Grading Dunk Contest dunks: Evans and Budinger get an A

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It was not a great contest, and worst of all it felt scripted, like the Kardashian “reality” shows. But I guess that’s where we’ve gotten to with the All-Star Dunk Contest. It’s style over substance. And only a couple dunks really impressed

We’ve graded all 12 dunks from the contest (from A to F, like in school) and have the video of some worth watching. Basically, we suffered through Derrick Williams’ last dunk so you don’t have to. Here are my grades for your winner Jeremy Evans, plus Chase Budinger, Paul George and Williams. Feel free to disagree in the comments.

Evans double ally-oop over Gordon Hayward: Grade A. This was hands down the best dunk of the night (you can see it by following this link). Evans said he only had a couple chances to practice this dunk — at 3 a.m. in a local L.A. Fitness location in Orlando. It has a little gimmick but the double ally-oop is an impressive dunk however you do it.

Budinger over Diddy: A. Sure, the “white men can’t jump” intro was scripted and stiff like Keanu Reeves doing Shakespeare. Still, a little star power, a great ally-oop pass from Diddy (playing the Baron Davis in the sunroof roll —but Diddy’s back is in better shape). Budinger got up high, threw it down hard. Impressive dunk.

Budinger “hocus pocus” blindfolded tribute: B+. Got to love good retro dunks. And unlike when Cederic Ceballos did it the first time 20 years ago, it was pretty clear after his first attempt that Budinger was genuinely blindfolded and could not see.

George over Roy Hibbert/Dahntay Jones: B: The first two attempts he missed because Jones was early with the ally-oop, so George took the ball himself. When he did he threw the rock down hard, and he got over 7’2” Hibbert. Not bad.

George black-light 360 windmill: B. At least he tried something different, even if George looked like a human glow stick.

Williams 360 off side of backboard from Ricky Rubio. B. We’ve seen something like it before, but still pretty impressive dunk. Not going to win the contest with that, but not going to lose it either.

Williams windmill over motorcycle: B-. Not bad, even though he missed the first two (yes, I count that against him, it was fairly straight forward). Thing is, jumping over a motorcycle really not impressive after Blake Griffin last year.

Jeremy Evans Mailman tribute over Kevin Hart: C. In what way was that like Karl Malone? He should have backed Hart down on the block, spun quick and done a one-hand slam as a Mailman tribute. Also, if someone has jumped over Hibbert earlier, jumping over Hart does not impress.

Paul George Larry Bird sticker dunk: C-. A tribute to Larry Bird, one of the great dunkers of all…. what? Seen the sticker dunk and Dwight Howard put it at the top of the backboard, which is why it was impressive. Plus, George needed a few runs to get this one right.

Evans dunk with camera: D. Meh. Seen the dunk the camera didn’t really enhance anything.

Budinger windmill: D. Not that it’s a bad dunk, but how many times have we seen that?

Williams off backboard: F. He failed a bunch of times at a fancy off the backboard, between the legs dunk and just had to fall back on something Kobe Bryant has done better in games.

Timberwolves to unveil new logo at final home game

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The Timberwolves’ were the trendy pick for a breakout team this season with Tom Thibodeau coaching Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

Instead, Minnesota fell flat. At, 28-42 the Timberwolves will miss the playoffs for the 13th straight year – the NBA’s longest active postseason draught.

But they’ve shown progress lately and could carry that momentum into next season.

It’ll be a fresh start in at least one way.

Timberwolves release:

The Minnesota Timberwolves begin a new chapter in their franchise history by unveiling a new team logo as part of Fan Appreciation Night at Target Center on Tuesday, April 11. The Wolves will conclude the home portion of their regular season schedule that evening by hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7 p.m.

The logo will be unveiled during a special halftime show and all fans in attendance will receive a commemorative t-shirt with the new identity featured.

While the new identity won’t fully take effect until the 2017-18 season, the unveiling marks only the fourth identity in the franchise’s 28-year history.  The announcement is also the beginning of an eventful summer as the Wolves brand continues to evolve. There will be several future announcements regarding the unveiling of the new team uniforms, new court designs and additional events throughout the coming months.

I’m glad these uniforms are coming out next year. I always enjoy when a style change coincides with a team changing on the court, and it seems the Timberwolves could truly do that.

Shaq on flat-earth claim: ‘I’m joking, you idiots’

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After Kyrie Irving claimed the Earth is flat, he doubled down and insisted he truly believed that.

After Shaquille O’Neal claimed the Earth is flat

Shaq on Art of Charm (hat tip: Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports):

The Earth is flat. Would you like to hear my theory?

The first part of the theory is, I’m joking, you idiots. That’s the first part of the theory.

