It's no secret that the NBA Slam Dunk Contest has lacked considerable energy over the last couple of years.
And that's probably putting it kindly. An annual showcase that used to be the central focus of All-Star Weekend, the dunk contest has turned into a painfully flat event more adept at putting fans to sleep rather than entertaining them.
But there is hope for 2015. The NBA has gone back to the classic format, and a young quartet of Zach LaVine, Victor Oladipo, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mason Plumlee has a lot of potential.
Let's take a look at what each dunker brings to the table.
Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets
Height—Plumlee is 6'11"—is often a burden because even the dunks that are a high degree of difficulty tend to look much easier when the player can almost touch the rim without jumping.
At the same time, though, taller dunkers are often capable of doing some unique things that others can't. Like dunking three balls at once:
Plumlee is probably the underdog, as a lack of agility will limit the twists and turns in his dunks. But ultimately, he has the combination of athleticism (36-inch vertical coming out of college), power and size to impress some people.
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
On the opposite end of the size spectrum, Oladipo checks in at 6'4". That's nowhere near Nate Robinson or Spud Webb status, but as the shortest competitor, his dunks will look a little prettier.
At 22, 'Dipo already has a smorgasbord of impressive dunks on his resume, including an in-game 360 and a powerful one-hander over some dude named LeBron James. But when I think of his leaping ability, it's a missed dunk that always comes to mind:
The second-year rising star is all kinds of explosive, and he has shown some creativity in these kinds of contests in the past. Look for him to put on a show.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Antetokounmpo is 6'11", but he's built much differently than Plumlee. "The Greek Freak" weighs about 20 pounds less and has a go-go-gadget-arm wingspan of 7'4". So, while height could certainly be a drawback for him as well, it won't be nearly as noticeable because he's a much more agile player who moves like a guard.
Those long arms are especially enticing for this contest because he is capable of reaching the basket from Michael-Jordan-in-Space-Jam-esque distances. Sorry, Chris Bosh:
Antetokounmpo's windmills are extremely impressive, but he gives the best chance to see someone dunk from a step beyond the free-throw line.
Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
The favorite, and for good reason. The 19-year-old is still developing as a player, but he has pretty much hit his ceiling—or jumped over it—as a dunker.
LaVine has been obliterating rims since his high school days, but he became a sensation when videos surfaced of one particular workout prior to the NBA draft:
Then the hype was taken to a new level during his performance at the Seattle Pro Am in July:
T-Wolves head coach Flip Saunders talked about what you can expect from the rookie, via TwinCities.com's Andy Greder:
He's going to try to bring back the old-school dunk contest. You aren't going to see props. You are going to see what you saw in the old days as the dunkers came and showed off what they could do without props. That will probably be as exciting for me to watch as anything.
If anyone is ever going to come close to replicating Vince Carter's show in 2000—both in terms of dunks and crowd reaction—it's probably LaVine. Boasting a ridiculous 46-inch vertical, his smooth and effortless style is mesmerizing. And jaw-dropping.