11 NBA Players That Can’t Dunk

If you love basketball, chances are you’ve dreamt of throwing down some rim-rattling dunks. Unfortunately, not all professional NBA players can do this; several noteworthy NBA players have never been known to dunk a ball during an actual game. 

Believe it or not, there’s more than one way to lead your team to the win column, and it doesn’t necessarily involve exploding above the rim with fury. 

Today I take an unprecedented look at 11 non-dunking NBA stars from past and present-day that have still managed to make their mark on the hardcourt—so get ready as I explore these unique stories!


1. Steve Novak, 6’10”, Denver Nuggets

Steve Novak stands out as the tallest NBA player who can’t dunk. At 6 feet 10 inches tall, he was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2006 and has since gone on to play for many teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, Utah Jazz, and Denver Nuggets. 

Novak is known for his talent at shooting three-point shots and making a living off of it. However, despite having an advantage over other players on this list due to his height, he cannot dunk because he lacks athleticism and explosiveness. 

Steve Novak
Steve Novak

He has made up for his inability to dunk with a successful long-range shooting that has made him invaluable in multiple teams throughout his career. His ability to shoot from far distances has brought him some recognition throughout the league, even though he isn’t able to dunk as many other players can.

Even with his remarkable height advantage over the other non-dunking players on this list, Steve Novak can only watch as they posterize their opponents with dunks instead of doing it himself. 

He may never get the chance to feel what it’s like to be able to throw down a highlight reel-worthy slam dunk, but there is no doubt that his skill in the 3-point shooting will keep him relevant in basketball for years to come.

2. Jason Kapono, 6’8”, Orlando Magic

Jason Kapono is an incredibly accomplished NBA player who everyone would expect to dunk due to his impressive height of 6’8”. But an unusual lack of athleticism and explosiveness means he simply can’t.

Kapono was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 and has since played for many teams, including the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Orlando Magic. He has made a place for himself as one of the most reliable 3-point shooters on any team he joins, evidenced by his two straight NBA Three-Point Shootout titles in 2007 and 2008.

Jason Kapono
Jason Kapono

He’s won multiple championships and achieved individual accolades, but Jason Kapono will always be remembered for his unique lack of dunking ability despite being such a towering threat on offense. His skillful shooting has filled that void admirably, earning him a spot on rosters for some of the greatest franchises in basketball history. And yet, it remains an intriguing part of his career that he cannot do something so rarely seen from somebody his size: dunk a basketball.

On top of all this, Kapono will undoubtedly leave behind a long-lasting legacy as one of the most effective 3-point shooters in the history of the NBA, but also someone who couldn’t quite reach the highest heights (literally!) when it came to dunking due to limitations with explosiveness and athleticism.

3. Troy Daniels, 6’4”, Denver Nuggets

Troy Daniels is a 6’4” shooting guard signed by the Houston Rockets in 2013 after an impressive run in college. He had one of the highest 3-point shooting percentages in the NCAA in his senior year, and the Rockets were quick to capitalize on that skill set. Since then, he has also played for teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, and Denver Nuggets.

Though he is considered an excellent 3-point shooter—with career averages of 37% from beyond the arc—his lack of explosiveness and athleticism has hindered him from becoming a complete player. Despite this limitation, he remains valuable for his shooting ability alone; many teams look for a specialist such as himself when searching for players with specific skill sets.

Troy Daniels
Troy Daniels

His defensive ability might not be at the level of other NBA players due to his size, but his offensive prowess and sharpshooting skills are not questioned. Daniels can move without the ball like few others can, making it difficult for defenders to keep up with him. This combination of smarts and skill has worked wonders over his 8-year NBA career thus far—and it looks like it will continue to do so wherever Daniels ends up playing next season.

On top of all this, Daniels’ drive and work ethic have been praised all around the league; while he may not be flashy or highly athletic, he knows how to make things happen on the court through sheer toughness and determination. That kind of skill tends to pay off in big moments—and Daniels proves that through every game he plays.

4. Steve Nash, 6’3”, Los Angeles Lakers

Steve Nash, the 6’3” point guard that the Phoenix Suns drafted in 1996, has had an illustrious basketball career. After his stint with the Suns, he played for teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers. Nash was widely regarded for his unrivaled passing abilities and shooting prowess, which earned him two Most Valuable Player awards during his time in the NBA. However, due to a lack of explosiveness and athleticism, Nash couldn’t perform a signature move: dunking.

Throughout his career, Nash has been known for his leadership and dedication on and off the court. His commitment to mastering the little things, like dribbling around an opposing defender or making passes so accurate they seem impossible, were signs of a star in full bloom. He also invested much of his time in giving back to communities through various charitable foundations and mentorship initiatives.

 Steve Nash
Steve Nash

Steve Nash was an MVP award winner who, despite never being able to dunk like other superstars, revolutionized point guard play for generations. Even though he never quite reached the pinnacle of the sport, his achievements are nothing short of impressive.

 Only time will tell if there will ever be another Steve Nash-type player that can similarly captivate audiences without having any tremendous physical gifts.

5. Ricky Rubio, 6’3”, Minnesota Timberwolves

Ricky Rubio was born in Barcelona, Spain and is 6’3”. He started playing professionally for FC Barcelona when he was 14 years old. In 2009, he was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves and became the first Spaniard to ever play in the NBA.

Rubio has also played for the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns. He has consistently been a reliable leader both offensively and defensively on each of these teams, despite his lack of athleticism or explosiveness that keeps him from dunking.

Ricky Rubio
Ricky Rubio

Though Rubio lacks agility and cannot dunk like some of his peers, he makes up for it with excellent passing skills and a deadly accurate shot. Over the course of his career, he has earned many accolades including being selected to two All-Star Games, four All-NBA Teams, two All-Rookie Teams, an Olympic Gold Medal in 2008, three Euro League MVP awards, and numerous other honors throughout his time as a professional basketball player.

Rubio remains one of the most respected players in the league due to his leadership abilities and impressive basketball IQ. He managed to keep a young Phoenix Suns team competing against more experienced teams this past season without any playoff appearance. Rubio is currently a free agent, but he likely won’t remain one for long due to his perennial reliability on any team he plays for.

6. TJ McConnell, 6’1″, Philadelphia 76ers

TJ McConnell is a 6’1” point guard widely known for his incredible passing ability and obvious aptitude for basketball. He was first signed by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015, he has been nothing short of instrumental in the team’s success. Despite being one of the best passers in the NBA, McConnell suffers from a lack of explosiveness and athleticism that prevents him from getting those highlight-reel slams.

At only 6’1 “, many have wondered how McConnell has made such an impressive impact on the court. This can be attributed to his willingness to work hard, even when faced with physical limitations. His dedication is something that every coach looks for in their players, as it’s difficult to teach someone effort and drive.

 TJ McConnell
TJ McConnell

McConnell’s signing with Philly was pivotal for himself and the franchise. He became an irreplaceable asset when he donned that uniform – a force no one else on the court could match. He ensured each teammate had the ball at their disposal by making sure passes were spot-on, often leading to easy buckets or momentum-building shots for his crew.

His presence skyrocketed even further after playing in all five games during Philly’s historic playoff run in 2019 where they reached game seven against Toronto Raptors—the eventual winners of that year’s championship title. Despite not winning it all last season, there is no doubt TJ McConnell played a huge role in making that run happen, regardless of any lack of dunking ability due to physical limitations.

7. Fred VanVleet, 6’1″, Toronto Raptors

Fred VanVleet is an exceptional NBA player and one of the most important players on the Toronto Raptors roster. Standing at 6’1”, VanVleet first made his mark with the Raptors in 2016 and has since become renowned for his impressive shooting skills.

Despite his height and formidable skill set, VanVleet cannot dunk due to a lack of athleticism and explosive power. His ability to read plays quickly sets him apart from other point guards in the league. Despite this, he still manages to impact games with dazzling passes, smart shots and effective leadership qualities.

Fred VanVleet
Fred VanVleet

VanVleet was undrafted after college but was signed by the Raptors shortly after. After signing with the team, he quickly earned valuable minutes as a backup point guard behind Kyle Lowry. His resilience through the process showcased his ability to compete at a high level in the NBA.

As his presence grew more and more palpable, VanVleet eventually established himself as one of two starting point guards next to Lowry mid-season in 2018-2019 season. This was an incredible feat considering Fred had only been in the league for two full seasons then.

Since then, Fred’s game has continued to develop as he shows stability and confidence within each game. He’s even managed to play alongside Lowry for long stretches without sacrificing too much offensive output or defensive pressure on opposing teams,, which wouldn’t have been possible when he initially joined Toronto in 2016.

8. Patty Mills, 6’1”, San Antonio Spurs

Patty Mills is a household name among basketball fans, especially in the NBA. The 6’1 point guard was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2009, he has moved around the league playing for several teams such as the San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Hornets.

