Posted February 28, 2014

All-Star Give And Go: Durant chases Wilt, Slam Dunk Contest predictions and more

2014 All-Star Weekend, Ben Golliver, Ben McLemore, Damian Lillard, Give-and-Go, John Wall, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Rob Mahoney, Terrence Ross
LeBron James

LeBron James will watch Saturday’s festivities rather than participate … again. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

3. Does the retooled All-Star Saturday night excite you or disappoint you? 

Golliver: I’m worried. To me, the only contest that really, truly matters is the Slam Dunk Contest. I’m definitely concerned that the major overhaul in the format could backfire. I laid out the pros and cons of the new format already, but there are a number of potential potholes that stem from my belief that the contest went too far in pitting the conferences against each other.

If the East team, which is superior on paper, does wind up dominating, the thing could be over lickety-split. I’m all for keeping a good pace and eliminating delays, but this is one of the most anticipated events on the NBA’s calendar and it should last for a fulfilling amount of time. Another concern: the two best dunkers wind up being from the same conference (George and Ross, perhaps), and we are robbed of a true head-to-head match-up to determine a legit champion. If that happens, it will be the ultimate disappointment considering the three decades of history preceding this year’s contest. I’m also really hoping the “Dunker of the Night” winds up being a member of the winning conference, otherwise the whole thing will look super messy.

RELATED: 10 greatest Dunk Contests in history | And the 5 worst

Finally, I’m concerned that George’s popularity advantage over the other competitors — he received an astounding 1.2 million votes to land him an All-Star starting spot — will overwhelm the “Dunker of the Night” fan voting process. Of course, that’s not a new issue, as the fan vote is always a point of concern.

The Slam Dunk Contest is supposed to be fun, straightforward and easy. It shouldn’t be this stressful!

Mahoney: I may be the odd duck here, but I’m actually pretty excited about most of this year’s changes. Making the dunk and three-point contests a matter of East vs. West doesn’t really make sense to me, but within each event I think there are some smaller changes that could be a lot of fun.

The three-point contest is the most difficult to alter, as its an event largely defined by its simplicity. Adding a touch of strategy, though — as is the case with the new all-moneyball rack to be put in the location of the shooter’s choice — gives the event a fun wrinkle. One would think that most shooters would choose to max out on moneyballs in one of the corner spots, but selecting the first corner risks leaving points on the table in the process of warming up. Picking the final spot in the far corner, alternatively, could be problematic if time becomes an issue. That simple decision is thus wrapped in the dynamics of the game and each shooter’s personal preference — a combination that should enhance the contest without bogging it down.

RELATED: The 10 greatest dunks in Dunk Contest history

As for the dunk contest, the freestyle round should help to squeeze out many of the problems associated with recent duds. The timing of the round may well be props prohibitive. A miss would only be a momentary distraction, as another dunk attempt would soon follow it. And ultimately, the start-and-stop rhythm of past contests would be replaced with a more fluid display: 90 seconds of dunk after dunk after dunk from a field worth looking forward to. The format may not please the contest purists (Hi, Ben!), but the content is sure to.

I’m a bit more lukewarm about the head-to-head round that follows, though its success will largely depend on how each dunker is matched up. It’s a bummer that the new team format rules out any possibility for dunkers like Terrence Ross and Paul George to go head-to-head, though I’ll reserve judgment until we see how things play out. If the competitors from the West (Lillard, Harrison Barnes, and Ben McLemore) bring their A-game, it could be a blast.