Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 2/9/12

The 2012 NBA All-Star weekend will have a slightly different look this season.

Gone are the days of the rookie-sophomore challenge. The game that took place on either Friday night or Saturday afternoon of All-Star weekend which pitted the best rookies versus the best second-year players in the NBA.

The new format is very similar to the NHL All-Star roster selection process.

This year, the game will still feature the best rookies and the best sophomores, but they will be intertwined within two separate rosters. TNT’s Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’neal will serve as the two general managers who will select both rookies and second-year players from a draft pool of 18.

While the game tends to be an after thought of the festivities that consist of All-Star weekend, it is one of my favorite aspects of the NBA season as a whole.

To honor this new-look wrinkle to All-Star weekend, I decided to put together a mock draft for the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge.

(NOTE: The fact that– as a Timberwolves blogger– one of my highlights of the NBA season has been the rookie-sophomore game, speaks volumes to the futility that the Minnesota Timberwolves have shown over the past seven years.)

Instead of compiling the mock draft alone, I contacted by buddy Eren– who is also a NBA enthusiast– to join me in creating the mock draft.

Long story short, we were texting each other to decide if Timberwolves’ center Nikola Pekovic was snubbed from the Rising Stars Challenge. Naturally, we both thought he deserved the spot in the game, but I was less bitter than my mock draft partner.

Without further adieu, here is our text messaging mock draft for the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge.

Brett: Eren, welcome to the first ever Rising Stars Challenge mock draft. Naturally, as this is my blog, I’ll take the first pick.

Eren: Glad to be here. And I wouldn’t have expected it any other way. I’ll be fake Shaq and you’ll be fake Barkley?

Brett: Sounds good. It’s a one player draft. After that it drops off with a wealth of nice players, but no one of Griffin’s caliber. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers.

Griffin’s stats: 20.7  points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, 54.3 effective field-goal percentage, +3 offensive rating vs. defensive rating, 22.6 player efficiency rating (PER), and Blake was voted in as an All-Star starter for the Western Conference.

Eren: I will now be drafting as actor who’s defining role was Kazzam. My magical boombox selects Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves. No brainer it’s an ALL-STAR GAME! I feel bad separating him from Griffin, though.

Rubio’s stats: 11.2 points per game, 9.1 assists per game, 2.4 steals per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, +5 offensive rating vs. defensive rating, and a 17.2 PER.

Brett: With my second pick I will select, from Montenegro, Nikola… Wait, WHAT?! Pek isn’t in the game. FINE! … Flip Saunders’ former point guard, John Wall, Washington Wizards. Griffin and Wall, will there be enough shots to go around? Time will tell…

Wall’s stats: 16 points per game, 7.1 assists per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, 16.7 PER, and one fired coach.

Eren: With Team Kazaam’s second pick, I select Kyrie Irving Cleveland Cavaliers… Two straight point guards? “GOOD GOD THAT’S DAVID KAHN’S MUSIC!!” Two best rookies in the game versus the two best sophomores so far.

Irving’s stats: 18.0 points per game, 5.1 assists per game, 3.5 rebounds per game, 53.3 effective shooting percentage, and a 21.6 PER.

Brett: “And here comes Barkley to draft again. Wait is… Is that Nikola Pekovic’s music?! IT IS! He’s coming to the stage with a steel chair and demanding he be picked. Oh the insanity!” … With my third pick I select Paul George, Indiana Pacers. Or as he’s known in Minnesota, “the player who Wes Johnson is supposed to be.”

George’s stats: 12.5 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, 45.8 three-point percentage, 56.8 effective shooting percentage, 16.9 PER, and a +16 offensive rating vs. defensive rating.

Eren: George would’ve fit in great on the wing of Team Kazaam. My team is too normal right now; we need some crazy. “We want Cousins! We want Cousins!” DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. They should wheel him into the game hannibal lector style.

Cousins stats: 15.3 points per game, 11.5 rebounds per game, 20.5 PER, and one fired coach.

Brett: Cousins is just crazy enough to show up two minutes before the tip, and just crazy enough to kick my team’s power forward in the face while he lies helpless on the ground.

My heart tells me to tap into my inner Kemboner, but my brain says that I need a post. Ah, screw it. I made a pact in life I would always reach for Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats) in any draft. So without further adieu…

Walker’s stats: 12.4 points per game, 3.5 assists per game, 4.1 rebounds per game. That’s really it. In reality, there is no other positive stats.

Eren: This NBA season has been great because I hadn’t heard you mention “kemboner” yet.

Brett: PS this is the most fun I’ve had in a Starbucks since the Sonics were stolen.

Eren: Haha, name of the article right there… Back to the draft, Brett.

Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons) is no longer on the board, but now Team Kazaam has to be on mutiny alert.

