Five Bold Predictions for the 2013 NBA Rising Stars Challenge

Ricky Rubio (L) and Kyrie Irving (M) look set for a rematch (Gary Bogdon/EPA)

We mistimed the Mayan apocalypse, but it won’t prevent us from making new predictions.  Houston will host the NBA Rising Stars Challenge which features the league’s most promising rookie and sophomore players (click here for rosters).  To basketball enthusiasts, this is the most intriguing event in All Star weekend, so here is a guess of what to expect in the sloppy offensive showcase:

1) Team Chuck will blast the competition.

The Magic wisely ignored Shaquille O’Neal for their vacant GM position in 2012, as evidenced by his poor roster selections two years running.  O’Neal’s squad will feature six rookies while Charles Barkeley’s team will field three, so there is a significant disparity in experience if not explosive athleticism.  O’Neal’s team will not even be able to run their best player for extensive time (see: Prediction #2).  While the game primarily features the offensive skills of guards and wings, Barkley’s multi-dimensional frontcourt should lead the way to an easy win.

2) Ricky Rubio will win MVP.

Rubio’s exceptional court vision will set the stage for several circus act assists against what we can assume to be a defense only by name.   Reigning Rising Stars MVP Kyrie Irving’s minutes will be likely limited as he prepares for his first All Star Game appearance.

3) Nikola Vucevic will nail a 3.

Vucevic, who is a serious candidate for Most Improved Player, possesses great shooting range (connecting 39.4% on long-2’s this season, according to 82games.com), but wisely resists the temptation to float out on the perimeter.  Since this is an exhibition, look for the Swiss-born center to let rainbows fly without a care in his mind (a la Shaq).

4) Someone will get injured.

It’s all fun and games until a promising star blows out his Achilles tendon.  There will not be a shortage of dunks in this contest, and Tony Allen will tell you a devastating injury is only a highlight away.  (Take notice, Tristan Thompson.)  Along with the landing, collisions with baseline photographers pose risk for damaging body parts.

5) Isaiah Thomas will dunk.

America’s favorite midget has yet to throw it down in a professional game (he had two failed attempts in 2011-12), but the pint-sized guard may have a chance in the competition where defense is an afterthought.  Don’t expect any windmills or tomahawks, but a one-handed slam isn’t out of the question.

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