The "how conflicted can I make Lakers' fans feel" trade: https://t.co/iCIpLUfV3q
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) February 11, 2016
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— The Vertical (@TheVertical) February 11, 2016
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BY ROB GOLDBERG FOR THE BLEACHER REPORT
Although there won’t quite be the name recognition as the actual All-Star Game on Sunday, the NBA Rising Stars Challenge represents the future of the sport.
The 20 best first- and second-year players in the league will battle in a matchup between homegrown products and international stars. Some of them have a chance to make an impact down the line in their careers, while others are already key contributors on their team.
All of them can become household names, and it will all start Friday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Rising Stars Challenge Rosters United States Team Player Pos. Team Jordan Clarkson G Los Angeles Lakers Rodney Hood G Utah Jazz Zach LaVine G Minnesota Timberwolves Nerlens Noel F/C Philadelphia 76ers Jahlil Okafor C Philadelphia 76ers Jabari Parker F Milwaukee Bucks Elfrid Payton G Orlando Magic D’Angelo Russell G Los Angeles Lakers Marcus Smart G Boston Celtics Karl-Anthony Towns C Minnesota Timberwolves World Team Player Pos. Team Bojan Bogdanovic G/F Brooklyn Nets Clint Capela F/C Houston Rockets Mario Hezonja G/F Orlando Magic Nikola Jokic C Denver Nuggets Trey Lyles F Utah Jazz Emmanuel Mudiay G Denver Nuggets Raul Neto G Utah Jazz Kristaps Porzingis F/C New York Knicks Dwight Powell F/C Dallas Mavericks Andrew Wiggins G Minnesota Timberwolves
Arguably the most notable players in the showcase will be the Minnesota Timberwolves trio of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine. Wiggins is already a star with a team-leading 20.7 points per game, while Towns is one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year with 16.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. The two No. 1 overall picks have certainly lived up to expectations.
Meanwhile, LaVine doesn’t always put up huge numbers but is consistently capable of a big play with his athleticism.
The Los Angeles Lakers are also well-represented with D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson playing on the U.S. team. Head coach Byron Scott was proud of his players but also noted this is just a stepping stone, per Jovan Buha of ESPN.com:
I think it says a lot of people see a lot of promise in them, that they’ve had a pretty good season so far. But what it tells me is that they still have a ways to go. They have to continue to work. You don’t want to stop at the Rookie-Sophomore Game. You want to get to an All-Star Game. Hopefully that’s those guys’ dream and ambition. Hopefully they can pull that off in the next few years.
One of the most notable players on the World team will be Kristaps Porzingis, who has quickly become a fan favorite for the New York Knicks with big numbers and highlight-reel plays. Although he was a bit of an unknown on draft day, the forward was ready to make an impact much earlier than many anticipated, and he will remain a major draw going forward.
With Nikola Jokic, Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker and others also set to participate, this should be a fun matchup to kick off All-Star Weekend.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
There are a handful of Kentucky players on the rosters in Towns, Nerlens Noel and Trey Lyles, but Wildcats fans might be a bit upset to see Devin Booker and Julius Randle not in attendance. Randle is now averaging a double-double for the Lakers, while Booker has become the three-point ace many were expecting coming into the year.
At least Booker, 19, gets a chance make history as the youngest participant ever in the three-point contest on Saturday.
Rookie wings Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow were also left off the rosters, although Winslow doesn’t appear to be too upset about it, per Ethan J. Skolnick of the Miami Herald:
Justise Winslow OK with not being in Rising Stars game: "I'll take the break." Will take tradeoff that he's on team with winning record.
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 1, 2016
Winslow doesn’t have great offensive numbers, but he has been an excellent defender and rebounder this year. Johnson also continues to get better as the year goes along.
Players like Aaron Gordon and Myles Turner are also likely upset about missing out on an invite, although Gordon will get his chance to shine in the dunk contest.
PredictionSam Forencich/Getty Images
The U.S. team certainly looks deeper with Towns, Okafor and Noel in the frontcourt to go with Clarkson, Marcus Smart and Elfrid Payton rotating in the backcourt. Everyone on the roster has tons of upside and could create some exciting plays throughout the game.
However, the World team might be even better with a few key players who can take control of the action. Wiggins has become one of the top scorers in the NBA in his second year in the league and can thrive in a wide-open game like this.
Porzingis also could star in this matchup after receiving high praise from Magic Johnson on ESPN’s Mike and Mike:
— Mike & Mike (@MikeAndMike) February 9, 2016
Emmanuel Mudiay has also been impressive in his first year in the league, while Clint Capela, Bojan Bogdanovic and others will help out as well.
It should be an exciting back-and-forth battle throughout, but look for the key players on the international squad to help pull away while Wiggins takes home the MVP in Toronto.