Mills has quite a reputation for himself as an excellent shooter who knows how to make clutch shots. His brilliant performance on the court helped him become integral to the San Antonio Spurs team that won their 4th NBA championship in 2014.

Patty Mills
Patty Mills

Patty Mills might not be able to dunk, but he can still shoot three-pointers easily – something that many other players struggle with even today. However, despite Mills’ immense talent and skills, he cannot dunk due to his lack of explosiveness and athleticism. He can still score from close range but his inability to jump high enough limits him from attempting more daring plays like slams or layups.

When it comes to perimeter shooting, Patty Mills is a true inspiration for any aspiring basketball player out there who wants to make it big in the game. His prowess has earned him a profound place in basketball history, for his on-court accomplishments and off-court activities.

9. D.J Augustin, 5’11”, Orlando Magic

D.J Augustin is proof that size doesn’t always matter in basketball. Originally from Kentucky, this 5’11” point guard was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2012 and has gone on to enjoy a successful NBA career.Originally from Kentucky, this 5’11” point guard was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2012 and has gone on to enjoy a successful NBA career.

Augustin’s tenure with the Bobcats only lasted two seasons before he moved on to Oklahoma City Thunder, where he started to make a name for himself as an excellent shooter. After a one-year stint, he played for the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic, who have benefited from his great shooting ability over the years.

D.J Augustin
D.J Augustin

Despite his lack of explosiveness and athleticism which prevent him from dunking, Augustin has gone on to prove that other aspects of basketball such as accuracy and strategy can be just as effective in achieving excellence in the sport. His impressive career averages of 10 points per game, 4 assists per game, and 37% three-point shooting percentage are all testimony to this fact.

In addition to being an outstanding shooter, Augustin is also very experienced having played in 768 games over 12 different seasons which is even more remarkable considering his height disadvantage. He also holds several records, such as the three-pointers made in a quarter (7).

Overall, D.J Augustin has defied expectations and carved out a successful career despite his smaller stature. Perhaps more importantly, he has shown that size isn’t always a prerequisite for success on the court.

10. J.J Barea, 5’10”, Dallas Mavericks

J.J Barea is a 5’10” point guard who the Dallas Mavericks originally drafted in 2006. Since then, he has gone on to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, and Washington Wizards. Despite his lack of athleticism and explosiveness on the court, Barea can still shoot with the best of them and even win an NBA championship while playing with the Mavs. He is as reliable and consistent a player as in the league today.

His ability to get into spaces defenses struggle to account for makes him very dangerous in key moments. His game-management skills are invaluable and have helped him stay relevant throughout his career despite any physical disadvantages he may have compared to other players. He understands how to control a game’s tempo without overdoing it or forcing situations that could hurt the team’s chances at victory.

J.J Barea
J.J Barea

Barea’s experience in high-pressure situations will surely benefit whatever team he plays for next season. As a veteran player, J.J can provide useful insight that could help younger players develop their games faster without making costly mistakes or missing important details about how to approach certain plays or defend specific opponents effectively.

11. Isaiah Thomas, 5’9″, Washington Wizards

Isaiah Thomas is a 5’9” point guard who defies the traditional basketball mold to become one of the best scoring guards in the history of the NBA.

In 2011, Thomas was drafted by the Sacramento Kings and quickly established himself as an electric scorer with a penchant for taking over games late in the fourth quarter. Over the next six years, he would transition from California to Phoenix, Boston, and eventually Washington, before hanging up his shoes.

Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas

The key trait that had set Thomas apart since his college days at the University of Washington was his ability to score in bunches – something he did consistently despite being undersized for a professional basketball player. Sadly for those who love slam dunks, this scoring prowess didn’t translate into explosiveness or athleticism. He couldn’t play above the rim like many peers did during certain career points.

This hasn’t stopped him from succeeding; however, it just changed what kind of success he could have. Instead of thunderous dunks, Thomas became known for clutch shots. He patented ‘step-back jumpers,’ allowing him to create space between himself and defenders without sacrificing speed or agility.

Isaiah Thomas shows that you can be successful in sports even if you’re not very athletic or tall, as long as you have a lot of determination and heart. He has been successful even after retiring from basketball.

The Importance of Dunks in the NBA

Dunks are one of the most iconic and exciting plays in basketball, and the National Basketball Association is no exception. Dunks have been around since the early days of the NBA and have remained a staple in modern-day basketball due to their flashy and unpredictable nature. Not only do dunks provide a great show for fans, but they are also an important part of a player’s ability to score points.

