The NBA has been looking to spotlight up-and-coming players at All-Star Weekend in recent years, and I was surprised by the imbalance of the two rosters when this season’s selections were announced on Wednesday. Team USA has a ridiculous talent advantage over Team World, ad the latter should be glad the even has been cut out of the NBA All-Star Game festivities to limit COVID-19 exposure amid the pandemic.
Team USA is led by a host of blossoming stars, including 2021 Rookie of the Year frontrunners LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton. Then there’s Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, who have both ascended to become All-Star caliber players in year two. Other selections include Tyler Herro, Michael Porter, Jr., and Keldon Johnson. They all have featured roles on their respective teams, but the same can’t be said for Team World’s players.
RJ Barrett is one of the few starters on Team World and might be their best player. Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura join him. The rest of the team comprises sixth, seventh, and eighth men like Precious Achiuwa, Deni Avdija, Mychal Mulder, and Facundo Campazzo. Don’t get me wrong; I love Campazzo’s flashy passing as much as the next guy. However, the 29-year old rookie is hardly a fit in a game that’s mean to highlight the NBA's future.
I’d bet Team World against the spread up to -15 against the spread if this game got played. It has too much star power and legitimate rotation players. While exhibition games like this aren’t usually defensive showcases, Team World doesn’t have the shot makers to keep up with Team World. Frankly, I’d prefer the Rising Stars challenge to move back to its rookies vs. sophomores format of old; that way, talented players like Darius Garland and others don't fall through the cracks.