NBA Rising Stars Challenge 2014: Ranking Game's Top MVP Candidates

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NBA Rising Stars Challenge 2014: Ranking Game's Top MVP Candidates
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

The NBA Rising Stars Challenge will kick off the 2014 All-Star Weekend, and there are a few potential candidates for the game's MVP award.

This year, the 2014 Rising Stars Challenge will take place on Friday at 9 p.m. ET on TNT. The NBA's most promising rookies and sophomores will be taking each other on after the two teams were assembled by Grant Hill and Chris Webber. 

With so much talent on both teams, let's rank the top three candidates for the Rising Stars MVP award for this year.

 

3. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

In a game where defense will be light, it's an excellent time for an athletic wing player like Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes to put up some monster numbers.

While he may be shooting just 41.5 percent from the field, Barnes has improved as a long-range shooter this season, making 40.2 percent of his three-point attempts. He's only averaging 10.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, but given his skill set and the way the defense will be played, he has a chance to put up some big numbers.

As a rookie in this same event last year, Barnes was able to put up 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, even though he played just over 19 minutes. If he can get significant playing time in this game, Barnes has a chance to win the MVP award.

 

2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

With the city of New Orleans hosting the All-Star Weekend, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis will be a popular player in front of a home crowd.

While his numbers were solid during his rookie season, Davis is having a breakout year that could help him win the NBA's Most Improved Player award. This year, he's averaging 20.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game while shooting a very impressive 52.2 percent from the field.

As a dominant player on both sides of the court, Davis is an appealing option for the MVP award. He was able to put up 11 points and nine total rebounds in the game last year in 20 minutes of playing time, but now he's an overall more efficient scorer who is more comfortable taking 15 shots a game.

The only reason Davis isn't the top candidate for the MVP award is that he plays down low. The game usually tends to be more uptempo with the backcourt taking plenty of jump shots, and that could limit his effectiveness.

 

1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Sam Forencich/Getty Images

As last season's Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard is on the fast track to becoming the NBA's next superstar, and with a busy All-Star Weekend ahead, he has a chance to continue to make noise around the Association.

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This year, Lillard has proven himself enough to earn a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team as a reserve behind Stephen Curry and Kobe Bryant. Along with that, he'll be participating in all five events for All-Star Weekend, making him the first player to ever do so.

Lillard is becoming a premier playmaker in his second year. In 52 games played, he's put up 20.7 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game while shooting 42 percent from the floor and 40.1 percent from behind the arc. He showed promise in last year's game after scoring 18 points and recording five assists, and he has a chance to put up even bigger numbers as Team Hill's go-to guy.

The biggest downside to Lillard possibly winning the MVP award is the fact that he might not play too much given the fact that he'll be participating in every event over the weekend and may want to rest. However, given how explosive of a scorer he is, Lillard has the best chance of winning the game's top honor.

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