Ben McLemore left out of Rising Stars Challenge

BenMcLemoreCloseUp

The NBA announced the pool of players who will participate in its annual Rising Stars Challenge game at All-Star Weekend.  Once again, Sacramento Kings sophomore guard Ben McLemore was noticeably absent from that list.

McLemore had his sights set on the Rising Stars this season and is likely disappointed with today’s outcome.  After a rough rookie season, he has turned things around in year two, starting all 43 of the team’s games this season.

McLemore increased his points per game from 8.8 last year to 11.7 this season.  After shooting a miserable 37.6 percent from the field and 32.0 percent from behind the arc last year, he is hitting 45.2 percent of his shots this season, including 35.4 from deep.  And his improvement on the defensive end is remarkable.

A format change to the program last week likely aided in McLemore’s exclusion.  The game will pit 10 U.S. born players versus 10 foreign born players.  McLemore was lost in a numbers game that allowed for strict guidelines for each unit, including four guards, four frontcourt players, two wild cards and a minimum of three first-year players on each squad.

Zach LaVine, Elfrid Payton and Nerlens Noel are the three rookies on Team U.S.  Both LaVine and Payton play the guard position, taking up two of the possible six spots McLemore was eligible for.

Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo were all surefire picks in the guard rotation, leaving McLemore in direct competition against second-year guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and rookies Marcus Smart and K.J. McDaniels.

While McLemore and Caldwell-Pope have nearly identical raw numbers, the Pistons guard got the nod.

With All-Star weekend still weeks away, there is still time for McLemore to make the team as an injury replacement.  The 21-year-old guard is highly regarded as a prospect and has done very good work in the community.

Below is a list of the two teams as they stand today:

 Team U.S.

Team Position Year
1) Trey Burke Utah Jazz  Guard Sophomore
2) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Detroit Pistons  Guard Sophomore
3) Michael Carter-Williams Philadelphia 76ers  Guard Sophomore
4) Zach LaVine Minnesota Timberwolves  Guard Rookie
5) Shabazz Muhammad Minnesota Timberwolves Forward Sophomore
6) Nerlens Noel Philadelphia 76ers Forward Rookie
7) Victor Oladipo Orlando Magic  Guard Sophomore
8) Elfrid Payton Orlando Magic Guard Rookie
9) Mason Plumlee Brooklyn Nets Forward Sophomore
10) Cody Zeller Charlotte Hornets  Center Sophomore

 Team International

Team Position Year
1) Steven Adams Oklahoma City Thunder  Center Sophomore
2) Giannis Antetokuonmpo Milwaukee Bucks  Guard Sophomore
3) Bojan Bogdanovic Brooklyn Nets Forward Rookie
4) Gorgui Dieng Minnesota Timberwolves  Center Sophomore
5) Dante Exum Utah Jazz Guard Rookie
6) Rudy Gobert Utah Jazz Center Sophomore
7) Nikola Mirotic Chicago Bulls Forward Rookie
8) Kelly Olynyk Boston Celtics Forward Sophomore
9) Dennis Schroeder Atlanta Hawks Guard Sophomore
10) Andrew Wiggins Minnesota Timberwolves Guard Rookie

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About: James Ham

James Ham is the senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news since 2010. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also contributes to ESPN.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".