NBA Slam Dunk Contest Betting Predictions
by Matt Severance - 02/11/2009
Well, barring another injury, the 2009 All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest is set.
Memphis' Rudy Gay was in the original field with Orlando's Dwight Howard, New York's Nate Robinson and Portland's Rudy Fernandez, but Gay had to pull out because of a hip flexor injury that has had him on the sideline for all of the Grizzlies' games this week. He has been replaced by Denver guard J.R. Smith.
Thus, three of the four dunkers will have had experience in this competition. Howard, who opened as the -150 favorite on WagerWeb, is the defending champ after that memorable "Superman" slam last season. The 6-foot-11 Magic star, who was eliminated in the first round of the 2006 contest, became the tallest player to capture the event, and this year will try to become the fifth multiple winner - joining Jason Richardson, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Harold Miner.
Howard, for what it's worth, far and away leads the NBA in dunks this regular season, as he usually does. And he set a record for fan votes in this year's All-Star Game - remember that fans decide the dunk winner, so he has a huge head start.
Robinson, at just 5-foot-9, won this event in 2006 and reached the finals in 2007, losing out to Boston's Gerald Green. The Knicks' guard, who is +370 to win, has dunked the ball just twice during a game this season.
The 6-foot-6 Smith (+450 on WagerWeb.com) finished third in the 2005 contest while a member of the Hornets. He did have a memorable behind-the-back jam that year.
"I have a few things under my sleeve," Smith said to reporters this week, adding that it wasn't really a disadvantage to be a late substitution. "If you're a really good dunker, you should be able to come up with something on the fly.''
Smith added he would seek some advice from teammate Chris Andersen. Now, that might be a good or bad thing. If you remember, Andersen got his "Birdman" moniker when he finished third in the 2004 Dunk Contest when many thought he should have won. But in 2005, Andersen, then with the Hornets, missed his first eight attempts on his first dunk and his first five attempts on his second dunk.
Lastly, Fernandez (+280), the Blazers' 6-foot-6 rookie from Spain, was the fans' choice as the final entrant in the field. Fernandez isn't really known as a dunker in the NBA, although he did compete in a dunk contest in Europe a few years back, finishing third. He thinks the fact that he is from Europe helped in the fan balloting, since he probably "won" the overseas vote. Also don't forget that he had a very memorable dunk over Howard in last year's Olympics.
The two dunkers with the highest first-round scores will advance to the final round. The dunker with the lowest total score from the first round will compete first in the final round. Dunks then will alternate until each player has completed two.
I'm not going to pretend to over-analyze betting patterns for this event, but know that an Eastern Conference player has won it the past five years. As far as Slam Dunk Contest predictions go, I would have said Gay had a great chance to win because Howard is going to have to do something pretty clever to match last year. All of Europe will be asleep when this competition happens, so it will be hard to see Fernandez getting that vote again so I would say Robinson would be my value prediction for betting.