Predicting Rising Stars Challenge Rosters
The Rising Stars Challenge in its varying forms over the years has always been a must-see piece of NBA All-Star Weekend, matching the top rookies and the match sophomores in a game for bragging rights. This year the NBA is mixing it up a bit.
The league will still choose the top nine players from each of the two classes, but instead of Rookies versus Sophomores the league will allow TNT personalities to choose the teams regardless of class.
With the starters for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game announced Thursday evening and the reserves soon to follow, it’s time to take a stab at who the top nine players should be for each class.
We could just take the top nine players from the weekly Rookie Watch, but that’s not exactly the best idea because in this week’s rankings five of them were point guards. So who makes the cut?
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves – Rubio is fourth in the entire league in assists per game at 8.7, plus brings an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.78:1, better than Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams and Derrick Rose.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers – Irving was the top pick in the draft and leads the class in scoring and field-goal shooting, as well as placing second in assists and efficiency.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats – Walker is fourth in the rookie class in scoring and third in assists. In a game like this he should be explosive.
Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons – Knight is third in the class in scoring and kept his starting spot in Detroit even with the return from injury by Rodney Stuckey. Like Walker, the style of this game should fit him nicely.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers – The most athletic big man in the class, Thompson has shown he can be efficient, rebound, and will form a nice future duo with Irving.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs – One of the few rookies starting and contributing on a playoff team, Leonard is filling in wherever the Spurs need him and helping them win games.
MarShon Brooks, New Jersey Nets – Brooks may be the best pure scorer in this class. If healthy, he deserves to be on this team.
Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves – Williams isn’t quite as integral to the Wolves as Rubio and has to compete for minutes with Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson and Anthony Randolph, but as the second pick in the draft who has had some good games he’ll likely be on the roster.
Nicola Vucevic, Philadelphia 76ers – The only center who deserves to be on this team, Vucevic stepped in for the injured Spencer Hawes and played very well before going down himself.
Just Missed: Iman Shumpert (New York Knicks), Norris Cole (Miami HEAT), Ivan Johnson (Atlanta Hawks), Chandler Parsons (Houston Rockets), Jimmer Fredette (Sacramento Kings)
Like the rookie class, the Sophomores are top heavy when it comes to contributors. Where the rookies lack in size, though, this class more than makes up for it.
Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers – This needs no justification.
John Wall, Washington Wizards – Far and away the best point guard of his class, the 2010 number one overall pick is explosive and exciting.
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons – Monroe deserves to be in this game and is a centerpiece for the future of the Pistons, but he may end up being left a little behind by the typical pace.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings – Attitude issues aside, Cousins leads the class in double-doubles and is second – barely – in rebounding.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers – George is fifth in the class in scoring, leads it in three-point shooting, and is a key member of the resurgent Pacers.
Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers – Turner hasn’t gotten a lot of attention this season, but is fifth in the class in rebounding, seventh in scoring, and a key bench piece on a Philadelphia team shocking a lot of people.
Jordan Crawford, Washington Wizards – The over/under on how many three-pointers Crawford would take in this game should be set at 15. Take the over.
Landry Fields, New York Knicks – Fields is not spectacular, but he’s a solid defender and may be the most intelligent player in the class. He’s tied with Griffin for most games started in the class.
Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz – Favors has yet to find real consistency, but he gobbles up rebounds and has shown the ability to finish around the hoop.
Just Missed: Jonas Jerebko (Detroit Pistons), Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs), Greivis Vasquez (New Orleans Hornets), Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz), Ed Davis (Toronto Raptors), Gary Neal (San Antonio Spurs)
Given those two rosters, how would a draft of those 18 players go down? Here’s one opinion.
1 – Griffin
2 – Rubio
3 – Irving
4 – Wall
5 – Cousins
6 – Favors
7 – Thompson
8 – George
9 – Williams
10 – Turner
11 – Walker
12 – Crawford
13 – Knight
14 – Brooks
15 – Fields
16 – Leonard
17 – Vucevic
18 – Monroe
Which gives you these two teams:
PG – Irving/Knight
SG – Walker/Fields
SF – Williams
PF – Griffin/Thompson
C – Cousins/Vucevic
PG – Rubio/Wall
SG – Crawford/Brooks
SF – Turner/George
PF – Favors/Leonard
C – Monroe
Team A definitely has a size advantage, but Team B should be able to hold their own. Who would pay money to see a Rubio/Wall backcourt?
This new idea of shuffling up the Rookies and Sophomores has the potential to give us the best version of the game yet. All-Star 2012 is looking up.
Who would you put on the team? Who would you take off? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! Follow Jason Fleming on Twitter @jfleminghoops and hit up his weekly chat Monday at 8pm Eastern.