NBA: BBVA Rising Stars Mock Draft
The NBA’s All-Star Weekend is changing, as the annual Rookies versus Sophomores game is no more. In its place is a brand new format the league has dubbed the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, which will be put on full display on Friday, Feb. 24 in Orlando.
NBA legends Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal will serve as general managers and draft a mixed roster of basketball’s brightest first and second-year talents. The official draft between TEAM CHUCK and TEAM SHAQ will take place Thursday evening at 4 p.m. PST, but we’ve beaten them to it. That’s right; we’ve completed our very own Neon Tommy Rising Stars draft with Aaron Fischman and Omar Shamout serving as general managers.
(Editor's Note: After press time (and minutes before the actual draft), honorary commissioner Kenny Smith added Knicks guard Jeremy Lin and Heat guard Norris Cole to the original pool of 18 players. For that reason, neither Lin nor Cole is included in the mock draft below. Linsanity continues.)
Check out our writers’ draft picks below, and then tune in to TNT Thursday night to see how Aaron and Omar’s teams compare with the real rosters:
With the first overall pick, Team Fischman selects PF Blake Griffin (Clippers; 6'10, 251 lbs).
Fischman: Omar called “heads,” the penny landed with tails facing up and that was that. At that very moment, I knew I’d be selecting the high-flying big man. Following last season’s Rookie of the Year campaign, Griffin has dramatically improved his shooting from the field. His free throw shooting has regressed, but I’m nitpicking now. He’s far and away the best player of the 18-man field. He’s also the most exciting to watch.
Shamout: Well, like, duh. Griffin is lighting up the league. One of the most athletic players in the NBA. Griffin’s explosiveness, height and shooting ability make him an extremely tough matchup for any defender.
With the second overall pick, Team Shamout selects PG Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers; 6'3, 191 lbs).
Shamout: If I can’t take Blake, then I’m happy to “settle” for Kyrie as my first overall pick. What made this an easy choice for me was Irving’s ability to score off the dribble (Have you seen his spin move?), while also shooting over 40 percent from three. He’s averaging a cool 18 points in less than 30 minutes per game in his rookie season, which is a great return on investment. I wish his assist rate was better than the 5.1 he’s getting now, but I bet Irving wishes he had teammates other than Antawn Jamison who could score consistently. Someone like my next pick perhaps?
Fischman: Best rookie in the league. Sorry Mr. Rubio, but it’s not even a contest.
*Team Shamout was granted the second and third overall picks since it lost the coin toss (aka the Blake Griffin sweepstakes).
Shamout: Now that I have my point guard, I need my big, and Cousins fits the bill perfectly. Averaging 16.8 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, Cousins is the best center available. The prospect of Irving and Cousins picking and rolling their way to the hoop is mouth-watering, and Cousins can also hit the 20-foot jumper if Irving kicks it out to him at the top of the key. He’s also one of the best offensive rebounders in the game, with roughly 20 percent of his boards coming on that side of the court. Cousins also shoots 73 percent from the foul line, which is a bonus from a big man. At the defensive end, Cousins is a tough and disruptive opponent as he showed against Orlando earlier this year, holding Dwight Howard to just 5 points, his lowest total of the season.
Fischman: DMC is going to be something special, especially when he learns to cut down on his fouls. It’s been a serious problem over his first two years in the league. Although he leads the league in the “coaches fired because of him” stat and fouls too much for my liking, he’s also tied with Pau Gasol for third in double-doubles. Only Kevin Love and Dwight Howard have recorded more this season. Even though I love to hate at times, Cousins is a very talented young player, who should continue to improve. I can only hope that my players can get inside his head and rattle him a little bit.
With the fourth overall pick, Team Fischman selects PG John Wall (Wizards; 6'4, 195 lbs).
Fischman: Wall’s outside shot leaves a lot to be desired, but he runs the point well. At times, he has a tendency to dribble out of control, but I’m happy to let the former Kentucky Wildcat run wild. He’s so quick and possesses such great court vision. Plus, Wall and Griffin should be so much fun together. I’m not going to call this “Lob City 2.0,” but oops, I just said it, and I can’t find the delete button on the keyboard. One can only hope that the two will team up in the actual Rising Stars game.
With the fifth overall pick, Team Fischman selects C Greg Monroe (Pistons; 6'11, 250 lbs).
Fischman: Monroe, who is in his second season out of Georgetown, is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. The 6-foot-11 center places eighth in the league in double-doubles, but clearly does not get the attention he deserves. For an all-star game such as this one, Cousins is more exciting, but I would much rather build a franchise around Monroe. Monroe is a much more efficient scorer and averages nearly three times the numbers of assists that the Kings’ center averages. Although Monroe is pretty darn good, I probably should have taken Paul George at #5 and held off on Monroe until #7, because I highly doubt Team Shamout would have drafted two centers in a row. If I had been smarter about it, I could’ve landed George and Monroe.
Shamout: Solid pick up Aaron. Monroe is a handful, and while he may not be quite as dynamic a player as DMC, he’s a very consistent scorer inside the paint.
