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NBA DFS Picks: FREE 2020 NBA Rising Stars Challenge

Eric MacPherson

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FREE NBA DFS Picks for daily fantasy baskeball lineups on Draftkings & FanDuel for 1/26 featuring Trae Young, Elfrid Payton + more

Friday, Feb. 14 gives us our first NBA DFS event of the All-Star Weekend with the 2020 Rising Stars Challenge. If you are looking for an escape from Valentine’s Day, then we’ve got you covered. In addition to this article, check out Awesemo’s Rising Stars projections, which will be posted Friday afternoon.

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We have the Rising Stars Challenge tipping off on Friday night at 9 p.m. EST, and it has become one of the more popular events as past and present NBA royalty gathers for the festivities.

Previously, this event was known as the Rookie Game and as such, was comprised of first-year players. After a few years of this format, we saw things to expand with a “Rookies” team against a “Sophomores” team (comprised of second-year players) in the early 2000s. Now have “World” vs “USA” teams with the squads comprised of at least three first-year and three second-year players. Those born abroad are assigned to the World team and those born domestically are assigned to the USA team.

The Rosters

Team World players have their home country listed first followed by their college teams if they played in the NCAA, Team USA lists their college team.

Team World

Guards: R.J. Barrett (CAN-Duke), Josh Okogie (NGR-Georgia Tech), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (CAN-Kentucky), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (CAN-Virginia Tech)

Forwards: Luka Doncic (SLO), Brandon Clarke (CAN-Gonzaga), Rui Hachimura (JPN-Gonzaga), Svi Mykhailiuk (UKR-Kansas)

Center: Moritz Wagner (GER), Nicolo Melli (ITA), Deandre Ayton (BAH-injured),

Team USA

Guards: Trae Young (Oklahoma), Ja Morant (Murray State), Devonte’ Graham (Kansas), Kendrick Nunn (Illinois), Collin Sexton (Alabama), Tyler Herro (Kentucky-injured)

Forwards: Miles Bridges (Michigan State), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State), Eric Paschall (Villanova), P.J. Washington (Kentucky)

Center: Zion Williamson (Duke), Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke-injured)

The Rules

The game is played in two 20-minute periods totaling 40 minutes (aka 200 total player minutes per team as opposed to 48 x 5 = 240 total player minutes in a regulation NBA game).

In general, for these type of games, we want to focus on players who can create their own shot or are steady 3-point shooters.  True centers, aka “bigs,” tend to see fewer minutes, and the same holds true for Sunday’s All-Star Game.

2019: Deandre Ayton 22:13, Jarrett Allen 14:59, John Collins 14:58

2018: Joel Embiid 8:41 in the Rising Stars Game and 20:05 in the All-Star Game

2017: Myles Turner 18:18, Marquese Chriss 18:18, Jahlil Okafor 14:34, Domantas Sabonis 10:34

2016: Jahlil Okafor 17:57, Dwight Powell 16:01, Clint Capela 15:07, Trey Lyles 12:16

2015: Mason Plumlee 21:54, Rudy Gobert 20:47, Cody Zeller 19:49, Gorgui Dieng 19:13, Nerlens Noel 16:47 (check out the the box score linked below and you will see the way the teams were constructed, it made more sense that the bigs got more minutes than what transpired over the next four annual events).

Prior Box Scores

2019: Team USA 161 – Team World 144 click here

2018: Team World 155 – Team USA 124 click here

2017: Team World 150 – Team USA 141 click here

2016: Team USA 157 – Team World 154 click here

2015: Team World 121 – Team USA 112 click here

Narrative Connections to Chicago

Now that Wendell Carter Jr. of the Chicago Bulls is injured, our “hometown hero” will be Kendrick Nunn, who was born in the Windy City and played for Illinois for three years before transferring to Oakland University in Michigan.

Starting guards and wings should see in the 21-23 minute range. Those players who are not great shooters, distributors or particularly mobile may see minutes in the low-to-mid teens.

When projecting player minutes, keep in mind there are 10 players on each roster and a total of 200 minutes available for each team.

