NBA All-Star Weekend 2013: Handicapping the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest
The dunk contest has historically been a favorite event of many NBA fans. Despite sentiments among many that it has lost its luster; that players can’t do anything new; and perhaps most importantly, that the star players refuse to participate, the excitement the dunk contest brings on Saturday night will still make everyone tune in.
While once again there are no superstars participating in the event, there are a few contestants that may perform better dunks than some of the premier players in the game, anyway.
Just because a guy barely gets off the bench (see: James White of the Knicks) doesn’t mean he might not astound us with breathtaking dunks. Let’s take a look at the six contestants in this year’s event and make some predictions as to who may emerge as the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk champion.
Betting Odds c/o Bovada
James White, New York Knicks (5/4)
James White, as I mentioned in my introduction here, barely sees any time for the Knicks. He’s buried on a deep roster, and truthfully isn’t really all that good. But he is the favorite in this year’s event.
Have you ever seen a guy take off from a foot behind the free throw line? Didn’t think so.
He performs the dunk in the 2009 D-League dunk contest, which by all accounts was likely better than the 2009 NBA dunk contest. Have you seen a player take off from a foot behind the free throw line yet? You probably will see White do that this year, and it’s sure to earn him a perfect score from the vaunted panel of judges.
White possesses a vertical leap that may be as high as 48-inches, and that should enable him to perform some pretty sick throw downs.
The main factor that could prevent him from winning it (and indeed any of the other participants) is a lack of creativity. But that doesn’t mean White can’t do dunks that have already been performed by previous participants—and do them better. Keep an eye on the Knicks forward. He may put on one of the better shows we have seen, despite the fact that a lot of casual fans don’t even know who he is yet.
Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors (7/2)
Terrence Ross has brought some excitement back to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Fans haven’t seen so many nasty dunks since the days of Vince Carter. While Ross isn’t quite the talent Carter was, that hardly matters in this event. And besides that, Ross could eventually become a very good player.
He’s had some of the best in-game dunks of the 2012-13 season, and it should be interesting to see what he can do when he’s not concerned about making every one of them, as he is in an actual game. Enjoy the smorgasbord of great dunks Ross has done in the past.
Gerald Green, Indiana Pacers (4/1)
Gerald Green already performed one of the most underrated dunks when he did his famous “cupcake dunk”, which featured the 6’7″ guard jumping so high that he was able to blow a cupcake out that rested on the back of the rim. He can also get his entire neck above the rim, as the photo below shows.
Photo courtesy of SI.com
His vertical is so high it may exceed 50-inches, but even he’s not sure what it is and said that he hasn’t assessed it in recent times and feels it has gotten even better in the last two years. Green has done some incredible dunks in games, too, and if he can come up with some creative stuff, he’ll win this event. While he’s not the odds-on favorite in Vegas, Green is my pick to win the event.
Eric Bledsoe, L.A. Clippers (5/1)
Eric Bledsoe is called “Mini LeBron” for a reason. Like LBJ, he’s got great end to end speed which enables him to take off from distance and rise up for thunderous dunks. He’s the best actual player in this event, but that hardly matters, does it?
Bledsoe will get his chance to explore some of the dunks he hasn’t tried in game play, as all the contestants will, and he doesn’t get too fancy in games so it should be neat to see what he can do.
His reverse dunk off the backboard to open this video promo from NBA.com is about as adventurous as his game dunks get, but he still gets up very high on game dunks, so the potential to win the event is there, though I like all three of the Vegas favorites ahead of him far more.
Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz (8/1)
I’m not sure if there’s ever been a defending champion with worse odds to win the event, but it’s with good reason: Last year’s dunk contest was almost indisputably the absolute worst in NBA history. Evans is not likely to repeat with a much more talented field, and he’ll likely be eliminated in the first round, saving some spectacular dunk that hasn’t been done. Even so, it’s hard to imagine him doing anything that will best either White or Green.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets (8/1)
Kenneth Faried is probably going to be the best rebounder since Dennis Rodman, and he can get off the floor to be sure. But he’s also 6’10″ and a player of that height hasn’t won the event since Dwight Howard in 2008. But Howard jumps higher than Faried and brought some star power to the event that Faried doesn’t (yet).
When you go backwards past Dwight Howard in time, the only other players 6’10″ or taller to win the event were Josh Smith (2005) and Larry Nance (1984). Shawn Kemp put on a great show back in the 90s, but was in a much more stacked field.
Don’t count on the judges being as impressed by Faried’s dunks, even if they are of great difficulty, just because he doesn’t have to jump as high to do them as the shorter contestants in this year’s event.