Through 50 games, the Golden State Warriors have been one of the more surprising teams in the NBA. Sitting at 30-20 and holding the sixth seed in the Western Conference, Mark Jackson’s Warriors are in line of making the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Stephen Curry and David Lee are All-Star caliber players, but Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes provide the team with additional scoring options. In recognition of their play, Thompson and Barnes have been named to the Rising Star Challenge taking place on Friday, Feb. 15 during All-Star Weekend.
Not only will the younger Warriors take part in the rookie-sophomore scrimmage, but the duo will be playing on the same team, otherwise known as Team Shaq. Golden State’s young tandem was drafted in the fourth (Thompson) and fifth round (Barnes) in the Rising Stars Draft between Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley (Team Chuck).
Thompson, who averaged 12.5 points as a rookie has raised his average to 16.4. The second-year forward is also third in scoring among sophomores. His outside shooting has played a vital role in the Warriors offense, as his ability to stretch the floor opens up driving lanes for Curry and defenses cannot double-team Lee or Andrew Bogut in the low post. If Thompson could improve at finishing around the rim, he’ll be a very difficult cover for any defender.
Barnes, selected seventh overall in this year’s NBA draft has been a bit inconsistent, but has shown promise at times. While he averages only 9.3 points per game, he contributes with his defense, rebounding and aggressiveness to attack the basket. Overall, he’s been a solid contributor in his role.
With Thompson and Barnes playing alongside point guards Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard on Team Shaq, the pair of Warriors are staring at a big scoring night. Each point guard can create shots for others, so the Golden State duo will have numerous opportunities to hoist up a barrage of jump shots, especially when defense is an afterthought in this light-hearted contest.
Golden State may not receive much national exposure, but with four Warriors participating in this year’s All-Star festivities, you better get used to seeing their names for years to come.
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