When it comes to NBA stars, it’s all about picking your flavor. The sharpshooting Steph Curry can drain 3-pointers from anywhere on the court. Luka Doncic’s size and creativity make him a threat to score in any situation. Other players rely on brute force and power to bury the ball in the basket. All of those skills would make for a heck of a H-O-R-S-E tournament.
As it turns out, the NBA and ESPN are turning that dream into a reality. And while we wish the circumstances were different, it’s still an innovative way to bring the NBA to its viewers during this trying time. While the pro version of this classic childhood driveway challenge already has a lineup in place, it’s fun to wonder what current NBA star would dominate a H-O-R-S-E tournament. For the sake of this exercise, superstars who are currently sidelined due to injury (Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving) were not included. Let’s take a closer look at the contenders.
Steph Curry is arguably the best shooter in NBA history
Any discussion about the NBA’s best shooters begins with Steph Curry. The three-time NBA champion has put together a Hall of Fame career despite initial concerns over his small frame. Yet, more than a decade after the Warriors drafted him seventh overall, Curry still reigns supreme.
Though his insane handles wouldn’t come in handy in this style of competition, his 3-point range certainly would. The two-time NBA MVP has a career 3-point shooting percentage of 43.5—a staggering mark given his volume. Don’t sleep on his ability to hit a floater on the run, or drain a deep shot from awkward angles. When it comes to shooting, Steph Curry has no rival.
Damian Lillard delivers in the clutch
Though his shooting percentages won’t blow you away, Damian Lillard is exactly the type of NBA star who would dominate a H-O-R-S-E tournament. The five-time All-Star has made a lucrative living coming up clutch for the Trailblazers. Capable of draining a shot from well beyond the arc, Lillard’s playoff heroics have made him a franchise icon in Portland.
Before the NBA suspended play due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lillard had tied his career-high by shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point territory. As the clear-cut alpha male in Portland, he’s no stranger to performing under pressure. He may play in a small market, but he’d be a prime candidate to dominate on a big stage.
Ja Morant is already one of the NBA’s most exciting young stars
Selected right after Zion Williamson, 20-year-old Ja Morant also became an instant hit this season. The South Carolina native arrived in the NBA with a reputation as a dynamic scorer and unparalleled playmaker. Though his sensational rookie season was put on pause, that shouldn’t stop him from dominating when the NBA season resumes.
In 59 games with the Memphis Grizzlies, Morant averaged 17.6 points and 6.9 assists while shooting 49.1 percent. He isn’t exactly en elite 3-point shooter (36.7 percent), but the athletic and explosive rookie could be a dominant darkhorse contender in a H-O-R-S-E tournament. Don’t doubt him, either. Morant worked his way up from an unranked high school player to become the second overall pick of the 2019 NBA draft.
Luka Doncic can score from anywhere on the court
If there’s anyone built to win a H-O-R-S-E tournament, it’s got to be Luke Doncic. At 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, he has great size to go with uncanny handles and shooting range for a player of his stature. A star in Europe, he quickly proved that he could handle playing against the NBA’s elite. Doncic earned NBA Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.1 steals for the Dallas Mavericks.
Doncic’s incredible passing skills wouldn’t be a factor in this tournament. However, his unique ability to capably shoot with either hand would make him a tough out. He has dazzled Dallas fans with floaters, fadeaway and ridiculously deep 3-pointers. His height would also allow for unique shooting angles that Curry, Lillard and Morant may struggle with.
Jayson Tatum made the leap to NBA superstar this season
The NBA’s biggest breakout star this season was easily Jayson Tatum. Still just 22 years old, the former Duke standout went from an above-average player to a complete superstar after Kyrie Irving left. Even with high-priced free-agent addition Kemba Walker, Boston clearly centered its offense around one of Kobe Bryant’s proteges.
At 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, Tatum has great size for a small forward. A true No. 1 scorer, he increased his production across the board. Before the NBA season stopped, he was averaging 23.9 points per game. Tatum truly broke out in February, when he averaged 30.7 points while shooting 48.1 percent from 3-point territory. With a strong mid-range game, a solid 3-point shot and the ability to finish at the rim, Jayson Tatum would be a dominant H-O-R-S-E player that would give the rest of the contenders a run for their money. When LeBron James gives you a shoutout, you know you’re doing something right.