• At this time of year we get to dissect and debate the NBA All-Star Game which is all sorts of fun because none of it really matters in the grand scheme of things beyond us all arguing about an exhibition game with nothing going on in the dead of winter. Our blathering ranges from whether players belong or not, whether fans should be allowed to vote, or the players, or media, or perhaps your dog should be given a vote when he’s done sliding his rear end across your carpet. Either way, it’s a spectacle and what’s a spectacle without people inserting their opinions? The game will still go on with its customary revolving door defense and as much Kevin Hart as you can possibly subject your ears to no matter what side you’re on.

    But, what we don’t have are Fantasy All-Stars. That changes now dear Hoop-Ballers.

    Editor’s Note: First, make sure to join this week’s Beat the Expert contest! It runs tomorrow (Wednesday, January 30) and we’ve upped it to 125 entrants. That means the top-20 take home an even larger cut while second place gets the gift pack from Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee and first place, as always, gets that sweet, sweet Hoop Ball t-shirt. Reserve your entry by clicking here!

    This isn’t what you may think. I’m not going to sit here and prattle off to you a list of the top-25 players or so because that would be too easy and you don’t need your friendly neighborhood fantasy writer to spell that out for you. No, these Fantasy All-Stars are more about who have been the most enjoyable fantasy players to date and who has delivered the most bang for their buck. It’ll be a mix of stars and guys who have scratched and clawed their way into your head to heads and heart to hearts. We all play favorites and this crop has been mine for this season. We’re going to keep this somewhat casual, but the reality is everyone will let their bias run wild and that will be what we’ll cater to in this particular thought exercise.

    Not on this list will be players who have underachieved. Or have nursed an insane amount of real or invisible injuries. Or perhaps drive you batty with their erratic play. Or maybe we just don’t like them. That’s cool too. Again, we’re just winging it here.

    As you may have guessed that’s all pretty loose definitions of what makes a Fantasy All-Star, so I’ll throw mine out there and if you my beloved readers have any further thoughts on my list or a list of your own, I’m all ears. We’ll break this down by conference with starters and reserves just like the big boys typically do.

    Eastern Conference Fantasy All-Star Starters

    G – Kyrie Irving

    G – Bradley Beal

    F – Giannis Antetokounmpo

    F/C – Nikola Vucevic

    C – Joel Embiid

    Kyrie, save for a missed game here and there and a terrible first week due to poor hair care, has been a first-round stud that you probably got at a slight discount because of his injury risk. Beal gets the nod here because he’s been trying to make the leap with no Wall to block him and has thrown up some monsters as a result. The Greek Freak hasn’t gone off from deep like we hoped, but hasn’t completely tanked either. Besides the East is a disaster and he should probably be here for DFS purposes. Vuc was easily one of the best values of the year and only a trade out of Orlando could ruin it for him going forward. And Jo-Jo Da God is healthy, happy and one of basketball’s pure delights.

    Notably absent: Kawhi Leonard for reasons I’ll get into below, Ben Simmons because he refuses to evolve his game, and Jimmy Butler because he’s been a mixed bag since being shipped to Philly.

    Western Conference Fantasy All-Star Starters

    G – James Harden

    G – Steph Curry

    F – Kevin Durant

    F – Paul George

    F/C – Anthony Davis

    Do we even have the right words in the English language for James Harden? Steph is Steph and makes you wonder if it’s even possible to be the most overlooked top-5 player in the world. Kevin Durant is flawless and we should wonder what he might do for you dynasty-leaguers if and when he exits Golden State. Paul George would be a Fantasy MVP candidate in any other decade. Davis can want out of New Orleans all he wants, he’ll never leave fantasy All-Star teams as long as he has four functional limbs.

    Notably absent: It’s so difficult to omit him but Karl-Anthony Towns just misses the cut. He’s great and always delivers, but I’d take any of the West’s starting five over him. Same with Dame, always that steady back end of the first-round value that it’s impossible to bump him above the other guys. The ceiling just isn’t as high as the other guys on that list. Jrue Holiday, Marc Gasol, and LaMarcus Aldridge just keep delivering for owners and it’s a reminder of just how loaded the Western Conference is with talent. Russell Westbrook, no.

