Suns’ Deandre Ayton out, Pelicans’ Nicolo Melli in for All-Star Friday Rising Stars

Kurt Helin
NBC Sports

The most recent No. 1 pick — Zion Williamson, the guy tearing up the league since he got healthy — will be suiting up for the NBA All-Star Friday Night Rising Stars Challenge.

The previous year’s No. 1 pick, Deandre Ayton, will not.

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After missing the last two Suns games with ankle soreness, Ayton will skip the NBA’s showcase for its young stars, the league announced Thursday.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli will replace Ayton on the World Team (the Rising Stars is a USA vs. the World format). Melli is a 29-year-old undrafted rookie out of Italy who played for years with Olimpia Milano then with EuroLeague powerhouse Fenerbahçe İstanbul before coming to the NBA. Melli is playing about 16 minutes a night for New Orleans and is averaging 6.1 points and 2.8 rebounds a night.

You can watch Melli — and that Zion guy, and Ja Morant — in the Rising Stars game Friday at 9 p.m. Eastern on TNT.

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