NBA Slam Dunk 2023 Contest picks, predictions & best bets for NBA All-Star Weekend
The final event of Saturday night at the NBA’s All-Star weekend will be the AT&T Slam Dunk contest. This contest can either cap off an electrifying night or have people calling for major reforms to the format afterwards. Let’s hope the former is the case tonight. In the first round the 5 judges will score 2 dunks from each contestant. The two dunkers with the highest combined score from these will advance to the final round. There everything is reset, with the contestants performing two more dunks each. The one with the highest combined score of these is crowned the champion.
Let’s take a look at the 2023 participants below, including my pick for the winner.
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Mac McClung (-110)
Mac MacLung undoubtedly has one of the biggest followings of anyone in the contest this year. Standing at just over 6’1″ tall, he will be one of the shortest participants we have had in years. It will be interesting to see if he has the athleticism to truly blow people away. In last night’s Rising Stars game, he missed a reverse double-pump dunk, getting rejected by the rim — not the greatest sign heading into a dunk contest. This will be the biggest stage he has ever appeared on. I can easily see him trying to do too much to try to impress, failing to make the dunks on the first attempt. That could affect his scores.
Kenyon Martin Jr. (+300)
Houston Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr. is one of my favourite dunkers in this competition. He attacks the rim as if he has a personal vendetta against it, resulting in some vicious finishes. I think the power and explosiveness of his dunks should help get the crowd involved too. He has last year’s dunk contest participant Jalen Green as a teammate too, so should have someone to bounce ideas off. Martin Jr. should put on a show tonight. However, even though he does seem to effortlessly glide through the air, his 38.5 max vertical that he recorded in his combine is not the most impressive in the field.
Jericho Sims (+300)
New York Knicks center Jericho Sims could have his size work against him tonight. He will be the biggest man in the field, which has historically not helped dunkers. However, he does look a more fluid athlete than last year’s winner and teammate Obi Toppin. Sims also possesses a 44.5 inch max vertical jump, which he recorded at the 2021 draft combine. He could emerge as someone in the mould of Blake Griffin or Dwight Howard. If his creativity does not let him down, look for him to be firmly in the mix. With Toppin in his corner, that is unlikely to be an issue.
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Trey Murphy III (+350)
The New Orleans Pelicans forward could be a dark horse to win this contest. Mainly playing the role of a 3-and-D player so far in his career, his athleticism has gone somewhat under the radar. That was on full display last night in the Rising Star game. He elevated for a tomahawk dunk, almost looking down at the rim in the process. He looks fluid when he moves and has the wingspan to allow him to little bit more time to pull off his dunks, a luxury that McClung does not have. With one of the greatest dunkers alive in Zion Williamson as his teammate, I don’t think creativity will be an issue for him. Watch out for him tonight.
Final Prediction: Jericho Sims (+300)
It seems like an incredibly tight field this year, with 4 very different dunkers. I will be backing Sims to keep the Dunk Contest trophy in New York. Physically he is the most gifted athlete of the bunch. The vertical jump that he recorded at the combine is the 3rd-highest jump in the history of the event. That is the sort of athleticism that should allow plenty of scope for creativity for the big man. With more bounce than the forwards in the competition, and more length than McClung, look for the Knicks to have their second consecutive Dunk Contest winner.
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