All-Star Weekend 2011: Skills Challenge Preview

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 12:12 pm
By: News On 6

Originally Published: Feb 18, 2011 3:44 PM CDT

More All-Star Coverage from Oklahoma Sports:
All-Star Weekend 2011: Rookie-Sophomore Challenge
All-Star Weekend 2011: Dunk Contest Preview
All-Star Weekend 2011: 3-Point Contest Preview
All-Star Weekend 2011: All-Star Game Preview

Grant Belcher
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

What: 2011 Taco Bell Skills Challenge
When: Feb. 19, 2010, approx. 7:30 p.m. CST (2nd event)
Who: Five of the NBA's top guards
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: All-Star Saturday Night coverage starts at 7 p.m. on TNT

Player Profiles

NameRussell Westbrook Chris Paul John Wall Stephen Curry Derrick Rose

The Course

The NBA Skills Competition debuted in 2003 as part of All-Star Weekend.

1.) In the contest, the player starts off by making a layup or dunk.
2.) The player weaves around four "defender" obstacles while keeping his dribble.
3.) The player throws a chest pass that must make it through a target positioned about 15 feet away
4.) The player moves on and throws a bounce pass through the next target. If a player misses the pass, he must keep trying until one of his passes makes it through before moving on.
5.) The player must make a jump shot from 20 feet.
6.) The player must throw a longer pass from close to the basket into a third net.
7.) The player dribble-weaves between three more defenders and completes the challenge with a layup or dunk on the other end.

When the player successfully completes these requirements in order, the timer is stopped. Deron Williams of Utah holds the record of 25.5 seconds set during All-Star Weekend 2008.

To see the course in action, click here.

Player Profiles

Guard Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Experience: Westbrook competed in the 2010 Skills Competition as well.
Vegas Odds: +275
What to watch for: Last year, Westbrook looked somewhat confused and sluggish during his participation in the skills challenge. Though he is one of the quickest guards in the NBA, he didn't show it during his round in the challenge. He took several attempts at each passing station and took three attempts to make his 20-foot jumper. Westbrook has improved in every area of his game since last season, especially his jump shot. He also has a year of experience under his belt and will be completely familiar with the course this season, not wasting valuable time. As always, it all comes down to the jump shot. Any player who makes the shot on the first attempt puts themselves in a good position to win the event and Westbrook's chances should be better than ever.

Guard Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
Experience: Paul has competed in multiple Skills Challenge competitions in his NBA career, but has never won one.
Vegas Odds: +250
What to watch for: Paul, when healthy, usually sits atop the list of the best point guards in the league. While the other four participants in the contest were voted on by fans from a field of eight, Chris Paul was automatically placed in the competition by the NBA and declared as the "host" and "spokesperson" so that he could do promotional videos leading up to the competition. Even though he has never won a Skills Challenge before, he has competed multiple times, is an NBA veteran and will have a target on his back from the four other younger participants. Paul's strengths for the competition include the shooting and passing stations, but he doesn't quite have the same speed that the younger players do.

Guard Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Experience: None.
Vegas Odds: +275
What to watch for: Stephen Curry has shown in the past that he is a valid candidate for the 3-point contest, but this year he will bring his game to the more versatile Skills Competition. Curry is at a disadvantage in that he and Wall are the only two participants this year who have not been in the competition before. As we have seen from Westbrook and others in the past, confusion can set it when attempting the course for the first time in front of tens of thousands of cheering fans. Curry's sharp-shooting should get him in and out of the jump shot spot quickly, but he can't compare to the other guards when it comes to speed dribbling and sharp passing skills.

Guard Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Experience: Rose became the first rookie to win the Skills Challenge in 2009, but his time of 35.3 seconds was more than 10 seconds slower than the record pace, indicating a possibly weak field that year.
Vegas Odds: +225 (favorite)
What to watch for: If you were to build a prototype of the guard that would be perfect for the competition, Rose would be about as good as it gets. He is blazing fast with the ball, athletic and an accurate passer. Rose's jump shot is more than acceptable by normal game standards, but if he clanks a shot or two off the back of the rim, he could quickly find himself eating up valuable time during the challenge. Rose did win the competition in 2009, finishing with an emphatic double-pump reverse jam to wow the crowd, but this year's field is much tougher and he won't have any time to mess around.

Guard John Wall, Washington Wizards
Experience: None. Wall is a rookie for the Wizards
Vegas Odds: +275
What to watch for: Although he is just a rookie, Wall is already among the fastest point guards in the league going from one end of the court the other with the ball. Wall is among the same build and playing style as Rose, and ironically both played for coach John Calipari in college and left after their freshman year to become the No. 1 pick in the draft. As with Curry, Wall has never experienced the course before and can't afford to make a mistake from confusion in the opening round. But Wall is always a crowd-pleaser, and even if he gets behind in his time he could potentially put on a show.