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Andrew Wiggins, Michael Carter-Williams lead Rising Stars Challenge rosters

The game will have a US vs. World format this year for the first time.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The 20 players for this year's Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend have just been announced, with last year's rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams and likely 2015 favorite Andrew Wiggins leading the field. The game will take place at 9 p.m. on Feb. 13 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The format has changed again after a three-year experiment with TNT analysts picking teams among a 20-person player pool a la pickup hoops. This year, a team of 10 U.S.-born rookies and sophomores will square off against 10 rookies and sophomores born outside the United States. Previous formats include East vs. West and Rookies vs. Sophomores.

Before you immediately give the nod to the Americans, look at each roster.


Trey Burke, Utah Jazz: Last year's first-round pick recently lost his starting spot to this year's first-round pick, Dante Exum. Burke works hard, but he's small and struggles to get to the basket, so it's hard to see how he scores efficiently. His numbers have plateaued in his second year.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons: Caldwell-Pope's shooting was off in an up-and-down rookie year, but he's made strides in his second season. The Pistons see him as the shooting guard of the future, though he's starting to lose playing time to the now-healthy Jodie Meeks.

Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers: Last year's Rookie of the Year has seen his growth stagnate thanks to the 76ers' rebuilding efforts and a shoulder injury that lingered into the beginning of the season. Driving lanes haven't been there thanks to the 76ers' lack of shooting, further exposing Carter-Williams' own poor perimeter shot. The 76ers have reportedly considered trading Carter-Williams, but the safe bet is that he will soon improve.

Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves: This was supposed to be a redshirt year for the 19-year-old rookie, but injuries thrust LaVine into the Timberwolves' starting point guard spot for a stretch. He had his moments, but predictably struggled to pick up the nuances of the position. Ricky Rubio's eventual return should allow LaVine to slide back into a more limited role, which will suit him well. He's still one of the key players in the Timberwolves' rebuilding effort.

Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves: Muhammad showed promise when given a chance toward the end of his rookie year and has carried it over this season. He slimmed down, improved his shooting and emerged as the Timberwolves' best wing player before suffering an abdominal injury. Andrew Wiggins' rise began while playing with Muhammad and has continued without him, but there's plenty of room for both to shine.

Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers: Noel has looked raw in his first season after missing all of last year with a torn ACL. He's shown flashes of brilliance defensively, but is shooting 24 percent on shots outside of 16 feet and hasn't exactly been great on all non-dunks around the basket. This was to be expected after missing so much time.

Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic: An eye injury false-started Oladipo's season, but he's hitting his stride as the year goes on. The emergence of Elfrid Payton has put Oladipo off the ball after the team experimented with him at point guard last year. This is a good thing: Oladipo's improved his shooting and limited his turnovers.

Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic: The Magic threw Payton into the fire after Oladipo's early-season injury and he's slowly starting to figure it out. He can't shoot, which allows teams to play way off him and will limit his effectiveness until he improved. But he's also become more decisive as the season goes on, especially so since Orlando started playing a more up-tempo style.

Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets: It's been a weird last 12 months for the Nets' second-year big man. It was around this time last year that he emerged as an unlikely critical piece in the team's playoff run. That success spurred him to a surprise spot on the FIBA World Cup team and made him appear to be a breakout player. But he was out of the rotation early in the season, losing minutes to the likes of Jerome Jordan. That is, until a Brook Lopez injury gave him minutes again, which he used to push his game to new heights and made him an untouchable in trade talks. Now, he might be the Nets' only bright spot for the future.

Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets: The loss of Josh McRoberts to Miami has given Zeller more playing time, which has led to steady improvement. His per-game numbers are up mostly due to playing time and not significant improvement, but he's also become a better defender and passer. Nevertheless, one big reason for Charlotte's slide is that Zeller has not been able to fully replace McRoberts' contributions.

World Team

Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder: Adams did what seemed impossible in training camp: he finally supplanted Kendrick Perkins as the Thunder's starting center. His play has been up and down since, but on good nights, the 21-year-old shows that the Thunder at least salvaged something valuable from the James Harden trade.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: No player has been in more highlights this season, whether it's for his gliding dunks, blazing speed or unbelievable wingspan. The second-year player has blossomed under Jason Kidd, who has empowered him to push the ball on his own and act as the primary playmaker in an inverted offense. Shooting confidence is a problem, but once he solves that, the sky's the limit.

Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets: Bogdanovic was a breakout star for Croatia at the FIBA World Cup, but his rookie season has been uneven. At times, he's displayed elite spot-up shooting and a crafty post game against smaller defenders. At other times, he's disappeared on offense and been painfully slow on defense. The Nets' upheaval hasn't helped; Bogdanovic has started at times and been completely out of the rotation at others.

Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves: An injury to Nikola Pekovic has given Dieng a chance to shine for the second straight year. He's still too slight to be a great defender, but he has a soft touch around the basket and has become a playmaker in the high post. His future is bright and increasingly arriving sooner than expected.

Dante Exum, Utah Jazz: Think Nerlens Noel, but the point guard version. The game has overwhelmed Exum at times and his jump shot is often downright ugly, but he's also shown flashes of the kind of athleticism and court vision that made him one of last year's top prospects. The Jazz certainly believe in him, as he's now starting over Trey Burke.

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: The Stifle Tower has been one of the NBA's breakout stars. His towering presence has altered countless shots around the basket and his nifty passing out of the pick and roll makes him effective even though he badly needs to add strength. Opponents are shooting just 37.1 percent at the basket when he's there, by far the lowest percentage among players who defend at least 3.5 shots per game.

Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls: Mirotic has dazzled on Chicago's second unit and the only reason he hasn't played more is the Bulls' depth in front of him. He can shoot the three, but also has a mean pump fake and can beat slower defenders driving to the basket. His defense isn't great, but it's improved since the beginning of the season. On any other team, Mirotic would be a Rookie of the Year favorite.

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics: Olynyk is a  surprise inclusion over other international big man like Alex Len, Jusuf Nurkic and Pero Antic, but perhaps that's because he's done his work out of the spotlight on a rebuilding Celtics team. Olynyk is shooting over 50 percent from the field and displaying all the characteristics that made him a star at Gonzaga. His defense is suspect, but that doesn't matter in exhibition games.

Dennis Schroeder, Atlanta Hawks: The second-year point guard has gone from Summer League sensation to actual sensation this season. He's quarterbacking Atlanta's second unit brilliantly, slicing to the basket, delivering pinpoint passes and even hitting a perimeter shot or two. He'd get more recognition on another team, but must sacrifice for the good of the Hawks because Jeff Teague is in front of him.

Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves: This year's No. 1 pick has become the obvious favorite for Rookie of the Year in the last six weeks. After struggling early in the year, Wiggins has begun to punish smaller players on the block, nail jumpers on the move and defend all the top options. His ball-handling is still suspect, but he's been so good elsewhere that it doesn't matter.


Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics (US): Smart might be receiving more Rookie of the Year consideration if the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo sooner. His dogged defense is no surprise, but his solid three-point shooting has been. He should receive more chances to show off as Boston continues to tumble down the standings.

K.J. McDaniels, Philadelphia 76ers (US): McDaniels been a human highlight film as a rookie, blocking shots and dunking on players much bigger than him. He's certainly been a better player than Noel this year, and one could argue he's been just as good as Carter-Williams. He also has a game that'd thrive in an exhibition setting like this, so it's odd he's not here and Trey Burke is.

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings (US): Few sophomores have made a larger step in their second year than the Kings' shooting guard. He's locked down the starting job by improving as a shooter, locking down as a defensive player and becoming more decisive driving to the basket. One could argue he's been the third-best Kings player behind DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.

Alex Len, Phoenix Suns (World): Actually, here's one that has. Len was plagued by injury last year, but has become Phoenix's starting center this season. He still gets pushed around, but he's also a great rim protector and has soft hands in the pick and roll. How many sophomores are currently starting for playoff teams?

Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets (World): Trading Timofey Mozgov has given the Nuggets' rookie a chance to start. Nurkic is foul-prone, but he's also very skilled and will lay wood on guards that try to fight over his screens. If he'd have emerged sooner, he'd be in this game.

Pero Antic, Atlanta Hawks (World): The Hawks' backup center was in this game last year, but couldn't beat out Kelly Olynyk this year even though they play similarly and Antic is on a winning team.