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Zion Williamson makes Rising Stars only as injury replacement

Zion Williamson named to Rising Stars

CLEVELAND, OHIO - JANUARY 28: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans celebrates with a teammate as he leaves the game during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on January 28, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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Which NBA player would you like to watch an extra time next month?

Zion Williamson is my answer in a landslide.

Of course, there are better players. But they already play big minutes for their teams. There are plenty of other opportunities to watch them.

Williamson has played just four games for the Pelicans – enough to provide a taste of what he can do, but leaving everyone hungry for more. So much intrigue and possibility remains with the No. 1 pick. Rising Stars at All-Star Weekend will be a perfect chance to see him perform.

He nearly didn’t make it.

Williamson joined the U.S. roster only as an injury replacement for Wendell Carter Jr., who’s out with a sprained ankle but was selected by voting assistant coaches (who had to pick four frontcourt players, four guards and two additional players and at least three rookies and three sophomores for each team).

The full rosters:


  • Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
  • Trae Young (Hawks)
  • Ja Morant (Grizzlies)
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies)
  • Kendrick Nunn (Heat)
  • Tyler Herro (Heat)
  • Eric Paschall (Warriors)
  • Devonte’ Graham (Hornets)
  • P.J. Washington (Hornets)
  • Miles Bridges (Hornets)
  • Wendell Carter Jr. (Bulls)


  • Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
  • Deandre Ayton (Suns)
  • R.J. Barrett (Knicks)
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder)
  • Brandon Clarke (Grizzlies)
  • Rui Hachimura (Wizards)
  • Moritz Wagner (Wizards)
  • Svi Mykhailiuk (Pistons)
  • Josh Okogie (Timberwolves)
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Pelicans)

Among those who missed the cut: Duncan Robinson, Donte DiVincenzo, Mitchell Robinson and Collin Sexton. Notice nearly every player being discussed as a snub is American. As much progress as the rest of the world has made in basketball, there aren’t enough quality international rookies and sophomores to fill 10 spots.

Luka Doncic and Trae Young are already All-Stars. I don’t need to see more of them in an far-less-significant exhibition with even less intensity. This is where I restate my annual request: Make this game for only rookies. Rather than watch established sophomores, I’d like see more from intriguing rookies who haven’t yet shown what they can do. Open spots for players like De’Andre Hunter, Darius Garland, Terence Davis, Michael Porter Jr. and Matisse Thybulle.

Thankfully, at least Williamson got in.