In today’s game, dunks are much more than just a highlight reel play – they can decide between winning and losing. While three-pointers may be considered a more reliable form of scoring, dunking allows players to instantly gain two or three points with one daring move. It can also create momentum shifts and help build team morale; seeing your star player soar through the air and slam it home can give your team an instant spark.

Dunking also has its own set of technical rules, which must be followed by all players if allowed during regular play. Hanging on the rim, double-clutching, and attempting to draw an offensive foul; when performed correctly, these moves can be incredibly effective for scoring points or forcing turnovers. As such, successful dunkers must have not only raw athleticism but also knowledge of these specific rules.

The importance of dunks in the NBA will never waver; they remain an integral part of basketball today and will continue to do so for years to come. Not only do they look great on highlights shows, but they are also an important source of points for all players involved in any given game.

Minimum Height Requirement For Dunking

Basketball players must be at least 6 feet, 2 inches tall, in order to dunk the ball. This is the minimum height requirement for dunking since a player needs enough elevation for the basketball to reach the hoop without hitting or grazing the rim.

Although some players may have an unusual ability to jump high, most professional basketball players can dunk if they meet this height requirement. That’s because dunking requires a combination of strength and athleticism. A player needs both to get enough momentum out of a jump before releasing the ball and successfully shooting it into the basket.

It’s also important that a player maintain his balance while in midair, as well as have good spatial awareness so he can accurately visualize where his body and arm are in relation to the hoop. All these skills, combined with proper technique, significantly improve one’s chance of succeeding at dunks.

Moreover, according to scientific studies conducted on human muscle structure, 6-foot-2 is considered an ideal height for enthusiastic dunkers in terms of performance efficiency. Any higher than that won’t necessarily give more advantage due to diminishing returns caused by additional stress against the muscle tissues.

Is it Possible to Achieve Success in the NBA Without Dunking

Absolutely. While dunking is a spectacular highlight that could easily make the highlight reels, it is not a requirement for success in the NBA. It is possible to have an impactful and successful career without relying heavily on dunking.

Point guards and small forwards who rely primarily on fast breaks, passing ability, ball-handling, and other skills can be just as successful as post players. Players like Manu Ginobili and Steve Nash are prime examples of this; neither was known for dunking, but both had hall-of-fame careers.

In addition, many non-dunkers have excelled in the league, especially on the defensive side of basketball. In fact, there are numerous lockdown defenders who play defense at a high level with few dunks in their repertoire. For example, Tony Allen and Bruce Bowen were two excellent defenders who relied more on hustle plays than spectacular showtime dunks to make an impact in the game.

Overall, it’s clear that while dunking may help attract attention and bring fans out to games, they are not necessary for having a great career in the NBA.

Players in the Current Era Who Can’t Dunk

No one in the NBA today can be accurately labeled as a “non-dunker”. Every professional basketball player is capable of dunking, though some players don’t attempt dunks very often. This could be due to smaller stature, lack of athleticism, or preference for finesse layups over an aggressive slam dunk.

For example, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving are both skilled ball handlers and excellent scorers, yet neither has been seen dunking much in their careers. This isn’t because they cannot physically complete a dunk—they have done it on occasion—rather, they prefer to keep defenders off-balance by attacking the rim with more subtle fakes and floaters.

When someone mentions current NBA players who may not be able to execute a successful dunk, they are usually talking about players below 6’0″ tall. These players typically need to build momentum and generate extra lift by running toward the basket before attempting a complicated reverse layup rather than throwing down an alley-oop.

However, there have been examples of smaller players like Isaiah Thomas who have shown that size alone doesn’t deem you incapable of completing a powerful two-handed jam. Thomas stands at 5’9” and is known for his jaw-dropping dunks during his tenure with the Boston Celtics.

Final Thoughts

For any basketball player aspiring to reach the highest levels, being able to dunk is almost an essential skill. Some may have a natural affinity for it, while some put in years of hard work and practice to hone their skills. Unfortunately, some players are unable to realize their dreams of playing in the NBA due to a lack of dunking power.

But don’t let that discourage you! Even if you can’t fulfill your initial dream, you can still have fun playing at lower levels and even just as a hobby. With dedication and effort, you might be able to surprise yourself and make that legendary dunk after all! Don’t give up on your dream – start taking action today and you could still fulfill it someday!

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