Last night’s NBA Rising Stars Challenge was a laugher, and not even just for the usual reasons (no defense, sloppy passing, reckless shooting, general exhibition behavior): This time, the World team just kinda flattened the U.S. team, from start to finish, so that what is always a talent show masquerading as a contest felt even less competitive than usual.
Meh. No big deal. If you’re watching the Rising Stars Challenge on a Friday night, first of all you probably pay far too much attention to the NBA, in general, and should get out more. More to the point, you weren’t there for fierce competition so much as you were there for the bitchin’ highlights. Thankfully, the game had plenty of those:
The MVP was rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic. Like most things that happen in these games, that’s not something that should be given a lot of weight as an indicator of future success: the Rising Stars MVP has been won by the likes of Zach LaVine, Kenneth Faried, Tyreke Evans, and Boobie Gibson. The 2014 game featured an extended stretch of blistering oneupmanship between Dion Waiters and Tim Hardaway Jr., when it was possible to imagine the two of them becoming big-time scorers and stars. Enjoy these highlights, but try to resist reading too much into them, is what I’m saying:
Here is a very obvious takeaway that requires absolutely no hedging: the Kings should be taking a lot more three-pointers than they are. They currently take the third fewest threes per game in the NBA, which goes some of the way towards explaining why they have the NBA’s very worst offensive rating. But in the Rising Stars Challenge, Bogdanovic and fellow Kings guard Buddy Hield attempted a combined 27 three-pointers, and converted one more than the entire U.S. team made all night. Those guys can shoot! Maybe they can do nothing else, but they can shoot! Bogdanovic is knocking down 40 percent of this threes on the season, but on just four attempts per game. That is a goddamn outrage. The Kings have almost nothing going for them, and their offense is a dismal slog, and meanwhile they’ve got a young gunner with Damian Lillard range out there hiding in plain sight. Fuck that. I want to see Bogdan Bogdanovic launch eight threes a game, dammit. It couldn’t possibly make the Kings any worse.
Infuriatingly, the time for the Kings to play to that particular strength—such as it is—is behind us. Now that tanking season is upon us, and now that the Kings have as much incentive to tank as they literally ever will again, they would almost certainly prefer to not do anything that would drag their offensive performance up from the bottom. If the Kings are serious about tanking, they’ll manufacture an injury for young Bogdan and mothball him until Summer League. But Friday night was a fun look at what he can do when he’s given the green light in a fast, open game. He can shoot! I sincerely hope the Kings become good soon, so that we can see more of it.