NBA Rising Stars mock draft (yes, really)

LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards in Charlotte Hornets v Minnesota Timberwolves
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If you can mock-draft it, we’re going to mock-draft it.

The NBA changed its Rising Stars format, instituting a four-team draft to precede a tournament. With the player pool set, we’re making our picks.

We’ll follow the league’s rules for the draft:

One difference: In lieu of Rick Barry, Gary Payton, Isiah Thomas and James Worthy, our drafters are:


Round 1

1. Kurt Helin: LaMelo Ball (Hornets)

This is an exhibition game played up-tempo and with little defense, a setting where Ball will thrive — and make ridiculous highlight plays.

2. Chase Hughes: Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves)

I want my team to not only win, I want them to put on a show. Edwards is the guy to help me do both with his scoring and Richter scale dunks.

3. Dan Feldman: Desmond Bane (Grizzlies)

Maybe the easiest pick of the draft, Bane is the last of the three Rising Star participants who got actual All-Star consideration. His expanded offensive repertoire goes a long way in this environment.

4. Rob Schaefer: Evan Mobley (Cavaliers)

Saving flash for later in the draft, we secure our defensive anchor at the back of the first round. (Always a sound strategy for this exhibition, right? Bueller?)

Round 2

5. Rob Schaefer: Tyrese Haliburton (Kings)

Haliburton’s passing smarts and outside shooting offer a nice complement to Mobley — and, I figure, anyone I may draft later. Plus, he’s displayed a penchant for big moments already in his time in the league.

6. Dan Feldman: Cade Cunningham (Pistons)

Cunningham has played more like a No. 1 pick lately. His all-around game is showing, including the shot creation that could make him a star.

7. Chase Hughes: Scottie Barnes (Raptors)

For my second pick, I’ll take a guy who is the most impressive rookie I’ve seen in person this season. I could play him at any position and rely on him to get stops, regardless of who has the ball.

8. Kurt Helin: Franz Wagner (Magic)

Plays the three with the size of a four, can shoot the 3-ball, runs the floor well, fearless, and can even defend a little (if anyone’s doing that in this exhibition).

Round 3

9. Kurt Helin: Tyrese Maxey (76ers)

Best player on the board, has broken out this season as a point guard who can get buckets and he plays fast. I trust he and LaMelo can figure out how to share the rock.

10. Chase Hughes: Josh Giddey (Thunder)

I need someone to run my offense and throw Edwards perfect lobs. Give me Giddey, who has swept the Rookie of the Month awards in the West so far and looks like one of the first major finds in the Thunder’s rebuild.

11. Dan Feldman: Jae'Sean Tate (Rockets)

Am I confident his style will translate to this event? No. But he’s too good to pass up at this point.

12. Rob Schaefer: Cole Anthony (Magic)

A fierce competitor with an already-lengthy clutch-time rolodex, and one of the league’s bounciest personalities.

Round 4

13. Rob Schaefer: Chris Duarte (Pacers)

Again, not the flashiest pick, but arguably the best shot-creator left on the board.

14. Dan Feldman: Saddiq Bey (Pistons)

Like his Detroit teammate Cunningham, Bey has played better lately. At his best, he’s a smooth-shooting wing with length to defend.

15. Chase Hughes: Jalen Green (Rockets)

I’ll take Green, the odds-on favorite for the dunk contest. Now I have Giddey running my offense with Edwards and Green as my wings, ready to defy gravity and destroy the rim. Sounds fun.

16. Kurt Helin: Herbert Jones (Pelicans)

Jones has been an under-the-radar rookie playing well, he brings some solid defense (which we may want at end of games) and he’s the kind of athlete that can thrive in this setting.

Round 5

17. Kurt Helin: Isaac Okoro (Cleveland Cavaliers)

Okoro has taken a step forward this year, plus I want that massive Cavaliers fan base that is showing up Friday night behind my team.

18. Chase Hughes: Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets

I need a big man, so I’ll take Sengun here. He gives me scoring, rim protection and another player capable of highlight reel passes. Him and Giddey firing missiles to Edwards, Green and Barnes should be entertaining.

19. Dan Feldman: Jaden McDaniels (Timberwolves)

I was hoping to nab Sengun for the optionality of playing big. Alas, we’ll fully embrace small ball around Tate at center. So, better snag the last wing or forward on the board to fill the lineup behind him. McDaniels plays smothering defense. Hopefully, he shoots well enough to spread the floor.

20. Rob Schaefer: Jalen Suggs (Magic)

Suggs hasn’t lived up to his pre-draft billing yet, but his athleticism and open-floor passing ability should be conducive to this format.

Round 6

21. Rob Schaefer: Ayo Dosunmu (Bulls)

He’ll buy into our team’s try-hard ethos — that’s right, we’re picking up full-court every possession — and is lightning-quick on the break, to boot.

22. Dan Feldman: Davion Mitchell (Kings)

One last chance to get a big, I’ll pass. Mitchell will give opposing guards hell defensively. He also looks like he might be settling in offensively as a driver and at-least-capable shooter.