Monroe’s stats: 16.3 points per game, 9.9 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists per game, 56.9 true shooting percentage, and a 23.5 PER.

Brett: Steal of the draft. Monroe was next on my board. I’m handcuffed in the post, you know, if these teams ran any semblance of an offense in the Rising Stars Challenge.

I need a role guy. Call it a stretch, but I’m going Landry Fields, New York Knicks. If he can play with Carmelo Anthony, he can play with anyone.

Fields’ stats: 9.7 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 3.0 assists per game, 1.6 steals per game, and a  53.3 effective field-goal percentage.

Eren: Is it possible for Fields to bring a plus-one and bring Jeremy Lin to the game?

Brett: No, because then I’d have to allow Rubio to get a plus-one which would net your team Pekovic. No deal!

Eren: I’m opening the lion cage and UNLEASHING Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves. Hopefully his conditioning is up to snuff for this event.

Williams’ stats: 7.6 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game, just 18.3 minutes per game, and one tweet referring himself to a caged lion.

Brett: Emotional pick. Give me a second. Dreams of Kemba and D-Will on my same team. Tear… You can’t under estimate the value that Williams and Rubio will have playing together.

I need someone with enormous hands. Oh, hello, Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs.

Leonard’s stats: 7.1 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game. That’s really it, he is a nice complaint to Tony Parker, Richard Jefferson, and Tim Duncan.

Eren: The Morris twins are telling me I need to take both of them, but only one is eligible. This is awkward.

Guess I’ll go with Evan Turner. I’ve got nothing funny to say about him. He’s just a good basketball player.

Turner’s stats: 9.7 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game, and a +5 offensive rating vs. defensive rating.

Brett: Speaking of the Morris twins, I think I’ll dabble. While I may unknowingly be drafting Marcus, my pick is Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns.

Why don’t you remind me of your Morris twin conspiracy.

Morris’ stats: 7.2 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, and a significantly brighter beginning of his career than that of his twin brother, Marcus Morris.

Eren: Markieff went 13th to Phoenix, and Marcus followed by going 14th to Houston. What if the twins came to a realization that Marcus was actually better suited to play with Steve Nash, and as a result they used their twin ability to switch and have Marcus play as Markieff? It’s possible.

But really, what if they decided to make their life a 10-million dollar grossing Disney movie where they decided they didn’t like the teams they were drafted by and decided to switch teams.

As my time ticks away… I’ll go Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz, and hope this game doesn’t come down to a half-court shot.

Hayward’s stats: 9.8 points per game, 41.2 three-point percentage, and oddly representing the Jazz in the Rising Stars Challenge over Derrick Favors.

Brett: Love it! I’m in. Can I pre-order my tickets?

I don’t know how this guy fell this far. Oh wait, yes I do. He’s on the Nets. Everyone hates them. You know, because of that one guy. What’s his name? You know. He married that one girl. It was on TV… Hmm, on the tip of my tongue.

Anyways my selection is MarShon Brooks, New Jersey Nets.

Brooks’ stats: 14.8 points per game, 35.2 three-point percentage, 50.5 effective field-goal percentage, and a PER of 18.4.

Eren: I love how his name randomly has a capital “S” four letters in. I wouldn’t even blink if someone told me the actual spelling was Mar$hon.

Brett: Can we do that? EreN and BreTt.

Eren: Could be a good look. Next time I type my number in a girl’s phone I’m doing that. She will probably then proceed to not text me.

Brett: You do realize you have to meet a girl that wants you to put her number in her phone in order for you to spell it “EreN”?

Eren: On that note… San Antonio Spur Tiago Splitter will be playing on Team Kazaam. I’m sure some commentator during the game will ask the question, “do you think Rubio and Tiago talk Spanish on the court?”

Even though Tiago is from Brazil and people there speak Portuguese, not Spanish.

Splitter’s stats: 27 years old. So what if he is averaging 9.2 points? The guy is 27 years old! Rising Stars Challenge, what?

Brett: My final pick will be Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers. It would be game over if you had the Rubio-Williams and the Irving-Thompson connection.

Now, it is your honor to select Mr. Irrelevant…

Thompson’s stats: 7.2 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Eren: This allows me to take Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons. YOUR GOING TO LOVE BRANDON KNIGHT. He has a great smile, he’s going to be a good player in this league for many years. If any team can have three point guards it’s us. #DavidKahn

Knight’s stats: 12.5 points per game, 3.9 assists per game, and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Let’s see if Charles and Shaq can have half the amount fun on their drafting of the first ever Rising Stars Challenge on Thursday February 16th.

-Brett Cloutier

Brett is a contributor to The Sports Bank. He covers all things Minnesota sports. Brett is also the co-host of ‘The Backdoor Cut’ on KFAN.com. You can follow Brett on Twitter @brettcloutier




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