Perhaps one of the more overlooked events during NBA All-Star Weekend is the Rising Stars Challenge, the event that kicks off the whole weekend. What used to be strictly a rookies vs. sophomores game has evolved into pitting players in their first two years in the league in a U.S.A. versus World format. The change is the NBA‘s recognition of the growing amount of international talent throughout the league, and that’s especially true over the last few years. The World team is headlined by Luka Doncic who is averaging near a triple-double for the Dallas Mavericks, and the U.S.A. team will be bringing in the No. 1 and No. 2 pick in the 2019 Draft in Zion Williamson and Ja Morant.
Each team has 10 players: four backcourt players, four frontcourt players, and two wild cards. Due to several injuries, Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton is replacing Heat rookie Tyler Herro on the U.S. roster, and Pelicans forward Nico Melli will step in for injured Suns center DeAndre Ayton on the World team.
With the details out of the way, here’s everything else you need to know about the Rising Stars Game.
How to watch Rising Stars ChallengeWhat: Rising Stars ChallengeWhen: Friday, Feb. 14, 9 p.m. ETWhere: United Center — Chicago, IllinoisTV: TNT | Stream: fuboTV (Try for free)Rising Stars participants
U.S. roster: Miles Bridges (Charlotte); Devonte’ Graham (Charlotte); Collin Sexton (Cleveland); Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis); Ja Morant (Memphis); Kendrick Nunn (Miami); Eric Paschall (Golden State); P.J. Washington (Charlotte); Zion Williamson (New Orleans); Trae Young (Atlanta)
World roster: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (New Orleans); R.J. Barrett (New York); Brandon Clarke (Memphis); Luka Doncic (Dallas); Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City); Rui Hachimura (Washington); Svi Mykhailiuk (Detroit); Josh Okogie (Minnesota); Moritz Wagner (Washington); Nicolo Melli (New Orleans)
Team U.S.A.: This team is stacked from top to bottom, and it makes it even more enticing that Zion Williamson and Ja Morant will be on the same team. The top two picks from last year’s draft have established themselves as head and shoulders above the rest of their rookie class, and it’ll be a treat for fans to get to see Williamson throw down nasty dunks off of no-look lob passes from Morant. That might sound ridiculous, but that is entirely possible with these two sharing the floor. Not to mention, Trae Young will also be sharing the backcourt with Morant and can not only fill it up from beyond the arc, but put a defender on skates with his elite ball-handling skills.
Team World: Compared to the U.S. team, the World team might not have as much star power, but Doncic will be leading this team and he’s shown that he can improve the play of teammates around him with his court vision that rivals that of LeBron James. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has blossomed to becoming must-watch talent for Oklahoma City, so it will be exciting to see how he performs amongst a group of his peers. The one-two punch of Doncic and Clarke is going to be a sight to see as Clarke has established himself as an excellent rim-runner who can put on quite a show with his dunking skills.
Game prediction, pick
It’s almost unfair that Morant and Williamson are on the same team in this game, but it will be exciting to watch nonetheless. On paper, the World team just pales in comparison to what the U.S. roster is bringing, and the score will likely reflect that on Friday. Both sides will have highlight-reel plays, but at the end of the day, the U.S. team just has more guys who can score in a variety of ways compared to the World Team. PIck: Team U.S.A.
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