This world we live in, people take things too seriously. But I’m going to give the people answers to my test. Knowing that I’m a funny guy, if something seems controversial or boom, boom, boom, you’ve got to have my funny points on, right? So now, once you have my funny points on, that should eradicate and get rid of all your negative thoughts, right? That’s what you should do when you hear Shaquille O’Neal’s statement, OK? You should know that he has funny points right over here, and what did he say? The guy had, boom, boom, boom. Add the funny points. You either laugh, or you don’t laugh. But don’t take me seriously. When I want you to take me seriously, you will know by the tone of my voice that I’m being serious.

Shaq is excellent at drawing attention to himself. The only surprise is that he didn’t keep this ruse up longer.

If Irving is pulling our collective legs to put the focus on him, at least credit the Cavaliers guard for maintaining the story longer. That Shaq lasted only a few days is revelatory.

Earl Watson, amid UCLA rumors, says ‘main focus’ is with Suns

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At least the college-coaching rumors surrounding the Celtics’ Brad Stevens and Thunder’s Billy Donovan are about an actual vacancy: Indiana.

With Suns coach Earl Watson, it’s a step removed.

But here’s the gambit: UCLA coach Steve Alford is an Indiana alum, and many believe he’ll fill the Hoosiers’ opening. That’d leave UCLA in the market for a new coach – maybe Watson, an alum.

Watson, via Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic:

“There’s no doubt that I love my school,” Watson said. “It took me out of a poverty situation and gave me hope. The school is an amazing place. I feel like it saved me. But I also feel like (former Memphis coach) Hubie Brown saved me in another way. Playing for the Utah Jazz, they were there during a difficult part of my personal life and they helped me a ton. And then, of course, the San Antonio Spurs, after the death of my brother, the love they gave me is what I needed most, and that love is genuine. So you have different points in your life where people and groups come into your life and none of them are family and they impact you for the positive.”

At the same time:

“I’m more focused on creating value for our (organization), to give management and ownership many options to build a championship contender here,” Watson said. “What I mean by that is, building the value of the young players so that their value and their game and their confidence give them the option to be financially secure in this league when they become free agents; giving our ownership the option to build around them or give ownership and management the option to make moves because their value is so high to put us in contention quicker. That’s all I can do is build value. The winning will happen. There’s a lot of questions with our program, but one thing I do realize is these players are playing amazing for their age. I love them, they’re like my little brothers. My main focus is here.”

There’s little evidence Watson is a good NBA coach. He’s 31-73 in a season and a half in Phoenix, and his players have looked especially undisciplined.

That said, the Suns are very young. Maybe they’d look even more undisciplined under another coach.

Watson’s player-development experience could suit him well for college. As little as he’s done to prove he’s a good NBA coach, he hasn’t done much to prove he’s a bad NBA coach, either.

If Alford bolts, Watson’s history with UCLA probably warrants an interview if he wants it. But if I were the Bruins, I’d also consider other candidates.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim keeps fabricating NBA draft stats

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Sophomore forward Tyler Lydon declared for the NBA draft, which Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim seized as an opportunity to spew more nonsense.

Connor Grossman of The Daily Orange:

Boeheim cautioned Lydon about jumping into the NBA Draft now, knowing he lacked the “monster year” it would’ve taken for him to get lottery pick consideration.

“He didn’t demonstrate this year that he can be a lottery pick,” Boeheim said, “but next year I know he can be. That’s what I told him. I think he can come back here and demonstrate that he can be a lottery pick.

“I think it’s a better way to go to the NBA. You make money, they draft you high, they play you. Half the picks between 20-30 are out of the league within three years.”

We don’t yet know whether anyone drafted in 2014 or later will last more than three years in the NBA. So, let’s examine the prior 10-year period: 2004-2013. I exempted Nikola Mirotic, who jumped late to the NBA and is in his third season right now (even though I’d be shocked if he’s not in the NBA next season).

In that span, 22% of players picked between 20-30 were out of the league within in three years.

That’s not even half of Boeheim’s stated figure.

A third of those picks who washed out so quickly were international players. NBA teams are pretty good at scouting and developing college players, who face fewer hurdles in translating to the to the league. So, Lydon being projected to go in the first round means something.

The most recent college player picked in this range to fall out of the league, Perry Jones, got paid for a fourth season. Even the cases that count for Boeheim are poor examples.

And who’s to say Lydon would develop into a lottery pick if he stayed another year at Syracuse? The only guarantee would be missing an opportunity at a year of NBA earnings. Lydon’s stock could fall, a precarious possibility for someone who doesn’t excel at creating shots. Lydon can develop with an NBA team, maybe even spending time in the D-League – while earning far more than the college-sports cartel allows.

Boeheim’s self-serving approach is painfully evident. He enriches himself on the backs of young college players, and when the most talented among them leave early, that hurts his stature. So, he makes up bogus figures in attempt to get what he wants.

It’s shameful.