The NBA’s best first- and second-year players will face off tonight in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, which has the distinction of being the only NBA game to feature less defense than the All-Star Game (and a handful of Sacramento Kings games).
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving, MVP of last year’s Rising Stars Challenge, headlines this year’s event. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America)
For the second consecutive year, TNT analysts and NBA legends Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal drafted the two ten-man rosters for the Rising Stars. Team Shaq features All-Star Kyrie Irving and Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard. Team Chuck includes dynamic big men Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis.
Here’s a look at the TV info and rosters, along with a prediction:
BBVA NBA All-Star Rising Stars Challenge Info
Start Time: Tonight, Friday February 15; 9:00 Eastern, 8:00 Central
Location: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
Team Shaq Roster
Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers)
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Andrew Nicholson (Orlando Magic)
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors)
Chandler Parsons (Houston Rockets)
Dion Waiters (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Bobcats)
Tyler Zeller (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats)
Andre Drummond (Detroit)
Team Chuck Roster
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets)
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic)
Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons)
Isaiah Thomas (Sacramento Kings)
Alexey Shved (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Team Shaq ended up with the two best players in the game, Irving and Lillard. Shaq drafted first, taking point guard Lillard. Barkley—assuming that Shaq wouldn’t take Irving, another point guard, with his second pick—took Davis, hoping that Irving would fall to him in the second round. Shaq went ahead and drafted Irving anyway, and Chuck ended up with neither of the premier point guards.
That said, I like Team Chuck. Irving, who will play in the All-Star Game Sunday night, likely will see limited minutes, and Team Shaq’s most reliable big, Andre Drummond, is out with a stress fracture of the fifth lumbar vertebra in his back.
Though we won’t see much defense tonight, the defense we do see will come mostly from Team Chuck’s inside tandem of Davis and Faried. They’ll also get plenty of offense down low, from Tristan Thompson (who scored 20 in last year’s game) and Nikola Vucevic.
Team Chuck point guard Ricky Rubio is probably better suited for this type of game than he is for a real NBA game, so the team won’t suffer too much for not having Lillard or Irving. And while Team Shaq has the best pure shooter in Klay Thompson, I expect Team Chuck to get a lot of outside production from shooting guards Kawhi Leonard and Bradley Beal.
My pick: Team Chuck 144; Team Shaq 137. But I’ll take Lillard to win the MVP in a losing effort, with something like 24 points and 10 assists.
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