PHOENIX – After falling short in the the 2016 NBA 3-point contest, Suns guard Devin Booker will get an opportunity to go up against the past two champions and show a national audience his pure shooting skills during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
Booker will face a throng of some of the most talented players in the NBA. Some excel at creating their own shot, some stand on the wing or in the corner and consistently knock down the catch-and-shoot three. All eight of the men competing on Saturday are experts in the art of the 24-foot jump shot.
The 2018 3-point contest takes place just after the skills challenge and before the dunk contest. Booker will be competing against 2017 3-point champion and Rockets guard Eric Gordon, 2016 champion and Warriors guard Klay Thompson, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Heat guard Wayne Ellington, Clippers forward Tobias Harris and Thunder forward Paul George.
This will be Booker’s second 3-point contest in the NBA. He came in third place in the 2016 contest, with both Splash Brothers, Thompson and Steph Curry, placing above him.
Booker acknowledged the talent of competition in this year’s contest, but still rates himself highly among his contemporaries.
“I mean, I always put myself at the top of any competition, but they’re all really good,” Booker said. “Klay won it, obviously. Gordon won it last year. Beal is shooting the ball really well this year. There’s a lot of great shooters, but that’s what I expect going in.”
In 2016’s contest, a 19-year-old Booker placed higher than Rockets guard and Arizona State alumnus James Harden, then-Clippers guard JJ Redick, Lowry, Trail Blazers guard C.J .McCollum and Bucks’ guard/forward Khris Middleton.
One of the biggest difficulties that shooters face in the contest, according to Booker, is that the balls are placed on a rack.
“It’s just something that you’re not used to,” Booker said. “You’re usually shooting off a dribble or shooting off a catch.
“Shooting off a rack is just something you never do outside of the 3-point contest.”
Suns teammate Troy Daniels echoed the sentiment.
“To me, if you’re not a shooter the rack could pose a lot of problems,” Daniels said. “It’s a different rhythm, something you have to work on for maybe a week or so.”
Booker and Daniels often compete against each other in their own version of 3-point contests during practices. Despite the free-wheeling nature of the competitions, Daniels outshoots Booker and the rest of his teammates consistently, and he doesn’t hesitate to tease his superstar teammate every now and then.
“I do razz him a bit, yeah I do,” Daniels said.
Daniels is shooting 41.3 percent from 3-point range through 55 games. He detailed what makes up a great 3-point shooter.
“I’d say skill, work ethic and a whole lot of mindset,” Daniels said. “You have to have a great mindset to be able to concentrate all the way through a made shot.”
Booker has been in two other 3-point contests — the 2016 contest in Toronto and another contest in 2013 before his collegiate career started. Booker participated in the Elite 24 Showcase, in which Under Armor invites 24 of the nation’s best high school prospects to participate in slam dunk and 3-point contests, as well as a makeshift all-star game.
“I won the Elite 24 3-point contest.” Booker said. “It was outside, so that added another degree of difficulty.”
The 21-year-old rising star will look to dethrone defending champ Gordon, as well as get revenge against Thompson, the man who defeated him back in 2016.
“I’m trying to win,” Booker said. “I lost last time, so I’m just trying to win.”
In order to win, he’ll have to best Thompson, who is third in the league with a .450 shooting percentage from range this year. Booker’s .381 3-point percentage is the best of his young career.
Booker will also face stout competition in the form of George and Harris, who are both having career years from behind the arc, shooting 42.7 percent and 40.8 percent, respectively.
Those in the Suns organization who watch Booker shoot almost every day didn’t hesitate to say who they think is going to win the contest between the NBA’s best sharpshooters.
“Book, for sure,” forward Marquese Chriss said.
Daniels, though not quite as confident, still likes his backcourt mate’s chances.
“I think Book could make it to the championship, he might even win it,” Daniels said.
Coach Jay Triano gave the most assured answer.
“Devin Booker, come on now,” he said, laughing.
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