- Brian McKitish, Fantasy Basketball
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The NBA All-Star votes are in, and if you're unhappy with the fan selections, maybe you'll be happier with the Fantasy All-Star lineup we've put together below.
Now, before we get into the picks, it's important to note that the fantasy game isn't always about the best players; it's about the best values. I mean, anyone can draft a Kobe Bryant or Chris Paul in the first or second round. That's the easy part. It's the mid-to-late rounds where your true talents are put to the test, and I'd be willing to bet that those owners who were able to score a Chris Kaman or Rudy Gay in the later rounds are probably sitting pretty in their league standings right now.
It's all about value, and with that in mind, our Fantasy All-Stars will not feature the big names like Steve Nash, Yao Ming or Kevin Garnett. Instead, we'll focus on those players who have played above and beyond our preseason expectations and have far outproduced their average draft position (ADP). And of course, these selections are always up for debate, so feel free to throw out some names that I may have missed along the way in the Conversation area at the bottom.
PG -- Jose Calderon, Raptors (ADP: 104.7, Player Rater Rank: 35): Calderon would be ranked way higher on the rater if we looked solely at his numbers as a starter: 13.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 3-pointers per game. If those numbers aren't enough to wow you, maybe we should look at his percentages and turnovers: 50.6 percent from the floor, 91.3 percent from the line and just 1.5 turnovers per game. There is little doubt that Calderon has turned himself into one of the NBA's best and most efficient point guards, and if you are thinking that Calderon will return to obscurity once T.J. Ford returns from injury, think again. Not only has Calderon proved to be a solid fantasy contributor with or without Ford in the lineup, he's also played well enough to have secured himself at least 30 minutes per night for Sam Mitchell's Raptors.
SG -- Jason Richardson, Bobcats (ADP: 58.5, Player Rater Rank: 26): Richardson suffered his first major injury of his career this past season, and that made him expendable for the Warriors. Well, he moved conferences and has returned to his fantasy-worthy ways. He's nailed his career average marks in points per game, rebounds per game as well as assists and steals. If you were worried about him staying healthy, through half a season, that's wrong. Charlotte isn't going anywhere in the playoffs, so Richardson could be on the move, but for now, soak in all that fantasy goodness.
SF -- Hedo Turkoglu, Magic (ADP: 102.1, Player Rater Rank: 23): I'd love for this vote to go to Granger (who is having a fantastic season and is finally starting to live up to his Marion-lite moniker), but in terms of value and bargains, Turk has the kid beat. I mean, this is a guy who was owned in just 11.4 percent of fantasy leagues back on Oct. 31. Most think of him as a spot-up shooter, but Turkoglu has done his best to dispel the notion that he is a one-dimensional fantasy player with averages of 18.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.0 3-pointers per game. Give an assist to Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis for Hedo's fine play this season, but don't discount the fact that Turkoglu is receiving a career-high 37.8 minutes per game. In fact, Turkoglu's per-minute stats from last season compare pretty favorably to what he's doing this season, so don't expect him to slow down anytime soon.
Others receiving votes: Danny Granger
PF -- Udonis Haslem, Heat (ADP: 112.1, Player Rater Rank: 77): In case you haven't noticed, the power forward position in the East is pretty thin, thanks to a few underperformers, namely Charlie Villanueva, David Lee, Tyrus Thomas and Troy Murphy. But we can always count on our rock, the often underrated Haslem. He will never be mistaken for a superstar, but he is a great "glue guy" for fantasy owners, providing solid percentages to go along with career highs in points (12.5) and rebounds (9.4) on the season. As Miami continues to free-fall in the standings, we can and should expect the Heat to continue to lean on Haslem for the low-post presence they so desperately need.
C -- Andrew Bogut, Bucks (ADP: 84.1, Player Rater Rank: 60): Though he struggled a bit to start the season, a late surge has propelled Bogut into fantasy stardom. The Bucks wanted him to be more assertive on the offensive end, and assert himself he did with averages of 18.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 blocks in 10 games since the new year. Just as a reference point, Bogut is averaging 13.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.7 blocks on the season. As you can see, his defensive stats have suffered slightly as he has been focusing more of his energy on the offensive end, but I'm not going to complain. The "new" Bogut is a more well-rounded fantasy asset, and is quickly becoming one of the fantasy game's best options at center.
