2018 Slam Dunk Contest Participants: Format, Odds and Predicted Winner

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2018

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 11: Larry Nance Jr. #24 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks the ball during the game against the Boston Celtics on February 11, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE  (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
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A new king should ascend to the throne at Saturday's 2018 Slam Dunk Contest.

Down recent jaw-dropping performers like Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon, four would-be champions step into the fray for Saturday night's main event, where up-and-coming guards will collide with one of the Association's most explosive players at the rim—who also happens to have a family member who has won this event previously. 

As usual, the format of the event will see each player get two dunks in the first round, with the highest combined scores over the two attempts advancing to the final round. 

The "who" of the finals is quite the tough one to figure out, so let's look at the participants. 

           

2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest

When: Saturday at 8 p.m. ET 

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

TV: TNT

             

Participants and Odds

Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks (+170; $100 bet nets $170 profit)

According to Stephen Campbell of OddsShark, Dennis Smith Jr. looks like a strong candidate to take home the top prize here. 

Why not? The No. 9 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft received stellar draft attention not only because of his strong skills at the point, but due to his astonishing athleticism. 

Smith, standing at 6'2", offers up some rim-rocking power: 

We'll have to wait and see if the creativity side of things matches the athleticism, but it's not hard to see why the Mavericks star has the potential to win. 

       

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (+220)

Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell, the No. 13 pick, looks like he's on his way to the Rookie of the Year award thanks to averages of 19.5 points, 3.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. 

He also doesn't have any problems rising up in traffic and throwing down: 

Sans traffic in this competition, Mitchell is bound to make a big impact as he looks to turn heads while announcing his arrival to such a festivity. 

A big performance would give him plenty of staying power, so look for Mitchell to come with something creative and get himself to the finals. 

       

Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers (+260)

Larry Nance Jr. is the guy hinted at in the intro who happens to have this sort of contest in his blood. 

In fact, Nance's father won the inaugural NBA Slam Dunk contest in 1984, something he's picked right up from and put to good use alongside his 6'9", 230-pound frame. 

As one can see above, Nance uses every bit of his skill set to throw down highlight-worthy dunks in actual games, meaning it's going to be a can't-miss affair when he throws some creativity into the equation. 

       

Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers (+400)

Oladipo is the only guy here with prior experience in the event. 

And what a performance it was—back in 2015, he threw down the 360-degree reverse dunk that earned him a perfect score before bowing out in the finals to the seemingly unstoppable LaVine. 

The man who keeps proving doubters wrong in new destinations now suits up for the Indiana Pacers and averages 24.3 points per night, all while keeping arenas filled to the rafters in anticipation of what he might do at the rim. 

It'll be the same story Saturday night, though he'll have some serious competition. 

         

Prediction 

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Sometimes sheer physicality has to win out. 

Prior familial success at the event doesn't hurt, either. 

This one figures to belong to Nance, who towers over the competition and has the athleticism to get even higher than the rest of the participants. 

Mitchell, riding the rookie hype wave and what is sure to be plenty of creativity, will be there with Nance in the finals. But the athleticism and power of Nance will wow the judges enough to escape with a win and set up a situation where he'll want to come back the year after and defend the crown. 

Prediction: Nance wins 

       

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified. Odds via Stephen Campbell of OddsShark.

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