This week, the NBA All-Star starters were announced for the Eastern and Western Conference. The picks were made by fan voting, which always has the potential for a joke selection or two (sorry Kobe fans, but even he knows he shouldn't have been an All-Star this year). However, fantasy basketball has different needs and considerations than real basketball. Thus, there should be a separate All-Star team for the roto All-Stars.
Obviously, this team will need to emphasize the pure numbers, but I'll also factor in things like position scarcity, uniqueness of contribution, and draft status in the mix. During my appearances on the RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today show, hosts Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson often ask me which players have moved up the most in my estimation over the course of the season, and this will play a part as well. So, without further ado, here is my 10-player Roto All-Star team for this season.
Point guard: Kyle Lowry and Isaiah Thomas
I'm going off the board early with these two picks, as this field is very deep with quality options. Stephen Curry is a legitimate contender for roto MVP on the year, so how could I leave him off of this team? Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, John Wall, and Mike Conley are also having amazing years. But here's the thing…all of those players are playing essentially to expectation (and, of course, Paul is hurt). Meanwhile, entering the season, very few really expected Lowry (ADP of 69.2 in Yahoo! leagues) to be an impact player this year (currently No. 13 in the Y! player rater) and NOBODY expected Thomas (ADP 132.3) to be No. 18. Thus, if these guys are on your teams, they are giving you first-round talent for mid-to-late round value, making them a little more valuable to me than guys with similar production but a much higher pedigree.
Shooting guard: Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver
The shooting guards are role player specialists, because for the most part, that is what the position has yielded this season. If you count Curry as a point guard and Paul George as a small forward, then consider what injuries have done to the seasons of Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, the only shooting guard left that has true superstar value this season is James Harden. But Harden, despite maintaining elite value (No. 16 overall in Y! player rater), is actually down a bit from where the expectations were for him. Matthews (ADP 70.4, Y! rating No. 15) and Korver (ADP 110.5, Y rating No. 32) have far exceeded their draft position. Both of them are probably rated higher than they maybe should be because their strength is in the highly valued 3-point category, but nonetheless, they have earned their trip to the roto All-Star game.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant and Paul George
While Durant and George were both first-round picks on average, and Durant was the consensus No. 1 overall pick, the seasons that these two have put together still place them firmly into their roto All-Star slots. George is currently rated by Yahoo! as the No. 2 overall player in the league, as he has exhibited a roto game with no weakness. Durant is on another level still, as far-and-away the fantasy MVP through the first half of the year. The Kevin Loves, Anthony Davises, and Chris Pauls of the world have all had their time to shine, but Durant was already in the mix at the top before positively detonating over the last month with Russell Westbrook out. If this continues, Durant might just be putting together one of the finest fantasy seasons of all time.
Power Forward: Kevin Love and Paul Millsap
This category was very difficult and was very nearly the only one that I didn't offer representatives from both conferences. LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin have put on furious rushes in recent weeks that were worthy of a slot, and don't sleep on Dirk Nowitzki's renaissance as a top-flight option. However, Love has been the most productive pure power forward in the NBA over the first half of the season and still edges out his Western Conference cohorts. Meanwhile, Millsap really stepped up major when Al Horford went down, and Millsap's current Y! ranking of No. 17 is a solid outperformance of his ADP of 40.2.
Center: Anthony Davis and Spencer Hawes
Despite only having 35 games played due to injury, Davis was still one of the easier selections in the field. He is the only player in the league this year that, at his best, could still give Durant a run for roto MVP. Meanwhile, Spencer Hawes (ADP 113.4, Y! rank No. 24) makes this list by obliterating his preseason expectations. DeMarcus Cousins would have been a worthy roto All-Star, and both Joakim Noah and Anderson Varejao have made major pushes of late once teammates were traded, but Davis and Hawes earn this year's nod.
Around the League
Is LeBron really stat-stalking Durant and Melo? Last week, LeBron James joked that he gets jealous when he sees how many shot attempts Kevin Durant is getting on a nightly basis. This week, he joked again that he has an app on his phone to stay up to speed with what Durant is doing. Then, on Friday, LeBron went on a tweet-fest as he followed Carmelo Anthony's scoring barrage from a team event.
LeBron's having the best season of his career from a scoring efficiency standpoint (his 66.1% True Shooting percentage is by-far his career high and is leading the NBA), but his volume stats are slightly down across the board, and he is playing a career-low in minutes per game. In a recent interview on ESPN, LeBron said that his run of extremely long seasons (long playoff runs and Olympics/National teams in the summer) has started catching up with him and makes motivation difficult on a daily basis. So, perhaps the recent scoring detonations from peers Durant and Anthony are actually a good thing for LeBron. Seeing his biggest rivals shine, in conjunction with the calendar moving closer to the playoffs, could combine to force an uptick in LeBron's production in the second half of the season.
Wade's injury absences mounting up: Dwyane Wade has consistently missed games over the course of this season as part of a knee maintenance program. He has missed at least one game in several back-to-backs, and has also sat a few times due to soreness. However, entering Sunday, he had missed his last four consecutive games due to the knee. This seems like an escalation in his knee maintenance and should make Wade owners even more nervous moving forward. He probably isn't tradeable at this point, but if he comes back and has a hot stretch, that would be a great time to try to get some kind of value for him.
