NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2020: Participants, Format, TV Schedule and Predictions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2020

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18:  Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic competes in the 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest at Smoothie King Center on February 18, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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 Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The NBA is preparing to take flight.

Its top aerial artists will converge on Chicago this weekend for the 2020 Slam Dunk Contest. The four-player field features a past champion (Dwight Howard), two former silver medalists (Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr.) and one high-flying newcomer (Pat Connaughton).

Considering the contest is being held in Michael Jordan's former hoops home, expectations should be astronomic for this always-thrilling event.

Here's a rundown of the latest odds and predictions for All-Star Saturday's headliner.

               

Dunk Contest Information

When: Saturday, Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. ET

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: TNT

                 

Format

It's business as usual for the dunk contest, meaning there will be two rounds to find the champion among the four participants.

There are two dunks per player in each round with a maximum of three attempts to complete each one. Five judges score the dunk on a scale of six to 10, so 50 is the top possible score and 30 is the lowest.

All four participants get two slams in the opening round, and the highest two scorers advance to the finals. There, they go head-to-head with two more dunks and the total score from those slams determines the winner.

           

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Latest Odds

               

Predictions

Winner: Derrick Jones Jr.

Runner-up: Aaron Gordon

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Dwight Howard is 34 years old. It's been more than a decade since he captured the crown at the 2008 event.

It'll be fun seeing Superman back in action for nostalgia's sake, but something (or maybe a few somethings) probably went wrong if he wins this event.

Pat Connaughton could use an introduction to the casual fan. He's a regular rotation member of the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks. He has big-time bounce, too. He flew 44 inches in his max-vertical jump at the 2015 combine.

But it feels like he's moving up a weight class in this environment. No one should be ruled out in something like this, but he's a long shot for a reason.

This looks like a two-man competition, with Derrick Jones Jr. and Aaron Gordon both hoping to claim the title they previously came so close to winning.

Gordon competed in one of the greatest dunk contests in recent memory, losing the 2016 slam fest to eventual champion Zach LaVine in multiple overtime rounds.

Gordon showed everything in that event: creativity, flair and all kinds of explosiveness. He's still just 24 years old, too, so those hops haven't left him.

But Jones gets so much flight time he may as well have a pilot's license. He plays in a league full of world-class athletes and still stands out on a nightly basis for his absurd ups.

He needs to be a bit more innovative than he was during the 2017 event—when he fared better than Gordon but still fell to Glenn Robinson III in the final round—but his athleticism will give him plenty of time to think way outside the box.

A Jones-Gordon final-round collision would be a gift to basketball junkies, but our crystal ball sees the Miami Heat star coming out on top.  

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