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Which Sophomores Get Into the Rising Stars Challenge?

The All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City will be one to remember. There will be a bunch of young stars taking the stage on Friday Night, but which players will represent the 2nd year players in the Rising Stars Contest?

Photo By: Nathaniel S. Butler (Getty Images North America)

Last year the NBA introduced a new format to the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Weekend. It was a huge success, and it finds its way to Utah for this year's festivities. This new format comprises of 4 drafted teams from a pool of 12 rookies, 12 sophomores, and 4 G-League Ignite players. It was a single-elimination tournament style, with the first game being played to 50 points, and the second being played to 25. So with last year's success, who gets in this year for the sophomores?

Jalen Green, HOU

Jalen Green has had a resurgence this year for the Houston Rockets. While the Rockets as a team are incredibly dysfunctional, Green has elevated his game to a new height (literally). His offensive repertoire now consists of thunderous jams, a variety of step-back moves, and an incredible Tatum-esque sidestep. He now averages 21.2 PPG and 4.4 APG. While he still really needs to work on his efficiency, it's hard to with the inconsistency of his options around him.

Franz Wagner, ORL

Franz Wagner is quietly having a great year down in Orlando. While the Magic have been up and down, Wagner has consistently put up 20 points per game. Wagner is an incredibly gifted scorer from all three levels and has shown an improvement in his playmaking for others. With his long and lanky frame, Wagner can get into passing lanes and defender all sorts of wings at a pretty decent clip. This season he's averaged 20.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 3.4 APG for a tanking Magic squad. But when it comes time to win, Wagner will certainly be a big contributor.

Evan Mobley, CLE

Evan Mobley and the Cleveland Cavaliers are off to a hot start this year in the Eastern Conference. And Mobley has been a big part of their top-10 defense. While he's taken a step back from his near-ROTY campaign last year, the 7 foot center is still playing at a high level. This season he's averaging 14 PPG, 9 RPG, and 3 APG with 1.3 BPG and .8 SPG. Great defensive impact stats as well alongside Jarrett Allen.

Josh Giddey, OKC

Josh Giddey has taken a big step forward on both sides of the ball this season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He's averaging career-highs in almost every category, which is expected from a 2nd-year player, but nonetheless impressive. Giddey has put up 15 PPG, 8 RPG, and 5 APG for a surprisingly okay Thunder squad. Giddey has made himself into one of the best guard rebounders in the league. He's just one of three guards to average over 7.5 RPG while under 6'8 (Luka Dončić, Josh Hart). He's also improved his 3-point shot, shooting up to 36%.

Scottie Barnes, TOR

Unfortunately, Scottie Barnes has been the subject of a sophomore slump. Scottie Barnes has kind of just stayed the same from his Rookie of the Year campaign back in 2022. He's still averaging great numbers. He has put up 15 PPG, 7 RPG, and 5 APG in a stagnant Raptors offense. Defensively Scottie is still great on the ball. And his standstill with improvement isn't necessarily his fault. The Raptors failed to put shooters around Barnes, and his play has suffered from that. Regardless, Barnes has still put out a good season and is deserving of a Rising Stars spot.

Bones Hyland, DEN

Bones Hyland broke out last year during the playoffs last year for the Denver Nuggets. And he has continued that hot play going into this season. Hyland has obviously benefitted big time from the play of his MVP teammate, Nikola Jokić. Bones shoots over half of his attempts from 3, knocking down 41% from downtown and proving himself to be one of the best catch-and-shoot options in the league. Hyland is averaging 13.3 PPG with some solid defense as well. There's a big future for Hyland as a high-end role player in Denver.

Alperen Şengün, HOU

Alperen Sengun is yet another victim of the terrible Houston Rockets system. They somehow have like 4 possible guys in this Rising Stars game, yet they are so bad at making these guys mesh together. But anyways, Şengün has played great over the last season and a half. This year he has taken a big leap and is averaging 15 PPG, 9 RPG, and 3 APG. Şengün can be a great passing big man in the future, and he has shown flashes of excellence so far in his career.

Austin Reaves, LAL

Austin Reaves kind of goes under the radar among NBA fans because of the perception that he is just another overhyped Lakers prospect. Reaves is a lot more like Caruso as opposed to Talen Horton-Tucker than fans think he is. Reaves has an excellent knack of basketball that very few players have on the defensive end. He isn't incredibly athletic or skillful, but he shows the little things that don't show up on the stat sheet. He's a pretty good shooter too, as he is averaging 11 PPG on 49% FG and 36% 3PT. The Lakers have themselves a nice role player for the future, and should be a Rising Star.

Quentin Grimes, NYK

Quentin Grimes is the perfect role player for any team in The Association. He has been a big piece of the Knicks' success this year, and has shown that he is a rising star in the NBA. Similar to Reaves, Grimes possesses all of the intangibles that make him special to watch. He is a good defender on the perimeter and is thriving off-the-ball next to Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. He is averaging 10.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and shooting 37% from 3 this year in New York. I'd definitely expect him to have a long career in the NBA.

Herbert Jones, NOP

Herb took Twitter by storm late last season due to his incredible defense against stars across the league. While he has seen some slight regression in his game and has had some injury problems this season, his defense propels him to the Rising Stars Competition. Jones has been a big piece for New Orleans since his debut, and is averaging 10 PPG on 42% and 29% 3PT. He averages 1.5 steals per game and is one of the NBA's best young defenders.

Ayo Dosunmu, CHI

Another 2021 2nd rounder should get a selection this February. Ayo has been a crucial part to the Bulls' guard carousel. He brings incredible on-ball defense to a Chicago squad that lacks that very skill. He shows all the intangibles that someone like Jrue Holiday has on the defensive side of the ball. He is also excellent at cutting to the rim and finding easy buckets while getting downhill. Dosunmu is averaging 10 PPG on 50% FG with just around a steal per contest.

Santi Aldama, MEM

Santi Aldama is probably the most underrated player in the NBA. He's a do-it-all player who is quietly thriving under Taylor Jenkins in Memphis, and has been the perfect replacement for Kyle Anderson. The 22 year old (fun fact, today is his Birthday!) out of Loyola (Maryland) is producing 10 PPG and 5 RPG on 37% FG and amazing wing defense. He is actually a solid ball-distributor for his size, and he is a great connector in transition. Aldama will be key come playoff time for the Grizzlies and deserves a spot.

Honorable Mentions: Davion Mitchell (SAC), José Alvarado (NOP), Trey Murphy III (NOP).


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