Prediction: World 142, United States 133
Musical Break -
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Lakers' D'Angelo Russell not as mature as a rookie as Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving, says Byron Scott https://t.co/QR6Rpz1oUH
— L.A. Times Sports (@latimessports) February 11, 2016
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— SB Nation (@SBNation) February 11, 2016
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Powerful moments from Jrue Holiday after the game. He kept talking about his own wife, trying to wrap his head around Monty Williams’ loss.
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Thinking of and Condolences to Monty Williams on the loss of his wife. Very tragic.
Good to see DAR off to a good start offensively.
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— RealGM (@RealGM) February 10, 2016
Phil Jackson has an opt-out clause in his contract with the New York Knicks after the 16-17 season.
It was previously reported Jackson could opt-out this offseason.
Jackson joined the Knicks as team president in 2014.
Jackson has been linked to a return to the Los Angeles Lakers.
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— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 10, 2016
The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, breaks down the Los Angeles Lakers’ situation as the Feb. 18 trade deadline approaches.
HANG UP IF THEY ASK ABOUT …
The young kids
With draft picks going out for the foreseeable future, the Lakers’ rebuild should focus on Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr.
Even with seven teams in need of a point guard this summer, the Lakers will be in the driver’s seat with Clarkson, a restricted free agent. Give the Lakers’ scouting department credit for finding the second-round player in 2014. Not often do picks found in the late 40s turn into a potential building block.
Russell has endured his ups and down during his rookie season. The second overall pick in last year’s draft has tremendous upside. This summer will be key for Russell to continue to grow and develop. It is hard to give up on a player who is still only 19-years-old.
Randle and Nance, both former first-round picks, bring different skill sets each night. The 23-year-old Nance’s hustle, toughness and athleticism are on display every night. Utilizing his size and skill, Randle, 21, has played some of his best basketball in the last few weeks. Still technically a rookie, his rebounding has been at a high level all season.
UP FOR DEBATE
Brandon Bass and Lou Williams
The veterans have value on and off the court for the Lakers. Moving either player would bring the Lakers back to Step One in the rebuilding process. Both players are on manageable contracts, although Bass has a player option for next year. As we saw last July, the Lakers, once a hotbed for free agents, have taken a backseat to some of the smaller market teams.
WORTH TAKING THE CALL
Young’s contract is one of the hardest to trade in the NBA. The Lakers, without any draft assets to attach to Young, will find a small market, if any, for the shooting guard. Young is under contract thru the 2017-18 season.
Unlikely to return, the two-time All-Star has seen his overall production drop since his heyday in Indiana. Do not be surprised if Hibbert’s name is mentioned post-deadline as a possible buyout candidate.
NO-TRADE CLAUSE OR WITH A RESTRICTION
Bryant is one of six players in the NBA with a no-trade clause. The clause comes with the provision that Bryant has total veto power.
Hibbert, who was acquired from Indiana, cannot be traded back to the Pacers during the 2015-16 season.
MOVE THAT PUSHES THE NEEDLE
TREASURE CHEST OF PICKS
Depends on May’s ping pong balls
The Lakers owe Philadelphia a first-round pick that’s protected Nos. 1-3. If Los Angeles is in the top three of the lottery it will retain it.
But there is a domino effect based on the pick owed to Philadelphia.
If Philadelphia has the Lakers’ pick in 2016:
If the 76ers receive the Lakers’ pick from Nos. 4-30 in 2016, then the Magic will receive a Lakers top-five lottery protected pick in 2018. The pick will turn unprotected in 2019 if Orlando does not receive it.
If Philadelphia has the Lakers’ pick in 2017:
If the Lakers retain their pick in 2016, then the pick owed to Philadelphia will become top-three protected in 2017. Orlando would then receive a 2019 unprotected first from Los Angeles.
If Philadelphia has the Lakers’ pick in 2018:
The 76ers would have a 2018 unprotected first from the Lakers if no pick is transferred in 2016 or ’17. If this were to happen, Orlando would receive 2017 and 2018 second-round picks from the Lakers.
AVAILABLE TRADE EXCEPTIONS
POST-TRADE DEADLINE ROSTER MOVEMENT
The status of coach Byron Scott will be something to watch as the season winds down. The former Laker, in his second year leading the team, has been a lightning rod since arriving in Los Angeles.
SNEAK PEEK TOWARD JULY
The Lakers will be the salary-cap leaders this summer, with roughly $52 million available. That cap space, however, will depend on the free-agent status of Clarkson. Clarkson, 23, will be a restricted free agent with early Bird rights. If Los Angeles signs him, it will have to be using cap space.
With that cap room comes with many holes that need to be filled, especially at starting wing and center.
The Lakers currently cannot trade a first-round pick until 2021. This will change based on the pending conditions with Philadelphia and Orlando.
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