The 2012 NBA Sprite Slam Dunk Contest won't feature reigning champion Blake Griffin (but then again it's pretty difficult to think of something more creative than jumping over a Kia). Or LeBron James, arguably the best and most athletic player in the NBA. "Superman" Dwight Howard won't be there, and neither will three-time champ "KryptoNate" Nate Robinson.
It was hard to get excited for the enthralling, high flying exhibition this year because none of the contestants are household names. In fact, I bet there aren't too many fans that know all four participants. I didn't until I googled them up ten minutes ago, but I think I just forgot their names (scratches head).
Wait, who's in the Slam Dunk Contest again?
Well we have Derrick Williams (favored by many to win), the second overall pick behind Kyrie Irving in last summer's draft. He's just a 20 year-old rookie playing alongside Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio on the Timberwolves, but has settled in as a competent bench player. He relies more on sheer athleticism than anything else, as most youngsters do, but plays a well-rounded game and could be a productive starter if given more playing time. He needs to mature and develop as a player, but let's give him some rope before we start labeling him a draft bust.
There's Chase Budinger, the 23 year-old third year reserve on the Houston Rockets. He's currently averaging under 20 minutes per game, but is actually a pretty decent offensive player. Budinger knocks down more than 40 percent of his treys, shoots 45 percent from the floor and hits 87 percent from the line. Pretty good, right? But he doesn't hit the glass hard enough for a forward and provides little on defense. A competent bench player, but nothing special. I had heard of him, but I'm not really sure why.
But have you ever heard of Jeremy Evans? Me neither, and there's a reason for that. The 24 year-old sophomore averaged under ten minutes per game for the Jazz as a rook, and has seen his playing time nearly sawed in half this year. That's right, folks; he's averaging a whopping 5.6 minutes per game (when he plays, which has only been every other game). He's a glorified benchwarmer. Where did they find this guy again? According to his player profile he's much too skinny, weighing under 200 pounds despite being six-foot-nine.
Lastly there's Paul George, the 21 year-old sophomore for the Pacers. He's found a nice niche as a starter on the team this year, earning 31 minutes per game, shooting 40 percent from downtown and averaging about a dozen points per game. He's just one of many weapons on a balanced Indiana squad that includes David West, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, and Darren Collison.
Even though this contest lacks star power, I still think it has the potential to be exciting. After all, these guys want to make names for themselves with America watching, so their dunks should be extra spectacular.