Since the NBA announced the change in format to the Rookie-Sophomore game, there's been speculation on how exactly the picks will shake out. Well, we can't possibly know what's going through the minds of Charles Barkley ("Weight Watchers... meatballs... turrbull... meatballs... Kenny looks stupid... meatballs") or Shaquille O'Neal ("ImSupermannotDwightHowardmumblemumbleShaqPun"), but we can certainly take a stab at making the picks ourselves.
Joining me for this exercise in futility is the incomperable Jared Dubin of Hardwood Paroxysm (follow him on Twitter @JADubin5), who took some time out from Linsanity to play the Shaq to my Charles. Or Charles to my Shaq. Who knows? Either way, I gave Jared the first pick, since he's on my home turf.
First Pick: Jared Dubin selects Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Rubio's not the best overall player on the board, but his game is definitely most suited to the Rising Stars Challenge. Point guards always wind up controlling the flow and the pace of these games, and that's why I'm going with Ricky. His handles, his passing, his ability to find impossible angles, his flair and his unselfishness are exactly what you're looking for when building a team to compete in a high-flying, fast-paced exhibition. There are plenty of exciting finishers available to draft later on, so I wanted to lock up the best available set-up man with the first overall pick.
Second Pick: Adam Reisinger selects Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Jared went exactly the same direction I was planning on going with the first pick, with exactly the same player, for exactly the same reasoning. Which means I already need to blow up my big board, because I refuse to let my team get run out of the building with Rubio-to-Griffin alley-oops all game. Plus, the Rising Star Challenge game flow will minimize Blake’s weaknesses (mid-range jumpers, free-throw shooting), while maximizing his strengths (dunks on dunks on dunks)
Third Pick: Jared Dubin selects Paul George, Indiana Pacers
I figured Blake slipping to me here in Round 2 was a long shot, but I was perfectly fine "settling" for Paul George anyway. He's efficient, he's explosive and he's got a great three-point stroke; and everyone knows these games pretty much solely consist of threes and dunks. He's a much better athlete than he first appears, and if the game gets close at the end, he can D up either 2s or 3s. Plus, I mean, there's this.
Fourth Pick: Adam Reisinger selects John Wall, Washington Wizards
This is about the point in the actual event where I expect Charles or Shaq to try and draft Jeremy Lin, but I’ll settle for the guy he lit up in Summer League in 2010. Wall hasn’t been great this season, but I’m hoping simply giving him a set of teammates who AREN’T the Wizards snaps him back into form. Plus, there’s always the chance we’ll get to see this again.
Fifth Pick: Jared Dubin selects Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
I was hoping you'd let Wall slide because I had already picked a point guard! I was going to be unstoppable! But again, I'm happy to "settle" for Greg Monroe, who's having an incredible season. Since defense doesn't get played in this game anyway, I don't much care that he's not that good of a defender, because his versatile offensive game is what I'm looking for. Rare is the center who can handle the ball and be counted on to hit cutters from all angles, but Monroe is an excellent passer. Throw in his fine footwork on the block and good rebounding, he makes for an excellent choice.
Sixth Pick: Adam Reisinger selects DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
I expected Monroe to go much lower, because his offensive game doesn’t seem to be a great fit for the up-and-down pace of this game, but Jared reminded me of something: rebounding. Every year at some point, this game turns into a brickfest, and you need someone who can grab boards and put them back in. That’s what Boogie will do for my team. Assuming he and John Wall don’t defect back to Kentucky.
Seventh Pick: Jared Dubin selects Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Well, I did say point guards are the key to this game. Irving is in the middle of one of the best rookie seasons of all time. If he makes a few more of his free throws in the second half of the season, he can seriously challenge for a 50-40-90 year AS A ROOKIE. He's a good enough scorer that he can play with Rubio in this type of game, and he's obviously a good enough distributor to run the point for me when Rubio is off the floor.
Eighth Pick: Adam Reisinger selects MarShon Brooks, New Jersey Nets
I was going to go point guard with my next pick, but there’s no way Jared goes point guard back-to-back at this stage of the draft with two already on the roster, right? (Fully expects Jared’s next pick to be Walker or Knight). Brooks has struggled a bit since coming back from his injury, but I expect that by this time next week, he’ll be back in the form that had him leading all rookies in scoring early in the season.
Ninth Pick: Jared Dubin selects Landry Fields, New York Knicks
This pick is probably a bit of a surprise, but Fields is athletic and versatile and doesn't do anything poorly. He and George can each guard 2s and 3s is the game gets close, and that kind of versatility is nice when most guys are playing pretty lax defense. Landry is exactly the kind of player that Rubio will love to run with and find on back door cuts in the half court. And he thrives when the game is being played at a fast pace, as you can expect this one to be. He'll fill in around the edges wherever my team needs and not care if he's not the main focus on the offensive end, which he won't be.