    Eastern Conference Fantasy All-Star Reserves

    1. Kemba Walker
    2. D’Angelo Russell
    3. Malcolm Brogdon
    4. Marcus Morris
    5. Blake Griffin
    6. Pascal Siakam
    7. Myles Turner
    8. Brook Lopez

    He’s cooled off a bit, but Kemba’s scorching start nets him an All-Star birth, but we’re doing this on the internet as opposed to Charlotte so not being a starter isn’t that big of a deal. D’Angelo has put all the Lakers crap well in his rearview and has the Nets and fantasy owners in the playoff hunt. Malcolm Brogdon has been unlocked under coach Bud. He’s unquestionably one of the league’s best all-around shooters. On a loaded Celtics team, it’s been Morris’s fantasy value that’s stood out. Like it or not, Blake Griffin’s game has evolved and has shrugged off his shooting issues from last season. Pascal Siakam is one of the great ‘come out of nowhere’ stories of the season and is a big reason why the Raptors front office is the envy of the league. Myles Turner is healthy and is a sight in the paint that no one wants to see. And Brook Lopez is having a renaissance season of sorts and has turned himself into the rarity that is a center becoming an elite 3-point shooter.

    Western Conference Fantasy All-Star Reserves

    1. De’Aaron Fox
    2. Buddy Hield
    3. Danilo Gallinari
    4. Tobias Harris
    5. Montrezl Harrell
    6. Nikola Jokic
    7. Rudy Gobert
    8. Jusuf Nurkic

    It’s so tough to nail down all the great players out West, but the dynamic duo of the Fox Buddies has given the Kings hope for the first time in years and one of the fastest and spellbinding offenses in the league. Gallo finally put together a mostly-healthy season and fantasy owners who took the gamble couldn’t be happier. Another great ‘come from nowhere’ story has been Montrezl Harrell turning himself into one of the league’s best all-around big men. Joker is a snub as a starter, but is his usual triple-double threat self. Rudy Gobert has also been healthy and springy. Nurk has been smashing to bits and finally delivering on the breakout we were all waiting for.

    So those are my Fantasy All-Star squads. Feel free to quibble with my teams at your leisure and let me know if you have a beloved player who was snubbed from this list.

    PLAYER OF THE WEEK WHO HAS A PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST ME

    I have to keep ranting about this but the concept of rest days in this league has gotten completely out of control. I get that the season is a long one. I get that 82 and playoffs at full speed can really wear you down. But at the same time, the majority of players gut it out and try to do their best to be on the court when they are physically capable. I’ve never been a professional athlete, but I’ve played in enough team sports to know that when you’re physically capable of playing, you play or risk drawing the ire of your teammates.

    Injuries happen and lingering ones can get worse without the proper attention and rest. But when there is none, then it’s a disservice to the game and anyone who follows the league as closely as we do. So when someone takes a week’s vacation in the middle of the season with no injury attached to him it raises my blood pressure to unhealthy levels and makes me want to scream into an endless void.

    SO DAMN YOU KAWHI LEONARD! Are you fucking kidding me? What is this baby shit? Your quad is fine. You aren’t showing so much as a paper cut let along a nagging basketball injury. You’re one of the greatest elite athletes on Planet Earth and have zero reason to not be out there with your team as they try to secure home court advantage while you are off having a goddamn siesta. Your quest to be this more recognized superstar have turned you and the Raptors into these unbelievable Pamper wearing babies who are leading the next generation of NBA players to compete in bubble wrap, lest they risk getting to jet off to their team destination of choice. You’ve been as dominant as you’ve ever been in your career so get your ass and keep your ass on the court where it belongs.

    YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT HOPE IS A GOOD THING, MAYBE THE BEST OF THINGS AND THAT NO GOOD THING EVER DIES IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS

    Round 1 – Karl-Anthony Towns

    Round 2 – Paul George

    Round 3 – Jrue Holiday

    Round 4 – Tobias Harris

    Round 5 – Nikola Vucevic

    Round 6 – Mike Conley

    Round 7 – Luka Doncic

    Round 8 – Jusuf Nurkic

    Round 9 – D’Angelo Russell

    Round 10 – Jonathan Isaac

    Round 11 – Malcolm Brogdon

    Round 12 – Trevor Ariza

    Round 13 – Pascal Siakam

    Do we think that Luka Doncic can one day have James Harden’s ceiling? I really hope he learns to shoot free throws better than LeBron ever did. KD, Kyrie, and others get all the summer of 2019 hype, but Tobias Harris is going to have multiple Brinks trucks coming his way. He’s a couple extra blocked shots away from nearly being Kevin Durant in fantasy.

    YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT HOPE IS A DANGEROUS THING, HOPE CAN DRIVE A MAN INSANE IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS

    Round 1 – Ben Simmons

    Round 2 – Victor Oladipo

    Round 3 – Deandre Ayton

    Round 4 – Jamal Murray

    Round 5 – Jarrett Allen

    Round 6 – Enes Kanter

    Round 7 – Harrison Barnes

    Round 8 – Kyle Kuzma

    Round 9 – De’Aaron Fox

    Round 10 – Evan Fournier

    Round 11 – Domantas Sabonis

    Round 12 – Bobby Portis

    Round 13 – Derrick Rose

    What a miserable end to a rough season for Dipo. I hope his 2017-2018 season isn’t the outlier, but it certainly looks like it could be. We kinda knew De’Aaron Fox couldn’t possibly keep up the pace he was on, but WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING ON THIS LIST DE’AARON? The downside of Luka is that he’s taken the wind right out of some of the other Mavs we were accustomed to usual value like Harrison Barnes and Wes Matthews.

    ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS

    I’ll be looking at some mid to late-tier players who I’ll be keeping an eye on throughout the season on a week to week basis. Based on how their past few and upcoming few games go, I’ll decide whether or not I will be confidently holding and feeling strongly about (rock), or feeling a little bit flimsy or unsure of (paper) or will just be cutting altogether like a former NHL player trying to make the Olympics in figure skating to rom-com hijinks (scissors, obviously). These are the players we either drafted or picked up who can make or break our seasons and will be dissected most when we try to make moves to the top of the standings. Here are some more players in my thought process.

    ROCKS

    Jonathan Isaac – It’s happening. It’s been slow, but it’s happening. The defensive stats are right there. The minutes are there. A few more shots falling and it’s giddy up. If you’ve waited this long, what’s a little longer, especially when the ceiling is that freaking high.

    Gary Harris – The injuries are frustrating and the season long FG% is not pretty, but the career track record makes Harris worth a solid hold. He hasn’t finished below 46.9% FGP in the last 3 seasons so once we know he’s got his legs right, there’s plenty of regression to the mean for the taking with the Nuggets still fighting for homecourt.

    Darren Collison – The case and point of always checking what a player has done over a specific period time IN ADDITION TO what he’s done over the course of the season is crucial in making roster decisions. For the season Darren Collison is having the typical ho-hum top-100 season we expected of him. In the past month, he’s been an unflappable top-30 player and will now be responsible for keeping the Pacers going in their post-Dipo world.

    PAPER

    Jahlil Okafor – Yes, I know he’s not going to continue being a top-25 player. Yes, I know it’s Jahlil Okafor we’re talking about. Yes, I know that this is all because of Anthony Davis’s injury. But in the small chance that Davis does get dealt before the deadline, wouldn’t you want the guy who’s going to automatically slide in his place? He probably won’t keep his pace in blocks, but you’re not going to be upset with Kanter-like production from a guy who’s still trying to hang in the league.

    Tim Hardaway Jr. – THJ isn’t replicating his season from last year and sure, top-100 production is fine and all, but what if the Knicks say ‘screw it’ and let him languish on the bench for the rest of the season like they did to his teammate? The Knicks are capable of any number of pants-crapping basketball moves so icing their best scorer to try to land Zion is something that is definitely on the table.

    Elfrid Payton – If you thought that Payton’s return from injury and all the usage he’d gobble up with so many Pelicans injuries would finally make stashing him worth it, then you might want to tell your brain to sit the next one out. Payton remains the flawed fantasy asset we knew he was despite all the opportunity around him and is another couple of bad weeks away from being cut from teams altogether.

    SCISSORS

    The Lakers not named The King and Kuz – If this team dupes the Pelicans into taking on these cast of misfits then it’s grand larceny. There’s nothing worth hanging onto once LeBron comes back and tries to do everything himself to salvage their season.

    Wesley Matthews – It’s Luka’s World, and Wes Matthews is just living in it. The shooting has gone from bad to horrifying and doing nothing anywhere else to justify a hold.

    Enes Kanter – Sigh. I’m sure many have reaching this conclusion already, but it’s impossible to know if and when he’ll play again. And not just play, but play to his capabilities. There’s probably not a team in the league that will let him do his thing and risk the defensive issues so the days of his fantasy reliability are likely over.

    ADVENTURES IN DFS

    I had a couple of massive lunkheaded blunders last week one of which cost me dearly in our Hoop-Ball Beat the Expert game at DraftKings. One involved Enes Kanter, who was supposed to start against the Rockets. Then out of nowhere David Fizdale became a Turkish agent sent to neutralize Kanter and murder all DFS lineups. DK has the late swap option, but man if you forget to pay attention for one second, you’re stuck with a big ol zero. Fuck David Fizdale and the Knicks.

