The NBA’s Skills Challenge was expanded to include big men in 2016, and if Saturday’s back and forth is any indication, the future is bright for this league’s tallest types.
And its shortest ones.
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Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns became the second rookie (Damian Lillard, 2013) and by far the tallest NBA player to win the competition.
Towns knocked off 5-11 Boston Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas, who was one made three-pointer away from being the shortest player to ever win the event. KAT, at 7-feet tall, is also the youngest player to have ever won the Skills Challenge.
Towns beat out Golden State All-Star Draymond Green and Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins in the NBA’s unofficial “big” bracket before taking on the diminutive Thomas in the final round. The challenge asks that players dribble through obstacles before firing a 25-foot chest pass into a target, followed by a drive up court for a layup, and then a drive back to the other side for a three-pointer to cap things off.
KAT missed his first four three-pointers against Thomas before nailing one, immediately being mobbed by Green, Cousins, and fellow big man Anthony Davis (who fell to Cousins in the opening round; despite a Cousins mishandle in the obstacle series).
Thomas (who was the runner up in 2015 as well) made his way toward the final round by knocking off Denver Nuggets rookie Emmanuel Mudiay prior to topping Portland shooting guard C.J. McCollum, who beat Lakers second-year point guard Jordan Clarkson in the first round.
As noted in Dan Devine’s preview of the event, Towns (who shoots 37 percent from long range on the year) was Las Vegas’ longest shot to take the Skills Challenge.
Patrick Beverley, the Houston guard that won last season’s contest, had to bow out due to an ankle injury.
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