Zach LaVine is in some pretty elite company. He is just the fourth player to successfully defend his NBA Slam Dunk title. He joins the likes of some of the best high-flyers to have ever played the game. Michael Jordan went back-to-back in 1987-88, Jason Richardson did it in 2002-03, and little Nate Robinson turned the trick in 2009-10. Everything was set for LaVine to attempt to become the first player in NBA history to win three dunk titles in a row, but he declined the invite. If you are a believer in Karma then you should know what happens next. On Feb. 3, LaVine tore his ACL and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.
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Instead of rooting for LaVine to make history, NBA fans are stuck with the likes of 2016 runner up, Aaron Gordon, Clippers' big-man DeAndre Jordan, Pacers' rookie Glenn Robinson III and Derrick Jones Jr. who has a whopping three points in his illustrious 14-minute NBA career. Long gone are the days of star players taking part in this contest. No more Jordan in his prime , or Vin-sanity moments. No more Mamba mentality or 5'9" freaks of nature jumping over 7'0" guys .
This year's Dunk contest is going to be a shell of what it's been over the last couple of years, and because of that the fans will be the ones to suffer. Unless you are like me and find some good value in wagering on one of the contestants.
Before we get into breaking down the contestants, let me remind you how the dunk contest works. The contest is a two-round event that gives each of the four players a chance to execute any dunk of their choosing without a time limit. Each player will have up to three attempts to complete each dunk in both the first and final rounds. Dunks are scored on a scale of six to 10, with the minimum being 30 and the maximum being 50 points.
Now let's take a closer look at the field and try to determine who has the best shot at winning this thing. All odds are courtesy of Bovada .
Aaron Gordon (-175)
This is a rather steep price to pay for an All-Star weekend competition.
Aaron Gordon will be making his second consecutive Slam Dunk Contest appearance, and many pundits will be quick to crown him. I, however, won't. In my opinion, we've seen his absolute best dunks, and they still weren't good enough to dethrone LaVine. Mind-blowing dunks like these last year are going to be hard to top, and with the world watching, Gordon might be vulnerable to high expectations, which can leave him stumbling should he fail to successfully nail a dunk on the first or second attempt. At -175, this is an easy pass for me.
Derrick Jones Jr. (+175)
Derrick Jones Jr. is the unknown player in this group and with good reason. He has played just 14 minutes so far in his NBA career and has totalled a whopping three points. Nobody knows what to expect from Jones Jr, which could ultimately help his cause. Anything he is capable of doing would come as a surprise, but if you frequent social media, your jaw would have dropped when you saw Jones Jr. pull off this dunk in pre-game warm ups. No disrespect to the other two participants I'm about to mention, but this dunk contest is shaping up to be a two-horse race. My money is on the UNLV alum, Derrick Jones Jr., to shock the world.
Glenn Robinson III (+700)
Glenn Robinson III is a three-year pro by way of the Michigan Wolverines. He plays for the Indiana Pacers and can be seen on a nightly basis averaging six quiet points per game while typically playing between 15-20 minutes per night. This begs the question of what exactly the NBA was thinking asking someone with no track record or impressive highlight reel dunks to participate in the NBA's bread-and-butter event. I've yet to come across anything pertaining to Robinson worth mentioning in regards to ideas or expectations heading into the dunk contest. If you're an avid dunk contest follower then you know that big men typically stink at this event, which is why I believe Glenn Robinson III isn't last in terms of betting odds. His "big dunk" to speak of is this, which leads me to believe he will be eliminated after the first round.
DeAndre Jordan (+750)
"Big men" in the dunk contest fare as well as the Toronto Raptors do playing defense - that's not very well for those keeping score at home. However, after watching several impressive clips of what Jordan is actually capable of pulling off in practice/pre-game warm up, I'm starting to believe in the possibility of a DeAndre Jordan breakthrough performance. The odds are solid, and with impressive dunks like these in his bag of tricks, Jordan might just have what it takes to pull it off. The only thing that could hinder his chances is his free-throw shooting ability, but that last time I checked, they are not a crucial part of this contest. He could be worth a small play if you like underdogs.
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