By Serena Yeh
LOS ANGELES – The Rising Stars are playing it nice.
Fourteen of the 2018 NBA Rising Stars Challenge players were asked over the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles who they thought among them, excluding the player himself, would be the first to make the All-Star Game. And most were loyal to a fault.
Many chose to cast a hypothetical vote for their own teammates – from the Chicago Bulls’ sophomore Kris Dunn’s cheeky pick of rookie Lauri Markkanen, to the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma’s vote of support for Brandon Ingram, to the Sacramento Kings’ Bogdan Bogdanovic’s humorous selection of De’Aaron Fox, to the mutual affirmation between the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and then, finally, to the reciprocated show of support between the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons and Dario Saric.
Absent from the nominees is Joel Embiid, the third Sixers player in the Rising Stars Challenge who has already been named an All-Star starter this year. Embiid is only the fourth All-Star Game starter who was also participating in the Rising Stars Challenge, following Yao Ming, Lebron James and Blake Griffin.
Ultimately, most players voted for Ben Simmons (seven votes), followed by runners-up Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram (three votes each).
Here’s what the players had to say:
Bogdan Bogdanovic: “Fox. He’s an All-Star player and he has that swag. He also has a good name for that, De’Aaron Fox, you know? He’s good for that. He’s born for that.”
Kris Dunn: “Lauri Markkanen, because he had eight threes in Madison Square Garden.”
Jaylen Brown: “Jayson Tatum, because he plays for my team.”
Jayson Tatum: “Me or Jaylen. If I can’t pick me, I pick Jaylen.”
Taurean Prince: “Probably Ben Simmons. It’s known he’s a good player, he does it all. He has very high professionalism about it, and I think that he will be the one. Him or Jaylen Brown. Jaylen Brown’s my guy, I like competing against him.
Dennis Smith Jr.: “I think there’s a couple of guys who could make the game next year. Ben Simmons could make it, Jaylen Brown could make it. Whoever I name is going to be in the East more likely, but those are two guys that could definitely make the game next year. Brandon Ingram keeps getting better, he has a real shot too.”
Kyle Kuzma: “Brandon Ingram. I think he’s going to keep getting better and better, and he’s only 20 years old.”
John Collins: “I’ll say it’s a Laker, if it’s not Donovan Mitchell, it’s going to be Lonzo (Ball), Kuz, or Brandon Ingram. I mean, Lonzo was almost voted in as an All-Star this year, right? I looked at the voting, he was pretty high up there, so I would say if it’s not Donovan, it’s one of the Lakers boys.”
De’Aaron Fox: “I mean the way Donovan and Ben have been playing, I feel like one of them first. Just the way they’ve been playing, or just popularity, probably like Lonzo or somebody in LA honestly.”
Domantas Sabonis: “I would say Ben Simmons, probably the next year. I think he should have been in this year. He’s a very talented player.”
Jamal Murray: “I will probably go with Ben Simmons. I think he should have made it this year. I think next year he’s got it for sure.”
Dario Saric: “I think first for all players will probably be Ben. Joel is already there. There are a couple of guys on the U.S. team who are very talented, who will one day be big stars, but I think Ben will be first.”
Ben Simmons: “Other than myself, hopefully Dario. Why? Because Dario is a great player.”
Dillon Brooks: “I think either Jamal (Murray) or Ben. Those guys they’ve been through it. Jamal’s already won MVP here and he’s playing tremendous basketball. He could shoot, he could lay it up, he runs his team so great, that’s what Ben Simmons does too. He has all the flavor, all the dunks, he triple-doubles almost every game, fills the stat sheet and he’s up and rising.”