January 29, 2019, 12:54 pm
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
- Kemba Walker
- D’Angelo Russell
- Malcolm Brogdon
- Marcus Morris
- Blake Griffin
- Pascal Siakam
- Myles Turner
- 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
- De’Aaron Fox
- Buddy Hield
- Danilo Gallinari
- Tobias Harris
- Montrezl Harrell
- Nikola Jokic
- Rudy Gobert
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
May 19, 2019, 11:44 pmFred VanVleet - G - Toronto Raptors
Fred VanVleet needed stitches to close up a gash under his left eye that he sustained in Sunday's Game 3.
VanVleet ended up going 1-for-11 from the field in 31 minutes, ending up in a major role with Kyle Lowry fouling out with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. He continues to have a terrible offensive postseason, though he did manage to hang tough on the defensive end for the most part. If FVV can get his shot sorted out it would help the Raptors immensely, but him playing this much is not a desirable outcome no matter what.
Source: Josh Lewenberg on Twitter
May 19, 2019, 10:45 pmKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors with 36 points on 11-of-25 shooting in a game-high 52 minutes of action in a double overtime win over the Bucks in Game 3.
Leonard scored eight points in the second overtime to finish off the win. The Raptors have now made this a competitive series and have a chance to tie it up at two games in Game 4. Leonard shot 2-of-4 from 3-point territory and added nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block to the box score. He will continue to perform well, but the fate of the Raptors rests on the remainder of the team to continuously provide him with support on both ends of the floor.
May 19, 2019, 10:41 pmPascal Siakam - F - Toronto Raptors
Pascal Siakam had a solid stat line on Sunday, with 25 points and 11 rebounds on 9-of-18 shooting in 51 minutes of action in a double overtime win over the Bucks in Game 3.
As expected, Siakam bounced back from his underwhelming Game 2 performance with an absolute gem in Game 3. Siakam is proving that he is a force to be reckoned with in this league as he is not shying away from the game's biggest stage. He added one assist, three steals, one block and three 3-pointers to the stat sheet. The Raptors brought the series within one game and have a chance to even up the series on Tuesday night.
May 19, 2019, 10:37 pmMarc Gasol - C - Toronto Raptors
Marc Gasol put up 16 points with 12 rebounds and five blocks in a Game 3 win over the Bucks in double overtime on Sunday.
He added seven assists and one steal to the box score in his 45 minutes of action. He shot 5-of-10 from the field and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. This was Gasol's first good game of the series and the Raptors won, so it is safe to say that he can be considered an X-factor for them. The Raptors have a chance to even up the series in Game 4 on Tuesday night.
May 19, 2019, 10:33 pmKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry put up 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting with four rebounds and five assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter in a Game 3 win over the Bucks on Sunday.
The Raptors brought the series within one game and Lowry's solid play in regulation helped them pull out the win. Fred VanVleet, who had three points on 1-of-11 shooting, filled in for Lowry in the overtimes and ultimately played well enough for the Raptors to win. Although Lowry receives extensive criticism for his lackluster playoff performances, he is an integral part of the Raptors' team success.
May 19, 2019, 10:29 pmNorman Powell - F/G - Toronto Raptors
Norman Powell put up a playoff-high 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 30 minutes of action before fouling out in a 118-112 double overtime win in Game 3 on Sunday.
There were some rumors prior to the game that Powell would get an increased role for Game 3, and this turned out to be true as he played 30 minutes before the game even reached the first overtime. He thrived in his increased opportunity and was hitting some key shots down the stretch. He added four rebounds, three assists, three 3-pointers and one steal to the box score.
May 19, 2019, 10:24 pmBrook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks
Brook Lopez had a solid performance in Game 3 on Sunday as he put up 16 points and six rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting in a loss to the Raptors in double overtime.
Lopez has shown up for the Bucks in this series, but he was not able to lead them to a win like he did in Game 1. He added one assist, two steals and three triples to the box score. Lopez has played Marc Gasol very tough in this series, which has forced the Raptors to consider lineup changes. The play of Lopez should not go unnoticed in the overall spectrum of why the Bucks are as good as they are.
May 19, 2019, 10:22 pmAndre Iguodala - G/F - Golden State Warriors
The MRI on Andre Iguodala's left calf came back negative, but the swingman is considered questionable for Monday's Game 4 vs. the Blazers.
Iguodala headed to the locker room in the first quarter of Game 3 and had the training staff check on it. If he's unable to give it a go for Game 4, the Warriors will have to dig deep into their bench and find some production from the likes of Kevon Looney or Jonas Jerebko.
May 19, 2019, 10:19 pmGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo put up a unique line in Sunday's Game 3 loss to the Raptors in double overtime, with 12 points, 23 rebounds and seven assists.
The Greek Freak also added one steal, four blocks and eight turnovers before fouling out in the second overtime. He shot just 5-of-16 from the field and 2-of-7 from the line. The fact that the Bucks were able to force this game to two overtimes with Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Eric Bledsoe shooting 11-of-48 combined from the field shows how truly good of a team they are. The Bucks will look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on Tuesday night.
May 19, 2019, 10:14 pmMalcolm Brogdon - G - Milwaukee Bucks
Malcolm Brogdon scored 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting in 37 minutes of action in a double overtime loss to the Raptors in Game 3 on Sunday.
The series is now 2-1 in favor of the Bucks, but Game 4 is a huge turning point as the game is Toronto and the Raptors have a chance to tie up the series. Brogdon and George Hill were on the court over Eric Bledsoe and Nikola Mirotic to end the game as they have played consistently well all series long. The dynamic duo off the bench had 44 points in this one and were the two highest scorers on the Bucks.