NBA All-Star Weekend 2012: Early Rising Stars Challenge Mock Draft
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For the first time ever, the NBA's annual showcase of rookies and sophomores during All-Star Weekend will not pit the two parties against each other. Instead, two teams will be drafted from a group of 18 rookies and sophomores (nine rookies, nine sophomores), which was decided through a poll of NBA assistant coaches.
The newly-created BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft, which will air live on NBA TV on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. EST, will feature TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal drafting players for their own teams, TEAM CHUCK and TEAM SHAQ.
This is sure to be an exciting draft. While it doesn't carry nearly as much magnitude as the NBA draft does, the colorful personalities of Chuck and Shaq (and the inevitable questionable picks the two will make) will make this a very interesting watch.
However, how will the draft pan out? It's pretty clear who will be selected first, even if the owner of that pick has yet to be determined. The rest of the draft, though, could be a little more interesting, especially given the sometimes different, for lack of a better word, opinions of Chuck and Shaq.
Here's my quick mock draft:
First Pick, Team A: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
No surprise here. Griffin, the starting power forward for the West All-Stars, has shown world-class potential and has already accomplished a lot over his young career. Nobody else in the draft matches up to him in terms of talent or athleticism, and whoever snags Griffin will almost definitely be the favorite to win the game.
Team A: Blake Griffin
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Second Pick, Team B: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
In the early stages of this season, Kyrie Irving has separated himself from the rest of his fellow rookies. Nobody else has stepped up to be the best player on his team quite like Irving has. He's the future of the Cavaliers, and with his ability to score as well as create plays, he'll be a good condolence prize for whoever misses out on Griffin.
Team B: Kyrie Irving
Third Pick, Team A: Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Surprisingly enough, the rookie Rubio has been quietly debated as an All-Star this year. While that's highly unlikely to happen, the Spaniard has clearly proved the doubters wrong. Pairing him with Griffin in a game where not a lot of defense is expected is sure to result in a lot of points and a lot of highlights.
Team A: Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio
Fourth Pick, Team B John Wall, Washington Wizards
Though he's been slumping this year, we all still know the first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft has some serious game. In last year's T-Mobile Rookie Challenge, Wall was named the MVP after putting up a record 22 assists—five more than the previous titleholder, a guy named Chris Paul. His incredible speed and athleticism will be invaluable as well, given the relaxed atmosphere of the game. Together, Wall and Irving would combine to be a very dynamic and dominant backcourt.
Team B: Kyrie Irving, John Wall
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Fifth Pick, Team A: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
For all his maturity issues, Cousins has proven to be a dominant big man in the paint. He'll be an excellent player to put beside Griffin on the front line, banging in the paint when Griffin is hanging around the mid-range area or vice versa. Like Griffin, Cousins has a nice mid-range shot for a big man. In fact, Cousins is probably the more consistent shooter of the two. He'll draw attention from Griffin and will likely score 20-25 points of his own.
Team A: Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins
Sixth Pick, Team B: Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
With two guards and no bigs, this team desperately needs someone to hold down the paint against Griffin and Cousins. They would be crazy to skip out on Monroe, who can be a very dominant big man himself. Monroe isn't as heralded as Griffin or Cousins (nor as talented), but he can put up good scoring and rebounding numbers as well as annoy Griffin and Cousins defensively.
Team B: Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Greg Monroe
Seventh Pick, Team A: Paul George, Indiana Pacers
George has come out of the gates running this season, playing the best basketball of his career right now. The athletic swingman has incredible scoring potential and will offer his team a much-needed perimeter presence. He is also a great player to complement Rubio, as he can throw down some nasty dunks if given the opportunity.
Team A: Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George
Eighth Pick, Team B: MarShon Brooks, New Jersey Nets
The closest thing to a small forward worth taking at this point in the draft, Brooks is a pure scorer. With Irving and Wall likely to see a lot of defensive attention, Brooks should be able to get himself a lot of open shots and produce nicely for his team at the three-point line.
