I feel like the quality of my work has gone down of late, and I mean to rectify it. Hence, this extra post on the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge that will be held in New Orleans as a part of the 2014 NBA All-Star weekend. The field was announced earlier today (click here to read a post I tanked), and after looking at the history of the event, and the players in this one, I have come to the oh so obvious conclusion that Trey Burke, of the Utah Jazz, can be one of the brightest starts on that night.
The game is an exhibition where defense matters less, and scoring matters more. Historically it's guard dominated, but a big man who scores a lot at a high FG% can walk away with the award at the end of the night. As far as the guards go, the ball is in their hands almost the entire time, and usually leave it for shots or alley-oop attempts. This field has a few really good oop finisher in Drummond and Davis, and potentially in Barnes and Antetokounmpo. There aren't many spot up threats, so it's going to be a dunk attempt diet, or a shoot-first guard festival.
Two teams are selected by Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal. (The selection will happen on TNT, on Thursday, February 6th, at 5 pm MT) It's a 40 minute game and four quarters long. The rosters will be 9 players each, and usually, because Shaq and Chuck aren't great GMs, the rosters are not in balance against one another.
If a guard is selfish enough, they can have the ball in their hands and do whatever they want -- and be in the driver's seat to win it all. Distributors look great, but don't usually bring home the hardware. Of course, John Wall had 22 assists, and Chris Paul had 17 and so on . . .
The Player Pool:
Here are the 18 players in the pool, broken down by player position (points guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center). In some cases this is broken down by my perception of what these guys are. But hey, maybe Sullinger thinks of himself more as a center, and Olynyk more as a power forward. I don't know. I didn't ask them.
Furthermore, this is broken down by their stats (mundane and advanced). The top player in each group is the one who plays the most MPG this season. This can be a handy way to gauge which of these guys are performing this season.
|1||Damian Lillard||Portland Trail Blazers||1||2||Soph||46||36.0||20.6||3.5||5.6||0.7||0.4||18.8||24.4%||5.3%||24.1%|
|2||Michael Carter-Williams||Philadelphia 76ers||1||2||Rook||34||34.8||17.4||5.6||6.7||2.4||0.6||17.5||15.7%||8.6%||31.2%|
|3||Trey Burke||Utah Jazz||1||Rook||33||31.0||13.3||3.1||5.7||0.7||0.2||14.1||23.1%||5.7%||31.2%|
|4||Bradley Beal||Washington Wizards||2||Soph||35||32.8||17.0||3.9||3.2||1.0||0.2||14.2||25.9%||6.8%||17.2%|
|5||Victor Oladipo||Orlando Magic||2||1||Rook||46||32.0||13.9||4.5||3.8||1.6||0.7||13.5||23.9%||7.9%||20.2%|
|6||Dion Waiters||Cleveland Cavaliers||2||3||Soph||40||29.0||14.3||2.9||2.7||0.9||0.2||12.2||25.9%||5.5%||16.6%|
|7||Tim Hardaway Jr.||New York Knicks||2||3||Rook||44||19.5||8.6||1.4||0.8||0.5||0.1||14.7||18.7%||4.1%||7.3%|
|8||Harrison Barnes||Golden State Warriors||3||4||Soph||42||29.3||10.1||3.9||1.5||0.9||0.2||9.8||16.8%||7.1%||7.5%|
|9||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks||3||2||Rook||39||23.7||7.0||4.7||1.8||0.7||0.8||11.7||15.7%||11.1%||12.2%|
|10||Anthony Davis||New Orleans Pelicans||4||5||Soph||37||35.6||20.4||10.4||1.4||1.5||3.3||26.7||24.4%||16.6%||6.7%|
|11||Terrence Jones||Houston Rockets||4||Soph||42||28.0||11.7||7.6||1.2||0.6||1.5||18.5||18.2%||14.9%||7.4%|
|12||Jared Sullinger||Boston Celtics||4||5||Soph||45||26.4||12.5||7.6||1.6||0.4||0.6||16.4||24.0%||16.2%||10.8%|
|13||Pero Antic||Atlanta Hawks||4||5||Rook||29||15.6||5.8||3.4||1.0||0.3||0.3||12.4||17.3%||12.7%||10.2%|
|14||Mason Plumlee||Brooklyn Nets||4||5||Rook||33||15.2||5.6||3.0||0.3||0.5||0.7||16.1||15.4%||11.6%||3.3%|
