It’s that time of the year again for the NBA’s best high-flyers to showcase their best dunks in front of millions of fans.
Aaron Gordon’s withdrawal is quite disappointing especially for those who want to see the gravity-defying acrobatics he displayed in the Slam Dunk contest two years ago. However, make no mistake; with this year’s lineup—an All-Star, a forward with a dunking pedigree and a couple of fearless rookies—the event will certainly be just as thrilling or even more!
Here’s a look at the dunk participants ahead of the competition at the Staples Center this weekend.
Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers)
It has been quite a year for Victor Oladipo. After getting flipped to the Pacers in the Paul George trade, the 25-year-old had a breakout season and is now headed to his first All-Star game. He’s averaging 24.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 steals.
It’s not his first time joining the dunk contest though, as he finished second to Zach LaVine in the 2015 version of the annual affair.
2017-18 Best Dunk : Who could forget his spin move and two-handed jam against the Lakers?
There are no words, so just watch this: pic.twitter.com/usC8QAPXEx
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 20, 2018
Larry Nance Jr. (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Like father, like son? The 25-year-old forward is the son of Larry Nance, who won the inaugural Slam Dunk contest in 1984. Now, Nance Jr. will hope to follow in his father’s footsteps (after also joining the Cavaliers 30 years after his dad).
Nance Jr., who is posting career-highs in scoring and rebounding, has never been shy showing off his skills, and he’ll be happy in his return to LA and Staples Center where he’s already friends with the rim.
2017-18 Best Dunk: That poster over Kevin Durant!
Dennis Smith Jr. (Dallas Mavericks)
The Mavs rookie is made for the dunk contest. Known for his vertical leap, Smith has been a candidate for this event since his first game in the league.
DSJ, the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft, is currently fifth in scoring among all rookies with 14.8 points per game. He’s also set to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge as a member of the U.S. Team.
2017-18 Best Dunk: This monster slam against the Spurs (but his first NBA dunk and first points comes close).
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Mitchell joins the field after the withdrawal of Aaron Gordon, but that doesn’t mean he’s not deserving of a place in the competition. Despite being a rookie, he already leads Utah in scoring with 19.5 points—the most among all newcomers this year.
While the explosive guard out of Louisville has shown an all-around game (with 3.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals averages), it’s his high-flying skills and penchant for thunderous alley-oops that made him a crowd pleaser in Salt Lake City.
2017-18 Best Dunk: When he showed Lob City how to lob.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 1, 2017