The NBA Rising Stars Challenge features 18 of the top first and second year players in the league that are put into a talent pool for selection.
The draft between O’Neal and Barkley takes place Thursday on TNT prior to the Lakers and Celtics contest.
O’Neal has the first selection and will then make every odd choice from there.
1. Kyrie Irving– Cleveland Cavaliers
The 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year will begin his busy All-Star weekend as the first overall selection for the event. Irving will then be back in action representing the Eastern Conference Sunday night after averaging 24 points, 5.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game for Cleveland.
2. Anthony Davis– New Orleans Hornets
Even after being selected with the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and his time with Team USA at the Summer Olympics, Davis isn’t the front runner for Rookie of the Year honors. This selection is to minimize the alley-oop potential between Irving and Davis.
3. Damian Lillard– Portland Trail Blazers
Selecting two point guards with the top two picks may not be ideal for the one of the best centers in league history, but Lillard can run the point as Irving shifts over to shooting guard. Lillard has quickly proven he is among the best young players in the game, averaging 17.2 points and 6.1 assists per game.
4. Kemba Walker– Charlotte Bobcats
In 20 fewer games, Walker has already surpassed his scoring output from his rookie season. The Bobcats are tied with Washington for the worst record in the NBA, but Walker has emerged as a potential building block for the franchise, averaging 18 points, 5.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
5. Andre Drummond– Detroit Pistons
Detroit is running out of excuses to not give Drummond more time on the floor. The 6-foot-10 center has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 15 appearances and is grabbing 7.6 rebounds per game, tops among all rookies. The Pistons have limited Drummond to just 20.2 minutes per game, but his 18 point, 18 rebound effort against Milwaukee proves he deserves more playing time.
6. Klay Thompson– Golden State Warriors
In his second season, Thompson has become one of the most prolific 3-point shooters, connecting 128 times from beyond the arc, third most in the NBA. His shooting touch has even garnered a campaign to have him included in the 3-point shootout at All-Star weekend. Thompson is averaging 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
7. Kenneth Faried- Denver Nuggets
One of the oldest adages in the NBA is you can’t teach effort and Faried has made a mark in the leafage by simply out-hustling his competition. In his sophomore season, Faried has continued to display his knack for chasing down rebounds, averaging 9.7 per game while also posting 19 double-doubles, and grabbing five or more offensive rebounds on 12 occasions.
8. Nikola Vucevic– Orlando Magic
Vucevic was just a throw-in during the Dwight Howard trade, but during his first season in Orlando, he has proven to be a valuable contributor. The 7-footer is averaging 11.3 rebounds per game, tied with David Lee for seventh most in the league. In 47 games with the Magic, Vucevic has posted 26 double-doubles and grabbed 15 or more rebounds on nine occasions.
9. Kawhi Leonard– San Antonio Spurs
No player among the 18 included in the Rising Stars talent pool plays more efficient than Leonard. The second year player is shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 87.5 percent at the foul line and 39.6 percent from 3-point range. Leonard is averaging 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and ranks 10th in the league with 1.8 steals per game.
10. Tristan Thompson– Cleveland Cavaliers
The absence of Anderson Varejao has been somewhat softened by the continued development of Thompson. Over his past 20 games, Thompson has posted 13 double-doubles and is averaging 11.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and is connecting on 49.7 percent of his attempts from the field.
11. Bradley Beal– Washington Wizards
Five of Beal’s seven 20 point performances came in a nine game span last month. While the rookie’s shooting performances has been inconsistent, he has shown flashes throughout the year. Beal’s best outing came against Sacramento as he scored 26 points on 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range and six assists.
12. Harrison Barnes– Golden State Warriors
There is much more to Barnes’ game than electrifying dunks. The rookie has placed both Nikola Pekovic and Ersan Ilyasova on posters this season, while also knocking down 35.9 percent of his attempts from 3-point range. Barnes is averaging 9.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game for Golden State.
13. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist– Charlotte Bobcats
If Kidd-Gilchrist is going to develop into a real threat for the Bobcats, he has to develop a reliable 3-point shot. The second overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft has launched just eight attempts from beyond the arc, connecting just twice. Kidd-Gilchrist is averaging 9.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Bobcats.
14. Dion Waiters– Cleveland Cavaliers
Waiters has proven to be an explosive scorer, topping 20 points seven times in his rookie season, but he needs to round out his game to become a force for the Cavaliers. Waiters has never posted more than seven assists or six rebounds for Cleveland, a trend that can’t continue for someone shooting 37.9 percent from the field.
15. Tyler Zeller– Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have been forced to start the last 21 games for the Cavaliers and he has responded, averaging 9.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game as a starter. Zeller’s best outing came against Utah as he scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, five on the offensive end.
16. Brandon Knight– Detroit Pistons
Knight was named to the All-Rookie First Team last season and has continued to progress, averaging 14 points and 4.4 rebounds per game for Detroit. The Pistons are planning to play Knight more at shooting guard, as he has surpassed 10 or more assists just five times in his career.
17. Chandler Parsons– Houston Rockets
So few players are able to make an impact after being selected in the second round of the NBA Draft. Parsons was the 38th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft has logged 10 games with at least 20 points this season and is coming off a 24 point, 10 rebound four assist effort against Charlotte.
18. Alexey Shved– Minnesota Timberwolves
The rookie from Russia has filled in at both guard positions for Minnesota this season and excelled, averaging 11 points, 4.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. Shved played his best game of the season against Golden State, totaling 22 points, seven assists and three rebounds in 33 minutes.