With the NBA Slam Dunk Contest a little over three weeks away (Saturday, Feb. 18) in New Orleans, the league is beginning to line up the players who will dazzle fans with their abilities above the rim.
Two-time reigning champion Zach LaVine will not be back to make it a third successive title. The Minnesota Timberwolves announced on Thursday LaVine will not participate in this year's contest.
Chris Haynes of ESPN.com added that Phoenix Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. is considering entering the dunk contest after receiving an invitation. Although Jones has only played in two games in the NBA, Sporting News' Sam Vecenie would enjoy seeing the 19-year-old involved:
The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Indiana Pacers guard Glenn Robinson III will be among the participants.
Boston Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown took himself out of the running, with Haynes sharing a statement from the 20-year-old:
The San Antonio Express-News' Jabari Young reported Jan. 19 that San Antonio Spurs guard Jonathon Simmons is on the NBA's shortlist of possible competitors. Simmons has yet to confirm one way or the other whether he'll take part in NBA All-Star Weekend.
Last year's runner-up, Aaron Gordon, is also on the fence. Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy reported the Orlando Magic forward was still considering the possibility.
Gordon and LaVine set a high bar for the 2017 dunk contest. LaVine retained his title following a second tiebreaker after he and Gordon each posted perfect scores in the final round and first tiebreaker.
While LaVine was the champion, Gordon had arguably the best dunk of the night:
Every season, some fans bemoan the lack of star power in the dunk contest when compared to years past, when Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Shawn Kemp, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler were among those in the event.
The 2016 edition is evidence, however, that the event can still be entertaining while showcasing younger players who have yet to gain nationwide acclaim.