|15||Andre Drummond||Detroit Pistons||5||Soph||45||32.5||12.6||12.7||0.4||1.4||1.8||21.4||16.3%||21.8%||2.0%|
|16||Jonas Valanciunas||Toronto Raptors||5||4||Soph||44||27.9||10.4||8.6||0.8||0.3||0.9||14.6||18.3%||17.5%||4.5%|
|17||Kelly Olynyk||Boston Celtics||5||4||Rook||37||18.3||6.6||4.4||1.5||0.5||0.4||11.9||20.0%||13.3%||13.3%|
|18||Steven Adams||Oklahoma City Thunder||5||4||Rook||46||15.2||3.8||4.6||0.7||0.5||0.7||12.8||13.1%||16.8%||6.7%|
Half of these guys are bigmen, and there are only three point guards. Well, four if you include Victor. The thinnest position is small forward, with only two guys there, so expect the coaches to either go BIG or SMALL for most of this game. Furthermore, I don't think you can honestly believe everyone is going to get an equal amount of playing time. Three of the nine bigmen are going to be sitting for most of this game and just be happy to be there.
On the flip side, ball handlers will be playing A LOT as there are only (kinda) four of them. Beal, Waiters, and Oladipo will have to do a lot of ball handling (putting the total number up to 6), so you'd figure that they will be in the running if they decide to hog the ball and shine brightest like so many others have done before them (Kobe Bryant, etc). More if the coaches go small. It wouldn't be out of the question to see guys like Harrison Barnes play PF in this game, because #ratings.
Early Pick Predictions:
The first pick is either going to be a point guard or a bigman. And that means it's either going to be Lillard or Davis. That's the conventional wisdom here. Since none of the wings are foundational (really -- what's the difference between Beal and Oladipo? One shoots and scores more, the other defends and dishes better, and gets more boards), I would assume that the team that first picked a PG will then pick a big, and the team that first picked a big will then pick a PG.
Bigs are less of a need because there are 9 of them to pick from, but the only other standout would be Andre Drummond. So I have Lillard, Davis, and Drummond going in the Top 4. The only question is who that other point guard is going to be. In this type of exhibition game the difference between Davis and Drummond isn't that big -- #1 and #2 big are pretty close in abilities as finisher and rim protectors. The drop off from #2 to #3 in the bigmen is huge; but not as huge as the slim pickings for the point guards.
The difference between Lillard to who else is on the board who can handle the ball is huge. So he's the key. The bad news is that whomever is picked as the next best ball handler will a) have to play directly against Lillard, and b) isn't really going to be that much better than the #3, #4, and #5 best ball handlers / distributors in this game.
Of course, I'm expecting these two GMs to not fool things up. It would be fun to see Davis and Drummond picked on the same team, as that GM would try to corner the market on the best two bigs -- but even crazier would be the strategy to pick the Top 2 point guards in this game. There are nine bigs, and only three true point guards, and six total ball handlers. That alone makes the PG demand higher. Would a team with PG #1 and #2 be able to beat a team with Bigman #1 and #2? In this type of guard dominated game? Probably. Drummond isn't likely to go coast to coast.
So assuming that the GMs draft normally that second ballhandler spot is the key spot for Trey Burke. The rest of the rosters will be filled with little importance either way. (Jonas is a great #3 bigman but he's not going to be holding the trophy at the end of the game.) If Trey is able to be called up at the #2 PG, and faces off against Lillard -- he will be in the spotlight defensively, but also have enough minutes to do his thing. If he's the #3 or #4 ball handler, he'll be off the bench, and hardly play enough. (If Trey is picked #3 and is behind Lillard how many minutes do you think he'll see? Less than 20? Less than 15?)