Tenth Pick: Adam Reisinger selects Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons
OK, I’m not pushing my luck on the point guard thing any further. Really, it’s a toss-up between Knight and Walker, both of whom have similar surface stats for really bad teams. Knight’s PER is worse – like replacement-level worse – but as much as he can’t shoot (40.1% from the field this season), Walker REALLY can’t shoot (36.0%). Knight is a much better finisher at the rim than Walker, and I wouldn’t feel right if I left him out of my Kentucky mini-reunion.
Eleventh Pick: Jared Dubin selects Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
You keep uniting college teammates, so I'll unite NBA ones as I take Thompson to go along with Kyrie Irving. As you said earlier, eventually this game will turn into a brickfest at some point, so having guys who can bang and get rebounds is important. Rebounding is probably Thompson's best skill, especially on the offensive end. He can keep possessions alive on one side of the floor while ending them on the other. He's athletic and a good finisher too, which fits in with what I'm looking for in this game.
Twelfth Pick: Adam Reisinger selects Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns
This game is definitely going to turn into a brickfest, in part because of a derth of catch-and-shoot 3-point specialists (no, Blake Griffin and his 50% 3-point shooting doesn’t count). You’ve already grabbed one of the best in George -- who is shooting 42.1% on 3s, with more than 80% of them assisted -- so I’ll snag Morris. He’s one spot ahead of George on the 3-point accuracy list, shooting 42.2%, and an amazing 96% of his 3s have been assisted. I wouldn’t have pegged Morris as a sharpshooter, but the Numbers Never* Lie (weekdays, 3:30 ET on ESPN2 /company man’d!).
Thirteenth Pick: Jared Dubin selects Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
I really don't know how Kawhi lasted this long. This is a guy who can do a little bit of everything; defense and rebounding are his specialties, but he's got a pretty decent handle and has flashed surprising 3-point range this year (37.8%). He's an excellent athlete and finisher in the open court, and like Fields he's another guy who doesn't really need plays run for him to get involved. He fits right in on my squad.
Fourteenth Pick: Adam Reisinger selects Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers
I totally had Leonard typed in as my previous pick, but then I got distracted by Morris’s three-point shooting (ooh, shiny!) and was hoping you’d go point guard again. I’m going to go with Turner here. He’s slumping of late, and I’m not even sure he should be in this game (hint, hint, Jeremy Lin…), but none of the names left on the board really excite me, and Turner at least has that No. 2 overall pick pedigree.
Fifteenth Pick: Jared Dubin selects Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves
Like Turner, Williams has the pedigree of being the draft's number two pick. He hasn't been as good as fellow Wolves rookie Rubio, and he's not shooting (or doing anything, really) especially well, but he's another big time athlete and finisher. With Rubio and Irving dishing him dimes in an open-court dunkfest with little defense, I really think Williams can shine. He flashed a lot of potential in the 2 games that Kevin Love sat out, and I can definitely see him turning into a really nice player.
Sixteenth Pick: Adam Reisinger selects Tiago Splitter, San Antonio Spurs
Here’s the thing: among qualified rookies or second year players, Splitter has the fifth-best PER this season, behind only Monroe, Griffin, Irving and Cousins. But he just doesn’t FIT in this game at all. He’s got no game outside of the direct rim vicinity to speak of, and he’s a strong fundamental defender who shines in the help defense game. That’s awesome for the Spurs and pretty much useless in a glorified And-1 game. But I’m totally throwing him out on the court with Wall, Morris, Griffin and Cousins at the same time, just for the hilarity of it.
Seventeenth Pick: Jared Dubin selects Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
It's him or Gordon Hayward, and I just kind of like Walker better, I guess. Hayward's a shooter who's not having an especially good year shooting the basketball. Walker hasn't looked so great himself shooting the ball, but at least he has other skills, like the ability to take guys off the dribble. His flair for the dramatic is a good fit for this type of exhibition game too. So yeah, I'll take Kemba.
Eighteenth Pick: Adam Reisinger “selects” Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
Oh, God, we left the white guy for last. Have we made no progress since “White Man Can’t Jump”? In all honesty though, Hayward is a shooter who is having a pretty bad shooting year, and has a below-league-average PER. I’m honestly surprised Derrick Favors isn’t here in his place. Or Jeremy Lin. Who is as much a lock to “accidentally” get drafted by Charles or Shaq as Hayward is to go last.
|G||Ricky Rubio||John Wall|
|G||Paul George||MarShon Brooks|
|G||Kyrie Irving||Brandon Knight|
|G||Kemba Walker||Evan Turner|
|F||Landry Fields||Blake Griffin|
|F||Tristan Thompson||Markieff Morris|
|F||Kawhi Leonard||Tiago Splitter|
|F||Derrick Williams||Gordon Hayward|
|C||Greg Monroe||DeMarcus Cousins|