The NBA Rising Stars Challenge is one of the most exciting games of NBA All-Star Weekend. It lets die-hard NBA fans see the future superstars of the game at a young age.
Unfortunately, the Rising Stars Challenge does not always do the best job in picking the best rookies and sophomores that are available for the game. The game is typically always filled with first-round picks and it seems some players are picked based on name rather than their on-court performance.
This season Landry Fields and Jeremy Lin are the only two non first-round picks to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge.
In this slideshow I am going to point out three rookies and three sophomores who should have been invited to All-Star Weekend.
Who He Replaces: Tristan Thompson (Cle)
Any type of All-Star game would be perfect for a player like Faried. This 6'8" rookie can absolutely fly, and he may become the best dunker in his draft class.
His ability to throw down is not the only reason that he should be included in the Rising Stars Challenge. Through the first half of the season, Faried leads all rookies in PER (22.54), true shooting percentage (59.9) and rebound rate (21.2 percent).
Looking at those stats alone it is easy to see that Kenneth is much more deserving of a roster spot than fellow rookie Tristan Thompson. Thompson's PER is a below average 13.49 and his true shooting percentage is a low 44.1.
Who He Replaces: Norris Cole (Mia)
Norris Cole burst on to the national scene early this season when he scored 20 points in a 115-107 win against the Boston Celtics. Since then he has been very inconsistent and that shows with his low 11.21 PER.
The more deserving rookie for this spot would be Isaiah Thomas, who is solidifying himself as the point guard of the future for the Sacramento Kings. Thomas has a PER of 16.85, which is second best for any rookie point guard behind only Kyrie Irving.
Thomas has really come on as of late, averaging 11.7 points and 4.1 assists per game since the beginning of February. He even recorded his first career point-assist double-double in a Feb. 19 game against Cleveland with 23 points and 11 assists.
Who He Replaces: Derrick Williams (Min)
Derrick Williams is in the game only because he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He has been searching for consistent playing time on a much improved Minnesota Timberwolves team.
He may eventually turn into a superstar, but his 18.4 minutes, 7.1 points and 4.1 boards per game averages are not worthy of him being in this game.
Gustavo Ayon, on the other hand, is emerging as a quality starter at center for the rebuilding New Orleans Hornets. Since the beginning of February he has averaged 7.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. This has given Ayon a PER of 19.72, which is third among all rookies, and a rebound percentage of 16.4 which is fourth.
Ayon is relatively unknown outside of New Orleans, but this undrafted rookie has undoubtedly outperformed Williams and deserves to be in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Who He Replaces: Derrick Favors (Utah)
Nikola Pekovic has had an outstanding turnaround this year from last year. His PER of 22.38 is good enough for 21st in the whole NBA, making him a potential candidate to receive the Most Improved Player Award.
Much of that can be credited to his outstanding performance in the month of February, averaging 17.2 points and 10.4 boards per game.
Pek has turned himself into the future at the center position for the T-Wolves with his nine double-doubles in his last 16 games. Those nine double-doubles tie him with perennial all-stars Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh.
Derrick Favors is still developing and trying to make his mark in his second season with the Utah Jazz. This season he is only averaging 8.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Those numbers do not even compare to Pekovic's performance this season.
Who He Replaces: Evan Turner (Phi)
Just like Derrick Williams for the rookies, Evan Turner was a No. 2 overall pick. Also like Williams, he does not deserve to play in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Evan Turner has been nothing close to a star. He has a below average PER (13.17), hardly scores (8.2 PPG) and has been shooting terribly (35.3 percent in February).
Jerebko is a much more deserving player to be in this game because he has been more efficient and is improving as the season goes on rather than regressing.
Jonas has a PER of 15.06 and is averaging 9.5 points on the season. He has been improving in the month of February, averaging 10.1 points per game and shooting a respectable 46.0 percent.
Who He Replaces: Gordon Hayward (Utah)
It took Vasquez a while before he could get consistent minutes with the Hornets this season, but once he was inserted into the lineup he blew up.
In the 10 games that Vasquez has started he has averaged 12.6 points and 7.2 assists per game. He has also gotten his first three double-doubles of his young career in those games. This has led to him becoming the point guard of the future for the young Hornets team.
So far this season Hayward has started in all 32 games that he has played in. Despite that he has put some unspectacular numbers. He is only averaging 9.4 points and 3.2 assists per game.
He is still young and could potentially progress into something special, but right now he has not played to the level Vasquez has and should not have been selected for the Rising Stars Challenge.