February 24, 2012; Orlando FL, USA; TNT anchor Kenny Smith introduces Team Shaq general manager Shaquille O

NBA All-Star 2013: Previewing the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge

Can you smell that? It’s the smell of All-Star weekend in the NBA. To kick things off, the first and second year players will compete in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. It’s a competition that puts numerous rookies and sophomore into a pool allowing them to be selected playground style to form two teams. The teams will be coached by NBA legends and TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.

For the Denver Nuggets, their lone representative at all at All-Star weekend is Kenneth Faried who was selected No. 2 (No. 4 overall) by Team Chuck.

Let’s take a look at some questions going into the competition.

Q: If you were the coach of one of the Rising Stars teams, who would you make your No. 1 pick?

A: If I were coach of either team and had the first pick, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would take Kyrie Irving. Watching Irving play, the only weakness in his game are his turnovers. Denver Head Coach George Karl said it best before the Nuggets game against the Cavaliers. “Coming out of college, I knew he would be good. I knew he could create, distribute and do all of that. But to think he’d be at this level after playing just a handful of games in college is insane. The kid is going to be really good for a long time.” Irving is No. 6 in the league in scoring at 23.5 per game and is No. 16 in the league in PER (highest among any sophomores or rookies).

Jan. 12, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard (2) Kyrie Irving controls the ball during game against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Cavaliers defeated the Suns 101-90. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Who has the better overall roster, Team Shaq or Team Chuck?

A: The two teams are so different on paper. Shaq’s team is quicker and has more depth than Chuck’s. Chuck’s team however has an extreme size advantage. Barkley selected this past year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Davis first for his squad and took the Manimal second. There’ s no doubt that Barkley’s team will have the rebounding advantage in the game, but Shaq’s team will be able to set the tempo with Irving and Damian Lillard running the backcourt. With Team Shaq’s depth and ability to run the floor, I have to give them the advantage.

Feb 13, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) drives with the ball against the New Orleans Hornets during the second half of a game at the New Orleans Arena. The Hornets defeated the Trail Blazer 99-63. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Are there any players on either of the Rising Stars team that will be in the actual All-Star Game next season?

A: Absolutely. There are three that stick out to me the most. First is Irving who I mentioned his level of play in question one. You could make the case that he’s a top five guard right now. Second for me would be Lillard. Lillard came very close to making the All-Star roster this year and showed why Shaq selected him first overall.  Lillard leads all rookies in points per game (18.2) and minutes per game (38.5), as well as averaging 6.6 assists per game and 1.02 steals per game. Lillard is the only rookie to hit the 30-point mark twice this season. To put it in perspective, only one other rookie scored 30 points even once. The last one would be Faried. The Western Conference is so deep at power forward that he’ll have an outside shot. During the Nuggets recent nine-game win streak, the attention shifted out to Denver and Faried. Faried is interesting because it’s his rebounding, hustle and athleticism that makes him as good as he is. The Nuggets don’t run any plays for Faried on the offensive side of the ball at all. He converts on offensive rebounds and clears the lane for Ty Lawson to drive and dish. If Faried can develop any type of offensive game, he’ll be one of the hardest players to stop in the league.

February 12, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) dunks against the Toronto Raptors during the second half at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Denver 109-108. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Who is going to win tonight’s game: Team Shaq or Team Chuck?

A: I hope and think it’s going to be a good game. Team Shaq has the speed and depth while Team Chuck has the size advantage. If Team Shaq is able to set the tempo and run the floor with Lillard and Irving, then I think they win 142-129.

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Tags: Anthony Davis Bbva Rising Stars Challenge Charles Barkley Cleveland Cavaliers Damian Lillard Denver Nuggets Kenneth Faried Kyrie Irving Nba All-star 2013 New Orleans Hornets Portland Trailblazers

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