2019 Slam Dunk Contest Participants: Format, Odds and Predicted Winner

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2019

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 02:  Miles Bridges #0 of the Charlotte Hornets dunks the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during their game at Spectrum Center on December 2, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  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.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

A new king will be crowned at Saturday's 2019 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Last year's champion, Donovan Mitchell, opted against defending his crown and instead will serve on TNT's broadcast crew. That opens the door for a new batch of high-flyers to fight for the abandoned throne during All-Star Saturday's main event.

The format remains the same with two rounds of competition, a maximum of three attempts for each dunk and a five-judge panel handing out scores on a scale of 6-10. It's two dunks per contestant in each round, with two advancing to the final round for a winner-take-all battle.

The third event on Saturday's docket (which begins at 8 p.m. ET on TNT) looks tremendous on paper, so let's dig into how it will appear in practice by examining the participants and odds before offering our prediction on how this will play out.

              

Participants and Odds

Dennis Smith Jr., New York Knicks (+200)

Smith is the only experienced player in this field, having been eliminated in last year's opening round. But before his contest ended prematurely, the jet-propelled point guard hammered home arguably the best throwdown of the night with a between-the-legs 360 reverse that earned a perfect score from the judges.

Smith had previously said he'd skip this competition, so the fact that he reversed course proves there's some unfinished business.

Having extra motivation can only help his cause, especially when it's combined with explosive athleticism and enough creativity to dazzle the dunking faithful inside Charlotte's Spectrum Center and across the hoops world.

His status as a favorite makes sense, in other words. He doesn't have to deal with the first-time jitters, and any lobs he throws himself are coming from a former lottery pick floor general.

            

Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets (+225)

Buzz City's own Bridges won't be lacking for fan support. Hornets fans will go berserk for their rookie first-rounder, and he has the hops to get non-biased observers on his side quickly.

If you molded the ideal dunker, he might look a lot like Bridges. He's a chiseled 6'7", 225 pounds with the flight time of a perimeter player and the power of someone who lives in the post.

He might have the easiest time combining brute force and finesse, components that could easily result in the night's most diverse dunks menu.

If Bridges brings out Kemba Walker to assist one of his slams, they might bring the house down.

             

John Collins, Atlanta Hawks (+225)

It's hard to imagine any participant getting better guidance than Collins has, considering he's a teammate of Vince Carter and counts Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins as one of his mentors.

"Being a Hawk, I have to see these two every day," Collins told The Athletic's Chris Kirschner. "I want to win this dunk contest and be a part of the Hawks group who has won it, along with Josh [Smith] and Spud [Webb]."

At 6'10" and 235 pounds, Collins is bigger than your typical dunk-contest champion. But the way he combines grace and the "Wow!" factor on putbacks and alley-oops makes you think he has the tools to join Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin as super-sized slam dunk kings.

Collins, maybe more so than anyone in this field, also has a chance to make this his overdue introduction to casual fans. He can be a bit overlooked as a non-lottery pick who plays for a rebuilder, but he's almost supplying 20 points and 10 boards a night.

          

Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City Thunder (+400)

There are two ways for fans to receive Diallo on Saturday night: as someone who piques their curiosity or as an anonymous dunker who demands zero emotional reaction. Either way, it's imperative for the second-round rookie—and injury replacement—to make a resoundingly positive first impression.

He hasn't been able to showcase much during his first go-round with the Thunder as a reserve who isn't guaranteed nightly minutes and doesn't get a ton of floor time when his number is called (11.4 minutes per game). But he has shown an effortless lift that's akin to gliding, and he rarely leaves the rim unpunished when he's flying toward it.

Granted, he's a long shot for a reason, but he's a participant for a reason too. His bounce is elite, and it will be fun to see him show off his skills in front of an audience that might be glued on to him for the first time.

            

Prediction

Motivation is often an underrated portion of All-Star Weekend, as some are just happy to be there while others are out to send a message.

The thought of Smith seething over his ouster for the last 12 months makes it easy to imagine he'll be the most driven dunker on Saturday night.

And let's not forget—he might already be the best aerial artist in the field.

Our crystal ball sees a North Carolina finals pitting Fayetteville native Smith against Bridges, Charlotte's newest adopted son. It's basically a coin flip at that point, but Smith's experience and pent-up frustration will prove to be the difference-makers.

Prediction: Smith beats Bridges in final round.

            

Odds used courtesy of OddsShark.

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