Our ‘Rising Stars’ Squads

The NBA Rising Stars Challenge – previously known as Rookies vs. Sophomores – not only underwent a name change, but a bit of a rule change. While the game still includes first and second year players, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal will select players for each team. Rather than waiting for these “GMs” to do their thing,  we went ahead and picked our own squads. Bacardi and Rohit went back and forth picking their players, and gave some reasoning behind their picks.

1.     Blake Griffin – PF – LAC (Bacardi)

2.     Kyrie Irving – PG – CLE (Rohit)

3.     Ricky Rubio – PG – MIN (Bacardi)

4.     Demarcus Cousins – PF/C – SAC (Rohit)

5.     Greg Monroe – C – DET (Bacardi)

6.     John Wall – PG – WAS (Rohit)

7.     Paul George – SG/SF – IND (Bacardi)

8.     Tristan Thompson – PF – CLE (Rohit)

9.     Derrick Williams – SF/PF – MIN (Bacardi)

10. Marshon Brooks – SG – NJN (Rohit)

11. Kemba Walker – PG/SG – CHA (Bacardi)

12. Kawhi Leonard – SF – SAS (Rohit)

13. Gordon Hayward – SG/SF – UTA (Bacardi)

14. Brandon Knight – PG/SG – DET (Rohit)

15. Evan Turner – SG/SF – PHI (Bacardi)

16. Markief Morris – SF/PF – PHE (Rohit)

17. Tiago Splitter – PF/C – SAS (Bacardi)

18. Landry Fields – SG – NYK (Rohit)

Team Bacardi:

PG – Ricky Rubio, Kemba Walker

SG – Gordon Hayward, Evan Turner

SF – Paul George

PF – Blake Griffin, Derrick Williams

C – Greg Monroe, Tiago Splitter

Team Rohit:

PG – Kyrie Irving, John wall

SG – Marshon Brooks, Brandon Knight, Landry Fields

SF – Kawhi Leonard

PF – Tristan Thompson,  Markief Morris

C – Demarcus Cousins

Overall thoughts of the draft:

Bacardi: Draft unfolded rather predictably, although John Wall falling to 6 is probably a surprise, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Sir Charles take him 2nd overall (he’s arguably the best PG of the group). One thing that really stands out from the bunch is the lack of a true SF besides Kawhi Leonard. Some potential steals would be Paul George falling to 7, Brandon Knight at 14 and Landry Fields going last overall. From a personal standpoint, I considered taking Fields to be my starting SG but decided against it, then when the opportunity to take him appeared with my last pick I thought I wanted more size. I don’t regret it.

Rohit: The draft went down how I thought it would, but Wall and Knight falling that far down did surprise me a bit. It was a bit annoying having to draft from players like Splitter and Fields because I really don’t think they’ll have much impact in a game like this. There’s a bunch of guards, primarily PGs, and some big men (Blake, DMC), not too many players that could fit the versatile SF position. But, since this is pretty much a pick-up game, both sides could just play 4 guards and one big man. One last note: seeing Griffin in this pool was frustrating because I doubt he plays many minutes, if any at all, since he’ll be in the actual all-star game. Being a guard-driven game, look for guys like Rubio and Wall to control how the game unfolds.

Team Breakdowns:

Bacardi: Team Bacardi, in my utmost humble opinion, is the superior of these two teams. I got an unselfish PG who may already be the best passer in the league along with guys who can really run the court. If D’Antoni coached this team, we’d be a lock for semifinals in either conference. Defensively, I could have problems but Greg Monroe and Demarcus cousins would probably cancel each other out. While I certainly don’t have the star back up PG that Rohit has in John Wall, I got Kemba to steady the 2nd team’s offense and be a reliable scorer. I have 3 guys who can switch between the 2 and 3 in Hayward, George, and Evan Turner, so I have a lot of flexibility. I also have Derrick Williams to either relieve Blake or potentially play the 3 and have a big lineup. Most of my points will come from Blake and probably Paul George, while Rubio piles up the assists and Monroe hounds the boards.

Team Rohit is fairly balanced all around. The true “superstar” of the team may come off the bench or beat out his top overall pick. While he did draft a true shooting guard in Marshon Brooks, he has no dependable size outside of Demarcus Cousins. I’m glad I get to go to war with Blake, Derrick Williams, Greg Monroe and Tiago Splittler against Boogie Cousins, Tristan Thompson, and Markieff Morris. I think I win that battle. He’s got really strong guards though, three guys more than capable of running the point (Irving, Wall, Brandon Knight). I could see his team having problems scoring though, but defensively their sound.

