On February 6, Shaquille O'Neal will have the first pick in the 2014 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft. He's lost to Charles Barkley's team two years in a row, ever since the Hall of Fame pair started drafting the annual rookies versus sophomores All-Star Weekend exhibition game. Here's how I think the draft will go.
The talent pool for this year's game is slimmer than usual. While last year's game featured such names as Paul George and Kyrie Irving, this year's crop quickly descends to middling players who are still looking for playing time early in their NBA careers.
Never fear! This game, thanks to the rivalry between Team Shaq and Team Chuck, has become one of the most exciting parts of the All-Star break. The draft is an event unto itself.
Let's see how the lineups will look at tipoff on Valentine's night...
There are three elite players in the 2014 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft, so Team Shaq is immediately at an advantage with the first pick:
In a repeat of the 2013 draft, Team Chuck will look to match Shaq's point guard choice with a serious low-post force:
|Anthony Davis||New Orleans||F/C||SOPH||51.9||76.2||20.4||1.4||10.4||1.5||3.3|
With Damian Lillard, Shaq has the best player on the floor. Now he needs to couple him with the most O'Neal-esque player on the board and the last of the "Big Three" in this game:
The first rookie will be the runaway Rookie of the Year favorite, a do-all point guard who will work well with Anthony Davis:
The Rising Stars Challenge usually lets the most athletic players show their stuff. Shaq will land the most physically intriguing player in the draft in Round 3:
With a pass-first point guard and a terrific low-post player, Chuck needs to grab a legitimate scorer next:
Team Shaq could go many different directions with this pick, but with so few quality big men available, he'd be wise to force Team Chuck's move by taking one:
Chuck took the upstart Kenneth Faried in the second round last year. In the fourth round this year, he might just have his 2014 version of "The Manimal":
At this point, Shaq only has one consistent scorer in Damian Lillard. It's time he grabs another:
Because of Shaq's love for rookies in these drafts, Chuck can secure the best two shooters (along with Bradley Beal) in the game with this pick:
If Victor Oladipo is the most athletic player in this draft, then the "Greek Freak" is the second most. He's only 19. Keep an eye on him in the coming years:
This is an opportunity for Team Chuck to really lock up rebounds in the game:
A really nice late pick for Shaq will be a player who can't seem to find his stride in the Bay Area. He has plenty of potential, and the Rising Stars Challenge might help us all remember that:
|Harrison Barnes||Golden State||F||SOPH||41.7||72.0||10.1||1.5||3.9||0.9||0.9|
Chuck may have shooters and rebounders, but he still only has one point guard. It's time to fix that:
|Tim Hardaway Jr.||New York||G||ROOK||45.9||82.5||8.6||0.8||1.4||0.5||1.4|
In past years, the final few rounds aren't selected but drawn at random. In the event they draft all the way through, I see Shaq wrapping up his final two picks with some diverse skill sets:
|Steven Adams||Oklahoma City||C||ROOK||47.6||64.0||3.7||0.7||4.5||0.5||0.7||0.0|
Like Shaq, Chuck will look to give his team some rebounding prowess at the end of the draft:
The 2014 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft is void of top-to-bottom talent and production. There are more role players than in years past.
In accordance with his previous teams, Shaq has a rookie-heavy bunch here. There is some serious size, which his 2013 squad lacked (Kyrie Irving lead his team in rebounding with six):
Chuck has put together a run-and-gun-group that will rely on the shooting of its starting five to win:
|BE||Tim Hardaway Jr.||ROOK|