NBA Rising Stars 2013: Who Went Too High, Who Went Too Low?
Both Shaq and Chuck have gotten themselves into hot water (or at least looked a little foolish) in the past for speaking before thinking. Although, O'Neal somehow totally nailed his proclamation that Brook Lopez was a better center than Dwight Howard, and Barkley is often correct in his vehement denouncement of jump-shooting teams.
So maybe they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
That's no fun, though. So in the interest of objective criticism, it's time to go through the members of #TeamShaq and #TeamChuck to determine which players were taken too high, and which ones went too low.
Keep in mind that we're dealing with an exhibition here, and the teams' respective scores figure to get up past 140 points apiece. As such, we're of the opinion that Barkley and O'Neal should have been prizing players who'll give their teams the best chance of winning an up-and-down shootout.
It's time for a little immediate hindsight.
Too Low: Kemba Walker
Selection: Team Shaq's 10th Pick, 19th Overall (Randomly Assigned)
It's a little stunning that Kemba Walker fell to the very last round of the draft. Sure, the guy is toiling on one of the league's worst teams. But he's putting up 17.5 points and 5.6 assists per game as a second-year player.
With defenses focused almost entirely on stopping him (because the Charlotte Bobcats have no other threats), it's pretty amazing that Walker has been so productive.
If there's a silver lining for him, at least he's used to being last. That's where the hapless Bobcats spend most of their time in the standings.
Too High: Kawhi Leonard
Selection: Team Chuck's 3rd Pick, 6th Overall
Somebody should tell Charles Barkley that versatile wing defenders aren't the best options for a run-and-gun game where defense is practically illegal.
Kawhi Leonard is a terrific role player for a great San Antonio Spurs team, but his real value is in his willingness to do the dirty work and lock down opposing scorers. As for his own offense, Leonard is simply not very aggressive and doesn't often look for his own shot.
When he does let it fly, Leonard is actually a very accurate sniper, as his 40 percent accuracy rate from long range attests. But his shots come in very specific areas of the floor in San Antonio's rigid offensive scheme. In other words, improvisation and reckless chucking aren't really in his DNA.
If this game suddenly turns into a slug-fest where both teams score in the 70s, Leonard is a good choice. But since both teams will probably blow past the 70-point mark by halftime, Barkley reached way too early by taking Leonard with his third pick.
Too Low: Ricky Rubio
Selection: Team Chuck's 5th Pick, 10th Overall
In a game like the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, in which both teams are flying up and down the court, you need a floor general with flair. And nobody's got more flair than Spanish Fly.
Ricky Rubio went with the 10th selection in this draft, and that's a shame. Apparently, Barkley and O'Neal weren't all that interested in pairing the league's most dynamic passer with their stables of dunkers and shooters.
This is an exhibition! Don't you want to see full-court, behind-the-back, between-the-legs passes? Come on, guys!
Everybody loves playing with Rubio, and his creativity and downright fun-to-watch style not only make him the most exciting player in this game; they also make him one of the most useful.
You can bet that there'll be plenty of spectacular lobs tossed when these teams meet. Because Rubio is likely to be the one throwing most of them, he deserved to be selected sooner.
Too High: Damian Lillard
Selection: Team Shaq's 1st Pick, 1st Overall
The logic is sound: Damian Lillard is a terrific player for a format like this. He's lightning quick, can shoot it from anywhere and even has some sneaky ups.
But there's no way he deserved to go ahead of Kyrie Irving (and everyone else in the field, for that matter).
O'Neal selected Lillard with the first overall pick, ahead of the aforementioned Irving and No. 1 overall pick (in the real draft) Anthony Davis. We'll give Shaq one thing: He's bold.
Look, there's a perfectly good chance that Lillard plays out of his mind and totally steals the show on All-Star Saturday. But we're just playing the odds here.
On the bright side, maybe this will ignite a career-long feud between Irving and Lillard that forces both to push their games to a new level. These are both prideful guys, so don't discount the subtle knock Lillard's selection might have signaled to Irving.
Too Low: Kyrie Irving
Selection: Team Shaq's 2nd Pick, 3rd Overall
You knew this was coming. How can a guy who was the MVP of last year's game and a participant in the real All-Star Game this season go with any pick other than No. 1?
With per-game averages (23.4 points, 5.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds) that dwarf those of the other guards in the competition, it's practically unfathomable that both Lillard and Davis went ahead of Irving. At the very least, Barkley should have taken advantage of O'Neal's Lillard selection by promptly snatching up Irving to balance out the point guard position.
Instead, Irving fell back to O'Neal, who delightedly paired him with Lillard in his backcourt.