Assuming Domantas Sabonis doesn’t make the cut as an All-Star reserve, the Indiana Pacers will still be represented at All-Star weekend in Cleveland, as rookie Chris Duarte was named to the Rising Star’s roster, which for the first time will include four G League Ignite players as well as 12 first-years and 12 sophomores in a showcase of up-and-coming talent.
Putting together his best stretch of the season since since scoring 27 points in his NBA debut against the Charlotte Hornets, Duarte averaged 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.8 steals on 50 percent shooting while appearing more instinctual every time he stepped on the floor during the team’s recent five-game, west coast road trip.
With Caris LeVert returning to the lineup as primary ball-handler, Duarte hasn’t made quite the same impact in the scoring column as of late while taking on increased responsibility generating favorable switches as a screener in spread, two-man game; however, even with Isaiah Jackson and Duane Washington Jr. stealing the show against LA, the 24-year-old rookie still flashed his potential as a two-way player in closing time, earning a key block.
Here are the other rookies who made the cut, with lottery picks such as Jonathan Kuminga, who has shown impressive flashes on a contending Warriors team, omitted from inclusion.
- Scottie Barnes (Raptors)
- Cade Cunningham (Pistons)
- Ayo Dosunmo (Bulls)
- Josh Giddey (Thunder)
- Jalen Green (Rockets)
- Herbert Jones (Pelicans)
- Davion Mitchell (Kings)
- Evan Mobley (Cavaliers)
- Alperen Sengun (Rockets)
- Jalen Suggs (Magic)
- Franz Wagner (Magic)
With players divided into four teams, this year’s Rising Stars Challenge will feature a new, three-game mini-tournament format, in which two rounds of games will be played to a target score: 50 points in the semi-finals and 25 in the final, all summing to 75 points in honor of the NBA’s diamond anniversary.
For a team with a spotty recent draft record that currently has the sixth-worst record in the league, Duarte is the first Pacers rookie to compete in the Rising Stars showcase since 2017 when Myles Turner was selected — a fact which should perhaps instill confidence if the team veers toward a rebuild, given that both are the squad’s most recent lottery picks.