Betting Angles and Odds

MVP odds have Trae Young and Zion Williamson sitting at +350. Luka Doncic (+400) and Ja Morant (+400) are the next two favorites to take home postgame honors (per PointsBet).

The game has a 300.0 over/under with Team USA favored by five as of this morning (per Pinnacle).

Starting lineups have not yet been announced. Ideally we will see something on social media an hour or so before the 9 p.m. EST tip-off.


Premium Subscribers click here for Rising Star player projections these will be live later this afternoon.


Team World NBA DFS Picks

Speculative Starters – The Veterans

Luka Doncic – Saw 24 minutes last year leading the World team with nine assists. He missed seven games with an ankle injury, but played 31.3 minutes in his return on Wednesday. Keep in mind that this game is a glorified scrimmage with literally no defense. In fact, last year each team had seven total fouls for the game. That was down from 17 combined fouls in 2018. While Doncic will be playing in the All-Star Game, that is not until Sunday so he should see 23-24 minutes like the rest of the starters. Doncic is a fringe MVP candidate in his second season and there is not much else to say. On a fun note, Doncic is also going to be in the 3-Point Contest on Saturday.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Last season as a rookie, Gilgeous-Alexander came off the bench in this exhibition. He got the most minutes of any reserve on the World team with 19:52. It would not be a surprise to see him start now that he has seniority. This year, he is taking 3.5 3-point shots per game and making them at a 35.1% clip. On Saturday, Gilgeous-Alexander will be participating in the Skills Challenge. Keep in mind that he played 37 minutes last night in a victory in New Orleans.

Josh Okogie – The third returning player who will be taking the court tonight for the World team. Last year, he tallied 18:4 minutes which was the second most for the reserves. Okogie is not a great shooter with a career 26.8% on 2.8 3-point attempts per game. Known more for his defense, unless he is in the starting lineup, he is not of much interest outside of mass-multi entry strategies.

Speculative Starters – The New Guys

R.J. Barrett – There is a decent chance that the rookie is in the starting lineup, but his dreadful shooting from the field (38.8%) does not portend a lot of fantasy goodness. He is proportionally a little better making 38.8% of his 3.4 attempts from behind the arc, so it is all about getting the starters minutes for the 19-year old from Duke.

Brandon Clarke – He has had a solid though not spectacular rookie campaign. Though he only takes 1.1 triples per game, he is converting at a 42.0% rate and is shooting 62.3% overall. In three college seasons, two for San Jose State and then a final one with Gonzaga, he took 24 total 3-point attempts. As a 23-year old rookie, it will be interesting to see how he asserts himself with Team World.

Likely Reserves with Range

Nickeil Alexander-Walker – For some fun trivia, he will be playing with his cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tonight. Alexander-Walker was a key part of Virginia Tech’s run to the Sweet Sixteen last year. He is averaging 8.4 3-point attempts per game for New Orleans. This is another intriguing option with his 34.2% success rate and a chance to lead the World team in triples.

Svi Mykhailiuk – The second year man from Ukraine is a solid outside shooter. He has converted 42.2% of his 3-pointers this season. For his career, he has a 39.5% success rate and will likely be off the radar. This will be especially true if he is coming off the bench.

Nicolo Melli – A late injury replacement for Deandre Ayton. The 29-year old rookie made his on-court debut in the Italian League when he was only 16 after signing a five-year contract. He has also played in the EuroLeague for multiple teams and of course the Italian national team. The Pelicans signed him this year as an undrafted free agent and he has carved out a role as an outside specialist. His per 36 numbers have him at 6.9 3-point attempts per game with a 44.9% success rate.

Likely Reserves Getting Limited Minutes

Rui Hachimura – A former Gonzaga Bulldog, he will be reunited with Brandon Clarke for one night. Keep in mind that Hachimura recently returned from a “groin” injury after getting kicked by fellow Wizard Isaac Bonga which cost him 23 games. He has been back for five games and should have no minutes limit. While he is not afraid to take shots from long range, he is not very effective posting a 23.6% conversion rate on 1.8 attempts per game.

