Those players are Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and Indiana Pacers forward Glenn Robinson III, and they are huge underdogs going into this contest at 8/1 and 9/1, respectively, per OddsShark.
That goes to show how deep this four-person field is this year. Last year's runner-up, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, is the presumptive favorite, while D-Leaguer Derrick Jones Jr. is considered his biggest threat for the crown.
Let's take a look the basics for Saturday's Slam Dunk Contest and provide a prediction at the end.
|Aaron Gordon||Orlando Magic||6'9"||220|
|Derrick Jones Jr.||Northern Arizona Suns||6'7"||190|
|DeAndre Jordan||Los Angeles Clippers||6'11"||265|
|Glenn Robinson III||Indiana Pacers||6'6"||222|
Here's a look at the format of the Slam Dunk Contest, via NBA.com:
Verizon Slam Dunk is a two-round event in which the four participants can perform any dunk they choose without time limits. The players have a maximum of three attempts to complete each dunk in both the first round and the final round. Five judges score every dunk on a scale of 6 to 10, resulting in a high score of 50 and a low score of 30.
All four competitors get two dunks in the first round. The two players with the highest combined score for their two dunks advance to the head-to-head final round. The player with the highest combined score for his two dunks in the final round is crowned the champion.
The Dunk Contest has seen numerous format tweaks over the years, some of which have worked, and some of which have failed miserably, but this format is probably the best bet moving forward.
Each player has three chances to complete a dunk, so a player attempting a complicated jam has two mulligans, which is fair.
That being said, the limit is key, as players repeating failed dunk attempts over and over again have completely killed the vibe of the night in years past.
The Slam Dunk Contest will be televised on TNT this Saturday, February 18, but the exact time is to be determined.
It is the third in a series of three All-Star Saturday Night events beginning at 8 p.m. ET and will take place after the skills challenge and three-point contest are complete. The guess it that it will start sometime around 9:30 p.m.
It's impossible to bet against Aaron Gordon, who should have won last year's competition with arguably the best performance in Slam Dunk Contest history. In case you forgot how good he (and Zach LaVine) were, here's a refresher:
Flinder Boyd of B/R Mag wrote a feature on Gordon leading up to the Slam Dunk Contest, and the key takeaway is that Gordon takes the contest very, very seriously. His mental conditioning coach (Graham Betchart) also doubles as his "unofficial dunking consultant," as Boyd coined it. Betchart leads him through series of mental visualization exercises to get him ready.
Here's more inside Gordon's preparation for Saturday:
Recently, Betchart has been flying to Orlando, and after each practice Gordon will try out a few dunk ideas. When one sticks, he'll stand on the sidelines and begin visualizing himself inside Smoothie King Center in New Orleans bounding toward the rim, the crowd on its feet. "We do the mental prep. Your brain is so powerful that it doesn't know the difference between imagining and reality," Betchart says.
Furthermore, the experience factor helps, as Gordon was toe to toe with LaVine in one of (if not the greatest) Slam Dunk Contests of all time. He's been in that type of environment where the pressure is on to make acrobatic slams.
Of course, Jones, Robinson and Jordan are professional athletes who feel pressure and have experience on big stages, but it's a different type of situation when 20,000 people are looking only at you, expecting some wild sorcery as you fly through the air.
All four contestants should put on a show, but Gordon will hold the trophy high at the end of the night.