With the sixth overall pick, Team Shamout selects G/F Paul George (Pacers; 6'9, 215 lbs).
Shamout: I went for George over Brooks with my third pick, because I love the idea of having two starters on the court who shoot over 40 percent from behind the arc. With Cousins and Irving both capable of drawing the double team, George is going to get a lot of open looks from downtown. He averages 12.1 points per game, but his size makes him very useful in that he can also play at forward and contribute on the boards if need be.
Fischman: Nooooooo. I wanted this guy badly. Once again, I could have really stacked my team if I had waited one more round to pick up Monroe and instead jumped on this guy with two first names. Paul George (or is George Paul?) is not only taller this season, but he’s also logging more than 10 additional minutes per game this year and making the most of that extra playing time. George has been deadly accurate from long-range, converting more than 40 percent from three. Too bad he’ll be suiting up for Team Shamout.
With the seventh overall pick, Team Fischman selects PG Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves; 6'4, 180 lbs).
Fischman: I know I already have a point guard in Wall, but can you imagine a man with the court vision of Ricky Rubio teaming up with a man of Griffin’s athleticism? With these two guys on my hypothetical team, some very beautiful music will be played. Blake Griffin, you can thank me later for this pick. Rubio will come off my bench, but I’ll be sure to get him plenty of minutes, hypothetically-speaking of course.
Shamout: I would have loved a pure assist man like Rubio on my team, so well done snatching him up Aaron. Rubio to Griffin is a scary proposition, but how often will they be on the court together with Wall on your team?
With the eighth overall pick, Team Shamout selects F Derrick Williams (Timberwolves; 6'8, 241 lbs).
Shamout: Williams might not have been everyone’s pick here, but as with others on my team, I like his versatility. He can explode to the hoop both with and without the ball, and he’s a physical, big body in the forward position, who can also knock down a clutch jumper. Plus, his strength allows him to play at both the small and power forward position. He’s averaging less than 8 points per game, but he’s also playing less than 19 minutes, so don’t let that fool you. Williams is one to watch.
Fischman: I hope Team Shamout didn’t pull a muscle, because I think Williams at #8 was a major reach. The Timberwolves forward was a tremendous college player for the Arizona Wildcats, but as a pro, he’s still very raw. There’s tremendous potential here, but until he sees more action on the court, he’ll be good one game and below average the next. All you Team Fischman aficionados out there better hope this performance will be one of his subpar outings.
Fischman: Like Monroe of the Pistons, Brooks’ solid season has not been widely advertised because he plays for the struggling New Jersey Nets. For a rookie who was drafted 25th overall and plays nearly 30 minutes per game, his efficiency has been impressive. He’s shooting 44.7 percent and committing fewer than two turnovers per game. With that said, he has appeared rusty since returning from his broken toe injury. Hopefully, he gets his game back in time for the Rising Stars game.
With the 10th overall pick, Team Shamout selects PG Kemba Walker (Bobcats; 6'1, 172 lbs).
Shamout: Kemba Walker would be a decent starting point guard on this team, but he’ll be coming off the bench for Team Shamout. Walker plays on the worst team in the NBA, so as with Irving, I’m willing to begrudge his low assist numbers, as well. Only a 37-percent shooter from the field, Walker doesn’t have the size to be as effective as Irving when driving to the basket, but what he possesses is speed and hustle. Walker is the perfect spark off the bench to make a key bucket on the break and keep the energy flowing.
Fischman: If Omar is happy with this pick, then I’m happy for him. If I were picking, however, there’s no way I would take Walker at this point. It’s true that the rookie has not had much of a supporting cast around him in Charlotte, but it’s also clear that he’s trying to do too much and not getting away with it. The Bobcats have lost 16 in a row. In four of seven February games, Walker has scored 19 or more. That’s good, right? Well, not really, considering that his field goal percentage over that stretch was a miserable 35.4 percent (34 for 96). It looks like he’ll be taking a ton of shots for Team Shamout and praying that they go in.
With the 11th overall pick, Team Fischman selects G/F Evan Turner (76ers; 6'7, 205 lbs).
Fischman: Evan Turner is a smart player and a talented rebounder for his position. With that said, I regret not taking Tiago Splitter here. Although I already have Griffin to start at power forward, not much separates Turner from fellow small forward Landry Fields. Splitter, on the other hand, is a significantly more developed professional basketballer than Tristan Thompson.
Shamout: While not a very physical center, Splitter possesses some nice post moves. Plus, he’s able to get open in the paint off of pick and rolls and convert. In fact, he averages almost one point for every two minutes he’s on the floor, which is excellent productivity. During one stretch this season, Splitter had six-straight double-digit scoring nights, which is a huge boost from the bench. He is a solid defender, but with only 5.4 rebounds per game, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him as my only big man on the court, and I’m not entirely comfortable starting him at PF next to Cousins, because he hasn’t paired all that well with Tim Duncan this year. The pick and roll is Splitter’s bread and butter, so with Cousins taking over most of those duties in my lineup, I worry that Splitter might get a little lost offensively. I’d rather have him come off the bench to provide a new look.
