Ranking the Best Dunkers in the NBA

Roy Burton@thebslineContributor INovember 27, 2012

Ranking the Best Dunkers in the NBA

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    It's virtually impossible to come to a general consensus on a list of the 10 best dunkers in the NBA.

    While there are those who are universally considered to be head and shoulders above the competition (both literally and figuratively), there are other players who spark debate among fans for a variety of reasons.

    For the most part, the best dunkers are the ones who can consistently do it within the natural flow of action.

    Nearly every player in the league can look good in a layup line or in a dunk-contest setting—it takes a certain level of skill to pull off an impressive slam during a game that actually counts in the standings.

    And while a player's vertical leap is an important factor, it isn't the only trait that a great dunker needs. It takes a special mix of power, style and pure jumping ability in order to be considered one of the best in the NBA, and that group is a very select fraternity.

    Read on to see the top 10 dunkers in the Association.

10. Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Rudy Gay is solidly built, but he can still jump out of the gym at the drop of a hat. He does in-game windmill dunks with very little effort, and it simply isn't advisable to try and draw a charge if he's barreling down the lane.

    There isn't much about Gay's repertoire that screams "sexy," but no list of the NBA's high-fliers is complete without his presence.

    The ascension of the Memphis Grizzlies toward perennial-contender status means more camera time for Gay's exploits, and that's a change we all can believe in.

9. Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets

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    Defense isn't the only thing that Andre Iguodala excels at. He's also one of most explosive players in the game of basketball.

    One moment, he could be in the midst of a pedestrian shooting performance. The next, he's throwing it down over some unwitting opponent.

    To this day, there's a prevailing sentiment that he was robbed in the 2006 Slam Dunk Contest: His behind-the-backboard flush might be one of the five greatest dunks ever performed in the history of the competition.

8. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Kevin Durant isn't just one of the game's premier closers, he's also one of its best dunkers as well.

    Taller than most small forwards and quicker than most 4's, the "Durantula" is a matchup nightmare every time he steps out onto the court.

    While he likes to do a lot of his work out on the perimeter, Durant is especially deadly in the paint. He is a very good athlete, but his length is what truly sets him apart from his peers.

    With his 6'10" frame and long arms, Durant can throw it down in traffic with little trouble, despite the fact that he weighs less than most of the people who are assigned to guard him.

7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    With Derrick Rose currently rehabbing a torn ACL, Russell Westbrook is the most explosive guard in the game today. He has excellent leaping ability for a player of his stature, and due to his impressive vertical, most defenders are powerless whenever Westbrook makes it a point to attack the rim.

    No player under 6'6" throws it down with as much ferocity as Westbrook, who may ultimately finish his career as the best dunking point guard of all time. His elite-level quickness is matched by few players in the league, and once he gets into the paint, a potential highlight-reel finish is all but certain.

6. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

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    Josh Smith quickly made a name for himself in the NBA when he won the 2005 Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie. And in a strange twist, his development into a more all-around player has damaged his reputation as one of the league's most unique talents.

    Let it be known that no one has been responsible for more highlights at the "Highlight Factory" over the past few years than the 6'9" Smith. He may not yet have All-Star credentials, but Smith belongs among the elite forwards—and athletes—in the Eastern Conference.

5. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors

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    Blake Griffin's leap over the Kia Optima will always be the highlight of the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, but the best slam of the competition by far was DeMar DeRozan's second dunk of the night.

    DeRozan termed it the "Show Stopper," and it very well could have shut down All-Star Saturday Night if the judges had given him his proper due on his first attempt.

    Although DeRozan was justifiably turned off from the dunk contest, we're still fortunate enough to see him perform his magic 82 times a year as a member of the Toronto Raptors.

4. Paul George, Indiana Pacers

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    Working against Paul George is the fact that he often makes the fantastic look mundane.

    Case in point: The reverse 360, between-the-legs dunk that he threw down during the Nike Festival of Sport tour earlier this year. With his insane athleticism, he easily makes a dunk that 99 percent of the NBA wouldn't even dare to attempt.

    George is more than just a YouTube sensation: He also happens to be on the cusp of NBA stardom. And as his star begins to shine brighter, we'll see plenty of George on the nightly highlight shows.

3. LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    It's a shame that LeBron James never competed in an NBA Slam Dunk Contest, although he has broken out quite a few competition-level dunks over the years in actual games.

    You could create a 30-minute package of incredible throwdowns by "King James," but nothing will top the moment last season when he literally jumped over John Lucas to finish off an alley-oop.

    While his bag of tricks may not be as diverse as some of the other players on this list, it's clear that James has few peers when it comes to the art of dunking.

2. Gerald Green, Indiana Pacers

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    Indiana Pacers guard Gerald Green's hops are so ridiculous that he's sometimes at eye level with the rim before he throws it down. Green already has one Slam Dunk Contest title to his credit (2007), and it wouldn't be surprising if he added one or two more to his trophy case over the next few years.

    While he has diversified his game a bit since his return to the league last season, Green is still a dunker at heart. And although he may not be a household name, Green is still one of the most exciting players to watch in the entire NBA.

1. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

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    When it comes to immortalizing opponents on a proverbial poster, there's Blake Griffin, and then there's everyone else.

    Whenever Griffin is running the wing on a fast break, defenders would be well served to stay out of the restricted area. But Griffin isn't just a terror in transition—he's an explosive dunker in traffic as well.

    He's not the strongest, fastest or most athletic player in the NBA, but his unique blend of all of these skills make him one of the league's toughest covers. Just ask Danilo Gallinari.