Dunk Contest, 3-Point Contest, Skills Challenge fields set for 2018 NBA All-Star Saturday

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5295/" data-ylk="slk:Aaron Gordon">Aaron Gordon</a> of the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/orl/" data-ylk="slk:Orlando Magic">Orlando Magic</a> soars during the 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest in New Orleans. Gordon’s back for another round this year. (Getty)
Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic soars during the 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest in New Orleans. Gordon’s back for another round this year. (Getty)

The NBA announced on Thursday the full list of competitors for the All-Star Saturday Night events leading into this month’s 2018 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Before a Verizon Slam Dunk Contest featuring a pair of past contest participants, an electrifying rookie and the high-flying son of a former Dunk Contest champion, we’ll see a Three-Point Contest headlined by two former champions, including last year’s winner, and a Skills Challenge that, for the third straight year, will pit four big men against four smaller competitors.

First up, the field for the 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest:

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A pair of former Dunk Contest runners-up — Victor Oladipo, who finished second to Zach LaVine in 2015 as a member of the Orlando Magic, and who this year is making his first All-Star appearance as a member of the Indiana Pacers, and Magic forward Aaron Gordon, who finished behind LaVine in 2016 in one of the greatest displays the competition has ever seen, and who will make his third straight appearance in the exhibition — will return to the contest at Staples Center. They’ll be joined by two first-timers: rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks and Larry Nance Jr. of the hometown of the Los Angeles Lakers, whose father, Larry Nance Sr., won the inaugural NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1984.

The contest consists of two rounds, with participants performing any dunks they want. They get three tries to complete a dunk, with five judges scoring every dunk on a scale of six to 10. Everybody gets two dunks in the first round; the two dunkers with the highest combined scores advance to a head-to-head final round. After two more dunks, we tally up the scores, and the high man’s crowned champion.

Next up: the 2018 JBL Three-Point Contest.

The shootout’s last two winners, 2016 champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and 2017 champ Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets, will vie for their second titles. Joining them will be a trio of sharpshooting All-Stars — Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards, Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors — as well as Phoenix Suns scoring phenom Devin Booker, Miami Heat sniper Wayne Ellington, and just-arrived Los Angeles Clippers forward Tobias Harris.

Thompson will be making his fourth straight appearance, Lowry his third and Gordon his second. Booker finished third in 2016 behind Thompson and Stephen Curry. George didn’t make it out of the opening round in 2013. This is the first Three-Point Contest for both Ellington, who ranks fourth in the NBA in 3-pointers made this season, and Harris, who’s shooting a career-best 40.9 percent from deep this season.

For those unfamiliar with how this’ll work, the Three-Point Contest is a two-round, timed competition in which five shooting locations are positioned around the 3-point arc. Four racks contain four orange balls (each worth one point) and one multicolored “money” ball (worth two points). The fifth rack is a special “all money ball” rack, which each participant can place at any of the five shooting locations, and every ball on that rack is worth two points. Players have one minute to shoot as many as the 25 balls as they can; the three competitors with the highest scores in the first round advance to the championship round to shoot for the title and bragging rights.

And last, but certainly not least: the 2018 Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

Once again, we’ve got four big men, including three All-Stars — defending contest champion Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Al Horford of the Boston Celtics — and eye-opening Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen. They’ll be joined by four guards: Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets, dynamic rookie Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, rising star Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets and hometown hero/maybe-possibly-should’ve-been-an-All-Star Lou Williams of the Clippers.

Bigs have wound up winning the whole thing in each of the last two years, with Porzingis knocking off Gordon Hayward last year and Karl-Anthony Towns taking down Isaiah Thomas in 2016.

In the Skills Challenge, two players compete simultaneously on an identical obstacle course, which features tests of players’ dribbling, passing, agility and 3-point shooting. The fastest finisher reaches the next round. In the first round, the eight players will participate in four head-to-head competitions, with the four big men on one side of the bracket and the four “smalls” on the other. (The first-round matchups haven’t yet been announced.) The four winners advance to the second round, where two more head-to-head showdowns determine the two finalists.

The 2018 All-Star Saturday Night festivities will take place on — you guessed it — Saturday night, Feb. 17, at Staples Center at 8 p.m. ET. They’ll be televised on TNT and broadcast on ESPN Radio, if you’re more into the theater of the mind.

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Dan Devine is a writer and editor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@oath.com or follow him on Twitter!

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