    Same thing happened with Julius Randle the next night. Everything was set up for a monster night from Randle with no Brow and Niko. But instead, Randle also became a late scratch and my kids need attention from their father as opposed to staring at an app all night and so I missed that one too. Money well spent. Again, it’s scenarios like this that at least make the late swap option on DK tolerable. The low score option on FanDuel is pure crap.

    Editor’s Note II: Keep Josh miserable by clicking here and beating him this week.

    BLOODY SUNDAY

    No real Sunday meltowns, but in my 10-team H2H I’m getting destroyed by minor injuries. Kawhi Leonard, Dame Lillard, Joel Embiid, Nikola Mirotic and Jamal Murray all missed at least one game this past week and left me scrambling for replacements. The result was a 2-7 beatdown.

    The 12-team HB Staff league is killing me for the same reason. My team refuses to get healthy. It’s like they enjoy hospital food. LeBron, Clint Capela, Jonas Valanciunas, Kent Bazemore, and now Spencer Dinwiddie all get to miss multiple weeks and my options are thinner than a runway model halfheartedly jabbing at a salad.

    Anytime you’ve got a good Bloody Sunday story. Reach out to me on Twitter @JoshMillman and I’ll happily, and not so happily, commiserate with you.

    Keep on keepin on Hoop-Ballers.

Fantasy News

  • Tyler Dorsey - G - Memphis Grizzlies

    Tyler Dorsey (left knee soreness) is probable for Friday's game against the Clippers.

    Dorsey only played 10 minutes in his team debut so this has no bearing on any leagues with fewer than 30 teams.

    Source: Grizzlies PR on Twitter

  • Jevon Carter - G - Memphis Grizzlies

    Jevon Carter (right knee soreness) is probable for Friday's game with the Clippers.

    Carter can be let go, even in most deep leagues, as the trade deadline really didn't go his way. In addition to Mike Conley staying, Delon Wright and Avery Bradley have immediately overtaken him on the depth chart.

    Source: Grizzlies PR on Twitter

  • Luka Doncic - G/F - Dallas Mavericks

    Luka Doncic was getting his foot looked at by the training staff on Thursday but was able to practice in full and is not on the injury report for Friday.

    Seems like much ado about nothing for the star rookie. Fantasy owners have had to deal with some minor bumps and bruises for Doncic, but he has yet to miss any significant time.

    Source: Brad Townsend on Twitter

  • Kyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics

    Kyrie Irving (right knee strain) is not on the injury report and will play in Thursday's tilt with the Bucks.

    As expected after Irving played in Sunday's All-Star game. He should be good to go for top-10 value the rest of the way as the Celtics claw their way up the standings.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Robert Williams III - C/F - Boston Celtics

    Robert Williams is available to play in Thursday's game with the Bucks.

    Williams missed the final game before the break because of an illness. He's unlikely to see much playing time either way, but at least he's healthy.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Terry Rozier - G - Boston Celtics

    Terry Rozier (illness) is not on the injury report and will play on Thursday against the Bucks.

    Rozier's illness wasn't expected to sideline him for long and he had the whole All-Star break to rest up. He's fine to use if you usually have him in your lineup.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Andrew Wiggins - G/F - Minnesota Timberwolves

    Andrew Wiggins (illness) is not on the injury report for Friday's matchup with the Knicks.

    Wiggins missed the two games prior to the All-Star break, allowing Luol Deng to start. He's safe to get into fantasy lineups tomorrow.

    Source: Wolves PR on Twitter

  • Tyus Jones - G - Minnesota Timberwolves

    Tyus Jones (sprained left ankle) is no longer on the injury report and should play on Friday against the Knicks.

    Jones is expected to make his return and the formal step of taking him off the injury report bodes very well. Deep-league owners can give him a look for steals and assists, though the ceiling is quite low with both Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose back in action.

    Source: Wolves PR on Twitter

  • Gorgui Dieng - C - Minnesota Timberwolves

    Gorgui Dieng (personal) will miss Friday's game against the Knicks.

    Dieng would've been an interesting player to watch had he been moved at the deadline, but no dice. His absence won't mean much for fantasy players.

    Source: Wolves PR on Twitter

  • Kevin Love - F/C - Cleveland Cavaliers

    Speaking to the media at Thursday's practice, Kevin Love said, "I think you’ll see me more on a steady basis and not miss games after the break, I’m hoping."

    Love played six minutes in his first game back after left foot surgery, sat out the second game, played 16 minutes in the third and sat out the fourth. He'll be on a minutes restriction for the time being but it does sound like fantasy owners can expect Love to play in the majority of Cleveland's remaining 24 games. Conditioning remains the last hurdle here, as Love says he's feeling good. We'll see how much run the woeful Cavs give to their star.

    Source: Cleveland.com