Blake Griffin will not return to defend his Slam Dunk Contest title from last season, which means a new champion will be crowned on Saturday night. The prestigious event has lost some of its luster over the past couple years after being the highlight of All-Star Weekend in previous decades.
Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter are just a few of the big names who have enjoyed dunk contest glory in the past. Those high-flying superstars built the competition into a must-see event, and it will take showings from stars like LeBron James to rebuild it.
Here's everything you need to know about this year's showcase. Hopefully one of the participants can surprise us with an amazing performance.
Where: Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
When: Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. ET
New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert, who was the favorite to walk away with the trophy, has pulled out of the event, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld.com. He will likely be replaced by Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans.
Lines in parenthesis, courtesy of Bovada.
Paul George (+150)
Either George or Evans will be the favorite when the new odds are released. The Indiana Pacers swingman has made giant strides in his second season after being selected 10th overall in the 2010 draft. He's averaging 12 points and six rebounds in 32 games.
George has 25 dunks so far this season. One thing that has never been a problem for him is athleticism. He will probably make some crazy attempts simply because he can. Even though he isn't a household name quite yet, this contest could push him into that category.
Derrick Williams (+300)
The Minnesota Timberwolves were hoping for more of an immediate impact from Williams when they selected him with the second pick, but he's been slow to develop. One thing he's had no problem doing is throwing down monster dunks.
He's totaled 19 in his rookie season despite playing limited minutes. It's always tougher for a post player like him to take home the crown because it's more impressive to see a smaller player like Nate Robinson soar through the air, so Williams will need to get creative to come out on top.
Prediction: Third Place
Chase Budinger (+400)
Budinger isn't the first name to come to mind when you think of elite dunk masters, but he's going to turn some heads on Saturday. The Houston Rockets role player can jump out of the gym, he just doesn't get many chances to show off.
That's why he only has six dunks this season. If he played more consistent minutes the total would be a lot higher. Budinger is the ultimate dark horse because it's impossible to know what he'll bring to the table. It's a wide open field, so don't completely count him out.
Prediction: Fourth Place
Jeremy Evans (+275)
There are two ways to look at Evans' late entrance. Either it will doom him because he didn't have enough time to think of creative dunks to impress the judges or the expectations will be so low that they will allow him to shine on the big stage.
He has a solid dunk résumé for a virtually unknown player, including 12 this season. He's another tall participant at 6'9'', so he starts at a minor disadvantage. That said, look for him to make the finals before getting upstaged by George. One thing's for sure, he belongs in this contest.
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