guy is.

Harris found a way into the starting lineup on the Brooklyn Nets by nailing 3-pointers at a super-efficient clip. He attempts 5.2 3-point shots per game and makes 2.4 of them. Over half of his shots attempted per game are from behind the arc. At 27 years old, I think it’s time to crown Harris as the best pure 3-point specialist, taking the title from JJ Redick. Previous to Redick, players like Kyle Korver and Peja Stojakovic held the crown. I’m excited to watch Harris knock down deep shots for years to come.

2020 Dunk Contest: Diallo, Williamson, Antetokounmpo and Mitchell?

After Hamidou Diallo beat out Dennis Smith Jr. to win his first ever dunk contest with an insane honeydip over the 7-foot-1 mountain known as Shaquille O’Neal, a couple of NBA players took to Twitter to discuss what 2020’s field could look like.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks star and All-Star captain, threw down an amazing alley-oops dunk that prompted the Bucks’ Twitter account to post a video of it. The Greek Freak commented “Dunk contest next year?” with the thinking and thumbs up and down emojis accompanying the reply. Minutes later, the 2018 dunk contest winner Donovan Mitchell replied, “If you do it, I’m in,” with a shrugging emoji. Thus, the rumors were born.

Defending your title in the dunk contest is something that some players have taken pride in in the past. It’s exactly what sparked the Dwight Howard and Nate Robinson rivalry that we saw from 2006-2010. If Diallo, who showed off hops that constantly put his jaw up around the rim, returned to defend his title against Giannis and Mitchell, we would be in for one heck of a show. But who could possibly be the fourth competitor that could hang with these other three guys? We’ll have to look outside of the NBA for the best candidate. He goes to Duke, and he will be the number one pick in next year’s draft. Ladies and gentlemen, Zion Williamson.

Zion’s highlights speak for themselves. This 6-foot-7, 285-pound freak of nature performs dunks with a combination of power and finesse that can only be described as “Lebron-like.” And that might not even do him enough justice. Diallo, Antetokounmpo, Mitchell, Williamson. Where can I buy a ticket to that?

Reminder that Steph does more than just shoot

At this point in his career, we know that Steph has more than just a 3-point shot in his arsenal. After all, you don’t win two MVP awards by just chucking 3-pointers (sorry Joe Harris). We know that he has crafty moves to finish around the rim and is a lethal passer in the pick and roll. But he made two plays in the All-Star game that completely dropped my jaw.

The first one, I referenced earlier when I was talking about Giannis. On a two one one fast break of Curry and Giannis versus Kevin Durant, Curry performed a one-handed bounce pass that nearly touched the Hornets’ banners (if they had any) and came down in the perfect location for the Greek Freak to go up and finish the alley-oop with one hand. Durant had no shot at getting a piece of the ball, and though you can afford to miss a little bit when throwing Giannis a lob, this pass was perfectly on target. Curry’s passing ability is often overshadowed by his scoring, but the two go hand-in-hand. His ability to score from anywhere within 30 feet of the basket opens up passing lanes for teammates, and his uncanny ability to find open teammates keeps opponents from double teaming him. You truly can’t win trying to guard Steph.

The second play was the very last play of the game. Curry threw another accurate bounce pass alley-oop, but this time, he was the target. Curry followed the lob with a 180 two-handed reverse that shocked everybody watching. Where did those hops come from? We know that Curry could score in a multitude of ways, but athletic dunks were uncharted territory for the three-time NBA champion. Heck, maybe instead of Williamson, we should be pressing Curry to enter the dunk contest (I can’t stress enough that I am joking).


Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at sean.janos@uconn.edu.