There are lots of reasons to like the NBA–the close games, your favorite team, season-long narratives, strategy–but nothing’s better than a good old jam-fest. And not the musical kind, unless a cacophony of rim smashing, screaming fans, and chest pounding is your idea of music.
In the spirit of the awesomeness of dunking, AGR wants to examine the best dunkers of this past season. Below are AGR’s 2012-13 All-Slamma-Jamma Teams. (You can find the 2010-11 teams here and the 2011-12 teams here.) As an appetizer, let’s take a look at some of the best dunkers who didn’t make our teams.
Honorable Mention: Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Kenneth Faried, Gerald Green, J.R. Smith, Demar Derozan, and Gerald Henderson. Click on the links to get a dose of what they delivered on a nightly basis this past season.
All-Slamma-Jamma 1st Team:
PG, Russell Westbrook: With Derrick Rose sitting out the entire season, Westbrook was unquestionably the best dunker at his position this year. ESPN’s David Thorpe called him the most explosive and athletic point guard the league has ever seen. No one switches into high gear like Westbrook. While he may not be the absolute best at creating space, he is the best at taking advantage of it for video-game dunks. He led all point guards in dunks this year, with 43.
SG, Terrence Ross: Rookie and winner of this year’s dunk contest, Ross stands out as a dunker on a Raptors team that features the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay. Ross’s overall skill-set is impressive for a rookie, but not impressive enough to allow him to dunk with the regularity of a Blake Griffin or LeBron James type of player. Instead, Ross earns his spot here by way of pure dunking-merit. His body control, versatility, and hops allow for ridiculous in-game dunks. Somehow, he managed to covert both of these dunks in the same game.
SF, LeBron James: I didn’t want to put LeBron here. I really didn’t. I’m a James fan, don’t get me wrong, but the guy receives enough spotlight and accolades as it is. Plus, it’s not like there aren’t other deserving small forwards—it’s the most stacked dunking position in the league. But he earned it. He led all small-forwards in dunks (144) and had plenty of incredible dunks on the season. One was a Deandre Jordan-esque alley-oop finish over Jason Terry, but my favorite was his fake-pass-turned-self-alley-oop off the backboard.
PF, Blake Griffin: A mainstay as the best dunking power forward in the game–if not the best dunker period—Griffin did not disappoint this year. For starters, he led the league in dunks (202) for the second year in a row. But what was his signature dunk? If his rookie year was known for his “Mosgov,” and his sophomore year was remembered for his dunk on Kendrick Perkins, then this year will likely be remembered for a through-the-legs lob pass from Jamal Crawford, which Griffin promptly windmilled. No, I’m not making this up. Below are Griffin’s top 10 plays of the year, and here’s a link to a dunk–a one-handed, cock-back dunk from a pass off the backboard–that didn’t even make the cut.
C, DeAndre Jordan: Jordan’s first-team spot is courtesy of his vicious dunk on Brandon Knight. The reaction on the internet rivaled that of when Griffin dunked on Perkins, which says something given that DJ doesn’t have the superstar status of BG. The only knock on the dunk is that the result was somewhat predictable–Jordan is a seven-foot 285-pound center, while Knight is a 6′ 4″, 200-pound guard. Still, the dunk is an 11 out of 10. That, along with his 179 dunks (good for 3rd league-wide), put him on the first team.
All-Slamma-Jamma 2nd Team:
PG, Eric Bledsoe: If Bledsoe played the role on his team that Westbrook played for his, he’d likely have a claim to be on the first team. He may only be 6′ 1″, but his ridiculous athleticisim more than makes up for his height. On a Clippers team that featured Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan, Bledsoe was still able to make a name for himself as a dunker. He competed in the dunk contest, and the NBA compiled some of his dunks to hype us up (video below).
