The people have spoken, and Allen Iverson is an All-Star.
Starters for the NBA All-Star Game were announced this week after fan voting closed, and there weren’t any surprises. Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Iverson, and Dwyane Wade will start for the East squad. Only Iverson — likely in decline and playing in Detroit’s team-oriented system, but still popular — is not deserving.
In the West, Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Paul, and Kobe Bryant will start. Only Stoudemire (see below) is possibly not worthy, and he’s still having a very good season.
Obviously, with the sudden exception of Iverson, these players represent the top tier of both actual basketball and fantasy basketball. James, Wade, Paul, Howard, and Bryant are the top five players in fantasy basketball and, arguably, the NBA. But what happens if we take this group out of the equation and select a fantasy starting five that includes no All-Star starters? Who would make it? Who represents the best of the rest for fantasy purposes?
Let’s take a look.
Al Jefferson, Minnesota: Jefferson is 10th in my league in average fantasy points per week, combining his points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. His 22 points and 11 rebounds per game are All-Star worthy, as is the fact that as the best player on a bad team, he has no choice but to answer the bell every night. And he does. Jefferson will be one of the first big men taken in all drafts next season.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City: Nowitzki remains a star. He’s averaging 26 ppg and 8.5 rpg on a competitive, yet declining, Mavericks squad. He’s still capable of carrying your fantasy squad, though. Nowitzki can score from anywhere and has gone off in games for 44 and 46 points. Durant (below) is on a tear, and there seems to be no turning back. Last weekend he went to the free throw line 26 times (making 24) in a loss to the Clippers and finished with 46 points. In January, he’s scored fewer than 27 in a game only twice, and he’s routinely reaching double digits in rebounds. Like Jefferson, Durant is the best player on a bad team. Those are the guys you want on your fantasy squad.
Brandon Roy, Portland, and Deron Williams, Utah: Roy is one of the most valuable players in all of fantasy basketball because he gives you tremendous production in all categories, particularly scoring, assists, and steals. Roy plays big minutes (more than 37 per game) for the Trail Blazers, and he’s an extremely accurate (46 percent) shooter for someone who makes his living taking jumpers and slicing to the basket. Williams would have been easy to leave off this list because he’s played just over 30 games this season while battling injuries. But now that he’s healthy, the Jazz point guard is dominating: He’s averaging 25 points, 12 assists, and three rebounds per game in his last five contests, and when Williams is competing at that level, there are few who are better. Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and New Jersey’s Devin Harris were also considered here, but the fact that Williams seemingly has another gear made him the selection.
Ed Ryan writes about fantasy sports and betting for OT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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