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    Rising Stars Challenge Rookies: Who Will Feature For Team USA?

    Last week we covered the international rookies we expect to see in this year’s Rising Stars Challenge.

    As a recap,The Rising Stars Challenge features the most exciting US and international rookie and sophomore players. Team USA and Team World both draft 10 players and face off in a game of two 20-minute halves.

    The NBA Rising Stars Challenge is usually scheduled for Friday of the All-Star Weekend. This year, the game in Charlotte will be on Friday, February 15, and will start at 9:00 pm. Tickets for the 2019 Rising Stars Challenge are still available.

    The US player pool is obviously more stacked than the international, and there will be tough competition for spots in the Rising Stars Challenge roster. Let’s go over the rookies we think will make it this year!

     

    Trae Young, PG (Atlanta Hawks)

    15.5 PPG7.3 APG2.9 RPG

     

    Trae Young has been one of the most talked about rookies this season, and at times he seems to receive overly harsh criticism. Young was picked 5thin the 2018 draft by Dallas, but the Mavs traded him and a future first-round pick for Luka Doncic. The trade is not a great look for the Atlanta front office, and it probably made fans place unrealistic expectations for Young for this season.

    Young was a social media sensation during his year in Oklahoma. Highlights of his long-range three-point shot were regularly in the feeds of NBA fans. The shot hasn’t translated to the NBA level yet, which has been a point of frustration for some. He is currently shooting 29.3% from beyond the arc with 4.9 attempts per game.

    Besides that, he looks like a very promising player who suffers from the normal problems that rookie point guards usually have to deal with: turnovers, inefficiency and inconsistency. Learning to run a team at the NBA level is not an easy feat and it often takes years for players to come to terms with that. His size doesn’t make it any easier and it should be fair to expect that it will take a while for him to start consistently finding his way in the league.

    Young leads all rookies in assists and is third in scoring. He has already showed that he can put up big performances, logging his career-high 35 points against Cleveland in October. He also dished out 17 assists in a November game against the Clippers.

    Young is in a great situation because he has been given the keys to the Hawks offense and the permission to make mistakes and learn. He has massive upside and could end up being a big-time scorer in the NBA. Hopefully we’ll see a bunch of ridiculous threes from him in the Rising Stars Challenge.

     

    Jaren Jackson Jr., C (Memphis Grizzlies)

    13.4 PPG4.7 RPG1.6 BLKPG

     

    The number 4 pick from Michigan State is having an impressive rookie season so far for Memphis. Fans will surely remember his performance against the Lakers in December, in which he ended up with 27 points and dropped a step-back three over LeBron James to seal the game.

    Other big performances from him include a 36-point and 8-rebound night against the Nets, and a 27 & 6 on the Kings. He leads all rookies in blocks (1.6 per game) and is fifth in scoring. He is finishing somewhat effectively (52.3% FG). At 33.3% with 2.4 attempts per game, his three-pointer is good enough that it needs to be respected. This enables him to space the floor for his team.

    Jackson has been getting in to foul trouble quite often and definitely needs to improve on the defensive end. And while he’s been putting up impressive numbers in many games, there are times when his production is nonexistent.

    Jackson will surely improve in consistency though and looks like a great pick from Memphis. He’s also got some great veterans to lean on in Memphis and could be a future franchise cornerstone.

     

    Kevin Knox, SF (New York Knicks)

    12.1 PPG0.9 APG4.2 RPG

    Kevin Knox has been one of the few bright spots in a rather miserable Knicks-season. The 9thoverall pick from Kentucky already made headlines during the Summer League with some ferocious dunks. He has continued to do so in meaningful games as well.

    Long, athletic and aggressive, Knox’s game is fun to watch. He can shoot, handle the ball, drive and finish layups on defenders. He has runners and floaters in his arsenal and shoots a decent 36.2% from downtown. His 16.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in December landed him Rookie of the Month honors.

    With the Knicks tanking this season, Knox is getting plenty of minutes and valuable experience in the league. He looks like a guy who could end up having a great all-round scoring game and will surely be a fan-favorite at MSG if he keeps on developing. He’s definitely the kind of player that fans will love at a high-scoring showcase game as well.

     

    Next In Line

    Three more US rookies stand out from the pack and have a decent chance of making it to the Rising Stars Challenge roster.

    Marvin Bagley III was out injured for 11 games but returned to the Kings lineup on Monday. He will surely feature if he can stay healthy.

    Collin Sexton of the Cavaliers is fourth in scoring amongst rookies with 14.7 per game. He has received a fair amount of criticism as the starting point guard but could easily feature in the game.

    Wendell Carter Jr. has been good for the Bulls as well and could have a shot, especially if some of the guys in front of him can’t make it due to an injury.

     

    Out

    Allonzo Trier has shot the ball well and puts up 10.1 points per game for New York, but it’s probably a stretch to predict him featuring.

    Kevin Huerter, Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges, Landry Shamet and Mo Bamba have all gotten minutes and shown at least flashes of some good stuff this season. But with a bunch of better-performing rookie talent ahead of them, it doesn’t seem realistic for any of these guys to make the Rising Stars Challenge this year.

     

    With an exciting rookie class and sophomores such as Tatum, Fox and Mitchell returning, Team USA should be a great watch this year!

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