While the NBA All-Star Game is an annual event meant to showcase the top stars in the league, which mostly means the same tried-and-true familiar faces, it usually results in young talent becoming household names thanks to the national spotlight.
Like it or not, the best performances come down to a simple matter—effort.
For the young players who make the cut, this is an opportunity to show they belong and to improve their brand on the biggest stage of all with fans of each team tuning in to watch.
This year, three on-the-rise players will put the stage to good use with highlight performances.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard has already made a strong impression on fans as the main star of the weekend.
Lillard was fortunate enough to take part in every event, although his bid at making history fell short in the three-point contest, as Fox Sports points out:
The dream is over. Damian Lillard is eliminated from the 3 Point Contest. He won't win in every competition this #AllStarWeekend— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) February 16, 2014
Despite a lack of re-writing the history books, Lillard has already made his mark as the first man to compete in every event. The problem is, this could lead to his being gassed by the time the big game rolls around.
While certainly an issue, fans surely know of Lillard and his habitual big performances in high-pressure situations. A 23-year-old guard known for game-winners and a major reason Portland sits in fifth place in the West at the break, Lillard is a lock to show up big and make a name for himself if he has not with fans already.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Considering the Cleveland Cavaliers sit at 20-33 at the break, it should come as no surprise if Kyrie Irving shows up in a big way among his peers.
Irving is far from the reason the Cavaliers have struggled, as referenced by his 21.5 points and 6.2 assists per game. Those numbers are a tad down from the year prior, so Irving has faced questions about his future. His response, via ESPN's Brian Windhorst, is the epitome of professionalism:
It's not about me and it's not about this controversy -- 'Do I privately want out when my contract is up?' I'm still in my rookie contract and I'm happy to be here. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to be here for a long time.
The spotlight is on Irving for the wrong reasons. Not only does he tout impressive numbers and is one of the NBA's best, but he is also elite when it counts most, as Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders illustrates:
Kyrie Irving has scored a league-high 44 points in overtime this season. His 8.8 overtime points per game are the most in NBA, per Elias.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 10, 2014
This knack for clutch performances will help Irving even more against the league's best as he solidifies himself in the minds of fans as one of the league's biggest stars.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
A last-second replacement for Kobe Bryant, Anthony Davis is sure to enter the NBA All-Star Game with a chip on his shoulder.
Heck, Davis made it known he wanted to be in the dunk contest as well, via Anthony Morrow on Instagram:
At the break, Davis averages a double-double this season and is one of the league's top interior players. There is no doubt Davis is gunning for the MVP award as a result of his original omission from the game.
While both rosters are loaded, Davis putting forth a full effort on both offense and defense will create nightmares for any NBA player—including the best the league has to offer.