The NBA rolls out the latest showcase for its young, emerging talent with the World All-Stars taking on the USA All-Stars in the Rising Star Challenge on Friday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
In the previous two years former NBA stars and legends would coach a mixed and matched group of first and second-year stars, but this year those hailing from the U.S. will square off against some of the league’s top internationals.
Odds makers have the U.S. squad, headlined by Orlando Magic guards Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton, along with Brooklyn Nets center Mason Plumlee, as four-point favorites.
The squad will miss injured Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams, but Payton and Oladipo figure to lead the offense along with Detroit Pistons swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Plumlee holding down the middle with Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller.
Head coach Alvin Gentry's squad also features the top rebounder, shot blocker and steal artist of this year’s rookie class. Forced sit out all of last season due to a serious knee injury, the 76ers 2013 No. 1 pick Nerlens Noel has roared back in his first season with 8.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.59 steals and 1.7 blocks per game.
But the World counters with arguably a more potent roster. Kenny Atkinson, an assistant on the Atlanta Hawks, will have plenty of scoring talent on his squad.
The 2014 No. 1 pick and Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Andrew Wiggins leads the international squad having won Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors the last two months. The Canadian star is joined by Minnesota teammate and center Gorgui Dieng, or Senegal, and the Utah Jazz’s inside-outside tandem of Australian guard Dante Exum, and French center Rudy Gobert.
Wiggins leads all rookies with 15.2 points per game this season, but in January alone he went on a 19.8 ppg tear while shooting 47.1 percent from the field.
Much like All-Star Weekend’s main event, this year’s Challenge is plagued by injuries. Williams, along with Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic and Boston Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk won’t play due to injury.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets
Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland Cavaliers
Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves
Dante Exum, Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
Kostas Papanikolaou, Houston Rockets
Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks
Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
Steven Adams, OKC Thunder (injured)
Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets (injured)
Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics (injured)
Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
Robert Covington, Philadelphia 76ers
Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers (injured)
Start Time: 9 P.M. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Live Online Stream: A live stream is available at TNT Overtime here
Betting Odds: USA All-Stars -4
Over/Under: 281 points
Prediction: World over USA, 134-130