Saturday evening's Slam Dunk Contest featured a couple great dunks, highlighted by John Wall's spectacular double-pump, two-handed reverse slam that capped off the night, followed by him doing the Rich Homie Quan dance. It also featured the most deflating and puzzling conclusion to the event that I can recall.
Any talk of it being a trivial competition that nobody really cares about can be eschewed by just looking at Twitter as the contest was drawing to a close. I believe everything listed in the "Trends" sidebar was dunk contest related, so people clearly care. In fact, I'm guessing some casual fans are more likely to tune into the dunk contest than most playoff games.
So why, when the league finally put together a compelling field, did they change the format? Wall, Paul George and Damian Lillard are among the 20 best players in the league right now. Throw in last year's winner, and the proud owner of the best in-game dunk of the season, in Terrence Ross, and the competition seemed poised to be a thoroughly entertaining hour of television. Instead, they started with what seemed to be a couple minutes of warm-up dunks, involving "teams" of three representing each conference. I didn't know whether I was supposed to care about what was happening during this "round" of the competition, and then it ended and there was a "winner" - the Eastern Conference.
First of all, this is a player's weekend. It's about celebrating individual excellence. Teams don't matter at All-Star weekend, and conferences absolutely don't matter. Were people sitting at home pulling hard for the East and rooting against the West? I hope not. We divide the players by conference for the actual All-Star game, because it's as good a way to form the rosters as any, but that's where the role of the conferences can end. Secondly, it was Wall, George and Ross versus Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore. That's not a fair fight.
So had the dunk contest started? I still wasn't sure. The East had "won" that "round", but it didn't really resemble competition. There weren't scores for dunks. There weren't alternating competitors. It was an uninteresting mess.
We then saw some individual dunks, but it was an equally ambiguous situation. One player from the West would dunk, followed by a player from the East, and then the judges would say which player did a better dunk, but there weren't scores. So then, naturally, the three players from the East beat the three players from the West, and the East had won again. But which player won? John Wall apparently, but everyone had really lost, because the competition was over and nobody knew why.
The NBA D-League slam dunk competition was on earlier in the day, and wouldn't you know it, it actually resembled a dunk competition. When a dunk contest involving three of the game's best players can't match a dunk contest done in the afternoon on NBA TV and won by Tony Mitchell, you know something is wrong.
At least we can look forward to Sunday night's actual game, and watch LeBron James and Kevin Durant go toe-to-toe in what could be quite a show.
Each week, this article highlights players who are widely available in standard leagues that can help in specific roto categories. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a specific category, there's no guarantee for production in other areas.
Alec Burks, SG, Jazz
Burks can be all over the map, in terms of production on a night-to-night basis, but as he proved in the Jazz's final two games (50 total points) before the All-Star break, he's one of the rare widely unowned players who can go get 25 points on any given night. He's available in 75 percent of leagues.
Kelly Olynyk, C, Celtics
Chris Kaman is the best option here, but chances are he's owned. In that case, the Celtics' first-round pick is worth a look. Olynyk notched his first career double-doubles in the final two games heading into the break. He's not a lock for consistent 30-minute nights but is definitely trending in the right direction and can be an asset in deeper leagues, as he's unowned in 72 percent of Yahoo! leagues and almost all ESPN leagues. Marvin Williams is another solid option for rebounds.
Jerryd Bayless, PG, Celtics
Kendall Marshall is still available in some leagues, after people dropped him following the return of Steve Nash and Steve Blake, and if he's out there, you should grab him if you need assists. However, in the likely event that he's owned, if you're in a competitive category league, Bayless is an intriguing option. He has averaged 6.4 assists over his last five contests, and with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley both injury risks down the stretch, the minutes should be there, with Boston having little to play for. Bayless is available in 97 percent of Yahoo! leagues and virtually all ESPN leagues.
Corey Brewer, SG, T-Wolves
Brewer has always been a capable option here, and though there was talk earlier in the season that his abilities on the defensive end were starting to decline, he had nine total steals in his four games prior to the break. He's someone to look at down the stretch, as he's available in 71 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 80 percent of ESPN leagues.
Ronny Turiaf, C, T-Wolves
When word breaks that Nikola Pekovic (ankle) is ready to return to the lineup, Turiaf becomes a fantasy afterthought, but until then, the Gonzaga product is one of the best options for blocks. He is averaging three swats over his last five - an elite rate by any standard - and his career per-36 minute mark (2.7 blocks) back up this productivity. He is available in 95 percent of leagues.
Terrence Ross, SG, Raptors
Ross is kind of like Burks, in the sense that he can disappear some nights. But Ross is still usually good for at least one make from downtown and made nine three-pointers in his final three games before the break. He's available in 80 percent of leagues.