The #2 Ball handler pick:
So it's down to Carter-Williams, Burke, Oladipo, and possibly Beal here. In a situation where there are no amazing wings, and the opponent picks Lillard you almost have to nail this pick; otherwise your team is toast. (Or, you do the crazy thing and use your first three picks on three bigmen or something) So in reality, this game is the microcosm of the macrocosm of the 2014 Rookie of the Year race. What a great co-incidence.
Carter-Williams is in the lead in that race, and has superlative stats. While Burke and 'Dipo are more evenly matched, this is the big hurdle to get by. In a way the only way Trey gets picked in the Top 4 is if Shaq or Chuck do one of their "beyond the numbers" types of picks. Do they feel that Trey is the better team leader? That may come down to wins, and making a positive impact running a team. In that regard Trey is superior to the numerically amazing Carter-Williams. But if they are picking by convention, Burke slips here and either has to back up MCW or Lillard; and both aren't great starting spots.
In fact, if Trey slips out of the Top 4 (which is likely), then he may be in the morass of being a middle of the road ball-handler / scorer, and end up getting picked in the 5th or lower round (which is a lot different than getting picked in the 2nd round). He's not going to have a shot to shine if he's picked on the same team as the team that has Lillard though, so it's almost better that he's with whomever was picked ahead of him in the PG rankings.
It's more than likely that Trey will be a lower pick in this draft as the #3 and #4 picks for both teams will either be some combination of a wing and big, and a point and a big. Or, looking at these lineups, maybe just two wings. Trey will come off the bench, and have to really show his stuff with the time that he has. I don't know how likely he's going to look to be selfish, and the selfish guys are the people who run away with the hardware. (Really, you know which guys really want it by the end of the first quarter)
It's possible that Trey will play a maximum of 23 minutes in this game, as a result. If he was a 'starter' pick for one of the two teams, perhaps more. That's not a lot of minutes for a normal player (only six of the eighteen players play 23 or fewer MPG), but Trey has been schooled in the Utah way and is efficient in spurts.
I can see him getting the job done, and really, all he has to do is keep throwing lobs to Davis (if he's picked in the top 4) or Davis / Drummond (picked later). If you feed the bigs they'll be getting you the ball off of defensive rebounds. Trey's shooting this season has been iffy, and I think he is going to see his role on this team, in this game, to be more of a facilitator. After all, there are only three point guards in this pool.
Trey is shooting on fire, and is a big part of his team's offense. He is doing great on the pick and roll, and stepping back to knock down jumper after jumper. It's like his at Michigan again, and he's leading his team -- meaning that his coaches play him more, especially down the stretch. Trey has come off the bench to put himself in the race for BBVA Rising Stars challenge MVP.
He's the #3 or lower pick for a ball handler, and gets destroyed under the microscope by one on one moves by Lillard and others, like Brandon Knight was by Kyrie Irving last year.
It's about more than just being the MVP:
Sure, it is. I think the main point here is to have fun and represent the team well. I am sure he will. But I think his people are also telling him that he can build some momentum for this apparent run-away ROY race with a strong showing in this game. I think that's also possible. While it would be great for Jazz fans to have him actually BE the MVP of this game, I think that's really Lillard's or Davis' prize in this game. (Or something crazy happens, like Giannis getting a triple double, but that's super unlikely.) No matter what, though, for there to be any momentum gained here, he has to out play / out perform MCW and VO. It's still a three player race for 2014 ROY. Trey is the only one bringing the wins for his squad. If he can help his squad win this exhibition that would be another feather in his cap.
I think Trey will get an opportunity to prove that not only does he belong with these guys as his peers, but that amongst them he can be one of the brighter stars. The brightest? Maybe not as a rookie. But if he's able to develop a quick bond with his scorers when he's in the game, he can really display that leadership and winning attitude that so many Jazz fans have already fallen in love with. With these guys, in this game, yes; he can be one of the brightest starts at All-Star Weekend.