February 18, 2020, 12:08 am
The All-Star festivities are in the books, and the National Basketball Association put on one hell of a show in Chicago. It was a weekend packed with a surprising amount of pay off. The dunk contest had plenty of innovative slams and a scoring controversy to boot, the actual All-Star Game on Sunday was not a dud, and the new “Elam Ending” twist wound up being a hit as Team LeBron outdueled Team Giannis down the stretch to hit the 157-point target score first in a 157-155 nail biter. Moreover, the NBA successfully paid tribute to David Stern and Kobe Bryant throughout the weekend, and the product on the floor was something both trailblazers would have been proud to witness.
While it is fun to watch the greatest names join forces, it is time for a reality check as we turn the corner into the final months of fantasy action. Our All-Star weekend participants are about to return to very different circumstances than what we witnessed during the Windy City’s celebration. It’s time to zoom in on some of bigger names from the weekend and compare the All-Star results to the real-world fantasy situation.
Your All-Star Game MVP continues what has been a perfect year on the NBA circuit. NBA Champion, Finals MVP, Leonard is doing it all in terms of accolades at the moment, and he has performed as expected with the Clippers this season. If anything, his future is only looking brighter after Paul George went down with another hamstring injury right before the break. While George is out, which could be an extended absence, Kawhi will have free reign to run the offense, and he is already posting career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and 3-pointers this season. As an added bonus, the Clippers only have three back-to-back sets remaining on the schedule. Leonard could make a run at a top-3 campaign before it is all said and done.
The defacto leader in Toronto after Leonard’s off-season departure, Lowry has been fantastic making the adjustment this season, going for 19.6 points, 7.6 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 3-pointers, 1.3 steals and an excellent 85.5 free-throw percentage on 5.6 attempts. During the All-Star Game, I repeat, the All-Star Game, he drew multiple charges, giving a not so subtle reminder of how dangerous his style of play can be. Lowry is 33 years old, is averaging over 36 minutes per game, and has a history of missing games down the stretch. The Raptors likely have the confidence to settle for the two or three seed and would be wise to rest there star point guard if the slightest bump in the road does occur. All of this is to say that Lowry’s peripherals are worrisome and you’d be wise to consider selling high on a player that is more likely to fade down the stretch.
It was a busy weekend for the sophomore as Doncic appeared in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday and the All-Star matchup on Sunday. Following all of that action, he was quoted as saying his ankle was “okay” and that “it has some problems but its good.” Doncic did get one regular-season game in before the break against the Kings and is set to go when the Mavs retake the court on Friday vs. the Magic, but don’t wear rose-colored glasses and assume Doncic is out of the woods quite yet. With their playoff birth secure, the Mavs could focus on nursing Doncic as the season progresses, and his free-throw percentage has taken a nosedive to under 65 percent over the last month. It’s been a dream start to the year beyond the injuries, but Doncic is going to have some work to do to repeat his first-half fantasy dominance.
The Process was working hard to prove that post-play still belongs in the All-Star Game as he had several post-ups against LeBron James down the stretch on Sunday. He had a beautiful Dream Shake to pull out of his bag of tricks and wound up finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds. It’s been a frustrating season for the Sixers, and Embiid’s hand injury could negatively impact his play down the stretch. At the same time, the Sixers have been struggling from a chemistry perspective all season, and the team has every interest in creating some positive vibes by winning games and fighting for homecourt advantage. Al Horford is now coming off the bench which is a slight boost to Embiid’s value. The injury risk constantly hangs over Embiid’s future, but he should be motivated to dominate and close this season on a strong note.
Make it two all-time performances and zero victories for Aaron Gordon in the Slam Dunk Contest. For what its worth my favorite of Gordon’s arsenal was his fourth entry, a one-handed 360 that came via a pass off the backboard, courtesy of his teammate Markelle Fultz. Gordon’s dunking parallels the frustration many fantasy owners have experienced nabbing Gordon in the middle rounds of standard league drafts for the past four years (at minimum). Gordon has never been able to operate as a full-time power forward for the Magic, and until that occurs it is hard to imagine him emerging with anything beyond late-round value. The percentages have been piss poor at 42.4 FG and 67.5 FT for the year. Gordon went into the break on a tear with 16 points or more, as well as nine or more rebounds, in six out of seven games. Nonetheless, it’s always fool’s gold as always with Gordon. D.J. Augustin is about to return and will reclaim ball-handling duties behind Markelle Fultz, and Gordon’s 14 treys over the last seven games are a mirage for the big man that has never successfully shot the deep ball well, registering at 31.9 percent for his career and 30.8 percent for the season.
The Brow hit the game-winning free-throw to deliver Team LeBron the victory on Sunday and had a complete line with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three 3-pointers, two steals and two blocks. Things have never been easier for Davis who has adapted brilliantly to life as a Laker. The final play saw LeBron patiently wait for Davis to slide into a post-up on Kyle Lowry that quickly drew a foul call. That play is a perfect image of why Davis’ owners should be feeling so confident as the calendar turns to the second half of action. James is bending over to make his relationship thrive alongside Davis, and as long as that’s the case Davis will be heading for top-2 value. Keep in mind that the Lakers are so far out ahead that some rest could be in order to close out the regular season, but beyond that Davis is going to be carrying plenty of squads to fantasy titles.
Similar to the intensity we saw on Sunday night, we are about to embark on the final battles that will setup the fantasy playoff pictures in H2H formats, and trade deadlines are fast approaching if they have not already passed in some leagues. You only have a few shots left to shape your final roster. Focus on the numbers and what’s happening inhouse as teams go through the motions of tanking or chasing playoff positioning, and ignore the media buzz. After all, Kyle Lowry’s charges are not going to win you fantasy points in all but the most intricate of formats.