This season, the NBA has made it a relay instead of an individual event, where two-man teams from the two different conferences will face off against one another in the obstacle course, and then the winning teams from each conference will face one another for the trophy.
There are a few more rule changes as well. Now at the passing station, the course will be completed when the player makes the basket, or runs out of that rack of balls. So there won’t be anymore of a player throwing unlimited passes, trying to complete the obstacle. So, of the four teams, which ones are my two favorites to face off against one another? The NBA Odds quoted here are from Bovada.
Goran Dragic & Reggie Jackson (+200)
While they may be the underdogs in the Western Conference, the combination of Dragic and Jackson gives these two a distinct advantage over Damian Lillard & Trey Burke (+150). The only thing the other team has on Dragic and Jackson is a shooting advantage. Of course experience plays a lot into it as well. Lillard wowed the Houston crowd in last year’s skills challenge on his way to a victory, but his partner is far behind him, and it plays a huge role in the new format.
Dragic brings a balanced skill set to the challenge, which is exactly what this course demands. His partner Jackson may not be great on all fronts, but if the matchup and subsequent times for Dragic and Lillard are a push, Jackson just has to outperform Burke, which shouldn’t be a problem. Jackson’s speed alone will give him a slight advantage by itself, and while the three point shot may not be his strong-suit, Burke doesn’t have a much better shot than Jackson. I think the combined duo of Dragic and Jackson will get out of the first round.
Demar DeRozan & Giannis Antetokounmpo (+325)
With the new formant, although the two Western Teams are favored, only one of them can advance to the finals, and I see the Eastern team advancing as DeRozan and Antetokounmpo. DeRozan has taken a leap not many expected in his fifth year in the league, as his skills have improved so much that I think he can lead young Antetokounmpo to the finals.
DeRozan was known as a scorer only over his first four years of his career, however he has added some great passing to his arsenal, as well as improved shooting. He is up to well over 22 points per game this season, which a lot of people don’t realize because he plays in Toronto. His partner, Antetokounmpo is still raw when it comes to basketball skills, but his athleticism and talent alone gives him a unique advantage in this challenge. His long strides through the dribbling and layup portions will be a breeze, and as long as he hits the three point shot (something that has plagued him so far this season) I see them advancing past the rookie duo team of Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo.
Both of these duos have value, and betting both of them would guarantee you profit if you take either of them in your NBA picks.
Be sure to also take a look at: Biggest NBA All-Star Snubs