Sixth man -- Mike Dunleavy, Pacers (ADP: 103.5, Player Rater Rank: 25): I'll be the first to admit that I didn't take Dunleavy's hot start to the season seriously. Everything in his past had suggested that he would be a flash in the pan, but for some reason, Dunleavy never came back down to earth. I still can't explain it, although it is possible that he's finally starting to live up to the potential that made him the third overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft. Say what you will about his night-to-night inconsistencies, the fact remains that Dunleavy is averaging a studly 17.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.7 3-pointers on the season. His streaky nature makes him a better player in roto formats than head-to-head, but it's hard to argue with his inclusion on this list. And don't think he's going away anytime soon. The Pacers are going to have to rely on him even more now that Jermaine O'Neal's season may be in jeopardy.
PG -- Devin Harris, Mavericks (ADP: 99.3, Player Rater Rank: 73): Glowing preseason reviews indicated that Harris had a strong hold on the starting point guard spot for Avery Johnson's Mavericks, but I don't think many saw this type of improvement coming from the fourth-year guard out of Wisconsin. In just his first season as the full-time starter, Harris hasn't disappointed, averaging a stellar 14.3 points, 5.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.7 3-pointers while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and 81.9 percent from the line. Getting those sort of numbers from a guy who was drafted in the late rounds, if at all, is pure thievery. The future is very bright here, especially considering his improving range (Harris has hit on 35.8 percent of his 3-point attempts after hitting just 28.0 percent last season).
SG -- Rudy Gay, Grizzlies (ADP: 76.0, Player Rater Rank: 30): Andrew Bynum has received all the pub as this season's breakout player, and he deserves it, but don't forget about Gay in Memphis. In fact, I'd actually argue that in the fantasy game, Gay's season has been much more significant. Averaging 19.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 0.9 blocks and 1.7 3-pointers while shooting 46.5 percent from the floor and 76.8 percent from the line, Gay has been the embodiment of the "multi-categorical" player. Aside from Gay, I can think of only a few players who can contribute in steals, blocks and 3-pointers: LeBron James, Shawn Marion, Gerald Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Danny Granger. Not bad company, kid, not bad at all.
Others receiving votes: John Salmons
SF -- Grant Hill, Suns (ADP: 107.1, Player Rater Rank: 67): Everyone knew of the injury risks heading into the season, but most fantasy owners took a flier on Hill if only because he was getting an opportunity to play alongside Steve Nash in Phoenix. Smart move. Hill stayed relatively healthy and posted 15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks and a career-high 0.7 3-pointers while managing to maintain efficient percentages (50.7 from the floor and 87.5 from the line). Other than his 3-point shooting, which some expected based on preseason reports, the most surprising aspect of Hill's game is that he has been able to stay healthy this season. An emergency appendectomy is not a basketball-related injury, and I'd argue that the seven-game layoff may actually help keep him relatively healthy in the second half.
PF -- David West, Hornets (ADP: 57.0, Player Rater Rank: 36): Of all the players on this list, West came into the season with the highest expectations. But even those were not high enough, and it's strange because his numbers this season (19.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.3 blocks) are only slightly better than his stats last season. This one comes down to one factor: health. Not just his own health (he missed 30 games last season), but also the health of his supporting cast, most notably Chris Paul. Those who own David West know his true value, but I don't think the rest of the world truly appreciates what this guy is doing in the fantasy game yet.
C -- Chris Kaman, Clippers (ADP: 84.5, Player Rater Rank: 22): If I have to hear my colleague, Guy Lake, complain about missing out on Kaman one more time, I think I'm going to lose it. You see, Guy was super high on Kaman coming into the season, and although he wasn't able to grab him in the mid-to-late rounds this season, he was dead-on in projecting the breakout. Kaman's numbers (17.4 points, 13.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game) are simply phenomenal. His improvement can be attributed to two factors. First, the Clippers have a very limited frontcourt presence with Elton Brand sidelined, and Kaman has been able to roam free in the paint. Second, because of Brand's injury, the Clippers have leaned heavily on Kaman, which has led to a career-high 39.2 minutes per game.
Others Receiving Votes: Brad Miller
Sixth man -- Andrew Bynum, Lakers (ADP: 95.7, Player Rater Rank: 53): Easy choice here. Before his injury, Bynum had been the talk of the town in L.A., and rightfully so. Enough has been written about Bynum this season that I don't need to go into much detail, so all I'm going to say is that it's a shame we won't get to see this guy in uniform for the next seven weeks or so. Not to kick Bynum owners while they're down or anything, but it's going to be tough finding a replacement for his 13.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and .636 field goal percentage, especially considering that he was just starting to touch on his potential with averages of 17.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in the month of January.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.
Brian McKitish looks at the top fantasy values from the first half of the NBA season.