NBA

2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Preview & Predictions

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A wild NBA Trade Deadline has come and passed, shaking up the league with game-changing trades. The next stop on the league’s calendar is the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend, taking place from February 14th-16th in Chicago.

Besides the Rising Stars Game, Three-Point Contest and the All-Star game itself, one event that excites die-hard fans and casuals alike is the Slam Dunk Contest.

The 2020 field includes:

  • Aaron Gordon (6’9″), Orlando Magic: Runner-up in 2016, 2017 participant
  • Dwight Howard (6’11”), Los Angeles Lakers: Winner in 2008, runner-up 2009, participant 2007
  • Pat Connaughton (6’5″), Milwaukee Bucks: First contest
  • Derrick Jones Jr (6’6″), Miami Heat: Runner-up in 2017

Las Vegas has odds for everything of course, including the dunk contest:

How will the dunkers stack up against each other? Will experience play a factor? Who will emerge victorious on Saturday?

4th Place: Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard’s 2008 Dunk Contest victory, as well as his entire run from 2007-09, was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Eleven years later, will the 34-year old be able to compete with some of the younger talent in the game?

Height can actually be a disadvantage in a field like this, where shorter dunkers will experience a higher degree of difficulty, and therefore produce dunks that look difficult.

Howard should be counted on for some of the fun and creative dunks in this year’s contest, but it’s likely he finds himself past his dunk contest prime.

3rd Place: Derrick Jones Jr.

Make no mistake: Derrick Jones Jr. can throw it down with the best of them. His in-game dunks are electric and get fans and teammates off their feet.

In his first dunk contest, at the time a member of the Phoenix Suns, Jones displayed his incredible athleticism. In one round, he dunked over a row of four people and went between the legs on his other three dunks.

Each one of those three dunks were worthy of a high score. However, the lack of creativity or other unique dunks may hold Jones back in this year’s field. He likely will need to add to his repertoire if he wants to win the contest.

2nd Place: Aaron Gordon

Gordon put on an incredible show in the 2016 Dunk Contest: only losing in the final round, due to a perfect score put up by Zach Lavine. Gordon returned to the contest in 2017, but came in 4th place with a score of 72 out of 100.

After a couple years off, Gordon may have some new tricks up his sleeve. In this loaded field, he might find himself falling short once again. Gordon is the most natural dunker in the field, but is still able to move like a forward or oversized guard. On paper, this means Gordon is capable of some of the most physically talented dunks, but he also runs the risk of making things look “too easy”.

With Gordon’s freak athleticism comes the ability to do a lot with the ball while in the air. This created some of his best dunks in his runner-up effort in 2016, and he’s even breaking out double pumps in game now. He will be hungry for his first Dunk Contest title, but in this scenario, he finds himself runner-up once again.

1st Place: Pat Connaughton

This will be the first dunk contest for the Milwaukee Bucks guard; the only player in the field of four without experience. Connaughton is also the shortest participant, listed at 6’5″, but both these attributes are actually things that could work to the 27-year old’s advantage.

The other players will have to dig deeper into their creative boxes to come up with unique dunks. For instance, Howard had some incredible ideas in his 2007-09 dunk contest run, but can’t re-use those same ones in 2020. It is also possible that being a lesser-known player, an emphatic dunk would impress the judges even more.

His listed height only means each dunk has a slightly higher degree of difficulty, and Connaughton will get to show off his incredible bounce. In recent years, players like DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Mason Plumlee, and Giannis Antekounmpo failed to make the final round: Proving height alone won’t win you the contest.

Of course, the most prolific dunk contest winner ever was Nate Robinson, who stood at 5’9″.

Connaughton has the longest odds to win, but could easily surprise the fans and judges as the best of the night.

Photo Credit- Peter Llewellyn-USA Today Sports

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