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Rising Stars Challenge: SI’s (not so) serious grades

It was quite the Rising Stars Challenge. Team USA beat Team World 157–154 in a game that featured plenty of dunks and no defense.

TORONTO — It was a game only Daryl Morey could have loved, players throwing up literally only threes, layups and dunks, with the exception of the game’s only Houston Rocket, Clint Capela (took two long twos, missed both). I watched mascots launch T-shirts into the arms of flailing Canadian fans, and saw the greatest of my generation destroyed by madness. I saw Marcus Smart, Emmanuel Mudiay and Jahlil Okafor convert three-point field goals. And I saw USA hold off a World comeback for the 157–154 win on Friday.

But the story of the game was tentacled monster Kristaps Porzingis surfacing from the depths of Lake Ontario and devouring everything in sight. A three from the top of the key and a missed heat check in the first minute of the game offered no solace. He was here to score 30 points and … maybe convince a courtside Carmelo Anthony (and son) not to ask for a trade yet.

• Sports Illustrated’s hub for 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend coverage

Zach LaVine, on his way to becoming the most decorated useless-All-Star-award-winner ever, took home MVP with 30 points. But it’s really no use trying to explain any more of what happened, so has mostly meaningless player grades for you. They are as follows:

World Team

Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks): A

I really wish there was still a way to get him in the dunk contest. Or the skills competition. Or the three-point shootout. Or the All-Star Game. The legend continues.

JENKINS: Porzingis is silencing doubters and taking over New York

Mario Hezonja (Magic): A

Super Mario came out bloodthirsty. He shot heat-check threes, blocked Devin Booker at the rim, cocked one back for a dunk, *tried* a behind-the-back pass, stole an inbounds pass on a breakaway then dribbled to the corner for a three, and angrily grimaced after airmailing one at the half-court buzzer. He complained about a late-game call that could have given the West possession to tie! Dude stat-chased his way to a 19/10/7. 

Takeaway: Mario Hezonja could have been the greatest AAU player of all-time. He is my personal MVP.

Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets): A

Mudiay’s skill set is perfect for this game, I appreciate that he went out of his way to set people up, and the 30-point, 10-assist stat line is nice. On the other hand, he had five turnovers, so I guess he’s totally still going to be a bust.

Andrew Wiggins (Wolves): A-

Unsurprisingly, Wiggins got the loudest cheers from the crowd and had a couple of pretty cool dunks. Also logged the most minutes. Deserves every possible Tim Horton’s donut after the game.

Nikola Jokic (Nuggets): B-

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Who is Nikola Jokic? Well, he pretty much did what he does every night in Denver (12 points, eight rebounds, four assists), and he was easy to miss if you blinked. He is also not Jusuf Nurkic.

FISCHER: Jokic is becoming the Nuggets’ center of attention

Dwight Powell (Mavericks): C+

Uh, I remember him dunking.

Raul Neto (Jazz): C

Before the game, I honestly thought Raul Neto was like 30 years old with a wife and twins (he’s 23, for the record). Paging Marcelo Huertas.

Clint Capela (Rockets): C-

Didn’t do a lot. More importantly, it’s distinctly possible he could be Houston’s starting center in a week …

Trey Lyles (Jazz): D

Got called for first foul of the game with 4:43 left in first quarter. He was a minus-11. He only scored twice. Still a fan.

Bojan Bogdanovic: F

He did airball a three. But he is not Boban Marjanovic, and that crushed me.


Zach LaVine (Wolves): A

He played really hard, dunked a lot and he had 30 points. LaVine is all about those All-Star trophies. He’ll score 50 points in the celebrity game 40 years from now. I have no doubt he takes a position with the Players’ Association solely to lobby for the return of the Shooting Stars competition. It’s on for the next decade.

Devin Booker (Suns): A-

He spilled a guy’s drink at halftime and looked like he felt genuinely bad. In the process, he passed up a chance to take his first legal sip of alcohol. Made five threes. All in a day’s work.

D’Angelo Russell: A-

Benefited from the entire game being played essentially in transition. Proved he can make threes when really wide open. Byron Scott’s grade: D-

JENKINS: Russell, Towns part of NBA’s next generation of stars

Jordan Clarkson (Lakers): B+

Jordan Clarkson took like 1,000,000 threes in the first five minutes of the game and I blacked out after that, but I’m pretty sure he was trying really hard. Byron Scott’s grade: C-

Jahlil Okafor (Sixers): B

It’s hard for a guy who needs the ball in the post to never get the ball in the post, but he managed. Brownie points.

Jabari Parker (Bucks): B

His first-half windmill was probably the dunk of the game. Then he dunked on Kristaps to seal the game. He looks really healthy and gets originality points.

Karl-Anthony Towns (Wolves): B-

Towns did nothing in the first half and later redeemed himself. Still Rookie of the Year any way you cut the cake.

Rodney Hood (Jazz): C+

Hood was efficient but never took over. As one of only two playoff-relevant guys on the floor, we forgive him. The Jazz got three guys in this game …

GOLLIVER: Hood is outshining more heralded 2014 NBA draft peers

Elfrid Payton (Magic): D+

He didn’t score a single point but somehow led the winning team as a plus-12. More importantly, nobody can touch his haircut. Elfrid Payton is the “All-Star Weekend Zach LaVine” of hair.

Marcus Smart (Celtics): D-

Made a three to start the game, then shot 0 for 7. Props to him for restraining himself on defense and not going all-out. The opposite of one of those two things (guess which) will go down in the postseason.