2017 NBA Rising Stars Challenge roster: Kristaps Porzingis leads Team World, representing 8 countries

Posted by    |    February 17th, 2017 at 10:15 am

There are 10 NBA players from eight countries joining Team World this year.

The NBA is dividing the Rising Stars Game by geography once again in 2017. The game, made up of the best rookies and sophomores in the league, will be part of the events scheduled for All-Star Friday.

Ten players join Team World, hailing from nine countries in Europe, Africa and North America. The league prides itself on growing internationally, and the Rising Stars event is a great way to showcase its growth, especially with young players coming into the league.

Notably absent is No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, who is Australian, but has missed all season with a foot injury. While he’s on the verge of returning, he’ll have to wait until next year for the Risings Stars challenge.

However, the game still has the fifth, sixth and 11th overall selections in the 2016 NBA Draft. The BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge will take place at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.

Here is the World roster

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers, C: We waited two years for Embiid’s start in Philadelphia, and we might have to wait another season before the Cameroon-born Embiid makes his Rising Stars debut with a minor cartilage tear that will probably keep him out of this game. That said, Embiid is blowing away our expectations and clearly establishing him as the future in Philadelphia — assuming he can stay healthy. (UPDATE: Embiid is injured and will be replaced by Oklahoma City guard Alex Abrines, who is from Spain).

Dante Exum, Utah Jazz, G: Exum was still a month away from 19 years old when the Jazz drafted him in 2014. The beauty of drafting someone that young is that while Exum is only in his third season and missed all of his second year with a torn ACL (which is why he’s eligible for this game), he’s still only 21 years old with plenty of room to improve. The Aussie point guard has shown flashes this year, playing 19 minutes per game this year in a backup role.

Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans, G: An awful summer league led into an awful start to the season for Hield, where he didn’t hit a three until his fourth game and shot just 27 percent behind the arc in November. Since the team put him into the starting lineup to begin December, though, Hield is averaging nearly 10 points and 43 percent behind the three-point line, providing the scoring burst New Orleans was expecting when they signed him. Hield joins the world team after being born in Jamaica.

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets, C: Slowly but surely, Jokic is emerging as one of the best young players in the game. The skilled Serbian has made waves for his incredible passing for a center, but he has the full package and more: just take his recent 40-point game on absurd 17-of-23 shooting from the field against the Knicks.

Trey Lyles, Utah Jazz, F: Lyles hasn’t taken the step forward that the Jazz were hoping for this season, but he’s still providing some help off the bench. The forward’s still young, still incredibly athletic, and could make Utah even scarier if he really develops. You might be surprised to see him on the World team, but he is, in fact, Canadian.

Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets, G: Like Lyles, Mudiay makes this roster thanks to his lottery pick status and minutes played this year. His points and assists are both down from last year, and his true shooting percentage is still way too low. You can see Mudiay’s potential, though, and he’s still only 20 years old. (UPDATE: Mudiay is injured, so New York center Willy Hernangomez will replace him. Hernangomez is from Spain).

Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets, G: The other super young Nuggets guard is Murray, who turns 20 next week. The electric scorer out of Kentucky has had an up-and-down season in Denver, but he’s playing more and better of late. Like Lyles, he’s also Canadian.

Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks, F: Of course our beloved unicorn that is Porzingis was always going to make this roster. The 7’3 Latvian big man with a sweet stroke has made New York fall in love with him. The sky’s the limit for how high he can keep rising, and in another year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the All-Star game itself.

Domantas Sabonis, Oklahoma City Thunder, F: Sabonis was a draft day trade to Oklahoma City after the Thunder shipped out Serge Ibaka, but Sabonis has in many ways been an Ibaka lite. The 6’11 power forward has started every game this year, showing a steady jump shot and a skilled game out of Lithuania.

Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers, F: Philadelphia’s other rookie doesn’t have nearly the adoration that Embiid has developed, and his efficiency (39 percent field goal shooting) is a problem so far. But Saric — from Croatia — still could be a long-term piece in Philadelphia next to Embiid, assuming he makes a few natural improvements.