- Tom Carpenter, Fantasy and Insider
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For genuine fantasy hoops junkies, this is the worst week between October and mid-April. Sure, the weekend's All-Star festivities are fun, but where are the stats? NBA teams play only one or two games this week, so many head-to-head leagues don't even run a game (and, in the case of ESPN leagues, the "week" actually lasts two calendar weeks). If you're in a rotisserie league, your stat production will dry up by Wednesday and evaporate by Thursday night. I always get a queasy feeling weaning myself off stats during All-Star Weekend. It makes me realize we have only two months of the fantasy hoops season left to savor. In the meantime, while we wait for new stats to enjoy, let's take a look back and savor the season so far as I name the starters and reserves to my Fantasy All-Star Team.
It's a great season for point guards in Fantasyland. Based on averages, Chris Paul (No. 2), Stephen Curry (No. 5), Deron Williams (No. 6), Steve Nash (No. 8), Derrick Rose (No. 9), and Russell Westbrook (No. 11) are in the top 11 of the Player Rater. With a total of nine point guards in the top 16, there are plenty of elite dishers available for everyone. Of course, with that many quality options, you almost have to have two of them to be in contention in dimes and steals, the two primary categories a fantasy point guard must fill out. That means Williams (1.2 spg), Nash (0.7 spg) and Rose (1.0 spg) can't claim a starting spot on my Fantasy All-Star squad despite their impressive dime tallies. CP3 (2.5 spg), Curry (1.8 sg) and Westbrook (1.8 spg) are among the league leaders in swipes, but Curry is more combo guard than pure guard and averages only 6.0 dimes per game.
That leaves Paul (9.7 apg) and Westbrook (8.5 apg). In leagues that stress turnovers, CP3's 2.4 per game trumps Westbrook's brutal 3.9 per game. Westbrook carries a huge enough advantage over Paul in scoring (6.0 ppg more) and free throws (3.1 more attempts per game) that I would consider drafting Westbrook over Paul because I want my top pick to score a lot. Looking at their complete games, though, you can't ask for a better point guard than CP3 because he can rack up dimes and steals with the best of them while maintaining terrific percentages across the board. I expect Westbrook to continue improving his shooting from the field (43.9 field goal percentage, compared with CP3's 48 percent) this season and beyond. Don't be surprised if Westbrook is first-team All-Fantasy by the end of the season, but Paul gets the nod now for my Fantasy All-Star Team.
Unlike the wealth of talent at point guard, things are thin at shooting guard this season. Traditional studs such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Andre Iguodala and Brandon Roy have not produced like elite options and/or have been injured. Pure shooting guards are even rarer. On the Player Rater, the top two shooting guards are Stephen Curry (5th) and his Golden State Warriors teammate Monta Ellis (13th), both of whom are actually combo guards, eligible at PG and SG. Wade (15th) is the top-ranked pure shooting guard, and Manu Ginobili (19th), Eric Gordon (20th), Kobe (23rd), Paul Pierce (26th) and Kevin Martin (30th) round out the other top eligible off guards.
Traditionally, I expect my best shooting guard to score, drop 3s and dabble in point guard stats. The elite options also should carry excellent percentages. For having relatively pedestrian campaigns, Kobe and D-Wade are still churning out quality stats across the board, but they don't match up with what the Warriors' backcourt has been cranking out. Like Bryant and Wade, Ellis is averaging 25 points per game, but Ellis is outpacing them with 1.6 3-ppg, 2.2 spg and 5.5 apg. Ellis' downside is his percentages. Although 45.8 percent from the field and 77.2 percent from the line are decent, they aren't elite and can pull you down in a tight race when Ellis is cranking out 20.6 shots and 6.1 free throws per game.
There's one player who does it all: Stephen Curry. He might not have the elite scoring you might expect from a top shooting guard, but he's money in every category but blocks: 18.8 ppg, 6.0 apg, 1.8 spg, 3.5 rpg, 1.8 3-ppg, 48.2 field goal percentage and 94.0 free throw percentage. In a tight race between two players, I'm going to go with the player with no weaknesses and great percentages. That's why Curry starts on my all-star team despite the disparity in scoring.
