NBA All-Star Weekend is upon us! This Saturday night in Chicago, the most popular event of All-Star Weekend will take place, as four of the top high-flyers across the league participate in the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Each participant will get two dunks to impress the judges. The top two total scorers move on to a third and final round, which also consists of two dunks each. The participants chosen this season are Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr., Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton, LA’s Dwight Howard and Orlando’s Aaron Gordon. Let’s break each dunker down in order of their odds of winning the competition (worst odds to best odds).
Dwight Howard – Los Angeles Lakers (+500 odds to win)
A blast from the past, Dwight Howard is back in the dunk contest! Howard is the only contestant that has been crowned champion in this event before, but it’s been quite some time since the big man has participated in the contest.
Dwight was the centerpiece of the dunk contest three-straight years from 2007-09 (all appearances with the Orlando Magic). He won the event in 2008, which was the year he caught an alley-oop wearing a Superman outfit. Fast forward to 2020…does Howard really have enough left to win this thing one more time?
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin released a short story a few weeks ago after Kobe Bryant’s passing, stating that Howard said he was going to possibly get assistance on a dunk from Kobe. What would have been a special moment with Bryant present, now turns into a phenomenal remembrance of a former teammate for Dwight.
Pat Connaughton – Milwaukee Bucks (+400 odds to win)
‘Planet Pat’ Connaughton, fifth-year pro representing the Milwaukee Bucks, will be making his first appearance in the dunk contest.
Connaughton is a staple to the Bucks “Bench Mob” rotation, using his incredible athleticism and length to be a pest on the defensive end as well as a threat for an offensive rebound on every shot. Not only is he a first-time participant, Pat is the only one of the four competing this year to not take part in previous dunk contests.
The underdog may have some tricks up his sleeve, however, as he reached out to Milwaukee counterpart Christian Yelich of the Brewers for what seems to be a story-line for added theatrics.
Derrick Jones Jr. – Miami Heat (+175 odds to win)
Looking for revenge this year is Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr., who advanced to the finals in the 2017 event and lost to Glenn Robinson III. Jones’ has much more NBA experience under his belt as he heads into this year’s competition, as this is now his fourth year in the league.
The young 22-year-old has the most explosiveness out of the group and is arguably among the most flashy as well. Narrative alert: It’s Derrick Jones’ 23rd birthday on Saturday (*Insert The Office birthday sign GIF here*).
Derrick Jones Jr. has accepted an invitation to this year's Dunk Contest, per @ShamsCharania.
GET YA POPCORN READY ?✈️pic.twitter.com/10LUqb0EPn
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) January 22, 2020
Aaron Gordon – Orlando Magic (+140 odds to win)
Finally, Aaron Gordon looks to win his first dunk contest after what was a controversial loss in 2016 to Bulls guard Zach LaVine.
Gordon is this year’s favorite to take home the trophy. The Orlando forward is the perfect athletic specimen for high-flying theatrics, so much so that you’d think the event was created just for him. His power combined with his creativity gives him a slight edge over the rest of the field.
Prediction: While I think the judges have a soft spot for Dwight Howard and what is inevitably going to be a Kobe Bryant tribute at some point of the contest, I’d highly suggest getting the solid value of a Derrick Jones Jr. (+175) or Pat Connaughton (+400). My pick to win the 2020 Dunk Contest will the birthday boy Derrick Jones Jr.