The 2013 Rising Stars Challenge will pit former NBA legends, TNT analysts, general managers and coaches Charles Barkley (Team Chuck) and Shaquille O’Neal (Team Shaq) against one another.
Armed with superstar rosters composed of the best rookie and sophomore players in the league, it’s going to be quite a battle between these two friendly rivals on Friday night of All-Star Weekend.
Let’s take a look at the top MVP candidates for both squads and predict who will win the award.
Check out the entire draft order and rosters for the Rising Stars Challenge right here. MVP odds courtesy of Bovada.lv.
Kyrie Irving (6/1)
The Cleveland Cavaliers' star point guard is the reigning MVP of this contest after leading Team Chuck to victory in 2012 by putting up 34 points on 12-of-13 shooting, including a ridiculous 8-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Somehow, Irving didn’t come off the board until the third overall pick, with Shaq taking Damian Lillard No. 1 and Chuck betraying his superstar by going with Anthony Davis at No. 2.
Don’t think the former Duke standout is going to forget this anytime soon, as Irving is just waiting to explode and finally has a chance to play with some quality teammates.
Even though the young man is participating in this event on Friday, the three-point contest on Saturday and the actual All-Star Game on Sunday, we think he brings his A-game to get back at the Round Mound of Rebound.
Damian Lillard (7/1)
Lillard is an electrifying rookie who is used to dominating the ball for the Portland Trail Blazers, and he wasn’t much of a facilitator during his four years at Weber State.
Through 53 games during the 2012-13 campaign, the 22-year-old has averaged a whopping 18.3 points, 6.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds for the Blazers.
He certainly isn’t going to hesitate to fire away when he’s open, which should be quite often in a contest that isn’t exactly known for defensive play.
If Shaq’s team wins, it’s going to be a two-horse race between Irving and Lillard for the MVP honors.
Kenneth Faried (8/1)
Faried is a great energy player and has been a huge asset for the Nuggets since they took him out of Morehead State with the 22nd pick in the 2011 draft.
He’s a machine on the glass, averaging 9.7 rebounds this season to go along with his 12.3 points. He’s also a fan favorite for his jamming ability, which will be showcased on Saturday night in the Slam Dunk contest.
However, because Faried is a forward, we find it hard to imagine he will earn MVP honors even if Chuck’s team winds up victorious. This is a guard-oriented game, and these odds just seem a tad too high.
Anthony Davis (12/1)
Davis is certainly living up to his billing as the top overall pick in the 2012 draft class, but he’s had a little trouble staying on the floor.
Regardless, he should be 100 percent for this contest and will bring his immense shot-blocking skills, solid low-post scoring and feisty rebounding to the paint for Barkley’s squad.
Because of the lack of dominant point guards and shooting guards on this squad, there’s a chance they run an inside-out offense through Davis, an extremely underrated passer.
If that’s the case, there’s a slim chance the New Orleans Hornets star wins MVP and surprises us all at 12/1.