The NBA just announced the 8 participants who will compete in the Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday Night. It will be the BIGS vs the SMALLS once again.
The SMALLS team will have:
Spencer Dinwiddie (shoutout former Bull)
The BIGS team is compiled of:
I can’t wait to see Lauri take part in this event. I’ll be the first to admit I did not think Lauri would be this athletic. He can shoot really well, but he’s also been good defensively and can dribble and pass like Jari Litmanen (The greatest Finnish soccer player ever, FYI).
This sets him up perfectly to put up a good showing on All-Star Saturday Night. Before I give Lauri a grade on every skill in the skills challenge, I need to first explain what the rules are, in case you don’t remember.
Basically, two players will race against each other, one on each half of the court, by first dribbling by 5 “defenders” (they sometimes look like these guys) while running (or jogging) to the next obstacle. Second, the player must throw a chest pass into a net. Third, the players will run (or jog) to the other end of the court to lay the ball up. Finally, the players will dribble back the other way to the 3pt line and the first player to hit a 3 wins. Simple.
Also, it’s a tournament style so the four bigs will face off while the 4 smalls face off so the finals are guaranteed a big vs a small.
Recently, Lauri Markkanen has been dribbling the ball up the court. He honestly looks pretty comfortable with the rock in his hand and even has some blow by speed.
The Flying Finn goes baseline for the two-handed slam pic.twitter.com/zaD2FFR5HH
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 23, 2018
It’s pretty impressive. That’s a 20-year-old, 7 footer. That’s also Anthony Davis he went by. Those weren’t And-1 mixtape moves, but still impressive.
Dribbling Grade: B.
I knew absolutely nothing about Lauri’s passing ability so this may be a bit biased, but he looks like the next Magic Johnson if we’re being honest (kidding, Lauri is better).
There was a play against New Orleans (former bull great Omer Asik is coming home!) in which Lauri grabbed the rebound, took a dribble, and then flung the perfect pass, right over Rajon Rondo’s head to a streaking Zach LaVine.
Lauri ➡️ LaVine pic.twitter.com/CAUGPFYhw3
— Bulls Nation (@BullNationCHI) January 23, 2018
That’s all I need to see to convince me he can throw a basic chest pass into a net.
Passing Grade: B+
Really? Come on now. This man has already broken records and he hasn’t even played a full season of NBA basketball yet.
This one isn’t even close. I’m shocked he didn’t get invited to participate in the 3-Point contest either.
If I was in a gym with Lauri and right before he takes a 3 point jump shot, someone presented me with the scenario that I would be going to jail for the next 10 years of my life if Lauri didn’t make that 3, I would 100% put my trust in Lauri and walk away a free man. In fact, I would turn around halfway after he shoots it like Steph Curry always does.
That’s how good of a shooter he is.
Shooting Grade: A+
Overall Grade: A-
So clearly, Lauri Markkanen, in my opinion, is a favorite to not only win the BIGs side of the bracket but also pull an upset in the final. Although it may not be an upset because the last two years a big has won the challenge (Kristaps Porzingis in 2017 and Karl Anthony-Towns in 2016).
I’m predicting an all-rookie final with Lauri Markkanen edging out Donovan Mitchell.
I think this means that Markkanen is officially a unicorn.
(Featured image by Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
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