Feb 25, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Western Conference forward Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder (left), Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (center), and Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks (right) chat during the 2012 NBA All-Star team practice session at the Orange County Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

NBA All-Star: Dunk Contest and Three-Point Contest Tonight at 8:30 P.M. EST

Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

It’s All-Star Saturday Night tonight and that means it’s time for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

Last year the Thunder had one player participating in each with Serge Ibaka in the dunk contest, Kevin Durant in the three-point shootout and Russell Westbrook in the skills challenge. This year Durant and Westbrook will be back but not Ibaka.

Durant is only in the three-point contest because he is replacing Joe Johnson who originally was selected over him. Last year Durant did not fare well finishing last with only seven points. Durant should be more motivated tonight and his shooting stroke is made for the competition.

James Jones is the defending champ and will be Durant’s toughest competition. Ryan Anderson is the hometown favorite in Orlando. Anthony Morrow is the guy who can get hotter than anyone else and had a 40-point game earlier this season in which he hit eight threes.

The dunk contest will not consist of any stars this year which has been a common trend in recent history. Aside from Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin there haven’t been any big named players taking part in the contest.

Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

The dunk contest has definitely lost its’ luster but should be interesting nonetheless. There will be only one round this year with the winner being determined entirely by the fans’ vote.

Derrick Williams, Chase Budinger, Paul George and Jeremy Evans will compete. Evans is replacing the original selection of Iman Shumpert. Each contestant will hopefully bring something unique to the competition.

Williams is known for his gorilla slams and his dunks are always clean and look nice when they go down. Budinger could be the creative one this year and has an advantage in being a sneaky, good jumper. George has some Dominque Wilkins dunks in his arsenal and already displayed one in a game earlier this year. Evans is the guy no one really knows about but apparently jumps out of the gym more so than anyone else in the contest.

With there being no one who should steal the popular vote I feel Evans might be the favorite despite being the alternate selection. The anecdotes about his hops from practices and the few minutes he’s seen in games seem to trump anything any of the other players are bringing to the floor.

It’s just always so hard not to imagine what the dunk contest could be if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Durant were in it. The biggest complaint about the contest now is that we’ve seen every dunk before. That wouldn’t matter if this star power was in it because we’d care more about the players and not the dunks.

All of the competitions will begin tonight at 8:30 P.M. EST on TNT.

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Tags: Blake Griffin Dunk Contest Dwight Howard James Jones Kevin Durant NBA All Star Russell Westbrook Ryan Anderson Serge Ibaka Three Point Contest

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