February 24, 2012; Orlando FL, USA; Team Chuck guard Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers (2) reacts after he made 2 three-pointers in a row during the BBVA rising stars challenge at the Amway Center in Orlando. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sophomores versus Rookies: A Look at Both Classes

With the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge talent pool set, it’s as good a time as ever to compare the classes. Like last year, the 2013 game will be Team Shaq versus Team Chuck, in honor of NBA legends turned TNT analysts Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. In last years contest, Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving lead Team Chuck with 34 points in a 146-133 win.

This year the pool of talent is as follows (broken down by class):

Rookies: Harrison Barnes (Warriors), Bradley Beal (Wizards), Anthony Davis (Hornets), Andre Drummond (Pistons), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats), Damiea Lillard (Trail Blazers), Alexey Shved (Timberwolves), Dion Waiters (Cavaliers), Tyler Zeller (Cavaliers)

Sophomores: Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Brandon Knight (Pistons), Kenneth Faried (Nuggets), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Chandler Parsons (Rockets), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers), Nikola Vucevic (Magic), Kemba Walker (Bobcats)

The two legends will draft their own teams, but the actual starting lineups will be decided by fan voting. So, since fans can be unpredictable, we will do a mock draft with Team Chuck picking first.

  1. Team Chuck – Irving, point guard
  2. Team Shaq – Davis, front court
  3. Team Chuck – T. Thompson, front court
  4. Team Shaq – Lillard point guard
  5. Team Chuck – K. Thompson, shooting guard
  6. Team Shaq – Parsons, frontcourt
  7. Team Chuck – Kidd-Gilchrist, front court
  8. Team Shaq – Beal, shooting guard
  9. Team Chuck – Drummond, front court
  10. Team Shaq – Leonard, front court

11. Team Chuck – Barnes, front court

12. Team Shaq – Knight, point guard

13. Team Chuck – Walker, point guard

14. Team Shaq – Zeller, front court

15. Team Chuck – Vucevic, front court

16.  Team Shaq – Faried, front court

17. Team Chuck – Shved, point guard

18. Team Shaq – Waiters, shooting guard

Assuming these are the exact rosters (which they won’t be), I give the edge to Team Chuck. For one, Irving will be the best player in this game. Secondly, he has good options to run versatile lineups, like playing Barnes and Kidd-Gilchrist at the same time. To be honest, the only thing I am sure about when it comes to this game is that Irving will be the first pick. He is by far the best player, and if he’s on offensively, no guard in this game will be able to defend him.

On the whole, I like the sophomore class more than the rookie class. In the sophomores I see a real superstar in the making (Irving), some very good players (T. Thompson, K. Thompson and Knight) and a bunch of players who will be consistently good for years to come. On the rookies, I see premier talent in Davis and Lillard, but we just don’t know about everyone else yet. Granted they are only rookies, but I am not overly high on this group. Moving forward, I think the sophomores are just a better group of talent. Players like Irving have made their franchises instantly better. Outside of Davis, I cannot see a rookie from this year’s class being able to do that.

Lastly, how impressive is it that Cleveland has four players in this game? Just two years ago, in the wake of LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach, the roster was barren of young talent. Now, with Irving, Thompson, Waiters and Zeller in the fold, the future is bright. Granted we’ll need to see improvements from the latter two for me to have full confidence in them, but I have faith they’ll figure it out. All in all though, Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant deserves a lot of praise for assembling this young collection of talent. Out of any team represented in this game, the Cavaliers may have the best base – especially with Irving at the helm.

Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Dion Waiters Kyrie Irving Tristan Thompson Tyler Zeller

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