18 players have been officially announced as the participants for this year’s BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, which will take place on Friday, February 15th in Houston as part of NBA All-Star weekend.
NBA on TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal will select from a pool of rookies and sophomores that include such standouts as Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried, Kemba Walker and Andre Drummond.
For a look at the full pool of players, click here.
For the most part, the assistant coaches (they selected the eligible players) got it right, but as any list would have, there are some big surprises and glaring omissions.
SOPHOMORES: Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)
From an entertainment standpoint, it’s unfortunate to hear that Rubio won’t be participating in this year’s event, but I think it’s fairly obvious as to why he wasn’t selected.
Ricky has missed most of the season rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered back in March of last year. He’s only played in 17 games for Minnesota thus far while averaging 5.1 points and 5.2 assists a game.
In fact, during last year’s draft between Charles and Shaq, Rubio was taken with O’Neal’s third pick and fifth overall.
Rubio is a superstar in the making, but his injuries and lack of playing time will keep him out of the Rising Stars Challenge in 2013, which is a shame.
ROOKIES: Terrence Ross (Toronto Raptors)
I’ll be more accepting of this snub if he eventually finds his way into the 2013 NBA Slam Dunk contest.
This game won’t exactly be a defensive showcase, so why not show off one of the game’s fresh, new dunkers in Terrence Ross, and give the fans a show to remember?
His breathtaking athleticism and highlight-reel james will surely be missed.
ROOKIES: Jared Sullinger (Boston Celtics)
Sullinger is about as fundamental a power forward can be as far as his style of play goes. He plays extremely physical in the paint and goes back to the basket for a majority of his scores.
In an up-tempo, fast-paced game such as this, Jared would more than likely find few opportunities to show the world what he can do with a basketball.
His numbers are respectable for his minutes (19.8 minutes, 6.0 points, 5.9 rebounds), but he doesn’t stand out (despite playing in a large market) like a majority of his fellow rookies do.
Despite all of that, I would have liked to see him make the cut, especially over a fellow big man who cracked the list, who I shall mention below.
SURPRISES: Four Cleveland Cavaliers?
Sophomores Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson and fellow rookie teammates Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters will all represent the Cleveland Cavaliers organization at the Rookie Challenge in February.
The Cavaliers have struggled in recent years to find wins, so that’s led to some higher draft picks and some of the more talented rookies available.
Even so, I could do without four players from one team, especially in a game where the rosters are so small to begin with.
I can make a strong case for Irving (reigning Rookie of the Year and the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge MVP), Thompson (11.0 points, 9.3 rebounds) and Waiters (14.5 points, second amongst rookies), but the selection of Zeller is rather questionable (8.3 points, 6.2 rebounds).
Tyler isn’t having an awful year, but considering the amount of Cavaliers involved, in a perfect world, one would be removed. Zeller should be that individual, in my opinion.