SG, Paul George: George was one of this year’s breakout stars, and watching him dunk gives you a window into how that happened. His creativity, length, and explosiveness all translate into huge dunks, and he had a lot of those among his total of 71 dunks on the year. George’s facials, which he normally delivers with a right-handed cock-back off of a two-foot jump, have a particular “crunch” quality. You have to see it to believe it, so check out his top plays from the regular season and the playoffs. Below is his best dunk from the playoffs, a clutch jam over Birdman.
SF, Kevin Durant: Unlike someone like Terrence Ross, whose spot is due to dunk-versatility and style, KD earns his spot through dunk frequency and ferocity. His 115 dunks rank 13th league-wide and are the third-most of any perimeter player (behind LBJ and Andre Iguodala). Durant has some tricks up his sleeve—he’s developed a better hop-step and will sneakily dunk off the wrong foot—but it’s his insane power that places him on the second-team. That, combined with his length, allows him to posterize opponents with the best of them.
PF, Josh Smith: A familiar face on the team, J-Smoove was his typical dominant self above the rim, finishing 11th with 123 dunks. The internet doesn’t seem to care, though–no one at NBA.com or YouTube world has compiled a quality top 10 for Smith’s 2012-13 season. That’s okay, we’ll make up for it by embedding two videos. Check these two clutch posterizations in New York City: the first over the Nets’ Brook Lopez, the second against the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler (both videos below).
C, JaVale McGee: Mr. McGee has once again been relegated to the second team, but that’s what comes along with receiving 18.1 minutes a game. Somehow, in that time, he managed 175 dunks (4th in the league), four fewer than DeAndre and a solid 31 above LeBron. As always, his hops and length allowed for him to convert dunks that would be impossible for anyone else to convert. His array of dunks included classic facials, self-alley-oops, and fast break double-pump reverse jams. Below? A DeAndre-esque cock-back alley-oop over a seven-footer. No big deal.
All-Slamma-Jamma 3rd Team:
PG, John Wall: JW2 started the season injured, missing the team’s first 33 games. Once he returned, it took some time before he finally hit is stride. Luckily for Wall (because who wouldn’t want to make the ASJ 3rd team?), he also found his dunk swagger. Peep the poster he put on the Knicks below.
SG, Alonzo Gee: Gee might lack in the name-recognition department, but you can’t blame it on lack of exciting play. Gee has a penchant for finishing alley-oops and crushing right-hand tomahawks after driving from the left baseline. His 84 dunks were good for 22nd-most in the league, and the most among all guards not named Dwyane Wade or Andre Iguodala . With the help of an up-and-coming core and the arrival of Andrew Bynum, Cleveland’s popularity should recover–hopefully the Gee-man can ride the wave.
SF, Harrison Barnes: It wasn’t easy putting Barnes on the third team, considering that his best dunk–a monster poster over Pekovic–was among the season’s very best dunks. He doesn’t come off as the most aggressive or powerful player when watching him over a full game, but you’d never know it from his dunks. Barnes showed the ability finish with one-handed and two-handed jams, all in powerful fashion. He also revealed a special ability for double-clutch dunks–something very few players can utilize regularly. His top 10 is below, and because it didn’t make the cut, we’ll also link a special reverse jam.
PF, Jeff Green: After missing all of the 2011-12 season with a heart condition and surgery, Green had his best season as a pro this year, never missing a beat (is that an okay joke to make?). He actually showed an athleticism and aggressiveness little seen in the past. He played more power forward this year than in the past, perhaps motivating him to use his quick first step to get to the hoop. Whatever the reason, we all benefitted. Especially the world of YouTube.
C, Anthony Davis: The third rookie to be featured on the ASJ teams this year, Davis gave us a preview of what was to come in the summer of 2012 with team USA. There, he finished countless alley-oops, not unlike this year. He’s JaValian with his ease of dunking–at times his size and length make it look like he doesn’t even need to jump. That ease helped him to an 8th-best 129 dunks, which is a ton considering the number of games he missed. Some of his best are featured below.
Who was your favorite dunker? Who did we leave off the list? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.