Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, 8:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, February 19, 2011, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA., TV: TNT
By Kyle of Predictem.com
The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest is one of the highlights of All-Star weekend. Previous winners include Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, and 57 Spud Webb. Unlike the All-Star game itself, many players view the Slam Dunk Contest as a rite of passage for NBA greats in the modern era.
This year features four exciting competitors. Blake Griffin has exploded onto the NBA scene, showcasing his unique combination of freakish athleticism and raw power. At 610, Griffin could find it challenging to make dunks appear difficult, as many big men often do. Fortunately for Griffin, this is an extremely tall collection of dunkers.
Even so, Griffin is the frontrunner in this years competition. He has an astounding vertical for a big man and throws it down with authority that can bring fans out of their seat. Given the wide realm of duns Griffin is going to have at his disposal, he is the unquestionable favorite for the competition.
Sergeballu LaMu Sayonga Loom Walahas Jonas Hugo Ibaka, or Serge as his teammates call him, is the next contestant. Ibaka, like Griffin, also stands at 610. Many of his biggest dunks this season have come by posterizing a defender in traffic. Ibaka covers a lot of ground in a hurry, but fails to elevate above the rim to the degree in which Griffin does.
In order to come away with the upset, Ibaka is going to have to tap into his creativity. Each year, it seems the degree of difficulty remains relatively the same, but the creativity goes up exponentially every five years or so. Players are beginning to utilize props more often, which is a nice touch for both the audience and judges.
The tallest of the group, JaVale McGee, is 70 even. McGee has the ability to elevate like Griffin, but has the length of a seven footer. McGee could be the dark horse in this competition. During a game against the Sacramento Kings, he botched a dunk attempt from the free throw line. The fact that he attempted such a dunk may lead to the assumption that he had completed one prior to the attempt.
What is important for McGee to remember is that many times in the dunk competition, players get too caught up in trying to win in the first round. Surviving the first round and saving the big time explosive dunk is the better way to go. High risk dunks in the beginning will only make for a brief appearance and quick exit from the competition.
DeMar DeRozan is the 4th and final competitor. He replaces Brandon Jennings to round out the group of dunkers. At 67, DeRozan is the shortest dunker involved in the contest this year. He is also the most experienced, having come in second place in last years competition.
DeRozan is coached by the great Darryl Dawkins, the most historic dunker of all the dunking coaches. Perhaps Chocalate Thunder will be able to push DeRozan over the edge, giving him his first ever Slam Dunk Title. DeRozan has incredible elevation and will be able to woo the judges with his ability to bound off the ground. Last year, Nate Robinson took first place. This year, DeRozan has the advantage of being the shortest player in the competition.
Griffin is by far the most athletic and capable dunker of the group, but as we have seen, that will not be enough to win the dunk competition. I suspect the dunk competition will come down to a battle between Griffin and DeMar DeRozan. Griffin has the raw talent, but DeRozan has the know how to push him into the finals. Sometimes it is not about being the most gifted, but rather knowing what it takes to win. That is never more true than in the Slam Dunk Contest.
I anticipate an upset in this one. Everyone is expecting something they have never seen before from Griffin. Anything short of that will be a major disappointment. Conversely, the bar is much lower for DeRozan. If DeRozan can bring in a unique prop, given his height disadvantage, it could be enough to sway the judges. Typically the shorter players play to the better nature of the judges, as is shown by the previous winners. Therefore, my pick to win the slam dunk contest is DeMar Derozan.
For obvious reasons, you can only bet on the moneyline for the Slam Dunk Contest. As of Friday, these were the betting odds for each respective dunker:
Blake Griffin (-250)
JaVale McGee (+300)
DeMar DeRozan (+400)
Serge Ibaka (+800)
Who Will Win the 2011 NBA Dunk Contest? DeMar Derozan at 4-1 odds.