The irony is dripping here, that the annual youth showcase is being played in the arena of the team which many regard has no future, but a bunch of old, past-their-prime stars and veterans instead. Delicious.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
When: Friday, Feb. 13 2015, 9PM ET
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
The Rising Stars Challenge has undergone several format changes since its inception in the 1990s. What started as an East vs West rookie game shifted to a rookies vs sophomores format before recent years where the teams were mixed and drafted by NBA legends like Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Chris Webber and Grant Hill. This year, a new format once again has been unveiled, with a team comprising of the best rooks and sophomores from the USA battling against a team of international youngsters. This may have been designed to install some competitiveness in the game by giving Team USA a sense of national pride. Either way, it should be a fun game.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the Pistons' lone representative at All-Star weekend this year, and he will be featured tonight as a Team USA sophomore, after missing this game last season. KCP has definitely improved this season, doubling his points average to around 12 a game, although he is still plagued by inefficiency and inconsistency. Yet, Stan Van Gundy has placed an inordinate amount of trust in him, as he leads the team in minutes per game at 30.8 (a certain astronaut had 32 minutes a game but we'll ignore him). As I mentioned above, KCP is fourth on the current roster in scoring at 11.9 per game, but has struggled shooting the ball at times. His FG% has remained exactly the same from last season at 40 percent, but his 3P% has risen from 32 percent to 35 percent (on six attempts a game).
Where he has really struggled, though, has been the free throw line. A noted solid foul shooter coming out of Georgia, he shot it well in his rookie year, hitting his freebies at a 77-percent clip. However, he has struggled horribly this year, shooting at 69 percent, which is actually an improvement from earlier in the season, when he really struggled. He has the third worst percentage on the team, beating only Drummond (41%) and Joel Anthony (64%, although Joel has only attempted 11 free throws all season). Still, expect KCP to have a good game in the typically no-defense format, and hope he finds a nice partner to recreate the Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dion Waiters battle of last season's showcase.
KCP Prediction: 27 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4/11 3PT, 4 dunks.
Trey Burke (Jazz)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Pistons)
Michael Carter-Williams (Sixers) - Injured, will not participate
Zach LaVine (Wolves)
Shabazz Muhammad (Wolves)
Nerlens Noel (Sixers)
Victor Oladipo (Magic)
Elfrid Payton (Magic)
Mason Plumlee (Nets)
Cody Zeller (Hornets)
Robert Covington (Sixers) - replacement for Carter-Williams
Coach: Alvin Gentry (Warriors assistant)
Steven Adams (Thunder/New Zealand) - Injured, will not participate
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks/Greece)
Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets/Croatia)
Gorgui Dieng (Wolves/Senegal)
Dante Exum (Jazz/Australia)
Rudy Gobert (Jazz/France)
Nikola Mirotic (Bulls/Montenegro)
Kelly Olynyk (Celtics/Canada) - Injured, will not participate
Dennis Schroeder (Hawks/Germany)
Andrew Wiggins (Wolves/Canada)
Jusuf Nurkic (Nuggets/Bosnia and Herzegovina) - Injury replacement for Adams/Will not participate for personal reasons
Matthew Dellavedova (Cavaliers/Australia) - Injury replacement for Olynyk
Kostas Papanikolaou (Rockets/Greece) - Injury replacement for injury replacement Nurkic
Coach: Kenny Atkinson (Hawks assistant)
It's a fun game, and gives the young players a chance to strut their stuff. The World team does look like it has the edge through both NBA form and general experience as a lot of the Euros have been playing professionally for a lot longer than the American boys.
World 144, USA 128
MVP - Wiggins
Leading Scorer - Wiggins 37
Leading Dunks - Wiggins 6
Quote from KCP
"I am looking forward to it. It's a blessing to even play in that game."
Do you enjoy the new format for this year?
Comment below and enjoy the game, we'll have a GameThread up a little later.