Thanks to last year’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest, the one-time star-studded event has brought back excitement to all-star weekend. While it may be rather difficult to surpass the duel between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine, the four entrants into this year’s event definitely bring enough intrigue to watch.
Before Glenn Robinson III, Aaron Gordon, Derrick Jones and DeAndre Jordan hit the hardwood in New Orleans, each made names for themselves on the high school circuit as top-50 prospects. While the four are in various stages of their NBA playing careers, we take a glance back and give a prediction for Saturday night.
MORE: Bossi's Freshman Tracker
DUNK SCORE: 6
NOW: The son of the Big Dog, Glenn Robinson III has begun to show progressions this winter. While he is averaging less than six points and four boards per game, each are career highs. Picked 40th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2014 NBA Draft, Robinson was quickly placed on waivers that year before finding a home with the Indiana Pacers.
THEN: Before hitting the NBA, Robinson III quickly announced himself onto the national stage at Michigan, helping lead John Beilein’s program to an Elite Eight run in 2014. A two-and-done recruit, Robinson III starred at Lake Central High School in Indiana. A travel teammate of former Michigan star forward Mitch McGary with the SYF Players, the swingman finished ranked 11th overall as a member of the 2012 class. However, he chose the Wolverines in September of his junior year over Colorado, Valparaiso and Missouri State. Turns out, Robinson III quickly morphed into an athletic wing that can make shots, becoming quite the early find for the Michigan staff.
DUNK SCORE: 10
NOW: Half of the reason the NBA Slam Dunk Contest is now ‘back’ after a few disappointing years, the California native has been a star every step of the way. The younger brother of former New Mexico forward Drew Gordon, Aaron was selected fourth overall by Orlando in the 2014 NBA Draft after a one-and-done campaign at Arizona. He has played out of position this year but has still upped his averages to more than 11 points, four rebounds and close to 50-percent shooting from the field.
THEN: Gordon finished third overall in the 2013 class rankings. Running with the Oakland Soldiers 17-under squad for two years alongside former Pac-12 stars Brandon Ashley, Nick Johnson and Jabari Bird, Gordon always brought the crowd thanks to his entertaining playing style and high wire dunks. A standout at Archbishop Mitty High School in California, Gordon selected Arizona over Kentucky, Oregon and Washington in April of 2013, as it was a major coup for Sean Miller defeating his close friend, John Calipari, in the commitment of the five-star power forward.
DUNK SCORE: 9
NOW: The top unknown of the event, Jones has played a total of 20 minutes, yes, 20 whole minutes in the NBA. Averaging less than a point, rebound and an assist per game, do not overlook the dunking sensation. The former one-and-done small forward went undrafted last summer before then being picked up last September by the Phoenix Suns.
THEN: Jones’ time at UNLV wasn’t the best either, but his high school playing career was fairly notable. Graduating from Archbishop Carroll High School in Philadelphia, the high-end athlete had always been knocked for his streaky jumper and skinnier body type. However, the 49th overall prospect in the 2015 class brought the fans to their feet as he could put a defender on a poster in a blink of an eye, something that he has done repeatedly since entering the high school ranks. UConn was thought to be the leader until UNLV got involved late in the process and surprised many when he signed early in November of his senior year.
MORE UNLV: Rebel-Net.com
DUNK SCORE: 5
NOW: The oldest of the bunch, Jordan is also the most productive of any of the dunk contestants. The 7-footer was selected 35th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers where, at the time, was a worthy risk, but now looks to be one of the biggest heists within recent drafts. Currently averaging more than 12 points and 13 boards, and making close to 70-percent of his shots from the field, Jordan has been more of an athlete than a complete, well-rounded ballplayer.
THEN: The No. 8 prospect in the 2007 class, Jordan made a name for himself on the travel circuit running with the Houston Swoosh gang, the same program that featured New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett. He committed to Texas A&M in July of 2006, but thought about opening things up that April thanks to Billy Gillispie taking the Kentucky job. While an original group of five including Texas, Indiana, LSU, Florida State and Florida were involved, Jordan stuck to his original plans by giving a productive year to new head coach Mark Turgeon in College Station before heading to the NBA.
Much of the talk has surrounded Jones and rightfully so. He has won every dunk contest that he has ever entered, including one at the City of Palms during his senior year of high school play thanks to his jam over Harry Giles and Ben Simmons. Jordan and Robinson III bring more than enough to the table but this one is going to come down to Jones and Gordon. At the end of the day, as much as Jones’ win would make for an excellent story, we are placing our bets on Gordon finding redemption and taking home the crown Saturday evening.