Rating the Best Highlights of the 2015-16 NBA Preseason

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2015

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) gestures in the first quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Get ready to change the way you consume NBA highlights.

Simply watching clips of dunks and crossovers is fine. It's an Internet-old pastime. But it's our responsibility to go deeper. And with the help of an NBA 2K-style rating system, we are going deeper.

Show-stopping highlights will henceforth be provided and unpackaged using a five-tier grading system: Difficulty, Clowning the Defender, Importance of the Moment, Jaw-Drop Factor and a play-specific wild card. Scores will be presented on a scale of 0 to 99 (no one is perfect, folks) and are totally subjective—though succinct explanations will be offered for each category.

Let's ride.

Stephen Curry's Slip 'n' Shoot

Difficulty: 84

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Yeah, Stephen Curry almost fell. The fact that he didn't is impressive. But Curry makes three-pointers in his sleep, sometimes even for other people. This could have been made more difficult if he fired away with one hand or while doing a mid-air yoga pose.

Clowning the Defender: 60

Jordan Clarkson essentially falls on the wrong end of this play because he kept his balance. That's nothing to be ashamed of. Clarkson's decision to watch Curry after his near-fall, as if he wasn't one for chucking treys, is a different story.

Importance of the Moment: 43

Stephen Curry went full Stephen Curry late in the first quarter...of a preseason contest...against the Los(t) Angeles Lakers...that his Golden State Warriors lost by 15. 

Jaw-Drop Factor: 91

Seldom do fans dole out oohs and ahhs in the first quarter of meaningless basketball tilts. But Curry's breakdancing handles and sweet shooting resonated with the Valley View Casino Center crowd at a time when the spotlight should have belonged to cotton candy vendors. Go, him.

Slip 'n' Slide Swag Factor: 94

Not only did Curry's knee touch the floor before he popped back up, but he kept his dribble so low that, for a split second, it seemed he was rolling the rock back behind the three-point line. Points were deducted due to Curry's improper slip 'n' slide decorum. He failed to adequately mirror a tobogganing penguin.

Overall: 81

On a scale of "Regular Human Stuff" to "Stephen Curry," this move was pretty tame. Still, credit Curry with emerging from this moment, and this game, unscathed. As Marreese Speights pointed out afterward, throwing soapy water onto your hardwood floors and then maneuvering at full bore is not something to try at home:

DeMarcus All Over

Difficulty: 93

Although the New Orleans Pelicans provided him with a relatively open path into the paint (LOL, Kendrick Perkins), DeMarcus Cousins still starts out behind the three-point line—because, well, head coach George Karl has him shooting threes now. Any time a big drives that kind of distance, awkward-looking crossover and all, it's a feat to be admired.

Clowning the Defender: 91

Anthony Davis led the NBA in total blocks last season and has the length to make Mr. Fantastic jealous. That's the superhuman Cousins posterized with one hand. Davis gets an "A" for effort here, sticking with the play until the bitter, now-immortalized end, but Cousins was on a face-full-of-dunk mission.

Importance of the Moment: 50

Cousins' one-handed stuff came early in the first half of a preseason game the Sacramento Kings won by nine. Let's just say there have been more important dunks. Ryan Kelly knows what I'm talking about.

Jaw-Drop Factor: 97

This jam featured one former Kentucky Wildcat destroying another during a game that was being played at Rupp Arena in Kentucky. Naturally, the crowd was sent into a tizzy, as if it had just seen Jesus Christ himself give Justin Bieber a piggyback ride.

Rondo's Approval Rating Factor: 99

Rajon Rondo, another former Wildcat, was downright giddy following Cousins' monster slam. He was laughing and smiling and dropping his jaw all at the same time:

Source: YouTube.

Overall: 93

It's a moment like this that makes you realize Cousins is a consistent three-point shot away from doing everything. He showcased his full bag of tricks en route to the hoop, and his finish was made approximately one jillion times better by marginalizing the legitimate effort of one of the NBA's premier shot-blockers.

Kevin Durant: Back

Difficulty: 82

Kevin Durant is just outside the restricted area when he leaves the ground, mind you, and he still needs to protect the ball from the outstretched arms of Jan Vesely. These one-handed photo ops ain't easy, ya'll.

