Rudy Gay has always been a great dunker. Check YouTube, he’s all over it. Even on the wrong side of 30 and after recovering from a devastating Achilles injury, the Spurs’ 6’8” combo forward leads the team in dunks so far this year. Of course, that’s not especially surprising because the Spurs don’t dunk very often. The last few seasons were a bit of an outlier [Editor’s Note: Thanks in large part to The Nephew. — J.R. Wilco], but over the course of the last 10 years, no team has dunked less.
This year isn’t shaping up to be any different, as the Spurs, with just 67 dunks so far, have already fallen 23 behind the Pacers, who are sitting in 29th. The Jazz, meanwhile, lead the league with nearly 4 times as many dunks as the Spurs.
Eight different players have dunked more than the entire Spurs’ team, with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela all nearly doubling the whole squad.
Rudy has been the lone bright spot amid all this darkness. His 16 dunks make up nearly a quarter of the team’s total. For context, that puts him in a 7-way tie for 79th place in the league so far this year.
Still, Rudy makes up in quality what he lacks in quantity. He dunks with a sense of authority and finality. There’s not a single cheapie in the entire catalog.
He keeps a pretty even split, going 1-handed on 9 of his 16 dunks and 2-handed on the other 7. Most of his dunks are assisted, with 7 different players getting credit for assists on 11 of his dunks. To be honest, though, the scorekeeper is playing a little loose with assist credit on some of those. At any rate, Bryn Forbes leads the way with 3 assisted Rudy dunks.
He’s only dunked twice out of post ups and twice in transition. He’s got 6 dunks off drives and 3 that came after offensive rebounds. Two of his dunks came on cuts and another 2 were alley-oops.
Even his misses have been breath-taking, all three of which were the result of headhunting 7-footers, a dangerous hobby that probably makes the team’s entire training staff wince.
Picking a favorite is like choosing between my kids (in that I know which one it is, but I don’t want to admit it out loud), but here’s my top three in chronological order.
Marco Belinelli pulls up for a deep three in transition but catches too much back iron. Fortunately, LaMarcus Aldridge has great position down low and taps it back out to the top of the key and right to a lurking Rudy. It’s unclear what Damion Lee or Damian Jones are trying to do in the ensuing two seconds, but defense ain’t it. That’s probably for the best because getting in the way of this assault on the rim would probably have been unhealthy.
After DeMar DeRozan the fadeaway, Big Jak comes down with the board and Rudy cuts down the middle of the lane. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert try their best to stop the inevitable, but only succeed in tacking an and-1 onto the end of a dunk that effectively sealed the W. Rudy getting so pumped over this dunk gets me pumped every time I watch it. Bonus points for the outstanding bench celebration in the background.
This should not be a dunk. Ben Simmons recovers to good defensive position after helping on DeMar DeRozan’s drive, but Rudy uses a jab step and swings the ball around to get onto Simmons’ left side and into the lane. Simmons’ defense makes it appear he expects help in the middle, but there’s none to be found. Jimmy Butler doesn’t act like he’s responsible for stopping penetration, staying with DeMar instead, and Joel Embiid is a split second too late to react and makes a good business decision not to get in Rudy’s poster.
What do you think, Pounders? How wrong is this top 3? Which one’s your favorite?