Tonight, on TNT (7 ET), the participants for the All-Star Saturday Night events will be revealed: the Sears Shooting Stars, the Taco Bills Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.
Also on TNT tonight — before the big Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics game — Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal will draft the teams for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, a game between some of the NBA’s best rookies and sophomores that will be held on Friday night of All-Star weekend (Feb. 15 on TNT, at 9 ET).
Each week in the NBA.com blogtable, we ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below. In this special edition, we’ve asked our guys to look at the pool of players for the Rising Stars game and give us their top three choices. Here they are:
Steve Aschburner: This is easy. I take Kyrie Irving with my No. 1 pick because he’s the best player on the board. I take Kenneth Faried No. 2 because he has only one gear — he can only play with a high-revving motor, which puts him way ahead of anyone else in an exhibition like this. Plus, I like “sophomores,” who don’t want to lose to the newbies. But that said, I take Damian Lillard with my No. 3 pick because this will be his chance to make a Rookie of the Year statement on a huge stage. Two point guards? Bah! I remember the havoc caused by Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury down the stretch in the 2001 All-Star Game.
Fran Blinebury: 1.) Kyrie Irving — All-Star games are all about scoring points and nobody here can do that better than Irving, who’s already good enough to also be playing in the main event on Sunday. 2.) Anthony Davis — The No. 1 pick in the Draft has trailed Damian Lillard from opening night in the Rookie of the Year race in an up-and-down season. But he’s got all the tools to the foundation player for the Hornicans/Pelinets and can use this chance to strut his stuff at both ends of the floor. 3.) Chandler Parsons — Never miss an opportunity to suck up to the hometown crowd in an All-Star Game. And he’s the kind of excitable guy who could rise to the occasion.
Jeff Caplan: Kyrie Irving: Look around, the NBA is the League of the Point Guard right now and this kid is phenomenal, already an All-Star in just his second season. I know I’m not alone with this pick (Damian Lillard is a solid choice, but I think a distant second right now) because Irving is so dynamic with the ball and is a scoring machine. Get him some offensive help and his assists will go up. I love that he’s deadly from 3-point range (41.2 percent) and is an excellent free-throw shooter (86.2 percent in first two seasons). Anthony Davis: To go with a top-notch PG, you need a big man that can get the job done on both ends of the floor. As the 6-foot-10, 220-pound Davis matures, he’ll be a double-double machine. He’s shooting 53 percent from the floor, 72 percent from the free-throw line and he’s averaging 1.8 blocks a game, a number that will surely rise as well. It’s been a relatively quiet season for Davis after a ton of hype as the No. 1 pick, but this kid is going to be really good for a really long time. Kawhi Leonard: Now you need a solid wing to go with the point guard and center and I can’t think of a more well-rounded player than Leonard. He plays the game the right way, which is why he’s fit like a glove in San Antonio. He’s going to give you excellent defense on every possession and his offensive game is really nice, too. His numbers (9.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg) would be more impressive on a team that wasn’t loaded with offensive weapons. Still, what’s tremendous about this kid is he can put it on the floor, shoot the mid-range jumper and, hugely important, he he can really pop the 3-pointer — he’s shooting it at a nearly 40 percent clip — while shooting 48.4 percent overall.
Scott Howard-Cooper: 1. Kyrie Irving. Because he’s not just one of the top young players in the league. Irving is on his way to being a star in any age group. 2. Anthony Davis. Interior defense, rebounding, the ability to handle pressure or accept a complementary role, plus an underrated offensive game. 3. Klay Thompson. If I have Irving and Davis, I next want someone who will make defenses pay from the perimeter. I thought hard about going with Bradley Beal off his breakthrough shooting in January, and because I was a Beal guy to begin with, but the injury and Thompson’s longer track record swayed me to Golden State.
John Schuhmann: My first pick is Kyrie Irving and I don’t have to give you a reason. My second pick is Andre Drummond for his size and athleticism. He can finish at the rim offensively, protect it defensively and run the floor with my franchise point guard. And my third pick is Kawhi Leonard for both perimeter defense and shooting. I think he’d be the best complement to the other two.
Sekou Smith: Kyrie Irving is an easy No. 1 pick in a game like this, given the nature of the game and the fact that he’s the best player available. But we’re trying to build a team here and that means I need balance, which makes Kenneth Faried my no-brainer choice for pick No. 2. There other guys who are true centers in this game, but none of them operate with a motor that can match what Faried brings to the party. If Kyrie needs someone to run the floor or fill the lane, Faried will be there. Rebounds, defense and pure energy in its rawest form is what you get from “The Manimal.” My third and final pick is Klay Thompson, the best pure shooter in the game. He can just line up and pick his spots and wait for the dish from Kyrie and see if he can’t break the 3-point shooting mark for this game.