23. Chase Hughes: Isaiah Stewart (Pistons)

I’ll take some Beef Stew with my next pick. He will add even more rebounding to my team, even though it was already a strength.

24. Kurt Helin: Precious Achiuwa (Raptors)

Achiuwa falls to me to round out the team, but he’s the kind of athlete and finisher who will be fun in a glorified pickup game setting.

Round 7

25. Kurt Helin: Jaden Hardy (Ignite)

An athletic guard who can get buckets seems like the right fit for this event.

26. Chase Hughes: Scoot Henderson (Ignite)

I’ll round out my team with a guy who could be a superstar years from now. Henderson is expected to be one of the top picks in the 2023 draft.

27. Dan Feldman: Dyson Daniels (Ignite)

With his passing and defense on the wing, Daniels should fit in well. Important considering these minor-leaguers’ ability deficit as they share the court with NBA players.

28. Rob Schaefer: MarJon Beauchamp (Ignite)

Mr. Irrelevant in everyone’s eyes but mine. Beauchamp is a projected first-round pick this year and gives our guard-heavy roster some length and athleticism on the wing.


Kurt Helin

  • Point guard: LaMelo Ball (Hornets)
  • Shooting guard: Tyrese Maxey (76ers)
  • Small forward: Isaac Okoro (Cavaliers)
  • Power forward: Franz Wagner (Magic)
  • Center: Herbert Jones (Pelicans)
  • Sixth man: Precious Achiuwa (Raptors)
  • Seventh man: Jaden Hardy (Ignite)

These games are going to look a lot like Summer League games — freelance, pick-up style without a lot of defense — and those games are dominated by guard play. Which is why I think this team would take it all, Ball and Maxey are proven scorers and setup men at the NBA level who will thrive in this setting. Wagner, Okoro and Jones are finishers and will get their chances. We might play a little defense at points, and Hardy could surprise some people. But mostly, it’s about the guards.

Chase Hughes

  • Point guard: Josh Giddey (Thunder)
  • Shooting guard: Jalen Green (Rockets)
  • Small forward: Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves)
  • Power forward: Scottie Barnes (Raptors)
  • Center: Alperen Sengun (Rockets)
  • Sixth man: Isaiah Stewart (Pistons)
  • Seventh man: Scoot Henderson (Ignite)

I absolutely love the team I got. You could say I’m Giddey. Looking at this roster makes me want to recreate it on 2K. Seems like it’s completely loaded, though that may be a reflection of the league’s young talent in general, as there were a lot of good players to choose from. I’d love to watch this group run the floor together, producing viral highlights between Edwards and Green’s dynamic dunks and nifty passes from Giddey and Sengun. Henderson could make a name for himself, while Barnes and Stewart could show off some flash to match their solid all-around games.

Dan Feldman

  • Point guard: Cade Cunningham (Pistons)
  • Shooting guard: Desmond Bane (Grizzlies)
  • Small forward: Saddiq Bey (Pistons)
  • Power forward: Jaden McDaniels (Timberwolves)
  • Center: Jae’Sean Tate (Rockets)
  • Sixth man: Davion Mitchell (Kings)
  • Seventh man: Dyson Daniels (Ignite)

James Harden was the Rockets’ best player when they built around Russell Westbrook due to Westbrook’s unique and pronounced skills and limitations. Likewise, we’re building around Tate as our small-ball center, even though Cunningham and Bane are the top players and offensive initiators. Tate can screen-and-roll (passing or finishing) and post-up, leaving spotting up on the perimeter to Bey and McDaniels. Tate also has the toughness to battle inside defensively, though this team is built to switch. We’ll pray for rebounds. Mitchell can provide a spark off the bench, sometimes sliding Cunningham to the wing as we go even smaller.

Rob Schaefer

  • Point guard: Cole Anthony (Magic)
  • Shooting guard: Jalen Suggs (Magic)
  • Small forward: Tyrese Haliburton (Kings)
  • Power forward: Chris Duarte (Pacers)
  • Center: Evan Mobley (Cavaliers)
  • Sixth man: Ayo Dosunmu (Bulls)
  • Seventh man: MarJon Beauchamp (Ignite)

Lot of guard talent in the league, eh? Poster dunks will be at a premium, but we’re hoping to out-run, out-shoot and out-scrap the competition (while banking on trivial things like rebounding not factoring into this exhibition). Between the passing of Mobley and Haliburton, shotmaking of Anthony and Duarte, and dogged defense of Suggs and Dosunmu, this is a balanced group that can play a high-octane style, and boasts multiple heat-check candidates. The hyper-competitiveness that permeates the roster should make us both irritating to play against and sneakily tough to beat.

LeBron James passes Magic Johnson for sixth all-time in assists

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Magic Johnson is one of the greatest, most creative passers the game has ever seen.

Friday night, LeBron James passed Magic for sixth all-time in assists in the NBA. For LeBron, doing that in a Lakers’ jersey like Magic wore was special.

It happened with 8:41 remaining left in the game, LeBron found Anthony Davis for a 3-pointer on the right wing.

LeBron finished the night with 11 assists and 28 points, which along with a monster 44-point night from Anthony Davis led the Lakers to an impressive win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.




