The dunk contest has historically been a favorite event of many NBA fans. Despite sentiments among many that it has lost its luster; that players can’t do anything new; and perhaps most importantly, that the star players refuse to participate, the excitement the dunk contest brings on Saturday night will still make everyone tune in.
While once again there are no superstars participating in the event, there are a few contestants that may perform better dunks than some of the premier players in the game, anyway.
Just because a guy barely gets off the bench (see: Derrick Jones of the Phoenix Suns) doesn’t mean he might not astound us with breathtaking dunks. Let’s take a look at the four contestants in this year’s event and make some predictions as to who may emerge as the 2017 Sprite Slam Dunk champion.
Aaron Gordon (-150)
Aaron Gordon finished runner-up in 2016, and most peg him as the obvious choice to win it this year. He can fly. He can jump over mascots. He creates the excitement necessary to win this event, and he brings plenty of “personality” and creativity, elements nearly as vital as the impressive dunks themselves.
It seems to be a safe bet Gordon again utilizes Orlando Magic Mascot “STUFF” in some form or fashion; and it also seems howsoever he does it will probably be a “slam dunk” of an attempt in its own right. Last year, Gordon utilized Stuff on the fad of the year, the hoverboard, as he had Stuff rotate around on the device and hold a basketball to be plucked off and hammered mid-air.
The attempt was plenty impressive, but adding the touch of the mascot and hoverboard undoubtedly was the final touch that helped keep it close with eventual champion Zach LaVine. LaVine’s season-ending injury more or less cleared this event up and made it Gordon’s to lose, so to speak. The former Arizona Wildcat is seemingly made for this event, and this could be a rare bright spot in what has been a very tough season for the Magic’s organization. Cognizant of that, too, Gordon should come out with the positivity and excitement this organization so badly needs in the showcase event of the Saturday night festivities.
Derrick Jones (+115)
Derrick Jones is the only other contestant in this event with a chance of challenging Gordon, but oh, what a chance he has. Jones can do some dunks most players will flat out refuse to attempt, but what he has working against him is his obscure name, and the fact that it will take far more impressive attempts to get the same results as the far-more-popular Gordon.
That said, if there is a value pick, it is Jones at +115. Some of the dunks he has been doing in pregame warmups have generated a good bit of buzz, and internet pundits looking to go out on a limb have been selecting Jones. He also won several Twitter polls over the eventual winner. It is tough to say whether people are trying to be contrarian, or whether he is that good, but his obscurity definitely works against him in an event that was once studded with league’s premier superstars.
DeAndre Jordan (+800)
Being a 7-footer is sure to kill whatever sauce DeAndre Jordan puts on his dunks. There has not been a 6’10” or taller champion since Dwight Howard in 2008. Blake Griffin won in 2011, but he is still only 6’8”. Jordan will have to absolutely blow it away to win as the field’s lone big man, despite the fact that the league’s first dunk contest was won by the 6’10” Larry Nance.
Outside of going full-on Howard and flying through the lane with a cape, what can Jordan do to generate mass excitement? He is listed with the second-longest shot at winning the event, but we actually like field long-shot Glenn Robinson III better, though neither of these fellas has a great chance at doing much more than putting on a show. Think of this as a two-man field really.
Glenn Robinson III (+1200)
Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson has plenty of reasons to be proud of his son, but winning tonight’s event does not look to be one of them. A valuable scorer off the bench this season for the Indiana Pacers, Robinson is a fine player with plenty of bounce, but it seems doubtful he can replicate any of the dunks Jones or Gordon will try, nevermind just shock us out of the blue with something we have never seen before.
There is being wrong, of course, and it is completely in play when guys like Fred Jones and Jeremy Evans have won this event in the past, but Robinson has a lot working against him to overcome in this event with Gordon and Jones already generating excitement on such a high level. As stated, he probably has a better chance than Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, but that does not say much given that this field is really a 2-man deal with the field merely filled out by Jordan and Robinson.