On Thursday at 4 PM on TNT, Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley will draft their teams for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge (the event formerly known as the Rookie/Sophomore game). Shaq and Chuck will each pick from a pool of nine rookies, which includes our own Damian Lillard, and nine second-year players, with the teams, "coached" by Shaq and Chuck, facing off Friday, Feb. 15 in Houston.
With the draft tomorrow, I figured it would be fun to predict how the selection process might go. This is not so much how I would draft my team, but a guess as to how Shaq and Chuck will draft theirs. Shaq gets the first pick thanks to losing last year's game to Team Chuck (the real NBA Draft awards teams that lose, so I guess they figure why change it up). Here we go ...
With the first pick, Shaq selects: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
There's no denying that Irving, who is also playing in the Big Game Sunday night, is the best player among the 18 selected to compete in the Rising Stars Challenge. I considered that Shaq, being a center, might be reluctant to take a point guard with the first pick, but Kyrie is that much better than the rest of the field.
With the second pick, Charles selects: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Barkley has been effusive in his praise of Damian this season, and with the top point guard off the board, I think Chuck goes with the next best thing in Lillard.
With the third pick, Shaq selects: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets
Shaq goes with a big, and likely the best defensive player (for whatever that is worth in an exhibition game) with his second pick.
With the fourth pick, Charles selects: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Chuck makes another position-for-position pick by taking Drummond, whose athleticism is perfect for these kinds of games. And you won't have to worry about teams fouling him on purpose, even if he shoots a horrific 37 percent from the free throw line.
With the fifth pick, Shaq selects: Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
Another guy whose energy and athleticism makes him a great choice for an exhibition game. Fifth pick even feels kind of low for Faried, who has been borderline All-Star worthy this season for the Nuggets.
With the sixth pick, Charles selects: Harrison Barnes, Golden State
Barnes had been a bit inconstant through the first few months of the 2012-13 season, but his numbers are starting to tick up, the Warriors are the surprise team of the NBA and Barnes has had some ridiculous finishes at the rim. An easy pick.
With the seventh pick, Shaq selects: Klay Thompson, Golden State
The guy who never took a shot outside of the paint selects the best shooter among the field of 18.
With the eighth pick, Charles selects: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats
Assuming he's recovered from taking a nasty fall a few nights ago against the Houston Rockets, MKG would be a nice, blue-collar addition to Chuck's squad, even if he took a small forward with his last pick.
With the ninth pick, Shaq selects: Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
We're about the point in the draft where you just start taking the most talented player and being a big helps seal the deal for Team Shaq.
With the tenth pick, Charles selects: Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
Outside of Lillard, Barkley's team is a bit lean on ball-handlers. Adding Kemba gives him two guys who can play either guard position.
With the eleventh pick, Shaq selects: Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
I took into account Shaq's distaste for European big men, but Vucevic has been a monster on the boards and maybe this selection keeps him from being booed the next time he visits Orlando.
With the twelfth pick, Charles selects: Tyler Zeller, Cleveland Cavaliers
Chuck takes the last big man on the board after Shaq forces his hand by taking two bigs back-to-back
With the thirteenth pick, Shaq selects: Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Shaq's team beings to look like Cleveland's starting lineup with the addition of Waiters, but he needs someone to play behind Klay Thompson at shooting guard.
With the fourteenth pick, Charles selects: Kawhi Leonard
, San Antonio Spurs
Guys like Leonard just aren't cut out for exhibition games. It seems like an abomination to take him this low, but such is life for a "glue guy" on the league's most under-the-radar team.
With the fifteenth pick, Shaq selects: Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
Kind of in the same boat as Leonard. Parsons is a really nice player who, at this point, is better than a number of the guys taken above him, but when you play alongside James Harden and Jeremy Lin, there's not enough shine to go around.
With the sixteenth pick, Charles selects: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Billed as one of the best shooters of the 2012 Draft, Beal is shooting just 39 percent from the field and 36 percent from three.
With the seventeenth pick, Shaq selects: Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons
Shaq adds Knight, who can play both guard positions, to a team whose only according to Hoyle point guard is Kyrie Irving.
With the eighteenth pick, Charles selects: Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves
Shved takes almost 10 shots a game despite shooting 37 percent from the field and 31 percent from three. Somebody has to be taken last.
So here's my best guess for the teams:
Kyrie Irving, G
Anthony Davis, F/C
Kenneth Faried, F
Klay Thompson, G/F
Tristan Thompson, F/C
Nikola Vucevic, F/C
Dion Waiters, G
Chandler Parsons, F
Brandon Knight, G
Damian Lillard, G
Andre Drummond, C
Harrison Barnes, G/F
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F
Kemba Walker, G
Kawhi Leonard, F
Tyler Zeller, C
Bradley Beal, G
Alexey Shved, G
Now it's your turn. Leave your selections for the two teams in the comments. You can either pick as you think Shaq and Charles will pick, as I did, or make your own picks based off whatever criteria you think makes the most sense. The official teams will be announced starting at 4 PM Thursday on TNT.