I thought the fans did a pretty good job of selecting the all-star teams this year. I had Dirk Nowitzki over Blake Griffin as my Western Conference power forward - but I made my picks very early in the process, before it became clear that Griffin - and most likely, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge - were more deserving based on this season.
The coaches - particularly in the West - did less well. The honors given Nowitzki and Steve Nash felt a bit like lifetime achievement awards. I would have liked to see someone like Rudy Gay or Paul Millsap, or any one of several Denver Nuggets honored instead.
But this week, I'm looking at fantasy all-stars. And my criteria is very different than the fans' or the coaches'. Kevin Durant? LeBron James? Kevin Love? You've been brilliant. But you were expected to be brilliant. First-round draft picks get no extra credit for performing as such. For me, the real fantasy all-stars are the guys taken in the middle-to-late rounds but play like first-rounders. Their names are the ones you'll see on the teams that finish in the money this year.
Here's my fantasy all-star starters:
Ryan Anderson - Anderson has become what Troy Murphy was a few years ago - an excellent combination of outside shooting and inside defense. On the year, he's got a top-ten ranking in standard Yahoo! scoring.
Ricky Rubio - I admit it - I thought Rubio would be good, but not this good, this fast… especially not after a truncated preseason. He's a top-twenty player on the season, and he wasn't even starting at first.
Nicolas Batum - He's been good-to-great all season, but since moving into the starting lineup he's been particularly special. Since becoming a starter, he's averaging 21.8 points (on 51.2 percent shooting), 5.6 boards, 2.6 three-pointers, two assists, 1.8 blocks, and 1.2 steals in 37.6 minutes. The only other player averaging over 1.5 three-pointers, 1.2 steals, and 1.2 blocks is Kevin Durant. (Note - he's still just 88% owned in Yahoo! leagues.)
Jose Calderon - He has the reputation of being an assists-only guard… but this season he's become a much bigger scoring threat, regularly topping the 20-point mark.
Tyson Chandler - Didn't put up outstanding fantasy numbers in Dallas because Rick Carlisle limited his minutes. Mike D'Antoni has given Chandler a much heavier workload, and he's responding with excellent numbers across-the-board.
Who are your biggest surprises of the season?
Picks for the Week
The first set of picks is for players in standard leagues - guys who may be available in your average 10 team/15 player roster league. The second group is for owners in very deep leagues, and will be based more on speculation than actual numbers.
I'll give percent owned stats for both Yahoo! and ESPN/NBA.com leagues with each pick - first number is Yahoo, ESPN/NBA is second. If you play some other league/format, let me know in the comments and I'll do what I can to accommodate.
Trevor Ariza (71%/68.1%) - He'll never be the most efficient scorer - but he does a little bit of everything (sort of like Batum) and with the Hornets dealing with so many injuries, he'll be taking more shots out of necessity.
Ersan Ilyasova (66% /39.8%)- Has taken over the starting job from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and has been putting up stellar numbers since (19.3 ppg and 16.7 rpg in his last three games).
JR Smith (54%/83%) - And people were worried that Mike D'Antoni wouldn't use the guy. Smith has already emerged as a key bench player for the Knicks - and could get extra run in these last few games leading up to the break, as Iman Shumpert works his way back from patellar tendinitis.
Grant Hill (22%/5.1%) - Continues to produce quality numbers at age 39. His age might be the reason that he's available in so many leagues - but don't forget, he has consistently appeared in around 80 games a season since arriving in Phoenix.
Baron Davis (18%/13.9%) - Davis made his Knick debut on Monday, playing 10 minutes behind Jeremy Lin and scoring three points (1-2 from the field). He'll have two more games and then the all-star break to work off the rust - look for him to play a more significant role afterwards.
Courtney Lee (9%/4.53%) - Appears to be moving ahead of Chase Budinger and Chandler Parsons on Kevin McHale's depth chart. He's still only getting around 25 minutes a night, but he's taking - and hitting - a pretty good number of threes in his limited minutes.
Steve Novak (6%/1.5%) - We were concerned that Novak would return to the bench when Carmelo Anthony was ready to play. Melo played on Monday - and Novak still managed to take eight three-point attempts. Mike D'Antoni really seems to like Novak's presence as a deep threat; he could continue to get playing time.
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