The annual Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend will have a Laker taking part this year, though it’s from an unlikely source. Despite both Austin Reaves and Max Christie having roles of varying size with the Lakers themselves, two-way guard Scotty Pippen Jr. will take part in the contest this year.
2022-23 NBA Rising Stars at All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City: pic.twitter.com/4jbg1Mo02d— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 31, 2023
To his credit, Pippen Jr. has been fantastic this year in the G League, averaging 24.3 points per game in eight contests. He’s shooting an absurd 50.9% from the field, 41% from the 3-point line and dishing out 6.9 assists per game. He’s tallied three double-doubles, has a season-high of 31 points and has failed to score at least 20 points just once.
Pippen Jr. will be the first Lakers representative to take part in the Rising Stars Challenge since 2019 when both Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma played in their sophomore seasons. Ball and Kuzma were also the last Lakers rookies to make the game in the 2018 season.
It does feel a little odd that Reaves didn’t get the nod. Perhaps it’s because the league is pretty clearly pushing the G League by including seven players — Pippen Jr. included — in the rosters. Former Laker Mac McClung is also among the G League representatives as he’s averaged 18.9 points in 11 games while shooting 57.7% from the field and 45.5% from the 3-point line.
Working against Reaves is the lack of gaudy stats to back his case. This season, he’s averaging 10.8 points per game on 48.8% shooting from the field and 36% from the 3-point line. Most of his impact, though, is through advanced numbers and lineup data that isn’t exactly appealing to those picking and watching Rising Stars rosters.
In short, I don’t think they’re interested in the positive impact Reaves can make in a lineup with Paolo Banchero and Bennedict Mathurin more than they are in the fact that someone else is a higher profile prospect or is averaging more points, which is fair enough.
Last year’s format change for the Rising Stars Challenge was...interesting. Twenty-eight players were selected and then drafted into four teams that played in a tournament format with a target goal of 75 points across the two rounds — 50 points in the semi-final and 25 points in the final — in honor of it being the 75th anniversary of the league and, yeah, it was weird and convoluted.
The NBA is bringing back at least the four teams aspect of it with the coaches being Pau Gasol, Jason Terry, Deron Williams and Joakim Noah this year. It feels like a lot of work and complications for a game that was pretty fun in its original format but it’s All-Star Weekend and who really cares about the format of these games and contests?
Still, Austin Reaves was snubbed.