The BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge participants were announced on Thursday, with many of the expected names showing up on the list of rookies and sophomores.
However, as happens every year with these exhibitions, some relatively big names were left off the list. Anthony Bennett of the Cleveland Cavaliers was the most surprising name left off, if only because he was the No. 1 overall pick (not necessarily because of how he has played).
Some other high draft picks from the 2013 NBA Draft, like Otto Porter (#3), Alex Len (#5), Nerlens Noel (#6) and C.J. McCollum (#10th) also didn’t make it due largely in part to the injury-riddled start to their careers, but some players were just flat out snubbed:
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings – Fifth among rookies in scoring, McLemore has shined in the recent absence of Rudy Gay, but inconsistency and a diminished role since Gay’s arrival has led to a rather up-and-down season for the fifth overall pick in last June’s draft. Despite all that, he’s an electrifying athlete and would have felt right at home in a pickup-style game like this. He may have even had a shot at winning MVP.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons – Very quietly, Caldwell-Pope has been one of the more respectable rookies in this overall disappointing class, as he’s one of only three rookies averaging over one steal per game, is sixth in scoring among rookies and has made the fifth most three-pointers. Defensively, he’s been one of Detroit’s most important perimeter players, but his lack of flash and the fact that he plays for a team too few people watch likely kept him out of the Rising Stars Challenge.
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Tony Wroten, Philadelphia 76ers – While it was impossible to leave Michael Carter-Williams off of this list, Wroten has started most of the games that MCW missed when he was out battling injuries earlier in the season. Wroten is averaging 12.7 PPG and 3.2 APG for the Sixers on the year, but averaged 18.4 PPG and 5.3 APG in his 11 games as the starter. He easily could have been included among the nominated sophomores.
Miles Plumlee, Phoenix Suns – One of this season’s most pleasant surprises, Plumlee is averaging 9.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG and 1.5 BPG for the upstart Phoenix Suns, who are surprisingly the sixth-best team in the Western Conference right now. Miles’ little brother Mason made it in as a rookie, despite the fact that Mason’s stats (5.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG) are nowhere near as good. The sophomore crop was more bountiful, though, and that’s the way cookies crumble sometimes. Still, the Plumlee-vs.-Plumlee angle would have been a fun one to see play out.
Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors – Apparently 51 points means nothing to the selection committee. Not that Ross has been a dominant scorer this entire season or anything (he’s averaging a relatively modest 10.2 PPG on the year), but his high-flying athleticism would make him a perfect and entertaining addition to this exhibition, and he’ll be at All-Star weekend anyway for the dunk contest. It’s a shame he won’t be able to participate in Friday’s main event, as well.
John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks – At this point it’s pretty obvious that there were just too many talented sophomores to bring them all to New Orleans, but Henson has looked very good in an atrocious season for the Bucks. Henson is averaging 12.1 PPG and 8.2 RPG this season, to go along with 2.2 BPG, which is good for fifth in the entire NBA. These are solid numbers for any player, but with the frontcourt depth already added for this game, it would’ve been hard to justify adding another kid from the league’s most depressing team.
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It’s possible that there will be some injury replacements for these players, as Pero Antic is out for a few weeks to deal with a stress fracture in his foot, but for the most part the group we’ve been given is the group we’ll see at All-Star weekend in February.
Who did you think got snubbed? Are there any players not in this exhibition that you think should be? Hit up the comments section, or continue the conversation on Twitter @joelbrigham.
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