Grades: Rising Stars | Celebrity | Skills | 3s | Dunk
Here's how the dunkers fared during All-Star Saturday Night in Toronto:
Zach LaVine, Wolves | Grade: A+
Results -- First round: 50, 49. Dunk-off scores: 50, 50.Analysis: While LaVine went home with the trophy, he and Aaron Gordon share the best grade for the purposes of this exercise. With a second consecutive dunk title, which he presaged by coming out to Drake's "Back to Back" and embracing the singer courtside, LaVine firmly established his place as one of the greatest dunk contestants in NBA history.
To beat Gordon, LaVine relied on his ability to dunk from the free throw line -- or close enough to round up -- in a variety of different fashions. Included were a dunk off a lob from teammate Andre Miller, a windmill from the free throw line and finally the between-the-legs dunk from that distance (never before seen in an NBA dunk contest) that earned him the victory.
LaVine's other dunks were impressive in their own right. He went behind his back to fit the "Back to Back" theme, cuffed a dunk off a self-lob while completing a 180 and windmilled into a reverse off his own bounce. While Gordon's best dunks probably outpaced LaVine's best, LaVine delivered the stronger overall performance from start to finish. He earned 299 out of a possible 300 points on his six dunks, marred only by a nine from stingy scorer Shaquille O'Neal.
Aaron Gordon, Magic | Grade: A+
Results -- First round: 45, 49. Dunk-off scores: 50, 47.Analysis: Virtually any other year in dunk contest history, Gordon would have been an obvious winner. He brought innovation to go with his athleticism, pulling off dunks without NBA precedent using Magic mascot Stuff.
The dunk in which Gordon took the ball from Stuff as he circled on a hoverboard required tremendous precision. Gordon also managed to soar over the mascot while finishing with a windmill and a dunk in which he went under his legs and seemed to hover in midair (with his eyes at rim level) to finish. The latter dunk was surely the night's best single effort, bringing down the house.
Gordon finally ran out of dunks in the second tiebreaking dunk-off, and even his final dunk -- an exaggerated, double-pump reverse -- rightfully earned him a 47.
Andre Drummond, Pistons | Grade: C-
Results -- First round: 36, 39.Analysis: Kudos to Drummond for the idea of involving Canadian icon Steve Nash's soccer skills for passing purposes, but the number of tries required took some of the excitement out of Drummond's eventual windmill. He also missed his first two attempts of his opening dunk before transitioning to an easier version. Drummond's performance won't change the long-standing belief that 7-footers struggle in dunk competitions.
Will Barton, Nuggets | Grade: D
Results -- First round: 44, 30.Analysis: Barton, better known as "Thrill," started strong after coming out with "Thriller" dancers. He went between the legs and finished with a reverse for a score of 44. However, Barton couldn't put down his second dunk in three tries and finished with the lowest score in the competition.