Some thoughts coming out of All-Star Weekend:
• If I'm a Knicks, Bulls or Lakers fan, I would not have been too happy seeing Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng or Andrew Bynum, respectively, on the court for the All-Star Game. Each has dealt with an injury this season that should have been enough to warrant skipping the game. Bynum left early in the first quarter with his never-ending knee(s) issue while Deng is playing through a ligament tear in his wrist. Meanwhile, Anthony has only played in three Knicks games after missing seven consecutive games while dealing with a groin injury. If the playoffs started today, all three teams would qualify, so it's not like they have nothing to play for.
• Speaking of Carmelo Anthony, does anyone realize how bad he's been this year? Yes, 5.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 82 percent from the charity stripe are all numbers that can help you fantasy squad, especially if you have to fill a small-forward spot. But beyond those numbers are some alarming stats. The drop in almost five points per game off his average can be attributed to shooting a career-low 39.7 percent. On top of that, since the calendar turned to 2012 he's only had two games in 20 when he's shot more than 50 percent from the floor. Given he's attempted 18.4 shots per game, the amount of shots taken is a double negative with the low percentage.
• If I had to predict the NBA Finals today, I'd take Oklahoma City vs. Miami. Yes, they are the two best teams with the best record in their respective conferences, which doesn't make this some outrageous prediction. That said, I've been on Oklahoma City for years now and think it has a legitimate shot at becoming the next champion. The team has enough size underneath with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins that could make the difference in matchup with the Heat. If you had to back Dwyane Wade/Lebron James vs. Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook, wouldn't that be close to even? I'd probably give a slight edge to Miami, but overall the difference could be in the paint, which clearly favors the Thunder. A matchup like that in the finals could mean the passing of the championship torch from Kobe Bryant/Boston's Big Three/Tim Duncan to the younger generation of superstars.
• If Gerald Henderson, Andray Blatche or Danilo Gallinari are available in your league, grab them immediately if they'll upgrade your team.
Each week we'll look at players who have received increased minutes. An uptick in minutes doesn't always translate into improved fantasy stats but it at least offers some players to put on the radar.
Danny Green, F, SA - Green had back-to-back 16-point performances before the break and played 31 and 38 minutes in those two games. He totaled 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two three-pointers during those two contests and should continue to see solid minutes with Manu Ginobili out at least another week. It's not going to hurt Green that the Spurs are starting a seven-game homestand where he shoots almost seven percent better from the floor and 10 percent better from the free-throw line.
Brandon Bass, F, BOS - Jermaine O'Neal is dealing with a wrist injury that should keep him out for more than Tuesday night's game, opening the power-forward spot for Bass, who is coming off a knee injury himself. In only 25 games this season, Bass has put up modest yet respectable averages - 29 minutes, 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds. While those numbers don't jump off the page, there's the possibility he could get 30-plus minutes as the Celtics look to lock up a playoff spot down the stretch. At the very least keep an eye on his production the next few games.
Each week we'll look at players who can help your fantasy team in the standard nine categories. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a certain category, there's no guarantee he will contribute in other areas.
Nate Robinson, G, GS - With all the aches and pains this season coupled with playing on a team that likely will be out of the playoff race well before the last day of the season, it wouldn't surprise to see Stephen Curry get shut down at some point. If that happens, don't forget about Curry next season as he likey would drop out of the first round in most formats but still has the ability to provide top-10 fantasy value. On to Nate Robinson, who will at least get a bump in minutes if Curry misses time the next week. Robinson had a nice run in early January when he posted a six-game stretch of 14.7 points, 4.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 24-for-26 (92.3 percent) from the free-throw line. Keep in mind that Curry could miss more than the next week, and as a result Robinson could end up being a key contributor down the stretch.
Rebounds and Blocks
Nikola Vucevic, C, PHI - With the news that Spencer Hawes will be out at least another two weeks, the 76ers likely will give Vucevic more run at center. In the last game before the All-Star break, Vucevic scored 18 points with eight rebounds and three blocks. The 7-footer can be counted on for good "big man" stats while Hawes is out, provided he stays out of foul trouble and sees 24-plus minutes per game.
Always check your league's eligibility rules to make sure a player qualifies.
Jon Leuer, MIL - Now eligible at center
Marcus Thornton, SAC - Now eligible at small forward
Patrick Patterson, HOU - Now eligible at center