Drew Packham
Monday January 21st, 2008

We're still more than three weeks away from All-Star Weekend, but it's never too early to start talking about the best event of the three days -- the Rookie Challenge.

Now before all you dunk and three-point contest lovers bombard my inbox, you have to realize the person you're e-mailing -- a guy preoccupied with the goings-on of the 57 first-year players currently on NBA rosters.

I first fell in love with the rookie-sophomore game in 2000, after lucking into some free passes and road-tripping more than eight hours to spend a rainy weekend in the Bay Area. If you remember, that was the year Jason Williams pulled out his off-the-elbow pass and Andre Miller was booed for laying it up instead of dunking on two separate breakaways.

So, to get a head start on the festivities, I give you my rookie starting five for this year's game. Later, once the teams are announced, I'll break down the matchups.

PG: Mike Conley SG: Kevin Durant SF: Yi Jianlian PF: Al Horford C: Sean Williams

The most difficult decision was deciding to bring Jamario Moon off the bench. If anyone's earned a starting spot, it's Moon, but I would prefer to have the defense of Williams and Horford in the paint.

With Juan Carlos Navarro, Luis Scola, Jeff Green and several other players making big contributions, the rookies will have an incredibly deep bench. It's been five years since the rookies beat the sophomores, but this just may be the year the streak ends.

(Send comments, complaints or hype for your favorite rookie to Drew Packham at drew.packham@turner.com.)

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.