The Top 10 Dunkers In The NBA

By: 11.11.11  •  14 Comments
Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin (photo. Rob Hammer)

If we could go back to the 2010 NBA Draft, we’d realize Detroit thought they had themselves a keeper. With the No. 36 pick, the Pistons took Terrico White, a 6-5 combo guard who promised to be one of the best athletes in the NBA the second he donned a jersey. Yet after balling in that jersey for less than one preseason game, he hurt his foot and missed his entire rookie season. So we have a second round pick who missed his whole first year for a team that nobody cares about? No wonder people didn’t realize he was in the NBA until last weekend.

If you didn’t see the show White put on in Rudy Gay‘s charity game when he might’ve owned the top five plays himself, you need to. We hooked up with White earlier this summer, and he swears this year will be his coming-out party. There are Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook comparisons. He could reach that level or he may not. But if he gets consistent minutes, he’ll at least be catching himself on SportsCenter quite often.

So in honor of White’s hops, I put together a list of the 10 best dunkers in the NBA at the present moment. There are no real requirements for this. This isn’t a list showing the guys who are the best contest dunkers, or even those who finished with the most flushes last season. It’s a combination: the guys who are most entertaining, but yet aren’t simply open court or contest dunkers. You need creativity, but you gotta be able to do it in a game as well.

With that, here are my top 10:

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10. JaVale McGee
McGee is definitely in the big man camp when it comes to dunking. He was fourth in the league last year with 155 dunks, just behind DeAndre Jordan. But unlike Jordan, we’ve seen McGee do some crazy stuff (much of it stemming from the fact that he does seem, well, crazy). The dunk contest wasn’t the only highlight we had from him last year. I seem to remember a couple of botched dunks that would’ve made an all-time blooper list. Even with those, McGee gets up as high as anyone in the league.
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9. Russell Westbrook
If you weren’t paying attention, and were seduced by Derrick Rose‘s MVP campaign and his jump to superstardom, you’d probably say he’s a better dunker than Westbrook. Creatively, I think they’re mirror images of each other. Both have the hops to go off one or two legs; Both have shown they can reverse, windmill or tomahawk it. The only different between the two is 20. Westbrook had 20 more dunks than the MVP last year, and when we’re messing with numbers like 52 and 32, 20 dunks is a lot. Rose’s max vertical was tested at 40 inches (Westbrook’s was 36.5), but Rose is much more likely to jump stop and hit a floater. Westbrook is going for the dunk every time. Finally, Westbrook’s dunk over Shane Battier last year was just vicious.

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8. DeMar DeRozan
The least known great dunker in the league? It’s possible. Most basketball fans have never even seen him play. It’s only those watching north of the border, and the obsessive hoopheads who give him any respect at all. Just look at our Who’s Better we ran a few weeks back between DeRozan and James Harden. Anyways, DeRozan finished with 60 dunks last year, which puts him in the company of big men like Marcin Gortat and Al Horford. His problem – and it’s not his 6-9 wingspan or his 39-inch vertical – is he’s too smooth. He makes it look too easy.

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7. J.R. Smith
Smith only had 32 dunks last year, a pedestrian number that would seem fitting for someone like Austin Daye or Udonis Haslem. But Smith is his own worst enemy, launching moon shots when he should be driving, and getting himself benched when he should be playing. Just remember that when he does strike, he’s good enough to make a list of the 10 best alley-oops ever.

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6. Josh Smith
Watching Smith over the past few seasons, he doesn’t seem to have quite the same lift that he did back in the day. But even if he did lose a little bounce, that only means he’s hitting his elbow on the rim instead of his shoulder. The best lefty dunker in the game, Smith’s signature dunk is rivaled only by LeBron’s in it’s unblockability. For someone so big and long, Smith is a phenomenally quick jumper, finishing last year with 98 dunks, many of them on tip-ins.

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5. LeBron James
If we were rating these guys based off their hops, LeBron would probably be first. If we were rating them based off how unblockable their dunks were, he’d probably be number one again. So why isn’t he? He didn’t dunk enough or as creatively as the guys ahead of him. Still, he might be first all time in the “Get out of his way” department. It’s almost impossible to say which of the two Miami teammates is better. For now, I’ll go with this ranking, but don’t hold me too it (this video had me about to change my mind).

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4. Dwyane Wade
Did you know Wade actually dunked more often than LeBron last year (102 to 98)? At only 6-4, there’s no one Wade’s size that’s even close enough to sniff the stuff he’s doing. His patented “Get into the lane, angle the body sideways, then go up with the right and cock it back” flush accounts for probably three of the nastiest facials I’ve seen in the last five years. His ridiculous smash on Kendrick Perkins‘ head last year might’ve been the best play all season.

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3. Dwight Howard
No one’s going to argue with Howard being the most vicious dunker, or the more frequent. He led the NBA in dunks last year, himself and Blake Griffin finishing miles ahead of everyone else. Howard’s shown off his creativity in dunk contests before as well. Still, as an all-around dunker, I can’t put him ahead of the next two.

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