All-Star Give And Go: Durant chases Wilt, Slam Dunk Contest predictions and more
4. Who do you think will “win” the Dunk Contest? Will it be better than last year’s?
Mahoney: Eastern Conference; Terrence Ross. It’s tough to pick against Paul George, but I was wowed by how straightforward and powerful Ross was in his contest-winning performance last year. There weren’t elaborate setups or props in need of explanation; he just lined up and threw down, putting together an impressive reel. Ross walked a fine line in 2013: His dunks were crazy and creative, but none seemed as though it touched the upper limits of what Ross can accomplish in the air. I find that tantalizing and expect to see some fireworks from Ross in his second trip through the contest.
Golliver: Eastern Conference; Paul George. The East seems to have big advantages in experience (Ross has won it, George has participated), star power (George and Wall) and physical tools. It’s hard to envision a winning scenario for the West, unless perhaps Kings rookie Ben McLemore puts on an all-time classic performance (which could happen). I do expect that a strong field that includes three All-Stars will produce a better show than last year’s contest, which had its moments but wasn’t a classic.
I’ll pick George to bring home “Dunker of the Night” honors because he can go dunk-for-dunk with anyone in the format; if that happens, his popularity and profile should take care of the vote.
5. Who is your “sleeper pick” to steal the show at All-Star Weekend?
Golliver: Wizards guard John Wall. He just might surprise some folks in the Dunk Contest and he should get plenty of minutes and touches on Sunday given the East’s thin backcourt situation. His game is well-suited to the open court, up-and-down style, and he possesses the jaw-dropping athleticism to stand out every time he takes the court, even if surrounded by stars in every direction.
My second choice: Jazz guard Trey Burke. An early-season injury set Burke back a little bit as far as name recognition on the national stage, and Utah’s sub-.500 record isn’t doing him any favors either. In New Orleans, he’ll have two opportunities, the Rising Stars Challenge and the Skills Challenge, to raise his profile. Lillard faced a similar slate last year — he wasn’t injured, of course, but his smaller-market team was lottery-bound — and look at him now.
Mahoney: Kings guard Ben McLemore. The East looks to be the overwhelming favorite for the team win in the Dunk Contest, with George and Ross the odds-on individual favorites. McLemore, though, has the hang time and acrobatic potential to wreck the whole thing. There’s a raw, kinetic energy to his dunks that could give him a leg up, and early whispers of what dunks McLemore might try (a 720?!) have me optimistic about his upset chances.