Moritz Wagner – Will be joining international Wizards teammate Rui Hachimura on the World Team. Wagner played for three seasons at Michigan and was also a star on the German Under-20 FIBA Europe team. He was a solid marksman for the Wolverines with a 38.5% success rate from downtown. In the pros over 69 games with the Lakers and Wizards, he has averaged 32.1% on 2.0 3-point attempts per game.

Team USA NBA DFS Picks

Speculative Starters – The Veterans

Trae Young – Has a busy weekend ahead as he will be participating in the All-Star Game on Sunday. Last year in this exhibition, he came off the bench and played 24 minutes which was the third most on Team USA. He should be one of the starters and it will be fun seeing him go head-to-head with Luka Doncic considering their intertwined draft/trade history.

Jaren Jackson Jr. – The only other returnee for Team USA. He played 15:32 off the bench and was third on the team with six rebounds. Do not overlook the second-year Grizzly as he is making 39.7% of his 6.8 triples per outing for Memphis.

Speculative Starters – The New Guys

Ja Morant – The second pick in the last draft will likely get the starting nod tonight. Though he is not known as much for his outside shooting, he is making 35.8% of his 2.2 attempts from distance each appearance. What is more impressive is that he is currently sixth in the league with 18.3 drives per game. His overall 49.3% field goal success rate is outstanding for a rookie guard.

Kendrick Nunn – My guess is the hometown hero will be in the starting lineup tonight. Nunn is having a solid year for the Heat, averaging 15.3 points and 3.5 assists per contest. He is also solid from downtown with a 34.1% conversion rate on 5.7 attempts from behind the arc each game.

Zion Williamson – Keep in mind that Williamson played 31 minutes last night, but in this glorified scrimmage, he should still see around 20-22 minutes if he is starting and 18-20 if he is off the bench. He should be able to corral any rebounds that come his way and he is at least somewhat average from distance.

Other Potential Starters

Devonte’ Graham – Will also be participating in the 3-Point Contest on Saturday. The second-year guard is averaging 37.9% on 9.4 attempts this season. He is fourth in the league in 3-point attempts per game behind only James Harden, Damian Lillard and Buddy Hield. There is a decent chance he is in the starting lineup which will be about a 4.0 minutes boost.

Collin Sexton – Averaging nearly 20 points per game (19.8) in his sophomore season for Cleveland. He has a nice all-around game, but may end up deferring more than we like as his DFS backers.

Likely Reserves but who really knows

Miles Bridges – A surprisingly solid 3-point shooter averaging 34.1% on 4.6 attempts this season. Much like Sexton, he has a decent all-around skill set for an exhibition like this, but it will come down to minutes defining his DFS success.

Eric Paschall – A second-round pick out of Villanova where he spent three seasons after transferring from Fordham. At 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, he is more of a power forward than a wing player, but he did hit 35% of his 3-pointers over his final two college seasons. My guess is that he is on the short end of the minutes equation.

P.J. Washington – Rounding out the Team USA roster is the 12th overall pick from the University of Kentucky who has carved out a nice role with a rebuilding Charlotte squad. Like the rest of the potential reserves, he is an adequate shooter, making 37.6% of his 3.3 long distance attempts this season.

Final Thoughts

This is a fun event, but there actually is a little bit of an edge available if you have read this far. For those of you wondering, Fast Eddie Fear will be anchoring a special episode of Live Before Lock shows on YouTube, Twitch and Periscope beginning at 7:45 p.m. EST tonight for all of the up-to-date information.

As always, you can reach out to me in Awesemo.com premium Slack or on Twitter @EMacDFS if you have any NBA DFS questions about DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo or FantasyDraft.

Good Luck, NBA DFS Gamers! ~ EMac

Eric "EMac" MacPherson won the 2007 Fantasy Baseball grand prize (trip for two to the MLB All-Star game) in the Roto format on ESPN. He won again in 2008, this time in the H2H format. As one of the early adopters of daily fantasy sports, EMac has been providing content for baseball and basketball as well as both professional and college football since 2012 for a variety of websites including DraftKings Playbook, FanVice, RotoWorld, Daily Fantasy Bootcamp, and RotoGrinders. He is well into his third decade of fantasy sports and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Follow him on Twitter @EMacDFS or contact EMac by emailing support@awesemo.com.

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