Now that TNT analysts and hardwood legends Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal have amassed their rookie-sophomore fantasy lineups for the Feb. 15, 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, it's time to dissect their selections and determine which side has best prepared itself for success.
For those of you that missed the announcements, here are the lineups for each team (in order of selection). Fellow analyst Kenny Smith drew blindly from the last four players available to fill the final two roster spots on each side.
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), 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) and Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats)
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) and Alexey Shved (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Irving, the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge MVP, miraculously fell to the third pick after Barkley tried to sneak Davis past O'Neal with the second pick. It's likely a costly gaffe given the guard-dominant history of All-Star exhibitions.
While Barkley eventually landed two point guards (Rubio and Knight), he doesn't have an overly enticing draw for his starting floor general.
Rubio's name recognition probably earns him the spot because fans will select the starting lineups for the first time in the event's history. While his pass-first approach would appear to blend with the game's free-flowing style, he's labored through a disastrous, injury-plagued first half of the season.
Not to mention the fact that outside of Beal, Barkley's team lacks the kind of go-to scorers that are overflowing on Team Shaq's roster. Team Chuck does not have a player averaging at least 14 points per game this season; Team Shaq has six players above that mark (Lillard, Irving, K. Thompson, Parsons, Waiters and Walker).
In fact, if each player simply poured in their season scoring average, it would be a 139-114 rout for Team Shaq.
Team Chuck, with a menacing group lining the interior, was built for the long haul, . But this is a one-game exhibition where creativity trumps physicality, where style trumps substance. And, yes, one where Team Shaq trumps Team Chuck.
Regardless of the outcome, the fans packing Houston's Toyota Center will be treated to some of the sport's brightest, most exciting, youthful stars in the NBA.
But don't expect any of those fans to enjoy All-Star Friday night more than Shaquille O'Neal or, in his words, "The Black Bryan Colangelo."