Rohit: On paper, Bacardi’s team is much more balanced, and as a result, would be the squad to bet on. Just knowing he has Rubio, George, and Griffin, trumps any combo my team comes up with.  Bacardi mentioned his team’s ideal coach would be D’Antoni, and in all honesty, if not him, then I’d go with the offense the Wizards run. Run it every play down, even after made baskets. With Rubio handling the rock, and guys like Hayward and Griffin running with him, that team can feast on the fast break. His balance comes in with guys like Monroe and George who can help that team score in the half-court offense. That’s not to say they aren’t assets in the open court (Paul George has mad hops), but they allow that squad options if the fast break isn’t there. The only issue I think his team has is a lack of depth up front; I’m not to impressed with Derrick Williams and Splitter as the back-up big men.

On the other side, there’s my team led by a whole bunch of point guards. I definitely picked the team with the “pick-up game” mindset, and will admit that in a true 5 on 5 NBA style, slow it down game, my team might not be able to compete. That’s only because of a lack of size in front court. I’ve been impressed by the play of DMC, especially after Westphal got fired, and I think he holds it down for me up front. I would prefer to start a 2 (point) guard line-up (Wall, Irving) with 2 forwards (Kawhi, Tristan), and DMC as my Center. I’m not too worried about Hayward’s offense, and I think Bacardi’s lineup of Rubio and Hayward would have some trouble tracking down Wall and Kyrie. I like my length down low with DMC and Thompson, while Kawhi does all the intangibles. Off the bench, I have Knight and Marshon to hold down the back-court, but will definitely struggle if my starting big men get into foul trouble. Markieff Morris has been solid this year (some size, shoots ball well), but with him being my only big off the bench, that could hurt me.  I can see this team running line-ups with only one true big (ala Warriors from couple years ago, even now sometimes), allowing the guards take over the game.

Fantasy breakdown:

Bacardi: Team Bacardi may be in trouble when it comes to fantasy. My first pick, and the 1st overall for that matter, is scheduled to start the actual all-star game, which might mean few minutes in the BVAA challenge. Does that worry me? Perhaps, but hopefully my backups will be on the same team as him and will get the lionshare of his minutes. I should win the rebounds as I got 3 high number rebounders (and Derrick Williams), shots should be interesting. I feel like I might get more 3s, but probably shoot worse FG and FT percentages. I got the points for sure though, assists not so likely due to Rohit having 3 PGs and me having only 1 distributive guard. Should be pretty deadlock.

Team Rohit obviously went from a fantasy perspective, and while that’s fine he may not even win that. Like I previously said for my team, he’s gonna win Assists. That’s a lock, besides that though everything is a question mark. While he undoubtedly has the best big man in Cousins, I don’t see him winning the power categories. And though I said he might win the percentages, its hard to factor that in. He has a lot of shoot first, bad % guards.

Rohit: With my lack of size, I doubt I win rebounds. Assists definitely. I’m worried about my shooting percentage, but with guys like Kawhi and Tristan (defense first +team first mentality) in the starting lineup, the squad could get bunch of good looks off dribble drives from the guards. Like I said, in a legitimate NBA game, this team would have its struggles, but in a pick-up game like this, I’m hoping my guard-heavy squad can pull it out.

If Bacardi gets Griffin to play, that’s a huge factor in these stats. Griffin would get plenty of easy dunks and rebounds, so we’ll see what happens with that. I think the x-factor in this could be Paul George, who could easily go off with bunch of 3s, but also has been known to have some terrible shooting nights. Rubio should be consistent for him, and will get 10+ assists. Look out for Kemba off the bench, he can get buckets in bunches. Assuming Griffin doesn’t play much, I think the blocks category comes down to Monroe vs Cousins.

Bacardi’s Prediction:

Bacardi wins FG%, PTS, REB, BLK, TO (5)

Rohit wins FT%, 3PTM, AST, ST (4)

Rohit’s Prediction:

Bacardi wins FG%, FT %, REB, TO (4)

Rohit wins PTS, BLK, 3PTM, AST, ST (5)

Follow Bacardi on Twitter: @zephyrbacardi
Follow Rohit on Twitter: @RohitGhosh