Reclassifying NBA Dunkers
There are dunkers all over the NBA.
From Gerald Green to JaVale McGee, everybody's throwing it down these days.
As dunking and dunkers become more prevalent, however, the sophistication of dunking has also increased.
What it means to be a dunker today is not the same for everyone.
LeBron James dunking a basketball, for example, is not exactly the same as when Eric Bledsoe dunks.
Despite that, we define the basketball play from each by using the same word.
Eric Bledsoe just dunked. LeBron James just dunked.
While each dunk was impressive in its own right, the term dunk falls short of describing exactly what it is that just took place.
The same is also true for dunkers themselves.
What does it mean to be a dunker? How are dunkers different?
In a search for clarity, I've reclassified the NBA's top dunkers based on how exactly it is they dunk the basketball.
This reclassification of NBA dunkers includes the following categories: stylish dunkers, creative dunkers, efficiency dunkers, power dunkers and premium dunkers.
Fifteen of the NBA's best all-around dunkers were used to describe each category.
The stylish dunkers are smooth.
This is what separates stylish dunkers from other categories. There is an element of cool that defines their assault on the rim.
The Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, Memphis Grizzlies' Rudy Gay and Denver Nuggets' Andre Iguodala are examples of stylish dunkers.
There are others to be sure, but these three players most define this classification.
As Durant flies through the lane against the Dallas Mavericks on this particular play with the ball extended high above his head, he looks like an artist.
There is power to Durant's dunk as well, like there are with the dunks from Gay and Iguodala. But more than anything, these dunkers have a style about them that deserves specific recognition.
The New York Knicks' J.R. Smith received a chest pass at his waist in the video above.
In anticipation of its arrival, he decided to streamline that pass into a reverse alley-oop dunk.
The eventual success of the play had his teammates up celebrating on the sidelines.
Just like anyone else who was watching, the specific dunk from Smith was unexpected, which is just one reason why he helps to define this classification of creative dunkers.
He's joined by fellow creative dunkers, Gerald Green, from the Indiana Pacers, and the Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan in headlining this group.
Like Smith, Green and DeRozan do not simply dunk the basketball. They put thought into their high-flying finishes, which makes this an exciting brand of dunker to watch.
Efficiency dunkers could also be known as layup dunkers or perpetual dunkers.
They are traditionally taller than their NBA brethren and dunk often, because it doesn't make sense not to.
The New York Knicks' Tyson Chandler, Denver Nuggets' JaVale McGee and Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan are three of these efficiency dunkers.
Now McGee, in particular, is certainly a creative dunker as well. All three of these big men are also powerful. What's most significant about this group of dunkers, though, is how often they actually dunk.
In games played through Wednesday, McGee leads the NBA in total dunks with 95. Chandler is second with 92, and Jordan is fifth with 82.
On Chandler's putback dunk in the video, for example, there was really no other play but to dunk it.
He went up for the offensive rebound with nobody around, and he efficiently slammed it back through the basket, because that made the most sense.
There are a lot of powerful dunkers in the NBA.
To be considered a power dunker, however, you are really bringing some pain.
Blake Griffin is a power dunker.
That's the only word that comes to mind when watching this dunk against the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this season.
Griffin hurts the rim when he dunks the basketball, as do fellow power dunkers Dwight Howard and Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook might be a guard, but his dunks are ferocious. Dwight Howard is no different.
The dunkers in this group are legitimate threats to shatter a backboard at any moment. They might even tear the entire rim down one day.
LeBron James is the best dunker in the NBA.
That does not necessarily mean, however, that the premium dunkers are also the best.
That's up for debate.
What it does mean to be included in this classification is that these dunkers combine style and power more than any other category.
James has style, to be sure, as he approaches the rim in this video. But then, the ball also comes thunderously slamming down out of his hand.
The combination of style and power in this group of premium dunkers is rare. It's also special and exciting to watch on a regular basis.
Besides James, two other examples of premium dunkers include the Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith and Indiana Pacers' Paul George.