NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2018: Highlights, Odds and Predictions for Participants

Two electrifying rookie guards, a man who can leap tall buildings in a single bound and a 2015 finalist make up the NBA Slam Dunk Contest field this year.

On paper, this could be one of the better Slam Dunk Contests that we have ever seen. It’ll be near-impossible to ever top the Zach Lavine-Aaron Gordon or Michael Jordan-Dominique Wilkins duels, but each participant has impressed fans with their tremendous dunking abilities.

Here’s a look at the latest odds (via Stephen Campbell of OddsShark) for Saturday night’s event as well as some highlights and predictions for each player.

               

Odds

Dallas Mavericks PG Dennis Smith Jr.: +170 ($100 bet nets $170 profit)

Utah Jazz SG Donovan Mitchell: +220

Cleveland Cavaliers PF Larry Nance Jr.: +260

Indiana Pacers SG Victor Oladipo: +400

           

Dennis Smith Jr.

Dallas Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has proved to be one of the more fearless competitors in the game, as he has no qualms about challenging any big man in an attempt to put him on a poster.

He showcases tremendous power for someone his height (6’2"), as seen here:

The former North Carolina State star also has enough hang time to do 360-degree dunks:

Smith might be best-served performing slams that reveal his incredible strength and hang-time ability. Perhaps we could see something along the lines of a 540-degree dunk, or numerous players and mascots used as props before Smith dunks on all of them.

He should do well on Saturday, but the guess here is that he does not advance to the final round. There’s no real knock on Smith, who is predicted to fare well but finish just short of the finals. However, two other competitors stand out for their unique edges relative to the field.

Prediction: Does Not Make Finals

            

Donovan Mitchell

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell replaced Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, who is recovering from a hip injury.

One could have made a good argument that Mitchell should have been in the field to begin with anyway. Like Smith, Mitchell is a powerful dunker for someone his size (6’3"), and like Smith, Mitchell can hang in the air as well as almost any guard in the league.

The Utah Jazz rookie made waves with this ferocious one-handed slam dunk against the Charlotte Hornets:

He also did something similar against the Sacramento Kings:

If you’re a proponent of picking a team or player while they are hot, Mitchell could be your pick. Everything seems to be going his and his team’s way recently, as the Jazz have won 11 straight to catapult themselves into striking distance of the playoffs.

Granted, this contest is an exhibition and not something counted in the league standings, but the point is that Mitchell seems to have a ton of confidence and momentum right now, which could lead to success in this event.

Like Smith, Mitchell should impress in Los Angeles, and there’s no real reason to feel strongly against that notion. However, the guess is that the next two players on this list steal the show.

Prediction: Does Not Make Finals

            

Victor Oladipo

The Indiana Pacers shooting guard will be making his first All-Star Game appearance this season, but he’s already participated in the Slam Dunk Contest, having done so in 2015 (Oladipo made the finals but lost to Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine).

Oladipo has made a habit of dunking on opponents with one hand, such as these two gems:

It seems odd that Oladipo is a 4-1 underdog to win this event. First, he’s the only player with any Slam Dunk Contest experience. Not only that, but as noted before, Oladipo did well. He just happened to run into a buzzsaw in the finals named Zach LaVine, who dominated the entire night.

Furthermore, although Smith and Mitchell (the two leaders in the odds pack) have impressed in their rookie seasons thanks to their ferocious slams, Oladipo can do anything those guys do, as noted by his slams this year.

Look for Oladipo to make the finals after a hotly contested first round that will be decided by no more than a few points. However, Oladipo might have some trouble against a tough opponent looking to make history.

Prediction: Finalist

          

Larry Nance Jr.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr.’s father (Larry Nance Sr.) won the first NBA Slam Dunk contest in 1984. It’s clear that the dunking gene passed on from father to son.

Two pieces of evidence include these dunk-of-the-year candidates from when Nance was still a Los Angeles Laker:

Nance has a distinct advantage over the rest of the field in two respects. First of all, he’s 6’10", and his length should be an advantage against the smaller guards in the competition. Second, he has an uncanny ability to seemingly levitate in the air when he dunks.

Combined, those two give him a big edge on the field. Nance undoubtedly also has extra motivation to win the title considering that his father pulled this off. With a win, the Nances would become the first father-son combo to not only participate in the Slam Dunk Contest but win it as well. Of course, Nance Sr. can provide some useful pointers to his son before the event too.

Ultimately, the stars seem to be aligning for Nance to take the title. Look for him to secure the victory in an epic battle with Oladipo.

Prediction: Winner

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February 15, 2018 at 07:33AM

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