Over the past week the National Basketball Association announced its 2011-12 All-Star Game starters and reserves. Fantasy players shrugged. They are not interested in the obvious gems, they like diamonds in the rough.
A universal trait among successful fantasy sports practitioners is separating real life player production from fantasy production. Anderson Varejao averaging a double-double in points and rebounds for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season had some teammates and media this past week mentioning him as All-Star-worthy.
While Varejao’s real world All-Star worthiness is debatable, leave no doubt he is not in the All-Star conversation when it applies to fantasy hoops—in a 150-player league he’s a Top-80 guy. To be considered a fantasy basketball All-Star, a player must produce significant stats in more than just two to three categories, which is what Varejao does.
In terms of Top-25 fantasy basketball production, the Western Conference, and the city of Los Angeles in particular, crushes the Eastern Conference.
The following are this season’s Fantasy Basketball All-Stars, eight players each from the Eastern and Western Conferences, in standard 8-CAT leagues (with free throws made):
LeBron James, Miami Heat (forward)
2011-12 Stats: 28.1 ppg, 0.7 3s, 8.0 reb, 7.0 ast, 1.7 stl, 0.7 blk, 54.2 fg%, 7.2 ftm
Analysis: “King” James is just that: both in real life and fantasy basketball, he is the Most Valuable Player, IMHO. On any given night LeBron is likely to stuff six to eight fantasy categories. With an average of 18.7 shots per game he is the leading fantasy player in field goal percentage; racks up assists and steals like a point guard; and scores and gets to the free throw line like a premiere scorer.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (forward)
2011-12 Stats: 15.8 ppg, 0.3 3s, 9.3 reb, 3.3 ast, 1.4 stl, 2.1 blk, 46.5 fg%, 2.6 ftm
Analysis: After a hideous beginning to the season (in my Week 2 column I had “J Smoove” on the list of Fantasy Busts) Smith has done a 180 and is clearly channeling his inner Andrei Kirilenko. Over the past two weeks he is averaging 2.7 blocks per game. Having been snubbed as a real-life All-Star, all Smoove did after the reserves were announced was put up 23 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocked three shots.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (guard)
2011-12 Stats: 22.2 ppg, 0 3s, 4.0 reb, 5.1 ast, 1.8 stl, 1.4 blk, 48.3 fg%, 5.3 ftm
Analysis: In the world of fantasy hoops “D Wade” is the Robin to LeBron’s Batman. Already having missed eight games this season due to injury, many worrisome fantasy owners grew weary of his various ailments and cut bait, including yours truly (I dealt him for Andrew Bynum, which has been a win-win thus far). Wade has stopped attempting threes and his rebounds are down from last season. Otherwise, he’s still fantasy royalty.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (guard)
2011-12 Stats: 22.0 ppg, 1.3 3s, 3.4 reb, 7.8 ast, 0.9 stl, 0.7 blk, 46.2 fg%, 4.8 ftm
Analysis: Similar to Wade, Rose has battled the injury bug this season and undoubtedly has fantasy owners nationwide skittish. Rose is a premier fantasy guard with his combination of scoring and assists. His high field goal percentage helps mitigate the lack of steals from the guard position.
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (center)
2011-12 Stats: 20.9 ppg, 0 3s, 15.5 reb, 2.0 ast, 1.5 stl, 2.1 blk, 56.5 fg%, 5.7 ftm
Analysis: The uncertainty of Howard’s future past this season gave some owners pause from using a top pick to draft him. While exactly which team “D12” finishes this season with is anyone’s guess, his game is such that his fantasy averages should remain intact no matter if it’s with Orlando or New Jersey. Howard remains the premier center in fantasy basketball.
Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets
2011-12 Stats: 20.7 ppg, 2.0 3s, 3.4 reb, 8.4 ast, 1.0 stl, 0.4 blk, 41.0 fg%, 4.7 ftm
Analysis: The numbers Williams has produced this season with little talent around him—the Nets’ second best player has been Kris Humphries; MarShon Brooks has been a factor in about half the Nets’ games–is truly remarkable. With Brook Lopez expected back by end of February, one would expect Williams’ assist totals and field goal percentage to improve. His downside (in 9- and 10-cat leagues) is his assist-to-turnover ratio.
