NBA All-Star 2020: Grading every player in the skills, 3-point and dunk contests

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Gordon leaps over Tacko, but Jones takes slam dunk trophy (2:27)

Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr. face off in the final round of the dunk contest, going to overtime before Jones prevails. (2:27)

NBA All-Star Saturday featured three competitions that came down to the wire. Bam Adebayo set the tone with a close win over Domantas Sabonis in the skills challenge. Buddy Hield used his final attempt to knock off 2018 champion Devin Booker in the 3-point contest. And Derrick Jones Jr. needed a dunk-off to beat Aaron Gordon in the dunk contest.

We graded every event and every player to take the court on Saturday during NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago.

More: Rising Stars grades | Best of Saturday

Dunk contest

Aaron Gordon
Orlando Magic
Forward | Grade: A

Results
Round 1: 50, 50
Final: 50, 50
Tiebreaker: 50, 47

Analysis
For the second time in his career, Gordon found himself on the wrong end of an epic dunk-off, having lost to Zach LaVine in 2016 in Toronto after an identical six dunks. This time, Gordon had the higher overall score -- his final dunk, clearing 7-foot-5 Boston Celtics rookie Tacko Fall, was the only one all night that wasn't given a 50.

Gordon repeatedly made use of Chicago native Chance the Rapper as a prop, grabbing the ball off Chance's head and jumping over him for three different finishes: a reverse, a one-hand finish and a between-the-legs dunk. Probably his best dunk of the night was his fourth one, a one-handed 360 from a pass by teammate Markelle Fultz off the side of the backboard that was as good as any we saw all night.

I'm torn on which of the final two dunks was more deserving. Yes, it's true Gordon made some contact with Fall while finishing his dunk, but that's to be expected with someone far taller than any of the other players used as props save Giannis Antetokounmpo (and even Antetokounmpo is 6 inches shorter than Fall.) Adding to the degree of difficulty was the fact that Gordon, needing to use two more dunks than he had expected, had never before practiced with Fall.

It's a shame that Gordon has submitted two trophy-worthy performances without walking away with one for his mantel.


Derrick Jones Jr.
Miami Heat
Forward | Grade: A

Results
Round 1: 46, 50
Final: 50, 50
Tiebreaker: 50, 48

Analysis
After finishing second in 2017, Jones won in his return to the dunk contest by throwing down from a foot inside the free throw line on his final attempt with a mini-windmill to distinguish it from more famous (and longer) foul line dunks by Julius Erving (in the inaugural 1976 ABA dunk contest) and Michael Jordan (in 1988, the previous time All-Star Weekend was held in Chicago).

Jones began and ended the night with sub-50 dunks. After blowing out the candles on a cake to celebrate his 23rd birthday, Jones attempted to sky over teammate Bam Adebayo on his first turn. It took two attempts, dropping Jones to a 46. In between, Jones submitted four consecutive 50-pointers, showcasing his ability to go between the legs effortlessly with other flourishes.

On his second dunk, Jones went 360 between the legs. He then jumped over a pair of his dunk consultants, went off the backboard while jumping over the passer and off the side of the backboard. As bad as the judging process was, Jones probably had the stronger pair of dunks in the final than Gordon, and I would have chosen him the winner at that point. So he was certainly deserving in his own right.


Pat Connaughton
Milwaukee Bucks
Guard | Grade: B+

Results
Round 1: 45, 50

Analysis
Connaughton was a hard-luck elimination in the first round. His cheeky first dunk was a homage to Billy Hoyle. Wearing Hoyle's famous short shorts and backwards cap, Connaughton reenacted the climactic alley-oop from "White Men Can't Jump" using Milwaukee Brewers star Christian Yelich for the assist. The resulting score of 45 got booed by fans who thought Connaughton deserved better -- only the start of a frustrating and confusing night of scoring by the judges.

Connaughton got a perfect 50 for his second dunk, grabbing the ball over bent-over teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo to dunk on the third try. The true quality of the dunk was only clear on replay, which showed Connaughton tapped the ball off the glass before dunking. Still, that left him one point shy of a spot in the final.

Dwight Howard
Los Angeles Lakers
Center | Grade: B-

Results
Round 1: 41, 49

Analysis
In his first dunk contest since 2009, the 2008 champion flashed back by once again donning a Superman cape on his second dunk. The "S" on Howard's T-shirt was also adorned with a No. 24 as Howard paid homage to the late Kobe Bryant. He brought back former Orlando Magic teammate Jameer Nelson to deliver a perfect alley-oop that Howard dunked home for a generous 50. (It was Nelson's first assist on an NBA court since March 2018.)

On his first turn, Howard did a one-handed 360 dunk, pulling back before finishing going away from the basket. Because he took two tries -- and because the judges hadn't yet begun handing out 10s regularly -- it drew the night's lowest score of 41.

3-point contest

Buddy Hield
Sacramento Kings
Guard | Grade: A

Results
Round 1: 27
Final: 27

Analysis
Hield provided plenty of suspense in the final. He needed to make four shots on his final money ball rack to surpass Booker. After hitting his first three, Hield missed, leaving him with a winner-take-all last shot that he swished. Unlike his third-place finish last year, when he scored 26 points in the first round but just 19 in the final, Hield was consistently strong from start to finish this time around.


