Picking with the Pros: A Look at the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Weekend

BY MATT VINSKO & BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com senior bloggers

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irvng earned the top pick for Couch Side's All-NBA sophomore team. Photo by:

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irvng earned the top pick for Couch Side’s All-NBA sophomore team. Photo by:

Come Valentine’s Day weekend, most people will be spending their hard-earned money on chocolate, stuffed animals, and other gifts in an attempt to impress their loved ones.

But for two Couch Side writers, Feb. 15 marks the beginning of the NBA’s All Star weekend, a three-day period full of dunks, skills, and the occasional shooting star. While most will have their eyes set on the All-Star game Sunday night, the rookies and sophomores of the NBA will have their own game to show off their skills on Friday.

The Rising Stars Challenge used to consist of rookies versus sophomores.  But that trend changed last year when two TNT-analysts drafted their own teams, who then faced off in a marquee matchup of young talent.  Before the pros pick this year’s Rising Stars this Thursday on the NBA on TNT, see who Matt and Brett expect to comprise each team and who looks to have an edge entering All-Star Weekend.

To decide who picked first, a coin toss was held.

With the first pick, Matt has selected: Kyrie Irving.  Easily the most talented player in the rookie/sophomore class; one who is set to start the All-Star game as well in Rajon Rondo’s absence.

With the second pick, Brett has selected: Anthony Davis.  As far as game goes, he’s the biggest, most dominant low-post player on the roster.  Even in an exhibition game, you have to have that.

With the third pick, Matt has selected: Kemba Walker.  Walker is in the middle of a campaign where he could arguably win Most Improved Player of the Year.  The guy can do it all, and playing small ball has always been a staple for this Lakers fan.

With the fourth pick, Brett has selected: Damien Lillard.  I need the Rookie of the Year so far.  Plus, representing the Big Sky Conference comes with the territory.  He’s an explosive scorer and playmaker for a resurged Trail Blazer’s squad.

With the fifth pick, Matt has selected: Kenneth Faried.  The Manimal is doing work for the Nuggets, and his rebounding and scoring will come in handy on a squad already stacked with guard presence.

With the sixth pick, Brett has selected: Klay Thompson.  He’s the smoothest shooter on the roster.  He fights to get open, doesn’t hesitate to shoot, and when he’s on, he’s on.  He adds that southpaw dimension to a team looking for a balanced attack.

With the seventh pick, Matt has selected: Chandler Parsons.  The guy can do a little bit of everything, and has a knack for making big plays on both ends of the court.  While he may not have Thompson’s touch, he makes up for it with a well-rounded game that could improve any team.

With the eight pick, Brett has selected: Kawhi Leonard. He’s a scrappy player who can get the job done.  His shooting has greatly improved his sophomore year, and he’s a perfect Murdock player who can pick it up on defense as well offense.

With the ninth pick, Matt has selected: Andre Drummond.  If Drummond can continue his stellar play, expect him to suit up with Greg Monroe in the Pistons’ starting frontcourt.  He’s a guy who’s a monster defensively, and can do just enough on offense to keep him relavent.

With the tenth pick, Brett has selected: Brandon Knight. He’s a much improved player over last year, and he brings some much needed point guard experience off the bench.

With the eleventh pick, Matt has selected: Tristan Thompson.  In Anderson Varejao’s absence, Thompson has become a beast on the low post, scoring at will and rebounding to boot.  This adds some much needed frontcourt depth and allows my plethora of guards to fire it at will.

With the twelfth pick, Brett has selected: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  This will allow me to slide Leonard or Kidd-Gilchrist to the four and play small ball.  While his stats have diminished over the course of the season, he still produces in every facet of the game.

With the thirteenth pick, Matt has selected: Harrison Barnes.  Barnes can play either guard or forward, and can spread the floor in a way this team could desperately use.  Brandon Rush’ injury has forced Barnes into the Warrior’s starting lineup, and the guy has produced consistently on a playoff-ready team.

With the fourteenth pick, Brett has selected: Nikola Vucevic.  If small ball doesn’t work, I’m going to need some low post insurance.

With the fifteenth pick, Matt has selected: Bradley Beal.  The first real shooting guard on my roster, Beal is a steal this late in the draft.  Before Beal’s injury, he was lighting up a resurgent Wizard’s backcourt with his combination of speed, strength, and shooting ability.

With the sixteenth pick, Brett has selected: Dion Waiters.  He’s inconsistent from the floor, but when he’s on, he rivals Thompson in his ability to light up opposing teams and score in bunches.  He’s the perfect bench player.

With the seventeenth pick, Matt has selected: Alexey Shved.  Shved has been inconsistent as heck, but when he’s on, he provides the perfect balance to back up either guard spot.

With the eighteenth pick, Brett has selected: Tyler Zeller.  I get Tyler Zeller, because f*** me, right?  I don’t have any other options, but in my defense, Zeller has been playing well subbing for an injury-prone Cavaliers frontcourt.

Matt’s Rising Stars Team:

Kyrie Irving

Kemba Walker

Kenneth Faried

Chandler Parsons

Andre Drummond

Tristan Thompson

Harrison Barnes

Bradley Beal

Alexey Shved

Brett’s Rising Stars Team

Anthony Davis

Damien Lillard

Klay Thompson

Kawhi Leonard

Brandon Knight

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Nikola Vucevic

Dion Waiters

Tyler Zeller

Who do you think has the best team?  Feel free to share your thoughts below and tune into the NBA on TNT this Thursday to see who ends up going when and where on Shaq and Chuck’s teams.

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