Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Can Team Chuck win the Rising Stars Challenge with a roster built around size?
Throughout his career, Charles Barkley was undersized for his position, needing to use every ounce of his strength and savvy to dominate the post. Clearly, he doesn't want his NBA Rising Stars Challenge squad to have to deal with that issue.
Able to draft players from a pool of the league's best rookies and sophomores for the league's All Star Weekend event highlighting young talent, Barkley chose to focus on the best post players available, giving his team a sizable edge when it comes to, well, size.
Speculating based on the order in which the players were taken and their respective position, it's likely Barkley will roll out a starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Bradley Beal, Kawhi Leonard, Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis. That's a frontline that could be downright imposing, particularly if Faried plays with his usual level of intensity.
The bench also boasts a pair of quality post players in Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and Magic center Nikola Vucevic, while guards Isaiah Thomas, Brandon Knight and Alexey Shved complete the roster. For the most part, it's a roster of big men with developing post moves and guards with shaky shooting skills.
The Size Advantage
While the team doesn't have much shooting -- there isn't a guard on the roster knocking down better than 41 percent of his shots this season -- Barkley likely imagines his roster getting loads of extra opportunities as a result of its advantage on the boards.
Davis, Faried, Leonard, Thompson and Vucevic are all very good rebounders, while Rubio and Beal should be able to run the court in transition in what should be a fast-paced game. Leonard's ability to knock down spot-up three-pointers should also be a major benefit to a roster that will need its perimeter scorers to step up.
Compared to the big men on Shaq's squad -- Andrew Nicholson, Tyler Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (I suppose) -- it seems obvious that Barkley expects his team to win by dominating the post. It remains to be seen how that'll work in a game typically characterized by fast-paced play and high scoring totals, but it's admittedly a novel approach.
So, Will They Have Enough Shooting?
In the past five years, the winning team in this game has averaged roughly 138 points. When your leading scorer going into this year's event is Brandon Knight at 13.9 points per game, getting to that kind of figure sounds like it'll be a challenge.
Sure, Beal and Thompson have played much better in recent weeks, increasing their scoring figures from earlier in the season, but the former has been battling a wrist injury and the latter doesn't exactly get his points as a result of polished post play.
Maybe the plan is simply to hope that the likes of Beal, Knight, Thomas and Leonard knock down as many shots as possible, with the big guys using their size to make up for the misses with easy put backs. It's certainly not the looniest idea when you picture Dion Waiters trying to box out Faried, but the other team has to miss shots first.
The 2013 NBA Rising Stars Challenge will take place Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. EST on TNT.