HOUSTON -- The notion that the Warriors have two of the NBA's better young talents is supported by the selection of second-year guard Klay Thompson and rookie small forward Harrison Barnes to Friday's Rising Stars Challenge, the first big event of All-Star Weekend.

But the duo's play on Team Shaq (the squad assembled by Shaquille O'Neal) in a 163-135 loss to Team Chuck (Charles Barkley) showed why many have doubts.

Although the annual showcase is an exhibition in sensationalism, Barnes and Thompson were relative nonfactors. Thompson finished with 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting in fewer than 15 minutes. Barnes had 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 19 minutes. Neither one's performance registered much on the Richter scale.

The show was stolen by Cavaliers second-year point guard Kyrie Irving (32 points). And Denver's Kenneth Faried (40 points and 10 rebounds), the MVP. And Cleveland rookie Dion Waiters (23 points). And Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas (18 points and 10 assists).

It was an illustration, albeit superficial, of how Barnes and Thompson are just as likely to blend in as they are to drop jaws.

No doubt, part of their inconsistency can be explained by inexperience. Thompson is in his first full season as a starter, and he and Barnes both came out of college early and had a lot thrust on them.


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But in many ways, the Warriors' hopes for a big splash in the playoffs rests on their shoulders. The three others starters -- point guard Stephen Curry, forward David Lee and center Andrew Bogut -- are all established vets. Curry is still relatively young, but it's hard to imagine him getting dramatically better.

That means Golden State's best chance for significant improvement largely lies in the development of Thompson and Barnes.

"We haven't really developed into the players we're going to be yet," Barnes said. "If me and Klay can really turn it on and get to that point, we can do a lot."

If somehow their potential materializes, the two figure to make the Warriors serious contenders. But comparing Thompson's and Barnes' play with the consistent production of some of the league's other young stars -- Portland rookie Damian Lillard, San Antonio second-year forward Kawhi Leonard, Houston's Chandler Parsons -- raises concerns about whether they can be cornerstone players.

Thompson is already established as a shooter. At his best, he has done more than just shoot it well. He's shown he can create off the dribble and even set up a teammate. His rebounding has been a notable reason the Warriors are good on the boards now. And he plays defense well enough for Golden State coach Mark Jackson to use him as a stopper on occasion.

He showed a bit of his versatility in the second half Friday. In one four-possession stretch, he drove the lane and set up a dunk for Barnes, nailed a baseline jumper, caught an alley-oop dunk and nailed a 3-pointer.

Moments like that are why many salivate over Thompson. But it's the other moments -- the turnovers and head-scratching shots -- that allow doubt to linger.

"He needs to do more than just shoot," said Mitch Richmond, one of the great scorers in recent NBA history. "Sometimes, he reduces himself to just a 3-point shooter. He can do other things out there, he just needs to do it consistently."

Barnes has a different struggle. He's got a polished offensive game and the size and athleticism to impose his will, as he showed on a couple of his dunks Friday.

But getting consistent aggressiveness from him has been a challenge for Jackson.

"He's on a team with a lot of shooters," Cleveland's Irving said. "I think he fits well in that system. I feel his time will come next year in that system."

But there is another side to this coin: Thompson and Barnes are getting a chance to develop in meaningful games.

"Me and Harrison are still so young," Thompson said. "But we're in a great position. Not a lot of first- and second-year guys are in this playoff race. We've just got to keep getting better each month and learn from our mistakes." 

All-Star Weekend
Saturday: Dunk contest, 3-point shooting contest, skills challenge, 5:30 p.m. TNT
Sunday: All-Star Game, 5 p.m., TNT
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