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2020 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest odds to win and betting picks: Third time’s a charm for Gordon

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The NBA slam dunk contest is one of the highlights of All-Star weekend and comes with plenty of betting intrigue. This year, the four competitors include a former winner and two players that finished runner-up in recent contests. We break down the odds to win the NBA slam dunk contest for each of the contestants and give you our betting pick for the final All-Star event on Saturday night.  

WHAT ARE THE SLAM DUNK CONTEST RULES?

This is a two-round event with each player getting two turns to perform a dunk during the first round. Their dunks will be graded by five judges and the two players with the highest combined scores move on to the final round. In the finals the two remaining dunkers get two more turns with the highest combined score taking home the title.

Keep in mind that since this is a judged event, legal sportsbooks in the U.S. will not be taking wagers and overseas odds can vary greatly.

ODDS TO WIN NBA SLAM DUNK CONTEST

PLAYER TEAM ODDS
Aaron Gordon Orlando Magic +150
Derrick Jones Jr. Miami Heat +160
Pat Connaughton Milwaukee Bucks +450
Dwight Howard Los Angeles Lakers +600

AARON GORDON +150

This is Gordon’s third time in the contest and he seems hungry to win after a fantastic runner-up performance in 2016 where he got three straight perfect scores of 50. Gordon’s dunks in that contest were some of the best that have ever been seen, including my personal favorite where he jumped over Orlando’s bizarre mascot, grabbed the ball, passed it underneath his legs and slammed it down with authority.

Unfortunately for Gordon, Zach Lavine also had a jaw-dropping display in 2016 and won probably the best slam dunk duel in recent memory. Gordon has terrific jumping ability, length, coordination and creativity and is the betting fave for good reason.

DERRICK JONES JR. +160

Gordon was the runner-up in 2016 and Jones Jr. was the runner-up the following year, albeit in a far less entertaining contest. Jones is an incredible leaper who casually throws down 360-degree, between-the-legs dunks during warmups. The Heat small forward has terrific power and elevation and will put on a show.

PAT CONNAUGHTON +450

After rookie sensation Ja Morant declined his invitation to this event, many fans on Twitter were pretty disappointed when the Bucks guard was named as the final competitor. Despite the obvious Woody Harrelson-inspired stereotype, Connaughton is actually a very impressive dunker who had the second-highest max vertical in NBA draft combine history at 44 inches. And as you can see from the above video, the Notre Dame product has been throwing down insane dunks since he was a teenager.

That said, this is Connaughton’s first time competing in this event and while his hang time is impressive he doesn’t have the explosiveness of Gordon or Jones. Judges and fans tend to go wild for the sorts of vicious throwdowns that the two favorites are capable of.

DWIGHT HOWARD +600

If Howard managed to claim this contest after winning in 2008, it would be a heartwarming comeback story for the big fella that once laid claim to the Superman title. The 34-year-old has made a comeback of sorts, becoming an integral role player for a Lakers team that has a strong shot at the NBA title.

But let’s be realistic, Dwight isn’t anywhere close to the athletic speciman he was a decade ago. Time takes its toll on every athlete and it has been especially brutal on Howard, who has been hit with numerous back injuries since 2012. Howard fans will be better off rooting for him to win his first NBA championship than another slam dunk title.

NBA SLAM DUNK CONTEST BETTING PICK

While it’s not always that profitable to back a favorite, all indications are that this will be a two-horse race and both Gordon and Jones Jr. offer plenty of value. Although Gordon competed as the betting favorite in 2017 and didn’t make it into the final round, he was coming off a foot injury at the time and didn’t seem to have his usual bounce.

Gordon also attempted extremely creative dunks in the first round of that event and couldn’t quite pull them off with his usual panache. When it comes to the creativity department, Gordon seems to be ahead of the field and now that he’s healthy, the sky is the limit. Put your money on the favorite and back Gordon on Saturday night. 

Longshots to consider when betting the Shoemaker Mile

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Monday’s Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a great race for a number of reasons. For starters, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The race also features last year’s Preakness Stakes winner, War of Will, making his season debut. Despite his triumphs on the dirt in 2019, War of Will started his career on the turf and his pedigree suggests that he’s very likely to be just as successful on the grass. That said, the Shoemaker Mile will be his first start off of a six-month break, and I’m going to try to take a swing or two with some horses who could upset the apple cart at longer odds.

