• One of the more polarizing nights of the NBA calendar came and went on Thursday night with less controversy than usual, but a little controversy nonetheless. I, of course, am referring to the announcement of the All-Star starters, and the inclusion of Trae Young as one of the two guards from the East. Young’s all-star candidacy by itself was the subject of debate throughout the voting process, much less his case as a starter for the game itself. He wound up placing first in the fan vote, second in the media vote and third in the player’s vote to give him the highest average among all guards in the conference, with Kemba Walker joining him for the second guard spot. Notable guards who did not make the cut included Ben Simmons, Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine.

    The argument against Trae has a lot to do with the success (or lack thereof) of the Hawks this season, who at 11-34 rank only ahead of the downtroughten Warriors among all teams in the NBA. Detractors argue that Young’s statistical output means little on a team that has proven incapable of holding their own on a night-to-night basis, and that players such as Simmons and Lowry should be rewarded for stellar play that has actually helped lead their teams to success in the win column. While Trae’s offensive output has been elite all season, critics are quick to point out that his lack of defensive prowess cancels a good deal of that out. Some even go as far to say that Young focuses more on padding his own stats than making those around him better (a demonstrably incorrect point if you’ve watched even a sliver of Hawks basketball this season, but I’ll save that aside for a more appropriate Hawks-oriented rant). 

    These criticisms are (mostly) all fair in evaluating Trae’s worthiness of a starting spot. Personally, I think he deserves it, but I could also be convinced that Simmons, Lowry and LaVine all have cases in their own right. Where I draw the line, however, is that he is someone who should have been left off entirely. The argument for that is petty, and completely misses the point of this event.

    Too often we use the ASG as a barometer for individual success when in reality it’s main point is to provide the fans with a fun experience. If you’re looking to reward players for all-encompassing success both individually and for the impact that they have on their teams, I’d point you to the awards that we already have for that: the All-NBA teams. Why should we make that standard redundant by applying it as hardline-criteria for an exhibition game? The All-Star game has always been at it’s best when it showcases it’s biggest names, and can anyone really argue that Trae Young isn’t among those in his second season? Particularly in a season where everyone is losing their minds over lower ratings, including players who get the attention that Trae gets seems like a no-brainer decision. Just relax, have fun with it. We can revisit the intense debate once awards season rolls around.

    Pickups of the Night

     

    Trevor Ariza, F, Portland Trailblazers

    Ariza wasted no time bursting onto the scene in his first game in Portland, scoring 21 points to go with four triples, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals in a whopping 36 minutes. We all anticipated that a juicy starter’s level role would be there for him, and with Portland deploying a short 8-man rotation he saw that and more. He only took 11 shots, so it’s tough to anticipate big scoring lines like this on a regular basis. However, he is playing more than enough minutes to get the 3-pointers and steals necessary to compete for standard league value. He’s worth a look in most settings.

    Larry Nance Jr, F/C, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Nance Jr. has ramped himself up to starter’s level minutes over his last five games since returning from injury. He was already worth a look on rosters due to the stash appeal he possess with all of the Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson trade rumors, but he’s now that he is getting run like this he becomes a no-brainer roster addition. He’s a nice standard league add, and looks like he deserves to be held onto everywhere until the trade deadline passes. 

    Maxi Kleber, F, Dallas Mavericks

    With Dwight Powell (achilles) down for the rest of the year, Kleber looks like he could rocket into season-long value the rest of the way. He’s worth a look in all standard settings for the rare combination of triples and blocks that he will bring to the table on a nightly basis. The Mavericks are reportedly shopping around for another big, but you shouldn’t worry about that until the time comes.

    Drop Zone

     

    Joe Harris, G, Brooklyn Nets

    Harris has been floating around the fringes of standard league value for most of the season, but things have really bottomed out for him over his last month. He’s sitting outside the top-220 in 9-cat leagues over his last 13 games, and has now fallen all the way down to outside the top-140 on his season long rankings. His shooting has all but abandoned him, and he’s barely hitting enough 3-pointers to justify use in pretty much any format right now. 

    Injury Report

     

    Josh Richardson was handed down a 2-to-3 week timetable for his strained hamstring on Thursday.

    Though his availability wasn’t really in doubt, Anthony Davis (glute) overcame a questionable tag to play on Thursday.

    Kyrie Irving (hamstring) returned from a one-game absence to play Thursday, while DeAndre Jordan (finger) continued to sit out, missing his third straight game.

    C.J McCollumn (ankle) missed his third straight game on Thursday, while Hassan Whiteside (groin) was able to play through his injury,

    JaVale McGee (illness) was not able to suit up for Thursday’s matchup with Brooklyn.

    John Henson (back) returned from a two-game absence on Thursday

    Paul George (hamstring) has been ruled out for Friday’s game in what will be his 8th straight game in the sidelines. Meanwhile, Patrick Beverley (groin) is listed as questionable. 

    Trae Young (thigh) is questionable for Friday’s game after going through practice on Thursday.

    Jayson Tatum (groin) and Jaylen Brown (ankle) are considered questionable for Friday’s game, while Enes Kanter (hip) has already been ruled out.

    Michael Porter Jr. (back) is listed as questionable for Friday’s game after he was ruled out of his last one for tweaking it during pregame warmups.

    Jimmy Butler (knee), Goran Dragic (calf) and Kendrick Nunn (Achilles) are all listed questionable for Miami’s game tomorrow.

    Malcolm Brogdon (concussion) has been ruled out for Friday’s game

    Steven Adams (ankle) is questionable for Friday’s game.

    Richaun Holmes (shoulder) and Marvin Bagley (foot) will not play Friday

    It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!

     

    It’s Dwight Howard in the starting lineup? The big man continued his redemption arc with a spot start for the ailing JaVale McGee (illness) and did not disappoint. Howard looked near-vintage with 14 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and a block in just 23 minutes. He continues to be one of the more surprisingly happy stories in the league this year. There have been no reports of him griping about his limited bench role, he has earned the respect of his team mates, and most surprisingly, he has been embraced by the same Lakers fans that cursed his name seven years ago after he spurned them after one tumultuous season. Now, Dwight is looking to bring everything full-circle with a return to his Dunk Contest glory days, and has even publicly lobbied for Kobe Bryant to be involved in some capacity. Speaking as someone who adored watching him when I was a teen, I have found myself rekindling those fond memories with his newfound success. Here’s to you Superman! Keep it up.

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