Clowning the Defender: 87

"If I'm Vesely, I'm furious with No. 5 Baris Hersek," CBS Sports' Zach Harper wrote. "He's the guy that picked up Durant in the pick-and-roll coverage and then just floated away from the play. That left nothing but Vesely between the rim and Durant, and Durant is going to win that battle 11 times out of 10."

The point: Durant clowned two defenders. Baris Hersek was afraid, and Vesely just isn't good enough to deter the skinniest unstoppable object in the history of everything.

Importance of the Moment: 83

Durant underwent three foot surgeries in less than six months, and this was just his third taste of preseason action. That he's already living among the clouds, brutalizing rims and confusing players like Vesely matters—regardless of the setting or stakes.

Jaw-Drop Factor: 90

This jam was so explosive, even Durant needed to pause and reflect upon his handy work. Enough said.

Post-Dunk Embrace Factor: 99

Original photo: YouTube.

Just look at how stoked Westbrook was for his running mate. It might seem like he's wearing his "I shouldn't have devoured that ninth coleslaw and boiled eggs pregame burrito" face, but those are actually his "I love you, bro" eyes.

Overall: 89

Maybe Durant's one-handed stuff could have used some more flair. But, hey, Durant is healthy and dunking again! For that alone, we grade this like he took off from the free-throw line and converted a 360-degree somersault windmill jam.

Larry Nance Jr. Takes no Prisoners

Difficulty: 93

How come we never palm the ball with one hand in mid-air, Statue of Liberty style, before dunking on (near) 7-footers? Because we can't.

Clowning the Defender: 91

Festus Ezeli probably thought his career 2.6 blocks-per-36-minutes average would hold up in this battle. He was, quite obviously, wrong.

Importance of the Moment: 80

Larry Nance Jr.'s rim-rattling smash didn't just come in the third quarter of a preseason contest that the Lakers won (it was called early on account of slippery floors). It came as he was trying to make a name for himself. And, well, there's no doubt you'll remember his name now.

Jaw-Drop Factor: 99

One of Bleacher Report's astute NBA associate editors, Joel Cordes, yelled at me—typed at me in all caps, really—when I was thinking of excluding Nance's jam. So, there you go.

Wikipedia Factor: 99

To date, no one has updated Nance's Wikipedia page to reflect his new occupation: cold-clocked killer. Y'all really need to get on that.

Overall: 95

It's good practice to judge dunks by wondering whether the opposing parties relive the slam through recurring nightmares. And after watching Nance in action, we can only assume Ezeli has been sleeping with a Binky ever since.

The Blake and DJ Show

Difficulty: 95

OK, so: Blake Griffin's jump-pass entailed him deciding to whip the ball around the imposing Meyers Leonard. That seems hard. DeAndre Jordan catches the pass at his hips and carries it above the rim before Maurice Harkless can even pretend to stop him. That seems hard, too.

Clowning the Defender: 90

Someone should really tell Leonard not to leave his feet when his opponent takes flight from just inside the arc. Said opponent, unless he's an intergalactic cyborg (Anthony Davis), is almost never planning on dunking from that far away.

Importance of the Moment: 79

Sure, this piece of highlight heaven came late in the first quarter with the Los Angeles Clippers trailing by 16 points. But they trailed by as many as 35 and still came back to beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 115-109.

Was this ferocious finish the pang of first-quarter nostalgia that ignited the Clippers' run later in the game? I'm not saying yes. I'm not saying no, either.

Jaw-Drop Factor: 99

This entire full-court, action-packed, explosion-laced scenario unfolds before you even have time to drop your jaw. Now that's jaw-dropping.

What-If Factor: 99

Do the Dallas Mavericks still wish, even if secretly, that Jordan had made good on his promise and signed with them? Yes.

Overall: 94

It's always fun and exciting when the kids from Lob City come out to play. I mean, where else can you see one big man dribble up the floor and fling a mid-air bullet to another big man who then finishes in stride without regard for the rim's feelings?

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter,@danfavale.

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