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NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2020: Predicting This Year's Contestants

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIFebruary 3, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers' Dwight Howard in action prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, in Philadelphia. The 76ers won 108-91. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

For the first time in more than a decade, Superman is coming back to the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Dwight Howard is participating for the first time since competing in the event three straight years from 2007-09 while he was with the Orlando Magic. Howard won the 2008 edition, which is most remembered for his "Superman dunk" in which he donned the cape of the famous superhero.

This year's dunk contest will also feature Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. and Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. That means there is only one spot still available.

It's possible that will go to Chicago Bulls guard Zach Lavine, who is still considering participating in the event, according to Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News. He is a two-time winner of the dunk contest, taking the prize in 2015 and 2016.

Here's a look at the three known participants for the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, which takes place Feb. 15 in Chicago, followed by a prediction for who could claim this year's prize.

       

Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

At 34 years old, Howard is looking to prove that he can still hang with some of the best young dunkers in the NBA.

Although Howard's numbers aren't what they were the last time he was competing in a dunk contest, he's been a solid bench player in his first season with the Lakers. He's averaging 7.4 points and 7.7 rebounds through 48 games, a year after playing only nine games for the Wizards.

But the 6'10" forward is still a powerful dunker, and he'll likely be a sentimental favorite for many. It would be a great story for Howard to win after going 11 years between appearances in the event.

And if Howard breaks out the Superman cape, that will surely impress the judges.

        

Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Heat

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 27: Derrick Jones Jr. #5 of the Miami Heat smiles during the game against the Orlando Magic on January 27, 2020 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Jones is returning to the dunk contest after nearly winning the event in 2017. That year, he impressed with several incredible dunks, but he ended up losing to Glenn Robinson III in the final round.

The 22-year-old was slated to participate last year, but he withdrew because of a knee injury. He was replaced by Hamidou Diallo, who went on to win the 2019 title.

The last time Jones participated in a dunk contest he was a rookie for the Suns. Now in his fourth NBA season, Jones is developing into a solid bench player for the Heat, as he's averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 rebounds through 34 games.

However, Jones may be on the brink of turning into a star, and his first win in the dunk contest could help that happen.

      

Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - JANUARY 26:  Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic drives to the basket against the LA Clippers during the second half at Amway Center on January 26, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, b
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Gordon is coming back to the dunk contest after taking two years off from the event. He competed in both 2016 and 2017, losing the former to Lavine in an epic final round.

Now, Gordon will look to become only the second Magic player to claim the top prize. He'll have to beat the only Orlando player to previously do so (Howard in 2008).

In his sixth NBA season, Gordon continues to be a key player for the Magic. He is averaging 13.5 points and 7.1 rebounds in 43 games, all starts.

If Gordon's previous dunk contest appearance is any indication, then he should put on a show for the judges and fans in Chicago. And while the competition is already tough, he'll likely impress with some big dunks of his own.

     

Slam Dunk Contest Prediction

How can you not go with Howard at this point?

The excitement level is going to be high for the former dunk contest champion, who will likely incorporate some fun props into his slams this year. Plus, it's likely that the judges will be just as thrilled to see Howard back in the event as the fans will be.

Of course, it's hard to pick a winner when only three of the four participants are known. If Lavine decides to participate, then he could easily become the favorite because of his two previous wins.

For now, though, Howard is the likely winner as the sentimental pick. Superman will be back in the building, and he'll impress once again.

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