Damian Lillard is a darkhorse to win the NBA 3-point contest
While the NBA dunk contest has waned in interest in recent years (something that Shaedon Sharpe could’ve changed if he participated, but alas), the 3-point contest has grown in popularity to become arguably the most entertaining event outside of the all-star game itself.
It brings in both sharpshooting role players and stars alike, evening the playing field from the court to distill competition into one area: getting buckets from deep.
Stars like Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson have won in the past, while role players like James Jones, Marco Belinelli, and Eric Gordon have gotten their spot in the limelight with timely shooting.
For the fourth time in his career, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is in the 3-point contest.
Though Lillard has never won, he is still one of the deadliest shooters in the league, which gives him at least a puncher’s chance.
But what are his chances of actually winning this year?
Damian Lillard is a darkhorse to win the 2023 NBA 3-point contest
Behind Curry, who is widely regarded as the greatest shooter of all time, Lillard is often listed as second for the best high volume-shooting point guard.
He’s never taken fewer than six threes per game, a number that places him in elite company, and he has had six seasons of 37 percent shooting or greater from deep. This year is Lillard’s fifth-best season of his career in terms of 3-point percentage, while also being his highest volume of threes taken.
He’s launched bombs from all over the court, displaying the shooting excellence that fans have come to expect:
Although he won’t be shooting from that deep, Lillard’s numbers indicate he’s still one of the most impactful shooters in the game. He’s shooting 39 percent on corner threes, a critical part of the competition, and of players who have attempted at least 200 threes above the break, Lillard is 20th in shooting percentage.
Dame’s bombing from beyond the arc is well-documented, and with a sneakily good shooting season in the books, he has a chance of shocking fans and winning the contest for the first time in his four tries.
Or, the field could win it all
That’s not to say that Lillard won’t go up against some serious competition. The field, per usual, has the requisite star power to grab eyeballs alongside a handful of non-household-name snipers who could steal the show.
Lillard faces competition from Jayson Tatum, Julius Randle, Tyler Herro, Tyrese Haliburton, Lauri Markkanen, Kevin Huerter, and Buddy Hield. Of these eight players, Lillard only ranks fifth in 3-point percentage this year.
It’s hard to see either Randle or Tatum winning the contest, as both are good shooters in their own right but are a bit of a step below the field here. It’s also fair to question Tyrese Haliburton’s chances, as his unorthodox shooting form may lead to a slower pass through the five racks of balls.
Instead, Lillard’s most formidable competition will likely come from the two best shooters: Hield and Markkanen. This is only Hield’s third-best shooting season from deep, if that says anything about his prowess as a marksman.
He recently broke Indiana’s record for most threes in a season, a feat that’s crazier when you remember Reggie Miller was a Pacer and this occurred before the All-Star break:
Markkanen has achieved the rare feat of increasing his number of threes taken to a career-high while also hitting them at a career-high clip. Both are dangerous shooters from all spots on the floor, and Markkanen even has the home court advantage in Utah:
With both players having such incandescent shooting seasons, it’s fair that both would be the favorites for the title. Both Kevin Huerter and Tyler Herro are worth mentioning as well, as both of them have made their careers off of deep shot-making.
If Lillard is to win, he certainly has his work cut out for him going up against players who are in the midst of their best shooting seasons and haven’t played the same heavy minutes load that he has this season.
Will Lillard win the 3-point contest?
When thinking of the best high-volume shooters in the NBA, Dame is one of the first players that comes to mind. This year, on a career-high in attempts, Lillard has continued his sweet shooting, earning a spot to compete for the 3-point title.
While it won’t be easy, Lillard is flying a bit under the radar as a threat to win this competition. Much of the discourse surrounds the hometown all-star (Markkanen) and the MVP hopeful (Tatum), but that doesn’t mean Lillard can’t win it all.
Although he isn’t having the most accurate season, Lillard’s volume, percentages, and overall reputation are enough to make him a potential favorite for the contest and a necessary watch for fans of all-star weekend.