Fischman: Great pick, Omar! There are a ton of things to like about the Brazilian-born center. Although he was drafted back in 2007, the Spurs were smart to be patient, as they waited for him to come over. By the time Splitter came to the states in 2010, he was still a work in progress, but he has vastly improved in a little more than a year in the league. In his second season, he’s nearly averaging double-figures in only 21 minutes per game.
With the 13th overall pick, Team Fischman selects PG Brandon Knight (Pistons; 6'3, 189 lbs).
Fischman: As a rookie, his wildly inconsistent play is not at all surprising. However, he has had a better year than pick #10 Kemba Walker. For that reason, I like my value with this pick.
With the 14th overall pick, Team Shamout selects G/F Landry Fields (Knicks; 6'7, 215 lbs).
Shamout: Landry Fields will probably end up being a very good shooting guard in the NBA, but right now his scoring is not quite consistent enough for him to be an automatic starter on Team Shamout. I like that he’s becoming more aggressive off the dribble, but for someone averaging over 32-minutes per game, he should score more than the 10.2 points he does. That being said, his scoring has improved by a full 2 points per game in February so far. With that kind of improvement, it’s clear Fields has reason to be as “Linsane” as anyone. I’m happy to have him pick up the scoring slack from the bench as a sixth man at either SG or SF, though he could probably start at either position and do well.
Fischman: Again, great pick, Omar! It’s funny that the Stanford alumnus was available for this long. He really deserves better than that. Besides boasting one of the best names in basketball, Fields really is a talented, fundamentally sound player, who contributes greatly to the Knicks. Here’s a cool stat that shows how important he is to his team: As a rookie last season, the small forward started 81 of his team’s 82 games. He’s started 29 of 30 games this season, too.
With the 15th overall pick, Team Fischman selects PF Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers; 6'9, 227 lbs).
Fischman: Despite being drafted fourth overall by the Cavaliers in the real NBA Draft (not to be confused with our mock Rising Stars Draft), the poor guy has been riding the pine more often that not. To make matters worse, he sprained his ankle in January. I haven’t seen him play much this season, but I do think his strong rebounding will aid my hypothetical team off the bench.
With the 16th overall pick, Team Shamout selects PF Markieff Morris (Suns; 6'10, 245 lbs).
Shamout: I took a gamble with waiting until the 16th pick to round out my starting five, but I had a hunch Morris would still be there. If he wasn’t, then I would have been happy enough to put in Splitter at PF, or move Williams there, shift George to SF and bring in Fields as my starting SG. Unfortunately, Morris is not a prolific rebounder, averaging only 4.6 per game. But neither is Splitter, so there wouldn’t be much difference there. However, over the last five games, Morris is scoring 11.8 points per game as his playing time has increased considerably. What also makes Morris a great pickup for Team Shamout is that he’s not afraid to bang around inside the paint. In addition, he’s shooting 43 percent from downtown this season. That’s three of my five starters shooting over 40 percent from three, and one is 6-foot-10. Someone pass Aaron a bottle of aspirin because he’s got some defensive headaches.
With the 17th overall pick, Team Fischman selects G/F Kawhi Leonard (Spurs; 6'7, 225 lbs).
Fischman: Leonard is only 20 years old, but he seems to already have a firm understanding of pro basketball. He really gets it. Maybe Coach Popovich has played some role in mentoring the youngster, but even at San Diego State, Leonard appeared to be a cerebral player, who would seemingly always make the right choice. You can never have too many smart decision-makers on your team, right?
With the 18th and final overall pick of shall we say Mr. Irrelevant, Team Shamout selects G/F Gordon Hayward (Jazz; 6'8, 210 lbs).
Shamout: No, Hayward is not the most glamorous player in the draft, but he’s also coming in to the game on a slight roll. Hayward’s February scoring average is 12.1, which is 1.3 points higher than his season average so far. However, he’s been pretty inconsistent this season. I like his height, which means I can play him at SF too. Hayward is also excellent off the ball, knowing how to get open, and then take it to the rack.
Fischman: When I was deciding whom to pick at #17, I made sure to avoid Hayward. Although I asbolutely loved watching Hayward tear it up in college (he excelled for Butler), the second-year pro, who had been widely regarded as a tremendous shooter, is really struggling from long-range this season. I trust that he’ll regain his shooting form eventually, but how long could that take? Who knows?
* For clarity, each's teams starters are underlined in the story above and placed first at each positon, below.
To recap, here are the teams Fischman and Shamout drafted, respectively:
PG: John Wall, Ricky Rubio, Brandon Knight
SG: MarShon Brooks
SF: Evan Turner, Kawhi Leonard
PF: Blake Griffin, Tristan Thompson
C: Greg Monroe
PG: Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker
SG: Paul George, Gordon Hayward
SF: Derrick Williams, Landry Fields
PF: Markieff Morris
C: DeMarcus Cousins, Tiago Splitter
So which team would win if Team Fischman and Team Shamout were to square off? Which players would make your starting five? Be sure to weigh in on these questions and more in the comments section below.