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Does the NBA Skills Contest Develop Skills?

I saw a tweet last week that questioned whether young point guards would practice the skills featured in the NBA Skills Contest. I questioned the development aspect of the contest.

For young or inexperienced players, an obstacle course like the skills contest could be a good way to get all the players handling the ball and practicing skills at one time in a fun way. Most youth teams have only 1-2 baskets and 8-12 players. The skills contest could be a better version of relay races which are popular at youth practices and camps.

However, for an experienced or good player, does the skills contest offer a developmental component?

At the outset, Jennings makes an uncontested lay-up at half-speed. For most high school players, this is not an issue. Few players make a high school team without the ability to make an uncontested lay-up at less than full speed.

Next, he zig-zags through the fake defenders. Do players really dribble in this manner? Is that how he would change directions in a game when faced with a defender? Would he be able to dribble the ball that high that close to a defender? If anything, I see bad habits, not development.

Next, he makes a chest pass and a bounce pass into a small target. While the ability to put the ball into a small window is a skill needed by all players, most passing mistakes occur due to defensive pressure. Most players can make a stationary pass to a stationary target when there is no defense present. However, does that technique translate to a game when the pass receiver is moving and defended, and the passer is defended? Is the stationary pass into a small window a game-relevant drill?

Next, he makes a stationary three-pointer off the rack. Every player needs to improve their shooting.

Finally, more zig-zag dribbling and a lay-up.

There is nothing wrong with the skills contest, and, again, with young or inexperienced players, the contest provides a fun way to incorporate a lot of skills in a short amount of time in a competitive environment.

However, for more experienced players, I do not see how the skills contest develops “point guard skills.” The ability to play the point depends on reading and reacting to numerous cues and making the right decisions. The skills contest does not force players to make decisions or read the court. A player like Jerryd Bayless or Monta Ellis, who I would argue is not a point guard, is just as likely to excel in the contest as a point guard like Jason Kidd or Steve Nash because he is fast and can shoot the ball.

Players need to develop passing, shooting and dribbling technique, and the skills contest incorporates these. However, is the skills contest the best way for an experienced player to develop and improve these skills? Is it a good use of time for a player training to improve his point guard skills?

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