Team B: Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Greg Monroe, MarShon Brooks
Ninth Pick, Team A: Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
In a guard-heavy draft, Kemba might slip a little. However, he's obviously a talented player, one capable of triple-doubling (as he has already done once this season). Since Rubio isn't much of a scorer himself, Walker will give his team a couple points out of the backcourt. Actually, Walker might be able to put up a lot of points, but we'll see what happens.
Team A: Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Kemba Walker
10th Pick, Team B: Tiago Splitter, San Antonio Spurs
This pick may be a little bit of a reach, but Splitter gives his team a big body to fill up the paint. Given their makeup, the opposing team will definitely make the paint their preferred scoring location. Throwing the tough Tiago Splitter in there could make things a bit harder for the opposing team. His banger-style game is a good complement to Monroe, who's a little quicker on his feet.
Team B: Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Greg Monroe, MarShon Brooks, Tiago Splitter
11th Pick, Team A: Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers
Team A has a lot of options here, but Turner is probably the guy they'll go with. He has been considered a bust since being drafted second in the 2010 NBA Draft and failing to meet the expectations that accompany that selection, but he should do just fine for his team as a defensive stopper against the likes of Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Kemba Walker. Turner should also throw in a few points from the perimeter as well.
Team A: Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Kemba Walker, Evan Turner
12th Pick, Team B: Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves
The No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft should go right about here as well. He hasn't performed too well either, but Derrick Williams would be a good player to have backing up both forward positions for his team. Though it's a little sad to split up Rubio and Williams, who have already hooked up for highlights at the rim many times this season, Williams should get his dunks all the same through Kyrie Irving and John Wall. Obviously, Rubio will be just fine too, with Blake Griffin.
Team B: Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Greg Monroe, MarShon Brooks, Tiago Splitter, Derrick Williams
13th Pick, Team A: Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
As good as Griffin and Cousins are, they still need some bench relief. Thompson is very raw offensively but gives them an extremely athletic and extremely talented shot-blocking presence defensively. Also, he's not a bad dunker himself, so there's some potential here for Rubio (I just couldn't resist pointing this out).
Team A: Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Kemba Walker, Evan Turner, Tristan Thompson
14th Pick, Team B: Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns
Morris is a much better shooter than any other big man in this draft, making him a little more interesting. He'll be a good fit with playmakers like Wall and Irving and will be a very good option for the team if they decide to play an up-tempo or small ball lineup.
Team B: Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Greg Monroe, MarShon Brooks, Tiago Splitter, Derrick Williams, Markieff Morris
15th Pick, Team A: Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons
He's better than some of the other guys selected over him, but given the depth of point guard talent in this draft, Brandon Knight probably won't be selected until pretty late in the draft. Still, he gives his team a backup point guard, one who can create scoring chances for either himself or his teammates.
Team A: Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Kemba Walker, Evan Turner, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight
16th Pick, Team B: Landry Fields, New York Knicks
Fields has struggled a bit this season, like almost every other Knick, but he'll be a good player to add to this team. Fields doesn't have a really flashy game, but he'll give his team some backcourt size and an offensive player capable of spot-up shooting as well as driving the lane.
Team B: Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Greg Monroe, MarShon Brooks, Tiago Splitter, Derrick Williams, Markieff Morris, Landry Fields
17th Pick, Team A: Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
A smart player with a good outside shot, Hayward will be a nice complementary piece to add to this team. He'll space the floor and, at times, help initiate the offense as an intelligent playmaker at the wing position.
Team A: Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Kemba Walker, Evan Turner, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Gordon Hayward
18th Pick (Team B): Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
With a very versatile game, Leonard offers a bit of everything. He has been very inconsistent this season, but with the last pick in the draft, getting a guy who can do a little bit of everything is pretty good for this team, especially given their makeup.
Team B: Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Greg Monroe, MarShon Brooks, Tiago Splitter, Derrick Williams, Markieff Morris, Landry Fields, Kawhi Leonard
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