Jimmy Butler returns, hits clutch shots to lift Heat past Celtics

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics
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BOSTON (AP) — Bam Adebayo scored 28 points, Tyler Herro had 26 and the Miami Heat completed a split of two games in Boston, beating the Celtics 120-116 on Friday night after Jaylen Brown banked in a long 3-pointer to force overtime.

Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup and had 25 points in 36 minutes after missing the previous seven games with a sore right knee. He added 15 rebounds.

“Obviously having JB back is big time for us,” Herro said. “He helps us in so many different ways.”

Kyle Lowry chipped in with 20 points before fouling out in OT for the Heat, who sent Boston to just its second loss in 16 games.

“My team welcomed me back and let me do what I do,” Butler said. “It was a big `W’ for the team.”

Brown sent the game to overtime by banking in his long 3 with 1.7 seconds to play in regulation. He finished with 37 points.

“It felt good coming off my hand,” Brown said. “I know we wanted to get a shot up off the rim as fast as possible, just in case we missed we could get a rebound, a tip out.”

The Celtics had won 10 straight at TD Garden.

Boston star Jayson Tatum scored just 14 points on a cold shooting night, going 5 of 18 from the floor, including 0 of 7 on 3-point attempts. He had 49 points in the Celtics’ 134-121 victory on Wednesday night.

“That’s the biggest thing about the league; you’re not going to stop anybody from just scoring,” Adebayo said. “I feel like (we’re) making him take tough shots every time we play him and living with the result.”

Butler hit a clutch jumper over Al Horford, making it 110-107 with 5.1 seconds left in regulation before Brown took a pass near midcourt, dribbled to his right and nailed his shot.

In OT, the teams were tied twice before Butler nailed a foul-line jumper over Horford with 1:45 left, but Brown hit two free throws to tie it.

Adebayo nailed two free throws and, after Tatum misfired on a 3, Butler hit a jumper to seal it.

“Jimmy made two tough, tough baskets,” Brown said. “That’s just a credit to his work and his skill and his development. He gets going in games like this; on the road in a hostile environment. … Tonight, two shots that in our defensive scheme we could live with, but Jimmy a big-time player made both of them.”

Unlike Wednesday, when shots were open more and both teams were making them effectively (each shot over 50%), defense was tighter and it resembled more of the postseason matchup last season between the pair that went seven games before Boston captured the Eastern Conference title.

Anthony Davis scores 44, outduels Antetokounmpo (40) leading Lakers past Bucks


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Anthony Davis and LeBron James tore apart the NBA’s top-rated defense and gave Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham a triumphant return to Milwaukee.

Davis scored a season-high 44 points and James passed Magic Johnson on the NBA’s career assists list Friday night in the Lakers’ thrilling 133-129 victory over the Bucks.

It marked Ham’s first game in Milwaukee since taking over as Lakers coach after working as an assistant on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff from 2018-22.

Ham and Budenholzer shared a big hug before the game.

“It was a beautiful night,” said Ham, who also played for the Bucks from 1999-2002.

It also was quite a night for Davis, a Green Bay Packers fan who delivered his big performance with Aaron Rodgers in the stands. Davis spoke with the Packers’ four-time MVP quarterback before and after the game.

“I saw him before the game and he said, `I need 30 tonight,”‘ Davis said. “I just saw him and he said, `I only said 30, not 40.’ It’s always good for him to come out and watch the Lakers play.”

James made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:22 left and finished with 28 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He upped his career assist total to 10,144 and moved into sixth place, ahead of Johnson’s 10,133.

“It means a lot, obviously,” James said. “The way Magic approached the game, it was very infectious. His teammates loved playing with him because of the joy he played with and the ability to pass the ball and get other guys involved. He was always excited about seeing his teammates be great. I always admired that in him. What’s even more humbling and super duper cool is the fact that I’m doing it in a Laker uniform and knowing how much Magic means to the Laker franchise.”

The Lakers had the highest point total and field-goal percentage (.536) the Bucks had allowed all season. Milwaukee entered Friday with the NBA’s top defensive rating.

“It was too easy, too easy, too easy,” Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “They were living in the paint. That’s not who we are.”

Los Angeles withstood a 40-point performance from Antetokounmpo, who also had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers also spoiled the 2022-23 debut of Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, who had 17 points and seven assists in his return from offseason wrist surgery.

Milwaukee missed two potential tying 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds.

After Davis missed a fadeaway jumper, the Bucks called a timeout with 21.4 seconds left and then found an open Grayson Allen, whose 3-point attempt went off the side of the rim.

The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook missed two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, but Jrue Holiday couldn’t connect on a 3-pointer with just over five seconds left. Davis made a clinching free throw with 4.5 seconds left.

“Grayson got a good look,” Budenholzer said. “Good execution. Good screening. We’ll live with that shot all the time. And Jrue, similar. We got the kick ahead, playing against a defense that’s not set. Jrue, kind of a good rhythm shot for him. It was contested, but Jrue was 6 of 12 tonight (from 3-point range). He was feeling it.”

Holiday had 28 points for the Bucks, and Bobby Portis added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Westbrook had 15 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers.

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.