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NBA Rising Stars Challenge 2015: Top American and International MVP Candidates

Published by Bleacher Report on Mon, 09 Feb 2015

There's a new format for the NBA Rising Stars Challenge, set to tip off on Feb. 13 at 9 p.m. ET at the Barclays Center, and it should make the game better.Previously the top rookies would take on the best second-year players. In 2015, there will be a team of American rookies and sophomore players taking on a "world" team of international prospects with the same tenure. It's going to be fun watching to see which players stand out for both squads and whether the format encourages one of the prospects to strive for the game's MVP award.There are some dynamic athletes on both teams. Last year's Rookie of the Year, the Philadelphia 76ers' Michael Carter-Williams, will help to lead the American squad. The American team is noticeably short without the Los Angeles Lakers' Julius Randle and Milwaukee Bucks' Jabari Parker. Both Randle and Parker suffered season-ending injuries early in the campaign.The international team would have been bolstered by the 76ers' Joel Embiid, but he too has missed the entire season thus far with injury. Even with those three omissions, the rosters have enough talent to make for an intriguing contest.Here's a look at the roster for both teams. Just below the table is a look at the top candidates for the MVP.GiannisAntetokounmpoThere's no questioningAntetokounmpois one of the brightest young stars in the NBA. The 6'11" 20-year-old is long, athletic and as explosive as anyone in the Rising Stars Challenge. On the season, he's averaging12 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, ablock and 0.9 steals per game. Per NBA.com, "The Greek Freak" has been awesome of late:In a game that usually has a wide-open feel,Antetokounmpo's ability to rebound, finish in transition and handle the ball makes him a prime candidate.Stats often play a major role in which player wins the MVPwinning helps too.Antetokounmpois one of the biggest stat sheet-stuffers on either roster.Andrew WigginsThe favorite for Rookie of the Year has to be Wiggins. Gradually he's taking over as the go-to-man for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He's averaging 15.4 points per game, which leads all rookies.The 19-year-old has proven that he gets up for showcases. When facing the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that traded him shortly after taking him No. 1 overall, Wiggins dropped a season- and career-high 33 points on just 14-of-25 shooting to give Cleveland a glimpse of what they passed on. Wiggins' confidence seems to be at an all-time high right now. Rodger Bohn of Slam magazine notes the T'Wolves rookie attacking one of the league's best perimeter defenders.With another opportunity to show and prove himself in front of a national audience, Wiggins is a good bet to shine.Michael Carter-WilliamsOf all the recent players to win Rookie of the Year, MCW might get the least amount of respect. After winning Rookie of the Year last season, ESPN didn't even include MCW in its top 25 under 25 list.Truth be told, his class was one of the weakest in recent memory, and he did star for a really bad Philadelphia 76ers team, but he's still an excellent prospect.Though his scoring is a little down in his second season, MCW is following up his rookie campaign with good numbers. He's scoring 15 points, dishing out 7.4 assists, grabbing 6.2 rebounds from the point guard spot and getting 1.5 steals per game,He's got something to prove. This seems like the perfect stage to show the doubters where he stands amongst the best young players in the NBA.Mason PlumleeBig men have won the game MVP the last two years. The Detroit Pistons' Andre Drummond took the honor last season, and the Denver Nuggets' Kenneth Faried won it the year before that. The pace of the game generates a lot of missed shots. Someone has to retrieve those rebounds.Of all the bigs in this year's Rising Stars Challenge, Plumlee seems like the most likely candidate to have a huge game on the glass and around the basket.The athletic Brooklyn Nets big man is averaging 10 points, 6.8 rebounds and one blocked shot per game. He's putting up those numbers in just 23.2 minutes per contest.Plumlee is a high-energy player who will almost certainly produce bigger numbers with the extended playing time he seems certain to receive in Friday's exhibition.Follow Brian Mazique on Twitter. Basketball is awesome.
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