Devin Booker
Phoenix Suns
Guard | Grade: A

Results
Round 1: 27
Final: 26

Analysis
A last-minute replacement for the injured Damian Lillard, Booker easily could have walked away with his second win in the past three years (having previously won in 2018 in Los Angeles). He was the only player all night to knock down both of his attempts from the longer distance in a round, scoring 27 in the opening round to tie for first place, and nearly matched it in Round 2. Only a slightly subpar performance from his money ball rack (3-of-5) cost Booker the title.


Davis Bertans
Washington Wizards
Forward | Grade: A-

Results
Round 1: 26
Final: 22

Analysis
Had the 3-point contest been held solely on the right wing, Bertans would have won going away. That's where he put his money ball racks, and he went 5-of-5 in the first round and 4-of-5 in the final. With time running down in the opening round, Bertans made his final shot (a money ball) to advance. He wasn't quite as strong in the final round, finishing last among the three players who advanced.


Zach LaVine
Chicago Bulls
Guard | Grade: B

Results
Round 1: 23

Analysis
The hometown crowd badly wanted LaVine to advance, and that looked likely after a perfect start on the opening rack. LaVine also went 5-of-5 from the other corner, but chose to put his money ball rack at the top of the key, where he missed a pair of shots. Had he put it in the corner, LaVine would have come within a point of advancing.


Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets
Forward | Grade: B

Results
Round 1: 22

Analysis
The defending champion went into the final rack with a chance to reach the final, but missed his first three attempts there and was eliminated. Harris was clearly thrown off by the addition of the longer shots, nearly running past the ball both times on his way to the next traditional rack, but he recovered to make the second 3-pointer.


Duncan Robinson
Miami Heat
Guard | Grade: B-

Results
Round 1: 19

Analysis
The betting favorite, Robinson was unable to live up to the hype. He missed six shots in a row at one point, and was never seriously in contention with a score of 19.


Devonte' Graham
Charlotte Hornets
Guard | Grade: C

Results
Round 1: 18

Analysis
Graham recovered from a dismal start that saw him miss his first seven attempts, including an air ball on his first try and another shot from the corner that hit off the backboard. After settling down, Graham became the first player to make the inaugural shot worth 3 points and went 4-of-5 from his money ball rack at the top of the key.


Trae Young
Atlanta Hawks
Guard | Grade: C

Results
Round 1: 15

Analysis
Young never seemed to find a rhythm during the competition, particularly struggling from the top of the key, where he missed four of his five attempts.

Skills contest

Bam Adebayo
Miami Heat
Forward | Grade: A

Results
Round 1: defeated Spencer Dinwiddie
Round 2: defeated Pascal Siakam
Final: defeated Domantas Sabonis

Analysis
A deserving winner, the 6-foot-9 Adebayo showcased the versatility that has made him a first-time All-Star (a process detailed earlier this week by ESPN's Zach Lowe) with error-free performances through all phases of the skills challenge. He cruised to victory in the first round over Dinwiddie, beat Siakam when he missed his first shot before making the second and then survived needing three shots in the final against Sabonis.


Pascal Siakam
Toronto Raptors
Forward | Grade: A-

Results
Round 1: defeated Patrick Beverley
Round 2: eliminated by Bam Adebayo

Analysis
After a perfect first-round win over Beverley, Siakam kept pace with Adebayo until missing his first shot. That was all the opening Adebayo needed to advance to the final.


Domantas Sabonis
Indiana Pacers
Forward | Grade: B+

Results
Round 1: defeated Jayson Tatum
Round 2: defeated Khris Middleton
Final: eliminated by Bam Adebayo

Analysis
Sabonis' path to the final was a little shaky. In the opening round against Tatum, Sabonis nearly doomed his chances by losing the ball after a dunk but recovered when Tatum missed his first shot. In the second round, it was Sabonis who struggled with the shooting, benefiting from Middleton's dribbling miscue. Though Sabonis was right behind Adebayo in the final round, he wasn't able to make the shot necessary to secure victory.


Khris Middleton
Milwaukee Bucks
Forward | Grade: B

Results
Round 1: defeated Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Round 2: eliminated by Domantas Sabonis

Analysis
Give Middleton credit for his ingenuity in the semifinals. Having fallen behind Sabonis when he mishandled the ball at midcourt, Middleton tried to play bump to prevent Sabonis from winning. Alas, that effort proved unsuccessful. Middleton's first-round win over Gilgeous-Alexander was clean aside from a single missed 3-pointer.


Spencer Dinwiddie
Brooklyn Nets
Guard | Grade: B

Results
Round 1: eliminated by Bam Adebayo

Analysis
The skills winner in 2008, Dinwiddie caught a tough opening draw against Adebayo. His only miscue was missing one pass attempt, but Adebayo's perfect round never gave Dinwiddie a chance to catch back up.


Jayson Tatum
Boston Celtics
Forward | Grade: B-

Results
Round 1: eliminated by Domantas Sabonis

Analysis
The defending champion, Tatum had the edge over Sabonis heading into the 3-pointer but missed both of his attempts, opening the door for Sabonis' comeback.


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Oklahoma City Thunder
Guard | Grade: C

Results
Round 1: eliminated by Khris Middleton

Analysis
The passing obstacle tripped up Gilgeous-Alexander, who was the only player to miss all three of his attempts in the opening round. That left Gilgeous-Alexander so far behind that his only hope was attempting a shot from well beyond half court.


Patrick Beverley
LA Clippers
Guard | Grade: C-

Results
Round 1: eliminated by Pascal Siakam

Analysis
The Chicago native didn't seem to be going at game speed, putting him way behind Siakam -- so far behind, in fact, that Beverley didn't even really get a shot at the basket.