There is no Blake Griffin. No Dwight Howard. Not even a Nate Robinson.
The NBA’s All-Star Saturday Night Dunk Contest is a showcase event this year filled with a bunch of names that had casual fans saying, “who is that?”
But for Jeremy Evans, it’s a chance.
Evans is a human pogo stick — the first chance I really got to see the Jazz’s second-year player was at the Impact Series in Las Vegas last summer and his athleticism had everyone on media row scrambling to find out more about the guy. He was impressive. His dunks and leaping ability have made him a favorite among due-hard Jazz fans.
But he’s lost in the Utah Jazz’s system, a structured team that may not fit his skill set. He’s played in just 16 games for the Jazz and averaged 5.6 minutes in those and scored 1.7 points. He’s not exactly a household name. Even in Utah.
Evans contract is up at the end of this season (the Jazz could offer a $1 million qualifying offer so they could match any other team’s offer). Evans needs to get other teams to notice him if he is going to last in the NBA, and the Dunk Contest is a chance to do that, he said.
“This is getting my name out there,” Evans said. “Not only are the fans watching, but coaches, everybody’s watching.”
It’s sort of the same for the other contestants, although Evans is the most extreme example.
Derrick Williams is was the No. 2 overall pick in the last draft out of Arizona, but he is far from the most celebrated rookie on his own team (Ricky Rubio gets that honor).
Chase Budinger is one of the better jumpers in the league and he is playing about 20 minutes a night for the Rockets, but he and his 8 points per game get lost in the Rockets system. The Rockets can (and likely will) pick up his $850,000 option for next season, but then he is a free agent who needs to get noticed.
Paul George is in his second year and is trying to break out as an emerging star on a good Pacers team and is averaging 12.1 points per game.
So while fans are watching the introductions tonight saying, “who?” the players will be seeing their chance to make a name for themselves, catch the eye or a GM or team and maybe give themselves a little security in the coming years in the NBA.