ESPN and the NBA are partnering to air a H-O-R-S-E competition and these San Antonio Spurs players could bring the heat if selected to participate.
After rumblings over the last week, the NBA and ESPN officially announced that they’re hosting a self-isolation H-O-R-S-E competition featuring the best and brightest from the NBA and WNBA. While no one from the San Antonio Spurs was selected to participate, eight players including future Hall of Famer Chris Paul and first-time All-Star Trae Young.
This got me wondering about which players from San Antonio are best suited to participate in a competition of the sort. In case you aren’t aware, H-O-R-S-E is a game in which players face-off, taking extravagant shots and matching each other in the process. If you miss the shot, you get a letter and when you spell out HORSE, you lose.
H-O-R-S-E is a classic park game that hoopers of every level have been playing for generations. Pretty much anyone who plays basketball consistently has played it at one point or another, which is why it’s safe to say each player on the Spurs roster has logged their fair share of time playing it.
While any player can bring their trick shots and swagger to the competition, there are three Spurs in particular that are best suited for this style of game. Flashiness is key to success in H-O-R-S-E and few players on the roster reach the flashiness that these three do.
Though I’m sure seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge could beat most opponents by shooting fadeaway jumpers until his opponent reaches exhaustion, his lack of athleticism and dynamism makes him a less-than-ideal pick for this contest. However, our runner-up is combo guard Derrick White because of his well-roundedness and sneaky versatility. White can score at all three levels and possesses the athleticism to play above the rim and match dunks.
Next: No. 3 DeMar DeRozan
3. DeMar DeRozan
So you might be wondering why the Spurs’ go-to scorer and on-court leader is only third in the standings, but the answer is simple: Range. While DeMar DeRozan is a skilled scorer who can get to the rim in a variety of ways, he’s a career 28.3 percent three-point shooter who shot just 20 percent from deep since joining the Spurs.
This works for the way that San Antonio conducts its offense, but it wouldn’t work in a horse competition—especially with players like Trae Young and Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine slotted to take part in the event. Chances are, there’ll be a few deep threes, four-pointers and half-court shots lobbed up in this one, which is why DeRozan wouldn’t stand much of a shot unless he gets the ball first and pops off from the jump.
We’ve seen DeRozan pull off some monstrous dunks, including one over the entire Toronto Raptors team earlier this season. In a setting like this, it’d be very unsurprising to see him pull out some extravagant dunks including windmills, 360s and Tomahawks. Back in 2011, DeRozan lost a Slam Dunk Contest that many believe he should’ve won, but there’s more to H-O-R-S-E than slam dunking.
On multiple occasions in his time with San Antonio, DeRozan has pulled off magnificent 360 layups on his way to the basket. This would be his money-maker because it’s so specific and difficult to pull off that most people couldn’t come close to making that happen. Even with that being the base, he probably wouldn’t stand a chance at competing with someone like Trae Young when push comes to shove.
Next: 2. Marco Belinelli
2. Marco Belinelli
To be honest, there haven’t been many moments this year when Spurs fans have felt the affection for Italian sharpshooter Marco Belinelli the way they did in his original stint with the silver and black. His defense has fallen off a cliff and his shot didn’t start falling until mid-way through the season, but head coach Gregg Popovich trusted him to get it together.
We’re not talking about his performance in a regular NBA basketball game though, we’re talking about H-O-R-S-E and quite frankly, there are very few players I’d avoid more than I would Belinelli. Though it’s been a down year for the 34-year-old, no player takes and makes ill-advised jump shots the way that Marco does.
I’m pretty confident in saying that Belinelli is the most accurate player in the world when it comes to jump shots that absolutely no one should be attempting. Leaning three-point jumper with a defender in his airspace? Cash. Jumper with one foot kicking forward and one foot kicking backward? Money. Jumper with literally one inch of separation from a screener and the shooter? Deadly. This guy makes every shot that shouldn’t be attempted and then misses his open shots.
What a mess. But seriously, Marco has such an unorthodox playstyle and an innate ability to make heinous jump shots that he’ll be a H-O-R-S-E legend before you know it.
Next: 1. Lonnie Walker IV
1. Lonnie Walker IV
Few players make plays that make you say to yourself “How the hell did he pull that off?” the way that Spurs sophomore Lonnie Walker IV does. With an array of finishing moves varying from the finger roll to reverse finishes, Walker’s bag of tricks includes every kind of shot you could ask for.
Three-level scoring is critical to H-O-R-S-E because it ensures that a player can keep up with anyone that he or she faces. Walker’s three-point shooting is pretty stellar at just about 40 percent from deep as a sophomore, which compliments a style that prefers driving in from the three-point line and finishing with either a nifty floater, a short jumper or one of many hundreds of finishing combinations at the rim.
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This is a park game so I’m gonna write like I’m at the park: Lonnie can cash any finish with as much jelly on it as he wants. I’ll translate for those of you who don’t play park basketball—When Walker attacks the rim, he can finish with as much finesse as he wants regardless of who’s in the paint or what abstract style he puts on it.
With such innate scoring ability, Walker is sure to be one of the most talented H-O-R-S-E players in the world because he already applies such individualism and ingenuity to his playstyle that coming up with extravagant shots is in his nature.
Furthermore, I haven’t seen anyone finish their shots at the rim with as much flair as Lonnie does since the great George Gervin or Michael Jordan himself. Much to Coach Pop’s dismay, Walker is oftentimes more concerned with style than he is with efficiency but above all else, he wants to win. This is where we can draw parallels between Walker and Spurs legend Manu Ginobili because Manu drove Pop crazy with his peculiar style but when push comes to shove, Manu did everything he needed to and more to secure the win.
This is the same mentality that Lonnie brings to the game and that’ll translate to H-O-R-S-E.