The Bright Future of the NBA Is About to Be Unleashed on Fans Following the Announcement of This Year’s Rising Stars Rosters

The NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge is an opportunity for some of the league’s best young players to show their talent. (Not their skills. That would be during the Skills Challenge). But this year’s rising stars game has a different level of anticipation.

This season’s rosters feature 12 rookies, eight of which were lottery picks in the 2021 NBA Draft. Last year’s top two finishers for Rookie of the Year are also included, as are four members of the G-League Ignite — just one of the new wrinkles included for 2022.

The future of the league will be on full display on Feb. 18.

The Rising Stars Challenge is a game meant to showcase the NBA’s best young players

LaMelo Ball is just one star that will light up NBA All-Star Weekend during the Rising Stars game.
LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets reacts to a play during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The Rising Stars Challenge always features rookies and second-year players. (It used to be aptly named the Rookie-Sophomore Game).

It was an opportunity for the league’s future stars to showcase their potential, but it never quite caught on with fans. It was never a real highlight of All-Star Weekend.

According to The Sporting News, past MVPs include Jamal Murray, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Kevin Durant.

Those players all went on to become NBA stars and household names.

But the list of MVPs also includes Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, and Tyreke Evans. So the game was often hit or miss.

This year, however, it has a different feel to it.

This year’s rosters are unbelievably stacked

This season’s rosters include 12 first-round picks from the 2021 draft, per ESPN. It also features the 2020-21 Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball and the runner-up to that award, Anthony Edwards.

The Philadelphia 76ers‘ Tyrese Maxey and the Sacramento Kings‘ Tyrese Haliburton — both of whom have been desired trade targets heading into this year’s deadline — will also take part.

But it’s not just the number of first-round picks or stellar sophomores. It’s which rookies and second-year players are included.

Ball has quickly become one of the most exciting players in the entire NBA. His ability to nonchalantly toss around flashy passes is ideal for a wide-open showcase like the Rising Stars Challenge.

Cade Cunningham is also an unselfish playmaker with enticing passing skills. Evan Mobley is the leader for this year’s Rookie of the Year as an uber-athletic 7-footer who can run and jump with anyone in the league.

Scottie Barnes is another Rooke of the Year candidate who brings those same attributes. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey is perhaps the most underrated member of this year’s entire rookie class but is a walking triple-double threat.

Edwards is the most athletic player in the NBA. That lends itself perfectly to this kind of event.

So yes, the rosters are littered with exciting young players. But they’re also loaded with the perfect combination of young stars. Visions of LaMelo tossing behind-the-back lobs to Edwards can dance in fans’ heads.

Ditto with Giddey doing the same to Mobley, or Cunningham to Barnes. All this while Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner, Indiana Pacers’ guard Chris Duarte, and Haliburton hang out around the 3-point line to drain wide-open 30-footers.

And to add even more excitement, the league has tossed in a few new features for this season’s iteration.

The event will now be a four-team tournament and feature Ignite stars

Instead of a single rookie-sophomore game, the 2021-22 Rising Stars Challenge will feature four teams of seven players that will duke it out in a mini-tournament.

The NBA also decided to bring in four members of the G-League Ignite. Jaden Hardy, Dyson Daniels, Scoot Henderson, and MarJon Beauchamp will join the party. All four are projected to go in the top 20 of the upcoming draft, including Henderson, who’s one of the classes’ best players and a near-lock to be picked in the top three.

The alterations to the 2021-22 event, the ridiculously long list of the league’s best young players, and the potential of “oh my god, what just happened” plays make an often-ignored event into must-watch TV during this year’s All-Star Weekend.

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