NBA All-Star Weekend is taking it back to the playground this year, with Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley picking sides for the Rising Stars Challenge — formerly the Rookies vs. Sophomores Game (2000-11) and the Rookie Game (1994-98) — on Thursday, Feb. 16, on NBA TV. The actual game will be played on Friday, Feb. 24, in Orlando.
The Big Aristotle and Sir Charles will have their choice of 18 rookies and sophomores (nine apiece). Unfortunately, barring injury, there will be no Linsanity in the Rising Stars Challenge. New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin had not taken over Google and Twitter prior to the Feb. 8 deadline for all 30 teams to submit their ballot.
MarShon Brooks, G-F, Nets
Kyrie Irving, PG, Cavaliers
Brandon Knight, PG, Pistons
Kawhi Leonard, G-F, Spurs
Markieff Morris, PF, Suns
Ricky Rubio, PG, Timberwolves
Tristan Thompson, F, Cavaliers
Kemba Walker, PG, Bobcats
Derrick Williams, F, Timberwolves
DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kings
Landry Fields, G, Knicks
Paul George, G-F, Pacers
Blake Griffin, PF, Clippers
Gordon Hayward, G-F, Jazz
Greg Monroe, C, Pistons
Tiago Splitter, C, Spurs
Evan Turner, G-F, 76ers
John Wall, PG, Wizards
NBA Rising Stars Challenge Rookie-Sophomore Mock Draft
Rather than Team Shaq and Team Chuck, Athlon Sports’ editors Mitch Light and Nathan Rush decided to do a mock draft. Here are the results of our draft along with a breakdown of Team Light and Team Rush:
1. Blake Griffin, PF, Clippers
Mitch Light: This was like winning the Lottery in 1985, when the Knicks grabbed Patrick Ewing. Griffin was the clear-cut No. 1 pick.
2. John Wall, PG, Wizards
Nathan Rush: The No. 1 overall pick in 2010, Wall was the MVP of the rookie-sophomore game last year, with a record 22 assists in victory.
3. Ricky Rubio, PG, Timberwolves
Light: Who better to throw alley-oops to Blake Griffin than Rubio, who is the best young passing point guard in the NBA.
4. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kings
Rush: Wall’s college teammate at Kentucky had 33 points and 14 rebounds in this game last season, and the volatile big man is primed for a repeat.
5. Greg Monroe, C, Pistons
Light: The second-year product from Georgetown will be a nice complement to Blake Griffin on my front line.
6. Paul George, G-F, Pacers
Rush: An electric open floor dunker who can run with Wall and a 3-point bomber to balance out DMC in the post.
7. MarShon Brooks, G-F, Nets
Light: I needed a scorer on the perimeter, and the Nets’ first-round pick out of Providence has proven that he can put the ball in the basket — when healthy.
8. Kemba Walker, PG, Bobcats
Rush: A slight reach, maybe. But Walker will bring a spark off the bench and can score or create from either guard spot.
9. Evan Turner, G-F, 76ers
Light: I needed a jack-of-all-trades to round out my starting five. Hopefully, Turner can be that guy.
10. Gordon Hayward, G-F, Jazz
Rush: Versatile and unselfish, Jimmy Chitwood has the high basketball IQ and passing skills to thrive in this All-Star environment.
11. Kyrie Irving, PG, Cavaliers
Light: The No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft is scoring at a higher clip than expected (18.0 ppg) and will provide this club with some offensive punch off the bench.
12. Tristan Thompson, PF, Cavaliers
Rush: Someone has to guard Blake Griffin and the Canadian rookie thrives on defense and dirty work — even on All-Star Weekend.
13. Derrick Williams, F, Timberwolves
Light: This hard-working rookie could get the starting assignment for this team if I wanted to go big up front and pair him with Griffin and Monroe.
14. Kawhi Leonard, G-F, Spurs
Rush: Another above the rim athlete to run with Wall and catch alley-oops on fast breaks.
15. Landry Fields, SG, Knicks
Light: Jeremy Lin wasn’t available, so I went with the next smartest New York Knick.
16. Tiago Splitter, C, Spurs
Rush: Brazilian big man is an underrated passer and a solid backup for foul-prone Cousins.
17. Brandon Knight, PG, Pistons
Light: Not bad for a third-string point guard.
18. Markieff Morris, PF, Suns
Rush: Last man standing adds depth in the post.
C – Greg Monroe, Pistons
PF – Blake Griffin, Clippers
SF – Evan Turner, 76ers
SG – MarShon Brooks, Nets
PG – Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves
SF – Derrick Williams, Timberwolves
SG – Landry Fields, Knicks
PG – Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers
PG – Brandon Knight, Pistons
C – DeMarcus Cousins, Kings
PF – Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers
SF – Paul George, Pacers
SG – Gordon Hayward, Jazz
PG – John Wall, Wizards
C – Tiago Splitter, Spurs
PF – Markieff Morris, Suns
SF – Kawhi Leonard, Spurs
PG – Kemba Walker, Bobcats