Minnesota Timberwolves high-flying 20-year-old Zach LaVine will try to defend his NBA Slam Dunk title at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto as the fourth part of NBA All-Star Saturday Night.
What: 2016 Slam Dunk Contest, NBA All-Star Saturday Night
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Canada
When: Saturday, February 13, 2016
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT
Introduction: Dear Commissioner Silver, This Contest Really Needs Some Improving...
In the days before Twitter, SmartPhones and Dumb People, Male Homo Sapiens would enjoy the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest so much so that they wouldn’t be embarrassed to actually talk of it in public. Superstars like Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins not only helped try to win their teams NBA championships, but also participated in the Slam Dunk Contest and actually wanted to beat each other...really badly. Once it was an honor to be asked to the NBA Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Weekend, but now it has almost devolved to a “I Didn’t Know He Was Even On That Team” thing where the contestants are known more for their high-flying Dunking skills rather than for being really good all-around professional basketball players. Dr. J would like to think we could have it both ways, but then again Thomas Jefferson probably thinks Republicans and Democrats are both insane, so we’re now obviously dealing with and evolving world in which tepid is the new norm and we all just have to swallow. Nothing like a $5 Footlong to achieve Nirvana these days, eh Bubba? Grimace and swallow. But enough bitterness about a World long gone, we must pontificate about a thing in which guys named Zach LaVine and Will Barton will be jumping really high and then creatively throwing basketballs down a 10-foot rim and then be judged by a panel of really old, laughing ex-NBA players. Maybe this is how we should elect our next President. And if so, Chris Christie has no chance.
Last year as a 19-year-old, Minnesota Timberwolves G Zach LaVine (6-5, 189) won this competition and he has been made the overwhelming odds-on favorite to repeat this year (-300, Bovada). Maybe LaVine’s biggest creative competition will come from Denver Nuggets athletic SF Will Barton (6-6, 175) who attended the University of Memphis and is averaging an impressive 15.4 ppg and 6.1 rpg a game this season for Denver. Barton (+400, Bovada) will be participating in the Slam Dunk Contest for the first time, as will the contest’s other two participants, Aaron Gordon (+450, Bovada) of the Orlando Magic and Andre Drummond (+800, Bovada) of the Detroit Pistons.
2016 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Odds
Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves -250
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets +400
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic +450
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons +800
Past NBA Slam Dunk Champions
1984—Larry Nance, Phoenix Suns
1985—Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks
1986—Spud Webb, Atlanta Hawks
1987—Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
1988—Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
1989—Kenny Walker, New York Knicks
1990—Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks
1991—Dee Brown, Boston Celtics
1992—Cedric Ceballos, Phoenix Suns
1993—Harold Miner, Miami Heat
1994—Isaiah Rider, Minnesota Timberwolves
1995—Harold Miner, Miami Heat
1996—Brent Barry, Los Angeles Clippers
1997—Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
1998—None (2Ball Competition replaced the slam Dunk Contest)
1999—Lockout (Shortened Regular Season, No All-Star Game)
2000—Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors
2001—Desmond Mason, Seattle SuperSonics
2002—Jason Richardson, Golden State Warriors
2003—Jason Richardson, Golden State Warriors
2004—Fred Jones, Indiana Pacers
2005—Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
2006—Nate Robinson, New York Knicks
2007—Gerald Green, Boston Celtics
2008—Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
2009—Nate Robinson, New York Knicks
2010—Nate Robinson, New York Knicks
2012—Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz
2013—Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors
2014—John Wall, Washington Wizards
2015—Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
Strategy: Eliminate Down to Two Players, Then Take it From There and Then Hope...
Why are you betting on the NBA Slam Dunk, Contest? Either this marks a true test of degeneracy or a constant hunt for value or something. But if you must bet on this, it’s probably best to have a logical approach, which means first eliminating two of these high-flying cats for whatever reason. And much of this handicap will be done knowing the five judges will be a cynical but fair bunch who have all dunked themselves in NBA uniforms but who could collectively possibly reward the wrong guy by accident when all’s said and done. Dangling chads everywhere these days. The contest itself is a 2-Round event in which the four participants can do any type of Dunk they want to try without any Time limits. The players all have a maximum of three attempts to successfully complete each Dunk in both the opening and final rounds of the competition. The five judges—last year they were Dr. J, Nate Archibald, Chris Mullin, Bernard King and Walt Frazier—all then score each dunk on a Politically Correct scale of 6 to 10 (The highest a Dunker can score is 50 points while the lowest he can score is 30 points). The two dunkers with the highest combined scored from there two dunks in the First Round advance to a head-to-head Final Round. And the participant who has the highest combined score for his two dunks in this Final Round, Dunk-off type thing is then crowned the champion (and then we all bitch again about why LeBron, Kobe and Blake aren’t in this.)
Defending champion LaVine is trying to join Michael Jordan (1987, 1988) and Nate Robinson (2009, 2010) as the only back-to-back winners of the Slam Dunk Contest, and, as the -300 odds reveal, he’s the prohibitive favorite and has the overall body type, leaping ability and long arms to be able to try the most creative types of dunks on Saturday night in Canada. Now whether or not UCLA product and 2nd-year man LaVine (12.2 ppg, 3.2 apg)—who was also selected to the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night (TNT)—can be more creative and not mess up any high degree of difficulty dunking attempts is another thing. As far as eliminating two—and not because of the odds—to maybe not appeal to the judges or be creative enough to make it out of the First Round, it would be Detroit Pistons F Andre Drummond (6-11, 279) and Orlando Magic F Drew Gordon (6-9, 220). Why? Drummond won’t look as good coming back artistically coming back down to Earth after dunking with his 6-11 height and may not have the creative flair and repertoire that a smaller Forward or smaller player can have. Remember what Spud Webb (5-7, 133) did back in the day? And from watching some clips, Arizona product Gordon seems to lack the overall flair that LaVine or Denver Nuggets SF Barton possess.
So the NBA odds seem appropriate and it could be LaVine and Barton dunking for this year’s title in the Finals on NBA Saturday Night. And Although LaVine has no doubt been working on an arsenal or whirling-dervish, Windmill dunks to appease the masses, the judges may expect something athletically crazy out of him to get 10’s whereas a newer guy like Barton may impress the judges more with whatever he does because they will all have never have seen him compete in a Slam Dunk Contest before. And that little cynicism to rewarding a guy who has already won may reflect with a point here and there in the 6- to 10-points scores of the judges. No Denver Nuggets player has ever won a Slam Dunk Contest, and in the name of ABA legend David Thompson, it seems fitting that Barton becomes the first on Saturday night in Toronto. But the real way of looking at this is in the odds and the -250 chalk of the favorite and defending champion LaVine, which almost makes him off limits until you realize there are only four players in this meaningless contest which could be so much better in so many ways. Reading the odds like this in such a small field makes one think that LaVine will be a shoo-in to advance to the Finals. But if he ends up facing the athletic Barton and a true dunk-off evolves, although LaVine knows how to score points with the judges, but may be a little short on energy after participating in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge the night before (Friday). Barton will want to impress in his first time in the spotlight, and at 4/1 odds, may be worth a small shot as our NBA pick.
NBA SLAM DUNK CONTEST PICK: Will Barton, Denver Nuggets +400 at Bovada