Suns’ Jones to compete in dunk contest, Booker in skills challenge

PHOENIX — The Suns didn’t get a player named to the Western Conference All-Star team, but they’ll still have a presence during All-Star weekend in New Orleans.

Derrick Jones Jr. on Thursday was selected to compete in the slam dunk contest, while Devin Booker will be one of eight participants in the skills challenge on Feb. 18.

Having played the majority of this season with the Northern Arizona Suns, the Suns’ NBA Development League affiliate, Jones earned a reputation for his dunking prowess with a highlight reel of gravity-defying dunks. Nicknamed “Airplane Mode,” Jones won the last dunk contest he participated in at the 2015 High School Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships in Carmel, Ind.

Jones will become the first player to compete in the NBA Slam Dunk competition and play in the NBA D-League in the same season.

Jones is the seventh Suns player to compete in dunk contest as part of All-Star Saturday Night, joining Larry Nance (1984; 1985), Tim Perry (1989), Kenny Battle (1990), Cedric Ceballos (1992; 1993), Michael Finley (1996) and Amar’e Stoudemire (2003; 2005). Two Suns won the event with Nance taking the crown at the NBA’s first contest in 1984 and Ceballos victorious after a blindfolded jam in 1992.

Booker will be competing against Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Utah’s Gordon Hayward, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas and Washington’s John Wall.

The skills challenge, which tests dribbling, passing, agility and three-point-shooting skills, will feature a head-to-head, bracket-style tournament format for the third year in a row. The four big men will be on one side of the bracket and the remaining four players will be on the other side of the bracket. First-round matchups will be announced at a later date.

Booker is the fifth Suns player to compete in the skills challenge on All-Star Saturday Night, joining Stephon Marbury (2003), Steve Nash (2005; 2006; 2010), Goran Dragic (2014) and Thomas (2015). Nash is a two-time winner of the event, taking the title in 2005 and 2010.