• All-Star Sunday. As expected, at least by me, Team LeBron defeated Team KD in the All-Star game, 170-150. To King James’ credit, he drafted well, intelligently. brilliantly. He’s got a good career ahead of him, playing fantasy basketball, when he’s done playing basketball – only like, for real. For what it’s worth, he’s officially 4-0 when it comes to these All-Star drafted mega-games.

    Even before the game began, it had its hitches. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out last minute after their personal barber was found to have come in contact with someone who tested positive with COVID-19, just another reminder that life, the world, isn’t normal. Not yet. Before the game began, the barber came back with a POSITIVE test result. Both players were not replaced by other players, but Zion Williamson slid into the starting lineup in Embiid’s stead.

    I’ve heard or read it once before that “Defense wins championships.” The opposite can be said about the enjoyment that can be had when watching an All-Star game – “The lack of defense makes for a fun All-Star game,” something that bears its own truth. Just look at the 10 combined free-throw attempts from both teams, juxtaposed with the combined 133 3-point shot attempts. Yes, it was that kind of game. I say, “blame it on Stephen Curry.”

    Quick Hits

    1. Both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons left Atlanta before the game and headed back to Philadephia in private planes after registering NEGATIVE test results for COVID-19. That’s good news because a couple of more negative test results and they can possibly not miss any real NBA games. That’s at least as opposed to the alternative that they’d have tested positive and have to miss a lot of time. Sadly, the MVP-candidate clash of Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic did not take place – something that was not likely gonna be too much of a thing, at least not as far as Steph Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo had any say about it – and they did.
    2. Domantas Sabonis won the skills challenge, so saying “he got skills!” is now not just something you say out of sheer admiration, but a statement of fact, so much so that he’s got a trophy to prove it. Looking forward, he’s definitely going to be, more and more, a poor man’s Nikola Jokic. As Sabonis improves his game and narrows that still-wide gap, both players will be highly coveted assets in the fantasy game.
    3. Stephen Curry won the 3-point shooting competition. Ooh, shocker! There have been six other players in history who have won multiple 3-point shooting crowns but all of them won them in back-to-back seasons. Curry is the seventh but the first and only one to win multiple titles in non-back-to-back years. Just another feather in his cap. Jayson Tatum wasn’t so bad, being able to reach the finals of the even along with Curry and Mike Conley.
    4. Anfernee Simons donned a throwback T-Mac jersey and won also won the Slam Dunk Contest. He’s a fun player, someone who probably has a bright future ahead of him – maybe – and we add the “maybe” because it’s tough to have a bright future when you’ve got an insanely talented future Hall-of-Famer in Damian Lillard actually playing ahead of you. Who knows, somewhere down the road, Simons is someone whom we’ll be able to enjoy to roster in the fantasy basketball arena.
    5. This was the first All-Star game of Mike Conley who, unfortunately, was on the receiving end of a bit of backlash on social media with many opinionated people saying that there were “others” who were more deserving of being able to replace an injured Devin Booker for the event. That aside, the vibe on Twitter before the game was all about love and appreciation for Conley, his smile, and his attitude.
    6. Zion Williamson missed a lot of some dunks in the beginning. Once the game was in full swing, he treated fans with some amazing jams and put, once again, his freakish athleticism on display – more fuel for that Zion hype, both in real-life and fantasy.
    7. Giannis Antetokounmpo won the All-Star game MVP honors and how could he not? He had 35 points with seven rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. The highlight of his line, thanks to the absence of free-throw shooting, was a perfect 16-for-16 shooting from the field and even 3-of-3 made 3-pointers – making him the first player to ever go a perfect 16-for-16 while being able to knock down a triple (let alone three of them). Giannis, by the way, was LeBron’s first pick when he drafted this winning team.

    Just the Beginning

    Now that the All-Star game is in the books, it’s time to hunker down and get ready for the second half of the season. The next big major landmark will be the NBA’s trade deadline, which isn’t too far away. Even before that we’ve got some other interesting changes in the fantasy landscape incoming.

    First, is news that Blake Griffin and the Nets are being linked. There’s a good chance that Griffin, who wants to win an NBA title so badly that he was willing to leave millions, and millions (insert an old image of The Rock with mic in a wrestling ring) of dollars on the table. His presence there would indeed spell a bit of doom for the lot of DeAndre Jordan, Nic Claxton and even Jeff Green.

    We’re expecting Caris LeVert, Christian Wood, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marcus Smart, possibly even DeAndre Hunter back in varying levels of soon-ish after the All-Star break.

    That said, what else can we expect?

    Some hot takes (or not):

    • LaMelo Ball is going to get even better. I wasn’t that high on him coming into the season, but he’s been so darn good I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re going to see some amazing Doncic-Ball rivalries five years or so from now. Book it.
    • The Jazz will finish as the top, or at worst, the second seed in the West, which may or may not matter come the playoffs, as they’re now notorious for early exits.
    • Jarrett Allen is going to continue to surge and will knock on the door of top-25 value. Maybe a bit generous here, but then again, if the Cavs do end up moving Larry Nance Jr., it’s an all-in commitment to an Allen + SexLand “core of the future” for the team.
    • At least one more, maybe two NBA coaches will get axed.
    • Kevin Porter Jr. will play. He will be good, but clearly not G-League good, still good enough to flirt with standard-league value.
    • People have forgotten about Delon Wright, but he’s going to have a crazy-good second-half of the season.
    • Draymond Green will continue to drop vintage Draymond Green lines, allowing him to flirt with top-40 value.
    • Speaking of flirting, Robert Covington should continue to flirt with top-30 value until further notice.
    • When Jusuf Nurkic returns, Enes Kanter will fall so hard back to earth, that tsunami warnings will need to be issued and he will be a drop in 12-team leagues.
    • Andre Drummond will land on a team and do a lot of damage to some big men’s fantasy values. He’s going to comeback hungry and will play like a beast for his new team.
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