On Jan. 31, the NBA released the participants for the 2020 Rising Stars Challenge, which is set to take place on Friday, Feb. 14 during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
Although the game is set to take place on Valentine’s Day, there was one player who did not receive much love from those who voted on the rosters, and that is Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.
There were plenty of snubs from this year’s Rising Stars Challenge, most notably Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, who is averaging 19.6 points per game this season.
The argument against Sexton and many of those who were left off the Rising Stars’ rosters was how their individual performances did not contributed to team success. That is not the case for Porter Jr.
Porter Jr. has only played 13 games this season where his minutes total eclipsed 20. In those 13 games, Porter Jr. has averaged 15.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists while shooting 55% from the field and 44% from three, and the Nuggets are 10-3 in those 13 games.
Porter Jr.’s per 36 minutes averages are 20.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists on 51% shooting from the field and 43% from deep, and he has yet to surpass the 30-minute mark in any game this season.
The day before the rosters were announced, Drew Packham of NBA.com released his rankings of the top five rookies up until that point of the season. Packham ranked Porter Jr. second, only behind Rookie of the Year favorite and Memphis Grizzles guard Ja Morant.
In 2015, as international players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert were breaking onto the scene, the NBA changed the Rising Stars Challenge format to Team USA vs. Team World. Team World has a 3-2 advantage over Team USA in the five games.
Porter Jr. was eligible for Team USA, given that he was born and raised in Missouri, and there are three players Porter Jr. should have made it over.
Eric Paschall, Golden State Warriors
Of the three players listed, Paschall is the most deserving of his Rising Stars roster spot, but there is a still an argument to be made against him.
Paschall has started 22 games for the Warriors this season, 21 more starts than Porter Jr., and in 26.8 minutes per game, is averaging 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists.
In the 23 games Paschall did not start for the Warriors, he averaged 21 minutes per game, (which is still 6.7 minutes more than Porter Jr. averages on the season), and got 9.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per night. Those numbers are fairly similar to Porter Jr.’s averages for the season.
In the 14 games where Paschall played 20-29 minutes per game, he averaged 11.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 44% from the field and 12% from three. The Warriors also went 2-12 in those 14 games.
Paschall has the benefit of playing for an injury-riddled team with the worst record in the NBA, his opportunity is greater than Porter Jr.’s, but that does not mean his impact on the floor is too.
Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets
Over 49 games this season, Bridges played 30.2 minutes per night for a Charlotte team that is currently 12th in the Eastern Conference. Bridges has started all but one game this season for the Hornets and has averaged 12.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists a night.
Bridges has played 33 games where he has attempted at least 10 field goals, only nine times has Porter Jr. taken 10 or more shots in a game. 23 times this season Bridges has attempted five or more threes in a game, as for Porter Jr., only five times has he hoisted up that many from deep.
Bridges has yet to play a game this season where he played less minutes than Porter Jr.’s average, his per 36 averages are drastically worse than Porter Jr.’s and once again, had opportunity not interfered with Porter Jr’s production, the Nuggets would have had at least one player in the Rising Stars challenge for the fourth time in five years.
PJ Washington, Charlotte Hornets
Washington, Bridges’ teammate, has started every game he has played this season and in 30.1 minutes per night, averages 12.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
As mentioned before, the Hornets currently are 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 16-33 overall record and Washington, like Bridges and Paschall, benefits from getting a lot of playing time which, consequently, results in “inflated” stats.
In the 14 games where Washington played 20-29 minutes, he averaged 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 42% shooting from the field and 29% from deep.
Washington’s per 36 numbers are worse than Porter. Jr’s and the Hornets are -6.4 points worse than their opponents when he is in the game, something that cannot be said about Porter Jr. who makes the Nuggets +3.0 points better than their opponents with him on the floor.
The Future is Bright for the Denver Nuggets
Porter Jr. is a budding star who in 15 games (all of which he came off the bench) during the month of January, averaged 12.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 52% from the field and 48% from three.
NBA All-Stars like Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton and Pascal Siakam never made it to the Rising Stars Challenge. Heck, even two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard failed to make a roster during his rookie campaign.
A recent article from the Denver Post had the Nuggets forward quoted as saying, “[head coach Mike Malone] knows I deserve to be a Rising Star, be in that game, but I’m gonna be playing in the playoffs, and that’s worth a lot more to me than playing in that game.”
The future is bright for the 21-year-old, the day Malone unleashes his prodigy into a starting role is going to be the day of reckoning for the NBA.