|Irving leads the rookie class in this year's reformatted Rookie Challenge. (Getty Images)|
The NBA's Rookie Challenge is getting a facelift this season. Instead of just matching up rookies against second-year players, there will be a "player pool" in which two general managers -- Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley -- to pick from. Which means the rookies and sophomores will be mixed.
The 18 players picked are (sophomores first): Blake Griffin, Landry Fields, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Tiago Splitter, Evan Turner and John Wall. From the rookie class, Kyrie Irving, Ricky Rubio, MarShon Brooks, Brandon Knight, Kawhi Leonard, Markieff Morris, Tristan Thompson, Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams.
No Iman Shumpert is definitely a snub though. NBA assistant coaches are the ones who voted on this list of players.
If Griffin indeed is playing, as one report says he is, he's the obvious No. 1 overall pick but after that, it'll be a little interesting. I imagine John Wall will be taken second, but Irving and Rubio have a shot at it.
Here's my rookie/sophomore big board:
1. Blake Griffin - Obvious top player. A franchise cornerstone where in this case, the franchise is a one-game exhibition no one really cares about.
2. John Wall - Maybe not having the best season for the struggling Wizards, but in this format could be the best player on the floor.
3. Kyrie Irving - Irving is maybe actually All-Star material. You can't go wrong taking him second overall, but if Griffin plays, an Irving-Griffin tandem is likely.
4. Ricky Rubio - Whoever has the No. 2 pick will likely be forced to pull a Kahn and take two point guards with his top two picks. But you can't pass on Rubio. Plus, a Wall-Rubio backcourt makes enough sense.
5. Greg Monroe - Every team needs a skilled big man and Monroe is the class of the class.
6. Paul George - You probably haven't noticed yet, but George is having a breakout season.
7. DeMarcus Cousins - Lucky for whoever takes Cousins, this is only one game and things like "character" and "chemistry" don't really factor in.
8. Evan Turner - It's not hard to see Turner excelling in this game. Good passer and a steady shooting guard that can score off the dribble.
9. Kemba Walker - Walker's versatility gives him value. He could play point or off the ball. And I bet he'll try a crossover so nasty in this game that it breaks someone in the crowd's ankles.
10. MarShon Brooks - It wouldn't shock me if Brooks ends up the high scorer in this game.
11. Derrick Williams - His jumper hasn't been as good as advertised thus far and he hasn't sniffed a breakout moment yet, but Williams might feel more at home against guys his own age.
12. Gordon Hayward - Now you're getting to the point where you're going off name recognition.
13. Kawhi Leonard - A good defender really isn't something that valuable in this game, but Leonard has a pretty solid outside touch.
14. Tristan Thompson - This isn't an indictment on Thompson as a player to have him this low, but in this format, I don't think he'll be much more than an alley-oop target and someone to grab rebounds that come directly to him.
15. Brandon Knight - Who wants a fifth point guard on their team?
16. Landry Fields - Pretty much the same explanation for Leonard could go right here.
17. Tiago Splitter - The biggest big man that needs the ball on the block to be effective. So who wants the boring post player?
18. Markieff Morris - I assume this is the better Morris because he was named to the pool. Bragging rights!