The public is banking on Magic forward Aaron Gordon, runner-up in the previous two extravaganzas, to elevate himself to the Slam Dunk title. He dazzled last year against repeat champion Zach LaVine, who sits this one out, and is the logical favorite.
|Slam Dunk Contest Odds
| Aaron Gordon
| Derrick Jones Jr.
| Glenn Robinson III
| DeAndre Jordan
Yet I would not wager two bucks to win one on anyone other than Michael Jordan in his prime -- and especially on a guy who suffered a bone bruise in his foot Tuesday.
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While Gordon's health should be improved for the contest, he was withheld from Thursday?s game. Subconsciously or not, he might exercise too much caution, which could lower the judges' scores.
Jones certainly has had time to practice his slams, having logged a mere 15 minutes for the Suns this season while wallowing in the minor leagues. At 19, he is unaccustomed to the spotlight. Maybe next time.
The best value is offered by Robinson. His game dunks are not as spectacular as those of prior winners, but oddsmakers tend to overlook the fact that first-timers often do well. Besides, guys with this surname have a history here. (See Robinson, Nate, champion in 2009 and ?10.)
Longshot DeAndre Jordan is burdened by history. The only other pivotman to wear the crown is Dwight Howard. Though the Clipper leads the league in slams, few have qualified for highlights shows.
Choosing between the two contestants with suffixes after the names, I'm all in for III (Robinson) over Jr. (Jones.) At 6-foot-7, both fit in terms of size. The Pacer is 23, four years older than Jones. Maturity plus experience add up to a clear-cut play at fetching odds.
Pick: Robinson 15/2
3-POINT SHOOTING CONTEST
Excluding Irving, we watch Thompson on TV more than the other contestants combined. We regularly see him gets into the shooter's zone, and a complete collection of highlight clips of him nailing threes could wrap around the block.
He is the defending champ, following a third-place finish in 2015.
|Three-Point Contest Odds
| Klay Thompson
| Kyrie Irving
| C.J. McCollum
| Kyle Lowry
| Eric Gordon
| Wes Matthews
| Nick Young
| Kemba Walker
Just as uncanny shooters often seem as if their ball is guided by radar, they have off-days -- even those as lauded as Thompson. The 7/4 odds are too short for any marksman, so let's look elsewhere.
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Three of the four longest shots are first-timers. The format -- grabbing balls from racks and firing away in an almost continuous motion -- rewards experience.
So, Eric Gordon, Nick Young and Kemba Walker? Wait ?til next year.
Matthews failed to advance beyond the first round in his lone try and owns the lowest three-point percentage this season at 38.3. Forget him.
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Irving, at 39.3, is not much better. He is the other former champion in the field, winning in 2013, and is the most accustomed to this competition, having been in three others.
Name recognition partly explains his odds at 5/1, same as McCollum, who did not approach breaking into the final round in one prior competition.
That leaves Lowry at an attractive 13/2. His three-point accuracy of 42.6 percent this season is by far the best among these gunners. Lowry did disappoint a year ago, but it was in his home arena, where the pressure was ramped up.
In New Orleans, the Raptor provides the best bang for your buck.
Pick: Lowry 13/2