2015-16 Fantasy Basketball: Kemba, Kristaps, KAT, Crowder Make OUR All-Star Team
Coach’s selections for the 2016 All-Star Game were revealed on Thursday, and as usual, many people took exception to some of their choices.
The “snubs” weren’t quite as bad as in previous years, but there were certainly some deserving players left off the rosters. The process itself is a poor one. I’m actually all for the fans voting in the starters, no matter how awful some of their picks may be; after all, the game is for the fans. It’s really the coach’s selections that get the most flak, and it’s not like Gregg Popovich doesn’t know what he’s doing. The problem is that the benches are limited to just seven players, guaranteeing a few deserving players get excluded. Why so little? Who knows, but expanding the benches to even 10 players would make a big difference. It’s supposed to be a fun game — and an exhibition at that — so why not let the fans see the best players the NBA can offer?
For us fantasy players, the term “all-star” can be used a lot more liberally. We’re not looking at how well these guys’ real life teams have performed. Karl-Anthony Towns has been a fantasy all-star despite his team’s 14-33 record. Overall, though, the majority of the players selected to the All-Star Game have put up solid fantasy numbers this season. However, a handful haven’t, and in today’s column we’ll go over some potential replacements we wish would be going to Toronto instead of these fantasy duds.
(Note: I left out guys like Damian Lillard because the backcourt/frontcourt format wouldn’t allow me to include them.)
Kobe Bryant, Lakers
Kobe is having the worst season of his career. In fact, from a statistical standpoint he may be the worst player in the NBA this season. It’s his farewell season, so I’m actually okay with him making the Western squad, but getting voted in by the fans — and as a frontcourt player, no less — meant a few players would be snubbed.
A couple of small forwards make logical replacements for Kobe Bean. The Jazz’s Gordon Hayward and the Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari have been outstanding this season, both leading their teams in scoring.
Hayward is averaging a career high 19.9 points in his sixth NBA season. He’s also grabbing 5.0 rebounds, dishing out 3.6 assists, swiping 1.2 steals and knocking down a career-best 1.9 treys. He’s been the leader for a Jazz team that’s found itself in a tie for the eighth seed in the West.
Fans are finally getting a glimpse of how good Gallinari can be when he’s healthy. The 27-year-old Italian is shattering his previous scoring outputs with a 19.4 points-per-game average (he had a career high 16.2 PPG in 2012-13). He’s also bringing down 5.7 boards per game, which would be a new career best. If you gambled on The Rooster in drafts, you’re being heavily rewarded for it.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
Aldridge has been an excellent signing for the Spurs, as he’s helped lead them to the second-best record in the NBA. However, for fantasy purposes he’s been a reasonable bust. Drafters took him off the board in the second round, yet he’s returning just sixth-round value in 9-cat leagues on the season. His 15.9 PPG are his lowest since his rookie season, as are his assists (1.4) and steals (0.3). He’s only playing 29.5 minutes per game too, limiting his opportunities to put up the stats we were accustomed to in Portland.
The aforementioned Karl-Anthony Towns is the obvious pick here. The first-year standout is playing like anything but a rookie with averages of 16.1 points, 9.8 boards and 1.8 blocks. He’s on pace to be the first rookie to average 9.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks since Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor accomplished that feat during the 2004-05 season. He’s returning second-round value on the season.
Marc Gasol‘s stats always fly under the radar, but he is one of the most consistent centers in fantasy basketball. His averages of 16.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.3 blocks have him ranked 40th in 9-cat leagues. His FG% (45.6) is down from year’s past but his 83.2 percent mark from the free throw line helps to offset that. His 3.8 assists per game trail only Draymond Green and Kevin Durant among all frontcourt players in the Western Conference.
It’s hard to believe Dirk Nowitzki is still producing big fantasy numbers 18 years after his NBA debut. Unlike Kobe Bryant, Dirk is not embarrassing himself on the court this year. The 37-year-old is averaging a respectable 17.6 points, 6.7 boards and 1.8 3-pointers, and his free throw shooting (90.5%) is elite yet again, making him a top 35 player in fantasy.
Dwyane Wade, Heat
Wade has actually remained mostly healthy this season, missing only three games so far, but his stats aren’t what they used to be. Don’t get me wrong, 18.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists is solid, but that has him ranked just 99th overall in fantasy. He doesn’t make threes, his 1.0 steals are a career low and he’s no longer a threat to shoot near 50 percent from the field. A spot in the Hall of Fame awaits, but Dwyane Wade is not a fantasy All-Star in 2015-16.
Kemba Walker has been on an absolute tear of late. He’s the 10th-ranked played in 9-cat leagues over the last month and he’s ranked 14th overall on the campaign. He’s finally coming into his own in his fifth season with career highs in points (20.5) and shooting (42.8%), as well as steals (1.8), threes (1.8) and free throw percentage (85.9). He dropped 40- and 52-point games last week, undoubtedly helping his owners win their head-to-head matchups.
Chris Bosh, Heat
Bosh is the only one on this list that is actually having a very good season. His 19.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 treys have him ranked 20th overall. There are, however, a couple of other players I’d rather have on my fantasy All-Star team.
The biggest snub is the Bulls’ Pau Gasol. Gasol was an All-Star last year, and while his numbers are down a bit from 2014-15, he’s still putting up early second-round value. I’m okay losing some points and threes from Bosh in order to get Gasol’s blocks and boards. If you’re in a league that counts double doubles, Gasol is an even bigger beast, as his 26 2x2s rank him second in the league behind Andre Drummond.
Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
You have to wonder how good Melo could be without his lingering knee issues. Despite being limited, the Knicks’ franchise player is averaging 21.3 points, 7.5 boards, 4.0 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.4 treys. Unfortunately, the 21.3 points is his lowest since his second year in the league and his 43.3 percent from the field is the fourth-worst mark of his career. He is a perennial All-Star because of his popularity playing in the Big Apple, but his fourth-round value has not justified his second-round ADP.
One of the biggest surprises in fantasy has been Jae Crowder. The Celtics’ swingman has come out of nowhere to post third-round value on the season. His 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 1.7 3-pointers and minuscule 1.3 turnovers per game has him ranked 25th overall. He’s this year’s version of last year’s version of DeMarre Carroll — but better.
Melo’s teammate, Kristaps Porzingis, has put up some pretty incredible numbers in his rookie season. He was taken in the 10th round of drafts on average, yet has put up third-round value on the year. 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 2.0 blocks, 1.9 threes over the last 10 games? Sign me up.