Let’s start out with the horse on the rail, Without Parole. He won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes going a mile at Ascot back in 2018. His three other career wins have all came at this mile distance as well. Granted, he hasn’t won in six races since the St. James’s Palace but he did finish a fast-closing third two starts ago in a much tougher U.S. debut in the TVG Breeders’ Cup MileIrad Ortiz Jr. rode Without Parole in that race and he will reclaim the mount on him again on Monday.

Without Parole has only had one race this year and it was in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in which he finished second to last. However, he had several excuses right from the start of that race when he got squeezed coming out of the gate. He also raced in traffic throughout and got cut off several times in the stretch before Frankie Dettori — who had come from Europe to ride him at Gulfstream — finally just wrapped up on him. The Pegasus World Cup Turf also was a race that didn’t allow him to run on Lasix (furosemide) after he’d shown significant improvement racing on Lasix for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.

Stream the 2020 Shoemaker Mile live here

How much of a factor might Lasix be for some horses? Well, let’s next look at the horse who finished last in the Pegasus World Cup Turf: Next Shares. In his following start (back on Lasix) in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, Next Shares finished third (beaten just a neck) to River Boyne. Both Next Shares and River Boyne return in the Shoemaker Mile and I prefer the former as a pace play who has plenty of back-class. If you rewatch the Kilroe Mile, Next Shares covered a lot more ground than River Boyne. With a similar effort, Next Shares could certainly turn the tables.

The other thing to like about Next Shares is that his trainer, Richard Baltas, has entered speedster Neptune’s Storm in the Shoemaker Mile. That horse, along with Voodoo Song, should ensure a very brisk pace up front — they’ll also be kept honest by Blitzkrieg and War of Will, both of whom usually race on or near the lead. All of that speed adds up to good news for Next Shares. He’s a Grade 1 winner who has always done his best running when he’s had some pace to run into. The other two keys for him (like all stalking or closing-type runners) is clear running room late, and hopefully he’ll get that with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez taking the mount.

Lastly, we should take a look at True Valour. It’s hard to make much of an excuse for his flat finish in the Kilroe last out, but he’s truly performed better than what his results on paper might indicate. In the Thunder Road Stakes in February, he looked pretty keen early and it took him a few strides to settle down without throwing his head around and fighting his rider. Turning for home, it was clear that jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him but was just waiting for some running room. It ended up coming too late because River Boyne was in a better spot and had already taken command. True Valour did split horses nicely in the closing stages and was half a jump away from finishing second.

If you go back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, True Valour had excuses there, too. He was up on heels early and he again took a little bit of time to settle down into a comfortable stride. Then, turning for him, he was just waiting for running room but instead got stuck behind a wall of horses. True Valour ended up steadying pretty badly and lost all chance at that point. I’m a little worried about how headstrong he tends to be early in races, but there’s a scenario here that could have at least two horses battling for the lead early and opening up some daylight on the rest of the field. That means he’ll be less likely to be running up on anyone’s heels and it also ensures that he’ll have a nice setup. Whether he can navigate clear passage late in the race is a separate matter.

Longshot Selections

#1 Without Parole

#3 Next Shares

#2 True Valour

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

How to bet an exacta on a horse race

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Betting an exacta can present a challenge on several levels.

There is, of course, the primary need to analyze past performances and decide which horses are going to finish first and second.

Yet because of the inherently lower payoffs as opposed to what you’ll find in a Pick 3 or Pick 4, you’ll need to structure your wagers effectively in order to turn your selections into a profitable wager.

For starters, an exacta can be a simple wager. If you like two horses equally, you can just box them in the exacta and collect so long as they finish 1-2 in any order. If you like one of them a little more, you can then bet more on the one you prefer, say $10 on a 1-2 exacta and $5 on 2-1.

If you’re a little more uncertain, make sure you structure your bet around the size of the field and the probable payoffs.

If you like a longshot, the higher probable payoffs give you the cushion you need to wager on more combinations and still turn a nice profit.

But if you’re dealing with favorites or horses at relatively low odds, you have to wager more efficiently to preserve your profit.

In a field of six or less, you’re best to either focus on one horse or box two of them instead of boxing three or more horses because of the small payouts the bet will most likely generate.

In a field of seven, a wise strategy would be to box your top two choices and then, if you are worried about other horses, play them top and/or bottom other the other horses. For example, box 1-2, then bet 1-2 over 3-4 and 3-4 over 1-2. This way you are getting coverage on four horses without having to box them.

Once you get an eight-horse field, as long as there is not an overwhelming favorite, you can expand the number of horses you box since the payoffs will typically be higher, giving you a better opportunity to offset the inevitable array of losing tickets in a boxed wager.