Thursday, February 11, 2010

All-Star Rookie Challenge Preview

Online betting choices are sometimes hard to make, but in the NBA All-Star Rookie Challenge, the smart money should almost always flow in one direction. A game that began in 1994 as an awkward matchup between "Phenoms" and "Sensations", and then became a "White versus Green" affair in 1995, has finally found an established format. We'll look at the lineups in the latest edition of the Rookie Challenge, as the NBA's current crop of Rookies take on a squad of Sophomores.

NBA Rookies vs. NBA Sophomores

Friday, Jan. 30

Bookmaker Odds (Bookmaker Review): No line

After the Rookie Challenge used an East-West structure from 1996-1998 (and then endured the lockout of 1999), this prelude to the "big-boy" All-Star Game settled on a Rookies-Sophomores setup in 2000. In the 10 games that have been played between these two teams, the Sophomores own an 8-2 advantage. This speaks to the value of experience in the NBA. It's not so much a reflection of raw talent as it is a matter of handling the rigors of an NBA season. The great challenge of professional basketball is found in the ability to play well on back-to-back nights and repeatedly perform despite red-eye flights, late bedtimes, squeezed-in meals, and other processes associated with a grueling travel schedule. Sophomores are able to adjust to these weird rhythms more readily than Rookies can, and that's a big reason why second-year NBA players usually defeat first-year stars.

In examining the 2010 edition of this game, one of the biggest things that stands out is that a member of the Rookies will be playing on very short rest. While some people might think that the Betting Lines in this contest should be set in response to the raw talent on each roster, it's more sensible to think about this game in terms of travel time.

San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair, who was awarded a spot on the Rookies, is the only player in this game who will have competed in a regular-season NBA contest the night before. San Antonio (at press time) is about to play at Denver on Thursday night, in a game that starts at 10:35 p.m. Eastern time. The Rookie Challenge tips off just after 9 Eastern on Friday night in Dallas, so Blair – an imposing rebounder, the best board man the Rookies have – is not likely to be much of a factor. This will allow the Sophomores – with big men Brook Lopez and Kevin Love – to feast on the glass.

Because Blair is not likely to make a big impact on this game, the Rookies will need to minimize the need for rebounds at the American Airlines Center. Unless the Rookies' two best performers – guards Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings – can shoot at a very high percentage and score at will, the Sophomores should be in very good shape. Sophomore scorers such as O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley will likely be able to play this game over the top and get free looks against smaller Rookie defenders. They'll also be able to do more in post-up situations.

The Rookies possess outstanding talent, but the Sophomores own considerable situational advantages. DeJuan Blair's Thursday game in Denver will come back to bite the Rookies on Friday.

Pick: Sophomores


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