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NBA Rising Stars Challenge 2013: Dangerous Shooters Who Will Challenge for MVP

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 05:  Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates a three point shot in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on November 5, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Cavaliers defeated the Clippers 108-101.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2013

We don't know much about how this weekend's Rising Stars Challenge will play out. Among the things we can confidently predict are a lot of points on the scoreboard, a lot of memorable guffaws from Shaquille O'Neal and a perimeter player hoisting the MVP trophy.

Don't think that last one is a guarantee? Check out the list of recent rookie-sophomore MVPs:

Year MVP Stats
2012 Kyrie Irving 34 points, 9 assists, 8 three-pointers
2011 John Wall 12 points, 22 assists
2010 Tyreke Evans 26 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
2009 Kevin Durant 46 points, 17-25 shooting
2008 Daniel Gibson 33 points, 11-20 three-pointers

 

Other than Wall, who dished out a record 22 assists, the last five MVPs have all been perimeter guys who won the award primarily because of expert shooting nights.

With that in mind, here are three guys who should be considered front-runners for this year's honors.

 

Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

This one goes without saying, right?

Irving won MVP honors as a rookie last year, knocking down eight three-pointers (second-most of all time) in the process. Now he's back to defend his crown.

Though he was the runaway choice for Rookie of the Year last season, Irving has taken his game to incredible new heights in 2012-13. That's especially true from deep, where his 43 percent clip ranks 11th in the league.

After getting shredded by Irving last season, head coach Shaquille O'Neal will surely look to return the favor to opposing bench boss Charles Barkley by routinely using his point guard.

Once you get Kyrie in the spotlight, you never know what he's capable of doing.

 

Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State Warriors

Teammate Steph Curry is the one who'll be shooting in Saturday's three-point contest. Honestly, you'd have to be crazy to find any fault with that selection.

An argument could be made, though, that Curry's not even the best shooter on his own team.

In reality, he probably is, but Klay Thompson makes it dangerously close. The second-year guard from Washington State is third in the NBA with 135 made threes and second with 345 attempts.

He's less than a month removed from a 6-for-8 three-point shooting performance against Cleveland and that was against live defense. Imagine how many threes he might sink against the non-defense we're bound to see on Friday?

Thompson's got one of the smoothest strokes in basketball, so it'd be hard to bet against him getting hot this weekend.

 

Brandon Knight, PG, Detroit Pistons

He doesn't quite shoot the impressive, lofty percentage that Irving and Thompson do, but Brandon Knight certainly isn't scared to chuck up some deep balls. His 231 three-point attempts rank 30th in the league and his 83 makes rank just below at 31st.

This makes for a decent clip of 36 percent on the season—certainly enough to envision one hot game and an MVP award. He's knocked down five threes in four separate games this season.

More importantly than anything, though, is Knight's team. Unlike Irving and Thompson, who will have to share shots with each other in addition to Damian Lillard and Chandler Parsons, Brandon Knight is the primary guard and primary scorer on his squad.

#TeamChuck will likely look to Knight for most of its scoring, especially on the perimeter. It wouldn't be surprising to see him launch a fusillade of threes, and if he's hot, the MVP trophy could be his.

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