Brooklyn, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - In what has become one of the NBA's flagship nights, All-Star Saturday will take center stage from the Barclays Center.
With the league's elite in the New York area this weekend, Saturday night's festivities showcase some of the skills of the association's top players.
Up first is the Shooting Stars Challenge, which features an All-Star, a legend and a WNBA superstar. This is the contest, per the official website, with "four numbered shooting locations of increasing distance, with each team attempting to make all shots in numeric order in the fastest time. All four teams will compete in the first round, and the two teams with the fastest times advance to the championship round. The team that finishes all four shots in the least amount of time in the championship round will be declared the winner."
The two-time defending champions are Team Bosh, led by Miami's All-Star forward Chris Bosh, Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash of the New York Liberty.
Also taking place in the competition are: Team Curry, which features Golden State's Steph Curry, his father Dell Curry and Sue Bird; Team Westbrook with Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway and Tamika Catchings; and Team Millsap led by Atlanta's Paul Millsap with Scottie Pippen and Elena Delle Donne. Millsap replaced New Orleans Pelicans' big man Anthony Davis, who withdrew due to injury.
Next on the agenda is the Skills Challenge. This is the event where competitors go head-to-head on an obstacle course with the fastest finisher moving on to the next round.
The injury bug hit this portion of All-Star Saturday hard. All-Star John Wall of the Washington Wizards, All-Star Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls and reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams all withdrew because of various ailments.
The left side of the bracket shows Phoenix's Isaiah Thomas versus Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets, who replaced Wall in the field. The other matchup on the left side features Atlanta All-Star Jeff Teague against Orlando rookie Elfrid Payton, who filled in for Carter-Williams.
The right side of the bracket has defending champion Trey Burke of the Utah Jazz versus Milwaukee's Brandon Knight, and All-Star starter Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors against Atlanta's Dennis Schroder, who entered the contest when Butler couldn't.
While the Slam Dunk contest has traditionally been considered the evening's main event, this year, the Three-Point contest has the most buzz. The reason is clear, this might be the most impressive collection of long-range shooters in competition history.
The Splash Brothers, Golden State's All-Star backcourt of Curry and Klay Thompson are in the field. They are the only teammates in NBA history to ever combine for back-to-back seasons of 400 made 3-pointers.
Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks is the favorite and it's a well-earned position. He leads the NBA in 3-point percentage at a staggering rate of 53.2 percent. Korver, who was named to the All-Star Game when Miami's Dwyane Wade pulled out with a hamstring injury, is on pace to shoot over 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from long range and 90 percent from the foul line.
James Harden of the Houston Rockets is the league's leading scorer. Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs is the defending champion. Portland's Wesley Matthews leads the NBA in 3-pointers made (151) and attempted (376). J.J. Redick of the Los Angeles Clippers is shooting 43.2 percent from beyond the arc and the field is finalized by Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who won this title in 2013.
That leaves the Slam Dunk contest and a return to the old format.
The dunk contest "will be a two-round event in which the four participants can perform any dunk they choose without time limits. The players will have a maximum of three attempts to complete each dunk in both the first round and the final round. Five judges will score every dunk on a scale of 6 to 10, resulting in a high score of 50 and a low score of 30.
"All four competitors will get two dunks in the first round. The two dunkers with the highest combined score for their two dunks will advance to the head- to-head final round. The player with the highest combined score for his two dunks in the final round will be the champion."
This year's participants feature three second-year players and an interesting rookie.
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks will have a lot of eyes on him. "The Greek Freak" is an athletic marvel and, at 6-foot-11, should do some amazing things. If Antetokounmpo were to win, he would be the first international player to do so.
Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic finished second in last season's Rookie of the Year race. Mason Plumlee of the hometown Brooklyn Nets will get a lot of love from the Barclays Center crowd and rookie Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves could be the second-youngest winner after Kobe Bryant in 1997.