2012 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Odds Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 2/22/2012
Dominique Wilkins. Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. Dwight Howard. Two Hall of Famers and two more who will be.
Vince Carter. Blake Griffin. Perennial all-stars, with Carter having a perhaps Hall of Fame-caliber career (iffy) and Griffin starting his young career strong and maybe on his way to Springfield.
Spud Webb. Dee Brown. Cedric Ceballos. Harold Miner. Isiah Rider. Jason Richardson. Josh Smith. Brent Barry. All solid players in their own right (well maybe not Miner, at least not in the NBA) and at least guys you had heard of during their playing career.
I mention all these players above because I now introduce you to the quartet of players competing in this year’s Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Weekend, with the event being held Saturday night in Orlando: Chase Budinger, Derrick Williams, Paul George and Jeremy Evans. Quick, tell me what teams those guys each play for.
That would be the Rockets, Timberwolves, Pacers and Jazz, respectively. Not exactly the marquee franchises of the NBA.
Now, quick, tell me which of the four is a starter. That would be only George, who averages 12.1 points per game as a shooting guard for Indiana.
Now, quick, tell me where the four played college ball. After all, that’s how we usually get to know players before they hit the NBA, in NCAA basketball.
The answers, respectively, Arizona (Budinger, a 2009 second-round pick), Arizona (Williams, the 2011 No. 2 overall pick), Fresno State (George, the 2010 No. 10 overall pick) and Western Kentucky (Evans, 2010 second-round pick).
I follow the NBA and college basketball for a living and I had to look up where George and Evans went!
My point being is that this is easily the worst cast ever assembled for the Slam Dunk Contest, and I expect terrible ratings for this event – which might cause the NBA to change it, much like how the NFL is pondering doing something with the Pro Bowl. But, hey, you can bet on the Dunk Contest, so here is your preview with predictions.
Evans, certainly the least-heralded of the four, was an addition on Wednesday when Knicks rookie guard Iman Shumpert was ruled out because of a minor knee issue. Ironically, Shumpert opened as the -175 favorite at Bovada to win this. Plus, he would have drawn some attention because teammate and media sensation Jeremy Lin was going to assist him in his dunks.
There is a new format this year. The contest will consist of only one round and each competitor will execute three dunks. Fan voting will open after all four players have completed their first dunk. Previously, the Dunk Contest consisted of two rounds, with the first round scored by a panel of judges, which determined two finalists. For the first time, fans will be able to cast votes on Twitter by posting a corresponding letter assigned to each dunker along with the hashtag #SpriteSlam. Since 2008, fans have determined the winner of the contest through text messaging and voting on NBA.com.
So here’s look at each player and their Bovada odds to win along with some predictions:
George (+150): If you read my NBA week ahead story earlier this week, I briefly mentioned the Dunk Contest and I actually picked George back then, when he was at +350. So hopefully you got your money down early at the better odds. This guy has major hops, so he should be the favorite. He wowed his teammates when he jumped over 7-2 teammate Roy Hibbert after a practice last season. “There's one dunk for sure that's never been done before in the contest that I'm sure of," George said. "It'll be something that will open eyes, and there's some other stuff that might have been done before, but not the way I'm going to do it."
Evans (+275): I had barely heard of this guy. And why would anyone? He has played in 16 games this year (entering Wednesday) and averages 1.7 points in 5.6 minutes a game. Of Evans' 88 career baskets in the NBA, 61 have been dunks. His dunk percentage of 69.3 percent is the highest in the NBA over the last two seasons. He’s the sixth Jazz player to compete in the event, with the last being DeShawn Stevenson in 2001 – no Utah player has won.
Williams (+300): A big reason Williams is here is thanks to teammate and fellow rookie Ricky Rubio, as Williams is often on the end of those Rubio alley-oops. Williams is hoping Rubio will be helping him in the contest. Williams is the biggest name of these four guys after a super sophomore season a year ago at Arizona, winning Pac-10 Player of the Year honors. Remember, this is just a popularity contest. Williams was in a dunk contest back in 2010 when he was at Arizona. He didn't win; teammate Brendon Lavender did a dunk after doing a handstand and a backflip to win that competition.
Budinger (+400): Look, I don’t want to bring race into this, but Budinger is the only white guy in this event and that alone might make him the choice of some voters. Do I think that’s right? No. But let’s not be naïve. There was a video making the rounds of Budinger doing some practice for this event, dunking over the likeness of his former 7-foot-6 teammate Yao Ming. Budinger does have hops, finishing second in the 2006 McDonald’s All-American Game Dunk Contest. He is the fourth Rocket to be in this event (Ralph Sampson once did it!) – none of the previous three won.
I actually like Budinger now, just on value. If he does throw one down over a cardboard Yao, that will draw a huge reaction and no player in NBA history, perhaps, was a bigger social media sensation than Yao with his huge Asian following.
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