Cousins and Gay on the mend: DeMarcus Cousins (ankle) and Rudy Gay (Achilles) have both missed the last couple of games for the Kings, and neither one has a set return date. Cousins has been a fantasy stud all season, and Gay had really improved his efficiency since his trade to the Kings. In their absence, point guard Isaiah Thomas has exploded (39 points on 31 shot attempts against the top-rated Pacers' defense on Friday), and Derrick Williams has also gained some short-term relevance (11 rebounds in two straight, including a 22-point/11-rebound outing against the Rockets). Neither injury is expected to be long-term, however, so expect a return to Sacramento normalcy within the next week or two.
Monstrous Aldridge: The last two weeks I have used this space to amplify the ridiculousness of what Kevin Durant has been doing of late. But I'd be remiss if I didn't shed a bit of light on what LaMarcus Aldridge is getting done in Portland right now. Before his "quiet" 21-point outing against the Timberwolves on Saturday, this had been Aldridge's previous six efforts: 44 points and 13 boards, 29 points and 16 boards, 27 points and 20 boards, 30 points and 12 boards, 26 points and 13 boards, and 32 points and 18 boards. Overall, during that stretch, he averaged 31.3 points, 15.3 boards, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blks, 49% from the field (on 24.5 FGA) and 84% from the line (on 8.5 FTA). On the RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today show this week, Liss asked whether this was the real Aldridge. I said yes, because even though his scoring and rebounding have jumped from previous years, he has just been so consistent that this seems to be his level. Aldridge has thrown his hat in with Kevin Love and Anthony Davis as potentially being the fantasy MVP among big men this year.
Gasols moving in opposite directions: Last season, Marc Gasol officially overtook his brother Pau in the basketball world, winning the Defensive Player of the Year award and advancing further into the playoffs than big brother. This season has been a reversal, though, as Pau has been having a breakout year as the only real option in LA while Marc has been struggling with injury. Marc recently returned from knee injury, but has struggled to averages of only 9.5 points, 5.3 boards, 1.0 blocks, and 39% shooting from the field over the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Pau has scored at least 20 points in seven straight games and is averaging 21.9 points, 12 boards, 3.6 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.1 steals while shooting 53% from the field in that same two-week stretch.
Even with this said, though, keep in mind that Pau is one of the most commonly heard names in trade rumors (and a trade to a contender likely hurts his stats) while Marc should improve as his knee returns to health. In fact, Pau might be a good "sell-high" candidate while Marc might be a nice player to try to pick-up on the cheap while his numbers are down.
Walker's ankle injury: Kemba Walker injured his ankle a week ago and is expected to still miss another week of action. This hurts one of my fantasy squads, as Walker had picked it up over the last month or so and was playing more like the player that I expected him to be coming into the year. Al Jefferson has picked up his efforts in Walker's absence, but the biggest recipient in Walker's absence has been Ramon Sessions who has averaged 13.8 points and 5.8 assists in 34+ minutes over his last five games.
D.J. Augustin (50% owned in Yahoo! leagues): Augustin was in this space last week, but he's still only owned in half of the leagues. He has now moved into the starting lineup, and has responded by scoring at least 27 points in three of his last four games. Augustin has stepped up as the Bulls' leading perimeter threat with Derrick Rose and Luol Deng gone, and it seems as though this will continue to be his role moving forward.
Taj Gibson (42% owned): Speaking of Bulls, Gibson has also stepped up his game after Deng's exit. Gibson was already playing extremely well this season, but with Deng gone, he is playing more minutes and displaying more consistency. He has averaged 17.3 points, 5.5 boards, 1.8 blocks and 1.0 steals while shooting 49% from the field and 81% from the line over his past four games and has established himself as a fixture in the Bulls' primary rotation.
Andray Blatche (34% owned): As I wrote last week, Brook Lopez's absence seems to have spurred Kevin Garnett into a focal point that has really helped the Nets' outlook. However, Garnett is still only playing a bit more than 20 minutes per game, leaving the road clear for Blatche to establish himself as the primary fantasy big man for the Nets. Over the last week, Blatche has taken advantage of his 26+ minutes per game off the bench to the tune of 15 points, 7.3 boards, 1.0 blocks, 0.7 treys, 0.7 steals, and 61% shooting from the field.
Kentavius Caldwell-Pope (19% owned): The Pistons drafted Caldwell-Pope in the lottery this year to be their shooting guard of the future, and over the course of the year, his role has steadily grown. He still isn't putting up huge numbers, but he has gotten at least 40 minutes in three of the last four games. He's averaged two steals over that stretch and has been making about a trey per game for the entire month. His scoring is still inconsistent, but he will likely soon be settling in as a double-digit scorer as well. He's not a "must add", but as a youngster with upside, he's at least worth keeping an eye on.
Ryan Kelly (12% owned): Kelly is this week's "insert a random hot Laker here" entry. The stretch power forward has earned a larger spot in the Lakers' rotation of late, and has scored in double-digits in four of the last five games to average 14.4 points along with 4.8 boards and 1.4 treys in that stretch.
Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 87, Sirius 210.