NBA All-Star weekend: Andrew Wiggins and LaVine amongst Rising starts to watch

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With so many events taking place at the NBA All-Star weekend, we’ll forgive you if you forget about the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on the Friday night.

The game offers fans a chance to see what the future of the league will look like as all young players who were draft picks over the past two years are on show.

To make the showcase more entertaining, it is set up so ten players from the United States face off against ten players from around the world.

We’ll take a look at five players to keep an eye out for.

Andrew Wiggins

Hailed pre-draft as ‘the next LeBron James’, Wiggins was selected as the no 1 draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, due to the Cavs revamping their roster, they traded the 19-year-old to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a big trade for Kevin Love.

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The trade may have knocked Wiggins’ confidence and he started off his rookie season slightly tentative. However, after winning three consecutive Rookie of the Month awards from October, the Canadian found his feet and is currently averaging 15.4 points per game - most notably scoring 33 points against Cleveland and LeBron in January.

The 6ft 8in forward is slowly mastering the way to score in the NBA. He showed off his outrageous 44-inch vertical leap at the NBA Combine before the 2014 draft so we know he can throw it down, but Wiggins is developing an impressive jump shot and has the speed to drive to the hoop.

He leads rookie scoring coming into the game and he should continue to score in the rookie showcase.

Nerlens Noel

Like numerous other rookies, Noel missed his first NBA season through injury. The 6ft 11in big man injured his knee after being traded from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Philadelphia 76ers.

However, it did not stall his progression and Noel has come back stronger than ever and his numbers show it all. He leads all rookies in rebounds, blocked shots and steals - proving his defensive power on the court.

Not only can Noel protect the rim and crash the boards, the 20-year-old can slam the ball down and put opposition on the poster.

Unfortunately for Noel and the 76ers, they have struggled in the NBA this year and currently have a dismal record of 10-39. This is due to Philly planning for the future with a young roster and plenty of future draft picks available.

Spectators in the first few rows may need to keep a firm hand on their popcorn and beer because with Noel swatting shots away, it could be a recipe for disaster.

Zach LaVine

Wiggins may have a leap on him but if anyone can give him a run for his money it’s LaVine, hence his inclusion in the Slam Dunk contest in New York. The no 13 draft pick has incredible speed and power making him one of the most exciting rookies in the league.

Due to Ricky Rubio severely spraining his ankle in November, the 19-year-old played more minutes for the Timberwolves and his game has improved drastically over the past few months.

His speedy drives to the hoop are impressive but there are doubts over whether LaVine can develop a jump shot to become an elite scorer.

Over recent games he has hit a few mid-range shots and a couple of three-pointers but his scoring and assist totals are still fairly low.

All in all a very exciting prospect and it will be interesting to see how he gets on.

Rudy Gobert

At 7ft 1in Gobert is always going to be a menace on the court but with the way he is progressing, he could turn into one of the best big men in the league.

Gobert is only 22-years-old and is getting regular minutes with the Utah Jazz in his second season in the NBA after playing in France and the D-League over the past few seasons.

His defensive power is easily noticeable and his size in the paint makes him an elite shot-blocker, with an average of 2.2 blocks per game.

For a giant, Gobert’s movement around the court is remarkable. His frame makes his strides incredibly long, thus making end-to-end a fairly easy task for the no 27 pick.

By no means is Gobert as good as either Gasol brother or a Dwight Howard, but if he continues the way he is he’ll be an impressive centre.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

‘The Greek Freak’ seems a horrible nickname to give someone doesn’t it? However, when you see him on the court it strangely makes sense.

Antetokounmpo is freakishly long with a wingspan on 7ft 3in and can cover half of the court within five or so strides. When you add in his leaping ability into the mix, it’s no wonder he was also picked to take part in the Slam Dunk contest.

Despite being one of the biggest prospects in the league, the numbers he puts up do not scream out that this guy is a future All-Star. Giannis is averaging 11.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game - fairly average across the board.

However, the ‘Greek Freak’ is a spectacle to watch and could easily light up the Rising Stars game as well as the dunk contest.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the above mentioned, most notably Wiggins. The no 1 pick will be looking to put on a show and give the Cavs another chance to see what they could have had.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Northwest Division
Western Conference
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
LeBron James
Andrew Wiggins

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