John Wall, Washington Wizards
2011-12 Stats: 16.4 ppg, 0 3s, 5.0 reb, 7.1 ast, 1.3 stl, 1.0 blk, 41.2 fg%, 4.9 ftm
Analysis: Fantasy owners have breathed a collective deep sigh of relief that Wall has produced despite the Wizards’ ineptitude and immaturity. Similar to Wade, Wall balances the lack of 3-pointers by averaging one blocked shot per game. He flirts with triple-doubles nightly.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
2011-12 Stats: 18.1 ppg, 1.7 3s, 5.6 reb, 5.7 ast, 1.0 stl, 0.4 blk, 41.9 fg%, 4.7 ftm
Analysis: The demise of Boston’s aging “Big Three” was been a hot topic earlier this season. Pierce has defied father time, frequently playing point-forward as Rajon Rondo has been sidelined by injury and his fantasy owners have been the beneficiaries. While I am dubious Pierce’s first half production will continue over the second half with Rondo back on the parquet floor he has nonetheless been a fantasy All-Star thus far.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (forward)
2011-12 Stats: 27.0 ppg, 1.5 3s, 8.2 reb, 3.3 ast, 1.2 stl, 1.4 blk, 50.5 fg%, 5.9 ftm
Analysis: A consensus Top-3 pick prior to this year’s fantasy drafts, Durant has repaid owners for their confidence with superb scoring, nearly as many blocks per game as threes, increased rebounds and a high field goal percentage. I recently traded Dwight Howard for Durant in our 9-CAT league. It’s the first time I have owned Durant in fantasy hoops—man is he fun to root for!
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves (forward)
2011-12 Stats: 25.3 ppg, 1.7 3s, 13.6 reb, 1.8 ast, 1.0 stl, 0.5 blk, 45.3 fg%, 7.6 ftm
Analysis: Love’s extraordinarily rare combination of top-line rebounds, free throws and threes, not to mention 25 points per game, earns him a fantasy All-Star spot. What keeps him from entering the conversation of the fantasy elite is his subpar assist, blocked shot and field goal percentage numbers. That’s not a complaint; just pointing out that Love is studly in only four of the eight fantasy categories.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies (center)
2011-12 Stats: 15.0 ppg, 0 3s, 10.0 reb, 2.8 ast, 1.1 stl, 2.3 blk, 49.3 fg%, 3.9 ftm
Analysis: I had the younger of the Gasols valued as a Top-40 player. So far this season, Gasol has been a Top-10 guy and the number two center, behind only Howard. Arguably in part to more space in the paint with the Grizzlies missing Zach Randolph’s wide presence, Gasol has upped his rebound and blocked shots to career high numbers. The numbers don’t lie—this season Gasol is fantasy elite.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (guard)
2011-12 Stats: 18.7 ppg, 1.3 3s, 3.5 reb, 8.8 ast, 2.4 stl, 0.1 blk, 50.2 fg%, 3.1 ftm
Analysis: Missing Paul’s insane fantasy production for five games earlier this season showed team owners just how valuable he is to the success of their squads. Paul is Steve Nash in terms of assists, threes and field goal percentage, only that he crushes Nash in points and steals. In 9-CAT leagues, Paul’s incredible Assist/Turnover ratio alone is worthy of a Top-20 pick.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (guard)
2011-12 Stats: 29.4 ppg, 1.4 3s, 6.0 reb, 5.2 ast, 1.1 stl, 1.1 blk, 44.2 fg%, 6.6 ftm
Analysis: Kobe no longer soars for highlight jams on a nightly basis. Thankfully this means zilch in terms of fantasy hoops where Bryant has continued to compile premier numbers, leaving those doubting his legs keeping up with his killer desire to win (me included) eating his dust.
Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
2011-12 Stats: 16.5 ppg, 0 3s, 12.6 reb, 1.3 ast, 0.5 stl, 2.1 blk, 54.3 fg%, 3.3 ftm
Analysis: How many fantasy owners that drafted Byum didn’t realize he was suspended for the first five games of the season? While handicapped by this early inconvenience, owners have reaped the benefit of Bynum finally busting out and posting quality 4-CAT numbers on a nightly basis.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
2011-12 Stats: 16.5 ppg, 0 3s, 12.6 reb, 1.3 ast, 0.5 stl, 2.1 blk, 54.3 fg%, 3.3 ftm
Analysis: In our 9-CAT league, I drafted Griffin with the eleventh pick. For the first five weeks of the season, his performance was more like the thirtieth pick. Much to my gratitude, Griffin upped his steal and block numbers considerably the past two weeks. His early season production in those two essential categories was drawing Griffin fantasy comparisons to Chris Bosh (personally, I’d much rather this steals and blocks be like Josh Smith’s).
Russel Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
2011-12 Stats: 22.9 ppg, .7 3s, 4.9 reb, 5.7 ast, 2.1 stl, .3 blk, 46.7 fg%, 4.7 ftm
Analysis: Speaking of slow starts to the season OKC’s co-alpha male had the country wondering if Westbrook and Durant could coexist. After a bumpy beginning to 2011-12 Westbrook is once again flying around the court like no point guard ever has and putting up ridiculous fantasy numbers.
Marc Kravitz, based in Philadelphia, provides Quality Assurance Mystery Shopper services to Restaurants throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. He is a Mixed Martial Arts fanatic and Fantasy Basketball junkie. In Fantasy Hoops, “Krewtime” has finished “in the money” in 85% of the leagues he has participated in. Follow Marc’s fantasy advice on Twitter @Marc_Kravitz