Let's take a moment to give propers to small forwards Rudy Gay, Josh Smith and Danny Granger. All three have been solid options in Fantasyland this season. Now that the moment of being nice has passed, let's acknowledge the only two players really in the discussion for a starting spot on this Fantasy All-Star team: Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Although they have easily separated themselves from the rest of the small forwards, separating these two from each other is a much more difficult task. Both produce stats in literally every category, are among the league leaders in scoring and have little in the way of negative production. LeBron's scoring (26.1 ppg) and blocks (0.6 bpg) are down this season, but his only true negative is his 76.3 free throw percentage. Of course, he counters that with 7.4 assists per game. That dime production from the small forward position gives him a huge advantage over Durant's 2.8 apg. Durant has no statistical weakness beyond his pedestrian dime production, and he tops James at the free throw line by hitting 87.9 percent. King James might end up wearing the fantasy MVP crown by season's end, but I'll give Durant the slightest edge so far thanks to the lack of weakness and for leading the league in scoring.
LaMarcus Aldridge has been flying up the fantasy charts since Roy went down. In fact, he's fourth on the Player Rater for the past month. Pau Gasol has been on a recent tear, too. Neither has cranked out top-end stats all season, though. How about Josh Smith? He's still a complete stud, especially with his dual eligibility (SF/PF), big assist totals (3.5 apg) and career-best 73.5 free throw percentage. However, he has averaged only 1.7 bpg, so he's not really among the top options at power forward thus far (I expect him to boost those blocks significantly down the stretch). Dirk Nowitzki has been solid, but his rebounding has disappeared and he missed a couple of weeks of action.
Which guys does that leave at the top? Amare Stoudemire and Kevin Love. My adoration for Stoudemire's fantasy game is no secret. In one of ESPN's preseason mock drafts, he went 10th overall and I remarked that I thought he was going way too late in most drafts I'd seen. Another writer asked whether that meant I had him in my top five. I replied by saying that I had just drafted him third overall in a two-center league. STAT hasn't disappointed. He ranks third overall on the Player Rater and second in the NBA in scoring (26.2 ppg). He's posting career bests in dimes (2.7 apg) and blocks (2.2 bpg). He's also a respectable rebounder (8.6 rpg) and a beast in percentages (50.7 field goal percentage, 19.4 field goal attempts per game, 78.7 free throw percentage, 8.0 free throw attempts per game).
Despite Stoudemire's prolific production and the lack of any real negative, I have to give the starting nod at power forward to Love. That's simply because his combination of scoring and rebounding (21.1 ppg and 15.4 rpg this season) is so monstrous. Although his production has dipped a bit this month, Love has averaged more than 23 ppg and 16 rpg for most of the season. His assists (2.5 apg) and free throws (87.8 free throw percentage, 6.7 FTA per game) are comparable to Stoudemire's. His only real downsides for a power forward are an unimpressive 46.9 field goal percentage and an embarrassingly poor 0.4 bpg. However, he has made up for the lack of blocks by dropping 1.4 3-pointers per game. That unusual combination of massive rebounding and 3-point production gives him a slight edge over Stoudemire as the top PF option.
Stoudemire is eligible at power forward and center. Is there anyone who can keep him from starting in the middle on my Fantasy All-Star Team? Pau Gasol is right up there, but his overall production just doesn't quite match up because the Los Angeles Lakers don't ask as much of him as the New York Knicks ask of Stoudemire. Aldridge might make a case by season's end, but he's not in the same class as Stoudemire quite yet. That really just leaves us with the years-old case of debating Dwight Howard and his horrific free throw percentage. It's worse than ever this year, as Howard is shooting a career-worst 58.1 percent from the line and taking a career-high 11.4 attempts per game. Because Stoudemire has no weaknesses and is actually blocking more shots per game than Superman this season (2.2 bpg versus Howard's 2.1), I see him as the clear-cut No. 1 center in Fantasyland.
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.