Posted by Royce Young
Ready for your 2011 All-Star weekend dunk contest participants? According to the Los Angeles Times, it'll be a bit of a big man showcase. Blake Griffin heads the field that includes JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards, Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Griffin has previously said he'd be interested and after a video briefly appeared on his player page on NBA.com with the words "DO NOT PUBLISH" with it, it was pretty much assured that he'd be included.
Jennings has a little local connection as he attended Dominguez High in Compton before he finished his high school career at Oak Hill Academy. Jennings recently suffered a broken right foot and is expected to be out four to six weeks, but he is expected to be healthy for All-Star weekend. A little odd that he's included in the field, I must say. And not just because of the injury.
McGee is absolutely a high-flyer, but he's probably better known for a fairly epic failure on an attempted finish than he is for one of his big dunks. I'm sure he'll attempt the free throw line finish in the contest and with his length, probably pull it off.
One guy that has pulled off the free throw line dunk is Ibaka, who won a European dunk contest while playing in Spain. Ibaka isn't necessarily the flashiest finisher but more of a putback and alley-oop guy. But he's got ridiculous athletic ability and a ton of power. And you know his Thunder teammates will be there with him, so it's not hard to see Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant joining in somehow in one of his dunks. Westbrook lobbing to Ibaka could make for a very nice slam.
And then of course Griffin. He'll be a huge favorite and not just because of the home field advantage of L.A. He's got the name power and the popularity coming in, but also a ton of dunking ability.
To me, this field strikes me as a no-nonsense group. It's like the league is trying to get back to the roots of the contest and weed out the trickery and prop usage we've seen over the past few years. With this field, I think we're going to get more straightforward dunks than we have in the past. Some have felt the contest has been watered down recently with all the theatrics and extra stuff, so with Ibaka, Griffin, McGee and Jennings, we might just see dunks for a change. Which would be nice.
An official announcement of the dunk contest participants will be this Thursday on TNT before the usual double-header.
Last year there was a dunk-off during the Rookie-Sophomore Challenge, but it looks like we've already got our four. LeBron James said he was torn as to if he should enter, but apparently he's staying out for another year.
The field definitely looks a bit lackluster at first glance as it's missing a big name to go alongside Griffin, but there's potential here. Watching big guys dunk has always been fun and obviously this group has the size flavor. I'm sure some people aren't going to be thrilled, but I think this group is going to surprise people.