The NBA's Sickest Dunks of the Year So Far
The 2017-18 NBA season isn't even two months old. But already, it's jam-packed with highlights from all over the league.
James Harden is way out in front in the MVP race, with his patented step-back threes and beautiful cross-court assists. LeBron James is carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers in typically dominant fashion. Stephen Curry's dropping nearly 30 a game again. And many more big-name stars are off to hot starts.
But the topic of today's slideshow is dunks. Nothing but dunks. Specifically, the sickest 10 of the season so far.
Donovan Mitchell's Hammers on the Los Angeles Lakers
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell already looks like a star, thanks in large part to hammer dunks like this putback he had against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Honestly, he could have made the list three or four times.
Because of his height (6'3") and the ferocity with which he attacks, few players look more explosive than Mitchell this season.
And over the last few weeks, he's started to focus that explosiveness into production.
Cut out his first five games and Mitchell is averaging 19.1 points on 43.7 percent shooting (40.2 percent from three). And oh, he has a 41-point game in there, which is a Utah Jazz rookie record.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Makes Aron Baynes Viral
Speaking of players who could make this list more than once (and in this case, actually did) Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo looked like an MVP favorite during the first couple weeks of the season.
It helps that he can seemingly dunk over, around or through anyone, including a 260-pounder like Boston Celtics center Aron Baynes.
On the season, Antetokounmpo is 47-of-49 on dunks, according to Basketball Reference. That's the highest field goal percentage of anyone in the top 10 in total dunks made. And it's easy to see why he's so efficient.
Few (if any) players in the history of the game combined this kind of length and athleticism.
Doug McDermott Disproves a Movie Title
More like Dunk McDermott
The Knicks forward has had eight total jams, including a couple head-turners. But this reverse in Phoenix Suns rookie Josh Jackson's face is definitely the crown jewel.
McDermott looks bouncier this season. Plays like this one are certainly evidence. But it's helped in other areas of his game, too. He's posting the best box plus-minus of his career by far, according to Basketball Reference.
And the shooting, what he's always been known for, is there too. McDermott's hitting 40.3 percent from deep as a key cog off New York's bench.
James Johnson Annihilates Victor Oladipo
Miami Heat forward James Johnson has long been one of the league's most impressive athletes. The 6'9", 250-pound point forward just didn't have much of a chance to show it until he signed with the Miami Heat.
Now, big-time dunks, beautiful assists and high-flying blocks feel like the norm for the former kickboxing champion from Cheyenne, Wyoming.
But this one over Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo was anything but normal, as explained by UPROXX's Robby Kalland:
"My goodness, this is one of the most vicious dunks you’ll see. Just the way Oladipo crashes to the floor, becoming almost perfectly parallel ... is violent. Johnson and his teammates were naturally very hyped about the dunk and a timeout happened immediately, which is what should happen automatically when someone dunks that violently."
This one certainly isn't going on Oladipo's highlight reel. But don't worry, he'll be back later.
Andrew Wiggins Takes Josh Richardson on a Ride
There are still plenty of question marks about Andrew Wiggins as a basketball player. Does he rebound enough? Does he create for others? Does he always bring it on defense? Can he become a consistent three-point shooter?
Of course, none of that touches on his athleticism, which is unquestionably ridiculous, as evidenced by this dunk in traffic against the Heat.
Whenever Wiggins does something like this, it serves as a vivid reminder of just how much potential he has. His game may never round out the way some hope, but that athleticism sure gives him a head start if he wants it.
Dwight Howard Crosses and Slams
In many ways, this has been a throwback season for Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard.
He's averaging 15.1 points, his most since 2014-15. He has a defensive rebounding percentage of 31.5, according to Basketball Reference, well above his career average.
But the numbers don't suggest bounce-back in quite as vivid a fashion as this play against the Toronto Raptors.
Howard turns and faces up out of the post, crosses up Jakob Poeltl like he's a wing and then bangs all over noted (though not so much lately) shot-blocker Serge Ibaka.
Blake Griffin Climbs the Stifle Tower
With apologies to Los Angeles Clippers fans (because plays like this surely remind them of the potential their team had before being ravaged by injuries), I present to you Blake Griffin climbing Rudy "The Stifle Tower" Gobert.
In the early part of his career, it seemed like Griffin was catching bodies like this on an almost nightly basis. But the development of his jumper and years of injuries seemed to ground him a bit.
Dunks like this one are a reminder of just how devastatingly explosive he still can be.
Ben Simmons Switches Hands
It's probably safe to say Ben Simmons has exceeded expectations.
He's averaging 18.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 2.3 steals. According to the NBA.come, when he shares the floor with Joel Embiid and Robert Covington, Philly is outscoring opponents by a whopping 13.4 points per 100 possessions.
And he's proving that the league isn't all about three-point shooting quite yet. Simmons has taken a total of eight threes this season, but seven of those were end-of-period heaves, not actual attempts. Over a quarter of the shots he's made have been dunks, per Basketball Reference.
What's most impressive about the attacks might be the midair adjustments. Here, he initially appears to be going up with his dominant left hand, only to change course after launch.
Simmons' size and ability to improvise on the fly set him apart from most of the game's finishers.
Victor Oladipo Drops the 360
I told you he'd be back.
Oladipo may have found himself on the wrong end of Johnson's highlight, but he's provided plenty of his own for the Pacers this season.
Oladipo's numbers are absurd. He's averaging 23.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists, with a true shooting percentage of 59.0.
And of course, he's bringing plenty of excitement to Pacers games with plays like this. Sure, Oladipo could've given fans a run-of-the-mill run-out dunk. But if you have an effortless 360 windmill in you, why not show it off?
Giannis Antetokounmpo Defies Gravity
I tried to avoid repeats, but it was pretty hard with the onslaught of highlights coming from Antetokounmpo.
"We've got to be in attack mode and we've got to make plays all night," Antetokounmpo said after a win over the Sacramento Kings in December, per Ben Steele of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
It's that attitude that's leading Milwaukee's cornerstone player to the ridiculous season he's having. Oh, that and the ability to defy gravity, as seen in this breakaway against the San Antonio Spurs.