The NBA's annual All-Star Game often serves as a barometer for which players' careers are on the rise and which ones are on the decline. Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are conspicuously absent from this year's rosters, and perhaps names such as Paul Pierce, Steve Nash, Tony Parker and Joe Johnson might soon follow suit.
As these veteran stars slowly move out of the picture, it's only natural to start looking for the up-and-comers who will soon take their place. Friday night's NBA Rising Stars Challenge offered a peek at some young players who might fill those sizable shoes and showcase their talents in the 2013 All-Star Game.
Here's a scouting breakdown of five of the most likely candidates, what skills they possess now and what they need to improve to be part of next year's midseason gala.
1. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings
Scouting report: Cousins currently is averaging 16.4 ppg and 11.3 rpg. A rookie first-teamer last season, Cousins has the size and skill to be an All-Star. This is best seen in the low post. He commands deep position in the paint and can score over most NBA bigs. Cousins is an excellent passer for a big man, averaging 2.1 apg in his career.
He also is a monster on the offensive glass, averaging 4.5 offensive boards per game. Defensively he works hard and contests opponents' shots, but he is not an elite shot-blocker despite his height.