NBA Odds, Picks & Predictions: Best Bets for the All-Star Skills Challenge (Sunday, March 7)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Domantas Sabonis competing in the 2020 NBA Skills Challenge.
- The NBA Skills Challenge has become a big man's event, with forwards and centers having won four of the last five contests.
- Our experts here at The Action Network break down what they see as keys to the event and who they're backing.
Initially a competition for guards to show off their quickness, the NBA Skills Challenge has evolved over the years.
Guards won the first 13 editions of the competition, including future Hall of Famers like Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Dwyane Wade.
Starting with Karl-Anthony Towns’ win in the 2015-16 Skills Challenge, though, the big men have taken over. Players who are considered centers have won three of the past five years, with Kristaps Porzingis and Bam Adebayo joining Towns as champions.
Spencer Dinwiddie got the guards a title in the 2018 competition, and 6-foot-8 Jayson Tatum won the following year.
One thing our writers all agree on: Effort is a key factor in predicting this competition.
Here are three of our experts’ picks for the Skills Challenge:
NBA Skills Challenge Odds & Picks
Brandon Anderson – Domantas Sabonis (+750, BetMGM)
With the skill contest, I’m looking for one thing: effort.
I just need a guy who actually wants to try, someone who will run up and down the court a few times instead of jogging around and jacking shots from 10 feet behind the arc.
Luka Doncic feels like he’s just going to screw around and have a little fun, especially as he nurses an injury. Chris Paul is either going to get disqualified for cheating or lollygag his way through the course because he’s too proud to actually try and risk losing.
That leaves the big men, and I think Domantas Sabonis is the most skilled big man in the competition. Sabonis is an awesome passer, so that won’t be a problem, and he is hitting 35% of his 3-pointers this season, so we get a rounded game.
I also like that Sabonis competed in this competition before, which means he’s familiar with the course and what to do here. I think he could be out to avenge his loss to Bam Adebayo last year and take home the crown this time around.
Kenny Ducey – Robert Covington (+950, BetMGM)
In the Skills Challenge, I always like to look for a guy who’s going to really care. Normally that’s a big man, and bigs have won four of the past five years in this event.
I’m not overly high on Nikola Vucevic’s overall handles and passing in comparison to the other three bigs we have to choose from.
That leaves us with Domantas Sabonis, Julius Randle and Robert Covington. While I really like Randle to win this with his crazy assist numbers this season, no one’s going to believe the Knicks fan telling folks to place their hard-earned money on one of their own.
I really like taking the biggest dog here, and that’s Covington. Not only is he objectively the best shooter of the bunch, which certainly will be a factor, he’s also the perfect try-hard candidate. Undrafted out of Tennessee State in 2013, RoCo’s entire game is trying hard. He hustles, gives it everything on defense, and tries to put his teammates in positions to win.
I think Covington has as good a shot as anyone to win this, so why not take him at these odds?
Matt Moore – Julius Randle (+600, PointsBet)
The Skills Challenge rules always frustrate me, because they don’t really punish you for the skills. It’s a timed event. You can miss the three passes but if you complete the challenge by hitting the 3-point shot first, you win. It’s absurd.
So there are two things I’m looking for: the ability to hit the 3-pointer in pull-up fashion, and someone who is going to sprint because they actually care about winning the thing.
That last part eliminates Chris Paul, since you get the sense he’s there because he’s head of the Players’ Association and doing an “I brought you all here so I’ll do my part” thing.
That also knocks out Sabonis and Covington, who are the worst 3-point shooters in the competition. It would eliminate Doncic, but he’s been shooting much better as of late. Take a look at just the shooters here:
Now, when Vucevic participated two years ago, he almost beat Nikola Jokic but missed his first 3-pointer while Jokic hit his first, despite being badly behind. I think there’s value on Vucevic.
But Randle? Randle’s my pick. We’ve got a player who wants to make a name for himself, is having his best career year, has the athleticism to streak up the court and is shooting the second-best from 3-point range this season.
Do I think he’s a better shooter than Paul, despite the figures? No, I do not.
Do I think he will go harder than Paul? Yes I do.