Each year during the NBA All-Star break the best in the business display their skills for all to see. But the only things we want to see are our NBA picks cashing on the winners.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
Isaiah Thomas (Boston Celtics) +240
C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers) +350
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors) +400
*Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets) +600
Jordan Clarkson (Los Angeles Lakers) +650
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) +1000
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) +1200
Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves) +1500
*Replaces defending champ Patrick Beverley
The Skills Challenge is truly the skills competition of the Skills Competition. We are not talking monster dunks needed to win the Slam Dunk competition or long range snipers hauling in the hardware for the Three Point event. This is a multifaceted challenge and therefore we will immediately dispense with the notion that any other positional player other than a guard could possibly win this event. Say goodbye then to DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. We will spare the 6’7” Draymond Green just because he is oh sooooo good.
Of the remaining competitors we are going to include C.J. McCollum in my NBA picks for the Skills Challenge. He is an elite ball-handler with lightning fast reflexes and can hit the shot from downtown when challenged to do so. Isiah Thomas could give him a run for his money but in the end the Trailblazers shooting guard will be walking away with the trophy in hand.
NBA Pick: C.J. McCollum +350 at Bovada
Foot Locker Three-Point Contest
*Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) +100
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors) +400
JJ Redick (LA Clippers) +450
Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns) +750
Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors) +750
James Harden (Houston Rockets) +1200
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks) +1600
Chris Bosh (Miami Heat) +1600
Steph Curry is just too easy here donthcha think? The Golden State prodigy has usurped LeBron in many people’s minds as the very best in the game today. But this competition is loaded with snipers and to hand this to Curry just because he is – well – Steph Curry is a bit short-sighted considering he is the even money favorite in a competition with seven other thoroughbreds. And yes, Curry is the defending champ but if I’m going to back an even money favorite the challengers must be underwhelming and that is clearly not the case here.
After perusing the NBA odds in this event I am seeking betting value and that comes in the form of JJ Reddick. The Clippers’ downtown threat is currently second in field goal percentage from beyond the arc connecting on well over 47 percent of his “three-ball” attempts. The owner of the highest percentage in the league at the break this season is Kawhi Leonard but he does not take nearly as many three-point shots and isn’t even entered in the competition.
NBA Pick: J.J. Reddick +450
Verizon Slam Dunk Competition
*Zach LaVine (Minnesota Timberwolves) -300
Aaron Gordon (Orlando Magic) +400
Will Barton (Denver Nuggets) +550
Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons) +850
If you saw Zach Lavine’s gravity defying, moon walking heroics last year then it is hard to envision anyone else dunking his way to victory this year. But laying -300 on an event as subjective as this with two other competitors (sorry Andre Drummond, you’re not winning this one) who have the athleticism to rebuff the laws of nature as well is too steep for me.
Therefore, this decision boils down to Aaron Gordon of the Magic or Will Barton of the Nuggets. If you have seen Will “The Thrill” in action you know how truly breathtaking he can be when he crashes the lane for a monster dunk. Take a look at his highlight reels and tell me then that he’s not a threat to unseat the talented Zach LaVine.
NBA Pick: Will Barton +550