Join us as we break down the betting odds for the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest. Vince Carter isn’t walking through that door anytime soon, but Zach LaVine might some tricks up his sleeve.
Jason’s record as of Feb. 13: 35-29-4 ATS, 2-4 Totals
It’s been 15 years since Vincent Lamar Carter shook the basketball universe to its core with his sick, wicked and nasty performance at the 2000 All-Star Slam Dunk Contest. Maybe Carter set the bar too high; there hasn’t been much positive buzz around this event since Air Canada took flight, aside from three-time champion Nate Robinson – everyone loves a short dunker. Things went really sideways when Blake Griffin won the 2011 event, possibly in predetermined fashion, in what was basically an ad for Kia.
We’re not saying the finish for this Saturday’s contest (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT) has already been booked. But the NBA odds at Bovada are leaning heavily toward one person: Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves. And given the incredible array of dunks LaVine put on display in high school and college, plus the latest format tweak to the competition itself, we can’t see ourselves recommending any of the other three dunkers for your NBA picks this weekend.
Slam Jam Bam
First, the format change: It’s back to the way things always should have been. Each participant will get to perform any dunk he wants. There are no time limits, and they’ll get three cracks at making each dunk. The two dunkers with the highest scores in the first round will face off in the final. That’s it. No conference splits, no spinning wheels.
This makes it even more likely that LaVine (–110) will get to show off his artistry while also winning the competition. When LaVine worked out with the Los Angeles Lakers before the 2014 NBA Draft, he set the league record with a 46-inch vertical. Then he appeared at the Seattle Pro-Am in July and absolutely lit the gym on fire. You’ll want to check it out on the YouTubes if you haven’t already. Warning: Your eyeballs could melt.
Again, with the format change, LaVine could blow a dunk or two and still win the contest, so that takes a lot of the variance out the equation. But for completion’s sake, let’s take a look at the other three gentlemen, in order of their NBA odds as we go to press.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (+225)
The “Greek Freak” will be making his first Slam Dunk Contest appearance, and while he doesn’t have LaVine’s highlight reel, Antetokounmpo has made some incredible in-game NBA dunks that will make your head spin. It helps that he’s 6-foot-11 with giant hands. And since the winner will (ostensibly) be determined by a panel of voters, Antetokounmpo could get some extra points for his charisma and his interesting name.
Victor Oladipo (+300)
Another first-time entrant, Oladipo says he’ll donate part of his prize money to cancer charities, which is another good way to squeeze some extra points out of the voting panel. Not meaning to be cynical here, of course. Cancer is bad. Oladipo has previous dunk contest experience from the Hoosier Hysteria events from 2010-12, when he was in college at Indiana. Also worth a look on the Interwebs.
Mason Plumlee (+700)
If you’re looking for a sleeper in Saturday’s contest, you’ve found him. The Man They Call Plums definitely earns more than his fair share of chuckles – you know what we’re talking about here. Okay, we’ll say it: He’s from Duke. Oh, and he’s a tall white guy. White men can’t jump, right? Well, Plumlee was in the 2009 McDonald’s All-Star Slam Dunk Contest, where he became the first person on record to dunk three balls at the same time. If LaVine should flame out somehow, Plumlee could end up winning this thing in front of his home fans at Barclays Center.
Free NBA Pick: Take LaVine (–110)