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Tonight’s Contestants

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Tonight will be the first time the NBA Slam Dunk Competition uses it’s new format to determine who will be considered the league’s best. In the competition’s opening round, contestants will have 90 seconds to complete as many dunks as they wish. This is followed by a Battle Round which will feature a dunker from each conference, a winner is selected — the loser, eliminated — after head-to-head dunk-off. The first team to win three battle rounds will be become champions.

Watch tonight’s presentation on TNT, with coverage beginning at 8 PM (EST).

After all dunks have been completed, fans will select the individual champion by voting via text, Twitter, NBA.com or the NBA GameTime app.

It’s irresponsible to vote on anything without pertinent knowledge of each and every candidate, that’s the key to the democratic process. So, only hours before each participant pleads their case for the right to be named the league’s best dunker, it’s only right to review what we have learned about the field so far this season.

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

It will be easier to assess tonight’s events, accurately, after evaluating an equally substantial portion of information as it pertains to each player. The following clips of Paul George, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Terrence Ross, Harrison Barnes, and Ben McLemore should be used for educational purposes — remember, make your vote tonight based on logic, rather than a bias. 

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Paul George

George is the undeniable favorite to win the competition, but by no means does this work to his advantage. The 360 windmill slam should be viewed as a recycled novelty, it’s value has almost completely diminished. After all, it’s the same dunk he attempted in last year’s competition, only that time he was in the dark and it wasn’t during a game.

George needs to get creative, studies show voters are more susceptible to support something new and unique that hasn’t been seen before.  

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Damian Lillard

Lillard will become the only player in league history to participate in each of the skills competitions over All-Star weekend and things started for him last night. He played 30 minutes in last night’s Rising Stars Challenge, and may be the beneficiary of many sympathy votes. However, the Portland Trail Blazers six-foot, three-inch “Dame Monster,” certainly can soar with the rest of the competition.

Lillard has the short guy advantage going for him. The shorter the player, the higher he needs to jump — making any dunk more visually appealing.

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John Wall

Fans of the Washington Wizards were doing the “John Wall,” before the team had even officially drafted the six-foot, four-inch point guard out of Kentucky. He is explosive, fast, and rocks the rim most often after beating opponents down the floor in transition. However, Wall said a few words regarding what he has in store for tonight, telling NBA TV there will be “extra bodies” involved .

With George, we determined he would need to get creative, but this is Wall’s first appearance in a dunk contest — will losing the element of surprise negatively impact fan voting?

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Terrence Ross

Ross is the defending Slam Dunk champion. Where I come from, an opponent does not become champion unless they do enough to pull the title-holder off the throne. This essentially means the proverbial belt belongs to Ross, unless George, Wall, Lillard, Barnes or McLemore do enough to remove it from his hip. This method is derived from the way boxing, wrestling, and other mixed martial arts go about deciding who the true champion really is.

Ross has a considerable chance to defend his title, and based on what we’ve seen this season — it’s not going to be easy overthrow his reign.

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Harrison Barnes

Like Lillard, Barnes too participated in the Rising Stars competition last night. He scored 16 points in 23 minutes and stated, “there wasn’t a whole lot of defense.” This only leads me to believe fatigue will not be a factor. Trade rumors have swirled around Barnes throughout the season, and I don’t think uncertainty is something he’s too familiar with — Barnes has been a top recruit since high school.

Perhaps not having to worry about about all the extra drama will play to his benefit, Barnes can compete somewhat relaxed, free of any speculation regarding his future with Golden State Warriors.

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Ben McLemore 

McLemore is the wildcard, a rookie with nothing to lose. He’s a six-foot-five inch guard with long arms and an uncanny leaping ability. Although being a rookie in the NBA doesn’t mean McLemore doesn’t have experience in previous dunk competitions, the last time he participated in a dunk contest? McLemore was crowned a slam dunk champion as a senior representing the prestigious Oak Hill Academy.

However, rumors are that McLemore may attempt an unheard of 720 dunk — that’s two complete spins before slamming the ball through the basket. This has never been done before, but, where there’s high risk there is also high reward. If he’s able to pull it off, it would arguably be the greatest dunk in the event’s history.

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Without question, tonight’s Dunk Contest is one of the most anticipated skills competitions of recent memory — remember to cast your vote either text, Twitter, NBA.com or the NBA GameTime app.

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