2013 Slam Dunk Contest: Jeremy Evans will defend title against Green, Bledsoe, Ross, Faried, and James White

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Utah’s Jeremy Evans — the human pogo stick — will be back to defend his All-Star weekend Sprite Dunk Contest title.

But a repeat will not be easy because the NBA has lined up some high flyers to step up to challenge him — Gerald Green of the Pacers, James White of the Knicks, Eric Bledsoe of the Clippers, Terrence Ross of the Raptors, and Kenneth Faried of the Nuggets. It all takes place All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 16 — and on paper this should be fun.

A lot of casual fans will look at the lineup and shrug. Who are these guys? The six participants lack the star power the league would love — LeBron James has said no, and Blake Griffin is not going to try and top himself — but if you follow the game you know these guys may be the best choices for this event. Guys like White and Green are dunk contest legends in other venues.

Then there is Evans, the little used Jazz forward (he’s stuck behind a good and deep front line) but is tall and skinny and jumps out of the building. He won it all last year with this dunk.

He’s going to have to top himself this year because there are some smaller guys who can get up — and little guys dunking usually beats big guys dunking.

That starts with Indiana’s Gerald Green, the 6’8″ forward who was built for this competition. He may have the best hops in the NBA — he can get his entire head over the rim. He has put together a collection of monster dunks in the past year or so, here is a personal favorite.

James “Flight” White is another guy where fans watching at home on TNT may say “who?” but who people who follow the game go “oh yes, nice choice.” White has bounced around the NBA and Europe since 2006 and he’s still getting paid because he is a freak athlete. And freak athletes can dunk the rock. White won a D-League dunk contest, he won one when he played in Russia, and he’s a plague all over YouTube with dunks. Here White is winning a dunk contest in Europe last season.

Finally there is Eric Bledsoe, who can get overlooked in the Lob City show with the Clippers but who can get up and throw down with the best of the guards in the league. Everybody likes his dunks… well, except Mark Cuban in this clip. And really, Cuban’s reaction is the reason to watch this.

Ross and Faried can each bring it, as well. This might be one of the more exciting dunk contests in recent years.

Jodie Meeks set to dodge nearly $600k in suspension penalty with trade from Wizards to Bucks

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Jodie Meeks was set to forfeit $596,686 this season due to his performance-enhancing-drug suspension.

Instead, he could receive his his entire $3,454,500 salary.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Wizards are in line to save $6,146,794 in luxury tax with this move. Subtract the amount paid to the Bucks, which surely includes at least Meeks’ full salary. But that’s still at least $ 2,692,294 in savings, which is why Washington also sent a draft pick.

Milwaukee was in the right place at the right time – with the Greg Monroe trade exception (from the Eric Bledsoe deal) just large enough to absorb Meeks – to extract an extra draft pick.

But the big winner is Meeks, who can’t serve a suspension while not on a roster and therefore can’t have his pay docked. If he signs again in the NBA, he’d still have to sit 19 games, but his lost salary would almost certainly be based on a minimum salary, not the higher amount he’s due this year.

Report: Pacers, Myles Turner agree to four-year, $80 million extension

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The Pacers’ identification and development of young players stagnated in the Paul George era and might have contributed to his exit. Indiana’s kept first-round picks in the seven years between drafting and trading George: Miles Plumlee, Solomon Hill, Myles Turner, T.J. Leaf.

Turner is the lone hope to emerge as a secondary star, and though now it’d be next Victor Oladipo rather than George, the Pacers will pay Turner as such.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

That’s a sizable deal, not just in terms of dollars but also opportunity cost. This will unnecessarily cut into Indiana’s cap space next summer.

Turner will begin the offseason counting against the cap at his 2019-20 salary, which based on the reported terms, will be between $17,857,143 and $22,727,273. If the Pacers didn’t extend him and let him become a restricted free agent, they could have held him at $10,230,852, used their other cap space first then exceeded the cap to re-sign him with Bird Rights.

So, why lock him up now? Indiana clearly believes his production will outpace his salary. This prevents another team from signing him to an even larger offer sheet next summer.

The 22-year-old Turner can live up to this deal. He’s a good 3-point shooter and shot-blocker. He must play with more force inside and either improve his foot speed or defensive recognition, ideally both. But he has plenty of tools for a modern center.

That said, if the extension is fully guaranteed, this is too much of a gamble on Turner for me. For sacrificing so much cap flexibility next summer, the Pacers should have gotten more of a discount. Of course, if this deal is heavy on incentives and short on guarantees, that could swing the analysis.

Report: Clippers trading Wesley Johnson to Pelicans for Alexis Ajinca

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The Chris PaulBlake GriffinDeAndre Jordan era already ended in L.A.

Now, the Clippers are losing the very last player from their 2016-17 team (just two years ago!) – Wesley Johnson, who’s being shipped to the Pelicans for Alexis Ajinca.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Johnson ($6,134,520) has a slightly higher salary than Ajinca ($5,285,394) with both players in the final year of their contracts. As long the Clippers have to waive a player, they’d rather drop the cheaper one.

The Clippers actually had to shed two players before the regular-season roster deadline. They’re also releasing Jawun Evans, the No. 39 pick last year. The point guard just didn’t acclimate to the NBA quickly enough to beat out Sindarius Thornwell and Tyrone Wallace. Though waiving Evans was probably the right move now, I wouldn’t write him off entirely.

Ajinca, on the other hand, has no place in a shrinking NBA. The 7-foot-2 30-year-old can’t stay healthy and hasn’t been productive when on the court.

Johnson fell out of favor with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, but the Pelicans desperate for a small forward. Though Johnson wouldn’t be an exciting addition for most teams, he’s worth the low cost – the $849,126 difference between his and Ajinca’s salaries – to New Orleans, where he might actually be a significant addition.

PBT Podcast: MVP, Rookie of Year, other awards plus NBA playoffs, Finals predictions

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Will James Harden repeat as MVP or will someone else — LeBron James, Anthony Davis — grab the award away from him?

Luca Doncic and Deandre Ayton seem to be the favorites for Rookie of the Year, but could Trae Young or Jaren Jackson Jr. push their way into the conversation?

Who will win Coach of the Year? Is Jamal Murray a guy to watch for Most Improved Player?

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports discuss all the major awards plus get into playoff predictions in this latest PBT Podcast. Can Charlotte sneak into the final playoff slot in the East or is Detroit going to take that? Are the Spurs going to miss the playoffs in the West for the first time in 22 years? And are the Warriors a lock to win it all? (Hint: They are not.)

We want your questions for the podcast, and your comments, email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com. As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.