All-Star Weekend is finally here, and if you don’t count the celebrity game (for obvious reasons), the Rising Stars Challenge will truly kick off the weekend’s festivities. After having changed the format to Team USA versus Team World a few seasons ago, this year’s game will be no different. However, there has been one notable improvement: OG Anunoby’s presence on the Team World roster!
That’s right, our very own tantalizing-prospect-turned-role-player has been selected to participate in tonight’s event, perhaps as retribution after being snubbed from the game last year. OG’s efficiency and consistency have both taken hits this season, but much of that is due to external factors beyond his control, including personal family matters and developing team chemistry. While OG’s minutes remain the same as last year, his role has morphed from starter to bench player due to major roster changes.
But, that’s enough about OG for now. I write about the Raptors all the time, but it’s not every day I get to gush over Luka Doncic. By now, even casual fans know that Luka is a pastier, doughier version of LeBron James. The kid’s a basketball savant and will be one of the best players in the league for years to come. Recently, Luka mentioned that certain rules in the NBA make it easier to score than in Europe. Well, if it’s that easy for him to score in a normal game, it should be even easier tonight. After all, the event’s about having fun and showcasing the league’s newest talent, so I’m expecting some Doncic highlights: ridiculous step backs, lobs to Deandre Ayton (who’s quietly having a great year) and more.
However, this isn’t the All-Star Game. These young guys have been known to actually play some defense from time to time (at least to start the game), and we’ve seen some seriously competitive games in the past. Remember how fun it was watching Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dion Waiters taunt each other while repeatedly banging threes in each other’s faces? How about when Kristaps Porzingis went off for 30 points in a close game and showed the world that he wasn’t afraid of the spotlight?
Strangely enough, I usually prioritize watching the Rising Stars Challenge ahead of the All-Star Game. Call me crazy, but I get to witness seasoned All-Stars going off all season long — from Harden’s 30-game long streak of scoring 30+ points to Westbrook’s never ending triple-double festival. While the familiarity of the All-Star Game is nice, I relish the opportunity to get an extended look at our next generation of NBA superstars.
Let’s make some predictions. I’d like to speak the following into existence:
1.) De’Aaron Fox will win the game’s MVP award and, once again, overshadow Lonzo Ball. Lonzo is injured and will not play, so this should be easy. If he were healthy, it’d still be easy.
2.) Trae Young will take many, many shots — likely 20+ of them — and will make very, very few.
3.) Cedi Osman is going to posterize somebody. I’m looking at you, Bagley.
4.) Josh Okogie will prompt at least one viewer to say “Hmm. Maybe I should watch more Timberwolves games?” Subsequently, this viewer will not watch any more Timberwolves games and will never think about Josh Okogie again.
5.) Jarrett Allen’s going to block an OG Anunoby dunk attempt. Sorry, I’m just going with the odds.
Team USA – Jarrett Allen, Marvin Bagley III, Lonzo Ball, John Collins, De’Aaron Fox, Jaren Jackson Jr., Kevin Knox, Kyle Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Trae Young
Team World – OG Anunoby, Deandre Ayton, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Rodions Kurucs, Lauri Markkanen, Josh Okogie, Cedi Osman, Ben Simmons
Where to Watch: