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NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2014: Breaking Down Participants and New Rules

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NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2014: Breaking Down Participants and New Rules
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The NBA Slam Dunk Contest has undergone massive changes in 2014 as the league looks to infuse All-Star Saturday Night's marquee event with some much-needed energy.

This year's contest will feature six participants and two unique rounds that will ultimately produce a team and individual champion. In this brand new format, the Eastern and Western Conferences will be pitted against one another as the competitors look to not only entertain and earn money for their charities but to take home bragging rights for their respective conference.

An individual winner will be crowned as well. But instead of judges holding up scorecards, the fans at home will vote for the best dunker

Below we'll get you set with everything you need to know surrounding this year's event.

 

When: Saturday, February 15, 2014

Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans

Watch: TNT 

Time: Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET

 

New Rules (courtesy of NBA.com)

In 2014, participants will be competing as both individuals and teams, with awards being handed out for both aspects. 

There'll be two rounds, with the first round featuring a 90-second freestyle competition. Here, the participants for each team will throw down as many impressive dunks as they can. Afterward, the judges will select a winning side. The winning team will then be able to choose whether they want to go first or second in the second round, otherwise known as the battle round.

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At this stage, the six dunkers will be split into three pairs (one player from each conference) and will then go head-to-head. Again, the judges will select a winner from each head-to-head battle until one conference has won at least three head-to-head battles. 

The losing dunker from each head-to-head battle will be eliminated. 

The winning conference will be named Slam Dunk Contest champions and the Dunker of the Night Award will be voted on by fans watching at home.

 

Eastern Conference Participants 

Paul George, SF, Indiana Pacers

The top superstar participating in this year's contest is Paul George, who has the Indiana Pacers on pace to win an NBA Championship and himself in position to win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

After it was confirmed that George would be among the six-man field, the two-time All-Star expressed his excitement to compete, per NBA.com:

It's a real honor to serve as the Captain of the Eastern Conference Team for All-Star Saturday Night. This is a great opportunity to support and raise awareness of very worthy charities while entertaining our fans with contests showcasing the athleticism, creativity and excitement of our game. I'm particularly pumped to be in the Slam Dunk Contest as the new format provides players with the chance to display our individual skills while battling for conference bragging rights.

George took part in the Slam Dunk Contest back in 2012 but failed to turn in anything memorable. His glow-in-the-dark dunk stands out but hardly showcased his full athletic potential.

You can bet the 6'9" stud will step it up a notch in 2014.

 

Terrence Ross, SF, Toronto Raptors

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Reigning NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion Terrence Ross is back to defend his crown in 2014. And while most of the talk has centered on Ross and the Raptors' improved play this season, there's no question that the 6'6" forward has the arsenal of dunks to take home another title this February.

Last year, Ross jumped over a person and threw down a ridiculous behind-the-back dunk to excite the crowd in Houston. But he's had a year to come up with something new.

 

John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards floor general John Wall is in the midst of the best year of his career. He's averaging 20 points and 8.5 assists per night and has the Wiz in the mix for a playoff berth. 

However, the 6'4" point guard is more than just the driving force behind one of the Eastern Conference's top teams. His explosiveness and undeniable athleticism makes him one of the league's most watchable players. 

Whether he's throwing down a 360 jam on the break or elevating with ease to block an opponent's shot off the backboard, Wall's ability to effortlessly rise high makes him a dark horse to win this year's competition.

 

Western Conference Participants 

Harrison Barnes, SF, Golden State Warriors

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Golden State's Harrison Barnes is arguably the Western Conference's top participant in 2014. The 6'8" forward has the height, hops and posterization potential to open eyes in New Orleans.

Like many of the other dunkers in this year's event, Barnes is new to this type of stage. If he, like the other first-timers, can overcome the jitters, he's poised to get people talking. 

 

Ben McLemore, SG, Sacramento Kings

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Ben McLemore is the only rookie taking part in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2014. But keep in mind that the 6'5" guard is among the league's most athletic young players.

The former Kansas sharpshooter can absolutely jump out of the gym and whether it's a flawlessly executed 360 rim rocker or a smooth windmill dunk, McLemore has the hang time to deliver some jaw-dropping moments in the Big Easy. 

 

Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers

At 6'3", Damian Lillard is the shortest participant in this year's competition. But you'd be silly to count the second-year point guard out solely because of his size.

After all, Lillard has treated NBA fans to some sick dunks through the early stages of his professional career and has the perfect combination of athleticism and vision to thrive in this competition. Lillard is one of the league's more creative stars, finding new ways to score each and every night.

With low expectations giving him added room for error, don't be surprised if Lillard steals the show for the Western Conference. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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