NBA Dunk Contest 2020: Pat Connaughton is more than your “sneaky athletic” stereotype

Somewhere in the state of Massachusetts, the words “scrappy,” “gym rat” or “film room junkie” are underlined in the notebook of some incredibly lazy talent scout in reference to Pat Connaughton. But the traditional platitudes thrown the way of players like him would say more about the inattentive observer who wrote them than the player they’re meant to describe. For proof of that, one needs to look no further than his time at Notre Dame, specifically his heroic block at the end of regulation against Butler to reach the Sweet 16 of March Madness.

Now that we’ve established Connaughton’s pedigree of hops, here’s a look at how they have translated into the NBA, where the 27-year-old currently plays shooting guard for the Milwaukee Bucks. In short, it’s been getting Giannis Antetokounmpo out of seat in excitement with some regularity.

Connaughton’s dunking game can be best described as opportunistic. Never does he get them from calling an iso play and driving into the lane himself a la Russell Westbrook. He cuts across open baselines, uses his impressive vertical to kick off a fast break with a block, baits defenders with his three-point shooting ability to give himself a lane, and takes advantage of defenses who forget to box him out when a ball rims out.

So where does that leave him in terms of how he’ll do in the dunk contest? Sure, players tend to have more creative control of their dunking performances when a defense isn’t present, but beyond a video that shows him pulling off a 360 windmill dunk in high school, there isn’t a lot to go on with regards to what to expect with regards to specific dunks. However, it does seem like Connaughton, who has +410 SportsLine odds to take the trophy home, is hoping to get some celebrity help for at least one of his attempts. He’s trying to make an in-state connection happen with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, reaching out to the MVP via Twitter.

As for the odds this actually happens, position players are expected to report to Spring Training on Feb. 16, just one day after the dunk contest takes place in Chicago.

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