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Mocking the Rising Stars Challenge draft

Sacramento Kings' DeMarcus Cousins (15) shoots against Golden

Sacramento Kings' DeMarcus Cousins (15) shoots against Golden State Warriors' Andris Biedrins (15) during the first half of an NBA basketball game. (Jan. 31, 2012) Credit: AP

The NBA unveiled the players selected to participate in the new look rookie-sophomore challenge, called the "BBVA Rising Stars Challenge."

Those that will participate:

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
MarShon Brooks, New Jersey Nets Landry Fields, Knicks
Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns Greg Monroe, Pistons
Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers Tiago Splitter, Spurs
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers
Derrick Williams, Timberwolves John Wall, Washington Wizards

Next Thursday, Feb. 16, Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley will select teams from the pool. Today, I'll take a crack at mocking the draft.

We'll assume there are no restrictions, and make sure that each team can put a solid starting five on the court.

Team A takes: Griffin
Team B takes: Monroe
Griffin is a no-brainer No. 1. He'll rebound and score, and could put up 40 points and 20 rebounds in a game that won't feature any defense. Team B needs to take Monroe here to make sure Griffin isn't teamed with one of the best centers in the NBA. Not a bad consolation prize.

Team B takes: Cousins
Team A takes: Irving
The Cousins selection gives Team B a ridiculous front line; David Robinson-Tim Duncan-esque! Him and Monroe may be the two best rebounders of the entire pool. Irving might be the most skilled player and the draft, and him and Griffin could have a field day.

Team A takes: Splitter
Team B takes: Rubio
Splitter is the first tough choice of the draft. Griffin will need help in the paint, and the 6-10 Splitter is averaging 9.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. Team B then pairs the best passing guard of the rookie class with their big frontcourt.

Team B takes: George
Team A takes: Wall
You've got two bigs and a point guard with terrific court vision. Where do you go? A three-point threat. George is shooting 45.8 percent from deep, making him the perfect complement. Wall is a tricky pick with Irving already manning the point. Remember, though: Wall is in the midst of a sophomore slump. Who says he can't break out of it for one game, revert back to his terrific rookie season, and drop 30?

Team A takes: Hayward
Team B takes: Turner
In desperate need of a shooter, Team A takes Hayward. He's been very inconsistent from three this year, but has upped his scoring recently, averaging 13.0 points per game in February. Turner puts the finishing touches on Team B's dream starting lineup, adding a slasher who is also a decent rebounder.

Team B takes: Brooks
Team A takes: Morris
Easily the best scorer left on the board, Team B gets its sixth man. Brooks figures to be healthy in plenty of time for the game, so no worries there. Team A needs rebounding help, so they take Morris and his 8.7 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Team A takes: Williams
Team B takes: Fields
Williams makes it back-to-back bangers for Team A, stacking its bench with talented power forwards. Fields, the last sophomore left in the class, will give Team B hustle minutes off the bench.

Team B takes: Leonard
Team A takes: Walker
As a stretch four who can rebound, Leonard will be the first big man off of Team B's bench. Walker gives Team A a triumverate of point guards who can score. Plus, who can forget how good of a finisher he is (see: 2011 Big East and NCAA tournaments).

Team A takes: Thompson
Team B takes: Knight
Team A finishes stacking its bench with big men by adding Thompson. His stats extrapolate nicely to 15.0 points and 9.7 boards per 36 minutes. Knight's been streaky, and will be tested as the backup point guard to Rubio for Team B.

So, our final rosters:

PG: Kyrie Irving (No. 4 pick)
SG: John Wall (No. 8 pick)
SF: Gordon Hayward (No. 9 pick)
PF: Blake Griffin (No. 1 pick)
C: Tiago Splitter (No. 5 pick)
PF: Markieff Morris (No. 12 pick)
PF: Derrick Williams (No. 13 pick)
PG: Kemba Walker (No. 16 pick)
PF: Tristan Thompson (No. 17 pick)

PG: Ricky Rubio (No. 6 pick)
SG: Paul George (No. 7 pick)
SF: Evan Turner (No. 10 pick)
PF: DeMarcus Cousins (No. 3 pick)
C: Greg Monroe (No. 2 pick)
SG: MarShon Brooks (No. 11 pick)
SF: Landry Fields (No. 14 pick)
PF: Kawhi Leonard (No. 15 pick)
PG: Brandon Knight (No. 18 pick)

For Team A, you would wind up seeing some players out of position. Hayward would have to play some shooting guard, Morris would play both the 3 and the 4, and your starting backcourt would consist of a pair of point guards. Still, you have arguably the two best players in the draft in Irving and Griffin in the starting lineup.

Team B's roster is much more well-rounded. Monroe and Cousins are a terror at the 4 and 5, with Rubio running the pick-and-roll with them. George can play the Ray Allen role, running around big screens to get open from three, while Turner can look to sneak open on midrange jumpers. And of course, is Brooks is healthy, you have a spark off the bench.

If the Wall-Irving backcourt works out, Team A has a shot. Otherwise, the pieces fit too good for Team B to lose this one.

Who do you got?


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