NBA Rising Stars 2013: Complete Player Pool Released

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NBA Rising Stars 2013: Complete Player Pool Released

On the heels of announcing the full rosters for the 2013 All-Star Game last Thursday, the NBA has now named the players who represent the future of the league. According to NBA All-Star Game's official Twitter feed, the league announced the representatives for the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, which will be played on Friday of All-Star Weekend. 

Comprised of the best first-year and second-year players in the league, the Rising Stars Challenge (formerly known as the Rookie-Sophomore Game) has become a yearly fan favorite. For casual fans, it's an opportunity to see the future of the NBA, sometimes for the first time on the national stage.

The rosters are oftentimes an indication of the overall strength of a draft class. Hornets.com writer Jim Eichenhofer pointed out the chasm between selections for the 2011 and 2012 class are this year:

Arguably the most intriguing aspect of the game was introduced just last year. Instead of splitting the teams by the rookie-sophomore distinction, the selections will be drafted fantasy-style by TNT's Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal. Last season, Team Chuck defeated Team Shaq, 146-133, behind 34 points from game MVP Kyrie Irving.

The selections are now set, so it will be interesting to see whether the two NBA legends have learned anything from their first stint as "general managers." With that in mind, let's take a look at the complete player pool for the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge while highlighting the most deserving names along the way. 

 

Game Information

When: Friday, Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. ET

Where: Toyota Center in Houston, TX

Watch: TNT

 

2013 Rising Stars Challenge Player Pool

Rookie Selections
Harrison Barnes (SF, Golden State Warriors)
Bradley Beal (SG, Washington Wizards)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SF, Charlotte Bobcats)

Andre Drummond (C, Detroit Pistons)

Damian Lillard (PG, Portland Trail Blazers)

Alexey Shved (SG, Minnesota Timberwolves)

Dion Waiters (SG, Cleveland Cavaliers)

Tyler Zeller (C, Cleveland Cavaliers)

Anthony Davis (PF, New Orleans Hornets)

 

Sophomore Selections
Kenneth Faried (PF, Denver Nuggets)
Kyrie Irving (PG, Cleveland Cavaliers)
Brandon Knight (PG, Detroit Pistons)

Kawhi Leonard (SF, San Antonio Spurs)

Chandler Parsons (SF, Houston Rockets)

Klay Thompson (SG, Golden State Warriors)

Tristan Thompson (PF, Cleveland Cavaliers)

Kemba Walker (PG, Charlotte Bobcats)

Nikola Vucevic (C, Orlando Magic)

 

Most Deserving Selections

Kyrie Irving (PG, Cleveland Cavaliers)

Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Already selected for the NBA All-Star team, Irving being honored for the Rising Stars Challenge was a mere formality. The Cavaliers point guard's greatness has ascended even further in his second season, as he's averaging 23.9 points, 5.5 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game heading into Wednesday night.

Perhaps more impressively, Irving has continued his dominance in clutch situations. According to NBA.com, Irving is averaging 39.5 points per 36 minutes in "clutch" situations, and has been unrelenting in getting to the charity stripe. 

With Rajon Rondo now out for the season due to an ACL tear, Irving may well have taken over the throne as the Eastern Conference's best point guard. He's a hard-nosed leader, one of the most cold-blooded shooters in the league and has improved greatly as a passer. 

Irving definitely has a ton of work to do defensively. He's a pretty lax on-ball defender, and the Cavs try to keep him on weaker offensive players as much as possible due to his responsibilities on the other end. That ultimately helps create inflated steal totals, as he's able to cheat and play the passing lanes. 

Nevertheless, it's hard to quibble with Irving's development. His defense will get better with more experience, and he's already a superstar on the offensive end. Once the remainder of Cleveland's young core develops, this will be a dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.

With Irving's ability to dominate the hardwood in exhibitions made readily apparent in last year's Rising Stars game, it will be interesting to see what he does for an encore. 

 

Damian Lillard (PG, Portland Trail Blazers)

Harry How/Getty Images

If Irving is the face of a new generation of NBA point guards, Lillard isn't all that far behind. The Blazers rookie has been a star from almost the moment he set foot on an NBA floor, and would likely win the Rookie of the Year award if the vote was held on Wednesday.

As part of a minutes-heavy Portland starting lineup, Lillard has emerged as the team's offensive catalyst. He's averaging 18.1 points and 6.1 assists per game, both of which lead all rookies, and has been critical toward keeping the Blazers afloat.

According to NBA.com, Portland is 12.5 points per 100 possessions worse offensively when Lillard is off the floor. That number is certainly affected by the Blazers' documented weak bench, but it is more indicative of Lillard's ability to create shots for himself and teammates. 

Where Lillard fails, like Irving and many other young guards, is on the defensive end. He gets beat off the dribble way too often for someone with his quickness, and the Blazers are over two points better per 100 possessions with him off the floor, per NBA.com.

Considering Portland's backup point guards are Nolan Smith and Ronnie Price, that figure is underselling Lillard's defensive deficiencies

Luckily, defense is mostly frowned upon in exhibition settings. Look for Lillard to shine in the Rising Stars game, as his innate combination of shot-making and creating leaps to the forefront in Houston.


Anthony Davis (PF, New Orleans Hornets)

USA TODAY Sports

While his first NBA season hasn't been what many in New Orleans expected, Davis would likely be higher in the ROY conversation had it not been for injury. The former Kentucky star has battled a multitude of ailments this season, which have caused him to miss 13 games and see more limited minutes than what the Hornets would prefer.

Nevertheless, when he has been on the floor, Davis has shown flashes of future All-Star capabilities. His per 36-minute stats (16.2 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 1.5 SPG) read like a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and his 20.98 PER ranks 21st overall, which is second-best among rookies behind Andre Drummond.

It hasn't been all roses when Davis has been on the floor, though. The Hornets are actually 5.6 points per 100 possessions better when Davis is on the bench, per NBA.com, and he has been a surprising detriment defensively. Davis still seems extremely raw on defensive rotations, especially on the pick-and-roll, which has rendered New Orleans unable to find a workable rotation with him and Ryan Anderson.

Those are all things that can be worked out over time. Davis has improved as the season has gone along, and will continue to do so once the injury problems are finally on the back burner.

With athletic ability always playing a huge factor in exhibition settings, Davis should have a few highlight-reel moments that force his contemporaries to be put on notice.  

 

Klay Thompson (SG, Golden State Warriors)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a season-long process, but it seems like Thompson is finally turning into the dead-eye scorer that had some predicting a Most Improved Player award for him during the preseason.

Thompson's second NBA season started out like a mess waiting to happen. Though he averaged 15.4 points in November, they were mostly empty and inefficient baskets. Thompson shot only 38.6 percent, including a paltry 29.3 rate from beyond the arc, in the season's first full month, which led some to wonder whether his strong play late last year was a bit of an aberration.

Well, Thompson has pretty much soothed all of those fears. His shooting percentage has increased precipitously over the course of the season, with January serving as his true breakout month. The former Washington State star is averaging 18.1 points per game in the 2013 calendar year, while knocking down 44 percent of his shots—a fantastic rate considering nearly half of his looks come beyond the three-point stripe. 

He's not what anyone would consider a plus defender—Golden State is allowing nearly five fewer points per 100 possessions when he's on the bench, per NBA.com—but Thompson more than makes up for that offensively. 

With the Warriors emerging as one of the NBA's biggest surprises of the season, it's time for Thompson to get recognition alongside Steph Curry and David Lee for the vast improvement.

 

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