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Rising Stars Challenge opens All-Star festivities

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Updated: 2/14 10:43 am

(SportsNetwork.com) - Before the eye-opening dunks, 3-point shots, precise passing through obstacles and 63rd All-Star Game, the future of the NBA will take center stage Friday night in the 2014 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge.

The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge is a battle between two teams comprised of rookies and sophomores mixed together.

Former NBA players Chris Webber and Grant Hill will match wits with some of the leagues brightest young stars and took over for past general managers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal. Team Webber will be run by Oklahoma City assistant Rex Kalamian, while Nate McMillan of Indiana is set to guide Team Hill.

Fans will vote online for the starters of each team. The starting lineups will be determined by the players collecting the top votes for their respective positions, with two backcourt and three frontcourt spots for each team. The announcement of the starting lineup will be made the night of the game.

Team Webber selected Anthony Davis of New Orleans with the first overall pick, followed by Boston's Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, Mason Plumlee of Brooklyn, Tim Hardaway, Jr. of New York, Oklahoma City's Steven Adams, Orlando's Victor Oladipo, Michael Carter-Williams of Philadelphia and Trey Burke of Utah.

With its first pick of the Rising Stars Challenge, Team Hill grabbed Damian Lillard of Portland. Saddling up with Lillard on Team Hill will be Andre Drummond of Detroit, Pero Antic of Atlanta, Cleveland's Dion Waiters, Golden State's Harrison Barnes, Terence Jones of Houston, Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee, Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas and Washington's Bradley Beal.

This event, which used to feature just rookies against sophomores, was incepted back in 1994, when players such as Webber, Anfernee Hardaway, Nick Van Exel and Sam Cassell were chosen. Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony also participated in this event.

Team Chuck won the last two events, including a 163-135 victory in 2012-13.

Team Webber features seven rookies and two second-year players. Carter- Williams' NBA career is off to a promising start and he is the frontrunner to win Rookie of the Year honors. He is a key piece to Philadelphia's rebuilding process and is averaging 17.1 points, 6.5 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.12 steals per game. The last players to post those kind of numbers in a season were All-Stars Paul and Wade in 2008-09.

That's some nice company.

Carter-Williams' 719 points scored through the first 42 games of his career are the highest by a Philly rookie since Iverson (962) in 1996-97.

Oladipo is right behind Carter-Williams as far as talented rookies go, and has carved his own niche in Orlando. Oladipo is posting an average of 14.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists, and the Magic have a nice nucleus of young talent to build with.

Sullinger and Davis are the veteran players of Team Webber. Davis is arguably the best player among both teams and his defensive play is one to gaze over. The main piece to the Pelicans, Davis leads the team in points (20.5), rebounds (10.1), blocks (3.1) and steals (1.6). Be sure to watch the one better known as the "Unibrow" swatting some shots and wowing the crowd.

Team Hill has only two rookies on the team: Antic and Antetokounmpo. But Hill's squad will counter Davis with Drummond. Drummond is first in the Eastern Conference with 39 double-doubles and is averaging 13.1 points and 13.0 rebounds this season. Drummond, who was reportedly part of the reason why Maurice Cheeks was fired last week, is one of the brightest young big men.

The Drummond-Davis matchup will get the New Orleans crowd excited.

With tremendous guard play in Lillard, Beal and Waiters, Team Hill appears to be the favorite. However, the band of rookies for Webber will argue that.

Lillard will be the busiest this weekend and has helped the Blazers transform into one of the best teams in the NBA. He boasts averages of 20.7 points and 5.7 assists for the Blazers, who will grab one of the top seeds with Lillard running the floor in the Rose City.

Beal, Waiters and Barnes have promising futures before them as well.

Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets won the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge MVP with 40 points and 10 rebounds to lead Team Chuck.

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