All-Stars Part II
Fantasy Corner tabs the Eastern Conference squad
By Adam Hoff
PG – Allen Iverson. Gilbert Arenas is having a great season in Washington, but AI has him beat by a mile. Not only has he proven all the naysayers wrong by making a smooth transition to point guard, he might be having the best season of his career. He leads the league in scoring (28.8), is tied for fourth in assists (7.6), and ranks third in steals with 2.2 per game. Plus, he’s sporting his best FG% and FT% since 2000, he’s grabbing over 4 boards a game, and is second in the league in minutes. There hasn’t been much fanfare, but AI is putting together a monster campaign.
SG – Dwayne Wade. I keep thinking back to this great interview they ran on ESPN before the season about Shaq and Wade and how everything was going to be great in Miami. Three things stood out (aside from how right they were): 1) Shaq seemed convinced that Wade was about to blow everyone’s mind. 2) Shaq seemed sincere when he said it was going to be Wade’s team. 3) A story about Wade getting stuck outside a club and Shaq telling the bouncer, “Don’t you know who this is? This is D-Wade, playa! You’re all about to find out.” He was right on all accounts. This is Wade’s team, he’s blowing minds, and we’re all finding out that this is D-Wade. He’s in the top 10 in the league in scoring, assists, and steals, and is adding big rebound and blocked shot numbers. Plus, he’s shooting over 48% from the field and has become one of the best crunch time players in the league. If he can just limit his turnovers and add some three-point range to his jump shot, he’ll be one of the most unstoppable players in the league.
SF – LeBron James. King James is the new face of the NBA. He’s the most exciting to watch, one of the best teammates and leaders at age 20, and quite possibly the best basketball player on earth. If nothing else, he’s my first half MVP. He has taken a bunch of misfits in Cleveland and made them the second best team in the Eastern Conference. If you don’t think James makes people better, just look at Drew Gooden. On his third team in three years, Gooden was pretty much universally considered a bust. Now he’s got LeBron feeding him for easy dunks and showing him how to play hard every night. All of a sudden, Gooden is going for 14 and 10 with blocks, steals, and great shooting percentages. That’s not a coincidence. As for LeBron’s numbers, they need no explanation: 25.3 ppg (seventh in the NBA), 7.6 apg (tied for fourth), 7.2 rpg (first among perimeter players), 2.3 spg (second in the league), .495 FG% (seventh among perimeter players), and a block and a three every night. All at the age of 20! I can’t remember ever seeing anything like this.
PF – Jermaine O’Neal. Despite his suspension, Jermaine is the obvious choice here, as the East is pretty much hurting for big time power forwards. Despite the fact that the balance of power has shifted a bit and the East is becoming more legit, the West still has a chokehold on the power forward pool. KG, Duncan, Dirk, Webber, Gasol, Boozer, Odom, Randolph, K-Mart … all in the West. In fact, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who is playing small forward in Portland, would probably be one of the four best power forwards in the East. So there’s still a bit of a divide there. Regardless, O’Neal is legit no matter what conference we’re talking about. He’s going for 26,9, and 2 every night and has been better than ever in the last month. (I have to add my traditional “How did Dale Davis work out in Portland?” joke here.)
C – Shaquille O’Neal. We’ve got the O’Neal-O’Neal frontline! Shaq is “like toilet paper, toothpaste, and other amenities … in other words, he’s proven to be good.” Great quote, great player, yet another great season. He’s playing fewer minutes and taking fewer shots (the former to save him for the postseason, the second in an effort to hand the keys over to “D-Wade, Playa!”), but he’s still a dominant force. Just look at the way the Heat have become the 2003-2004 Lakers of the East, while the Lakers have become the 2003-2004 Heat of the West. Again, this isn’t a coincidence. And though Shaq’s stats are down a bit, he’s still a monster in the box score as well. He won’t win you many free throw categories in fantasy hoops, but he’s still 23 and 11 with a .604 FG% (best mark of his career, it turns out). You can’t find that anywhere else. Plus, he’s back to swatting shots again, posting his highest total since 2000 with 2.6 per game.
G – Larry Hughes. I really don’t care that he’s hurt, because my man logged 34 games before breaking his wrist, which is the same number as Kobe … and nobody is talking about leaving Bryant off of the All-Star team. And let’s be honest, Hughes might be having a better season. Based on per game averages, he’s the second best fantasy player in the Eastern Conference, behind LeBron. Not only that, he was the driving force behind the Wizards becoming a good team for the first time in, well, forever. His FG% is up (.440), turnovers are down (2.3), and the rest of his numbers are off the charts. 21-6-5 with a league leading 2.8 steals per game and plenty of threes and blocks. He’ll never make the team as his injury gives everyone the perfect excused to punk him, but he should be the first reserve named. Alas.
G – Gilbert Arenas. I tried to tell you about these Wizards guards in the last Fantasy Corner. Incredible performances. Arenas is going 24-5-5 with 2 steals and 2 three’s a game for the season and has been particularly hot lately, averaging 29.2 ppg since Hughes went down. Only AI and T-Mac have scored more over that stretch.
G/F – Paul Pierce. In both real life and in fantasy, people seem to be a little down on Pierce this year. I tried to move him for some depth a few weeks back and received some of the worst offers I’ve ever seen. Bizarre. Over the last month Pierce has been tossing up 24-9-4 and his overall numbers for the season are better than you might think. He’s only scoring 22.3 ppg, but he’s second among all perimeter players in rebounding with 6.9 per night, ninth in the league in steals at 1.7 per, second in triple doubles, and he’s shooting .440 from the field (best mark since 2001) and a career-high .824 from the line. Not a lot to complain about.
G – Stephon Marbury. Marbury gets hammered by the media and the “experts,” but as T.O. showed in the Super Bowl, they know very little. Starbury gets all the blame for the losing in New York, but if you look at his numbers, you can see that he’s doing his part. He’s only the second player in the entire history of the NBA to boast career averages of over 20 points and 8 assists per game (Oscar Robertson is the other), and he’s right there again, scoring 20.7 a night and dishing out 8.2 dimes per. Not only that, despite his “shoot first” rep, Marbury is in the top three in assists for the eighth year in a row and he’s taking fewer shots per game (15.3, which is second on his own team and less than celebrated point guards like Steve Francis, Gilbert Arenas, and Dwayne Wade) than in any season since his rookie year. On top of all that, he’s shooting a career high .472 from the field, and a career high .835 from the line. But yeah, he sucks. Pile on, everyone!
G – Steve Francis. We’ve got too many guards here, but oh well. The East team can go small ball and play Pierce at SF. It’s not my fault the Eastern Conference forwards suck. Stevie Franchise still lacks a deep jumper and commits way too many turnovers (5.2 per 48 minutes, most in the league), but he’s back to his old self where the triple double stats are concerned. He’s averaging 21.7 points, 6.3 rebounds (second among point guards), and 7.0 assists per game. Plus, he’s shooting a terrific 84% from the line and ripping 1.3 steals per game. I think he’s capable of even more, but he’s still playing well, considering he has “nothing to wake up for” now that Mobley is in Sac-Town.
F – Antawn Jamison. It was a tough choice between Jamison and rookie Emeka Okafor, but ultimately I had to do the unthinkable and put a third Wizard on my All-Star team. How is this possible? Not only that, all three of these guys played together in Golden State two years ago! Gee, I wonder why the Warriors are so bad? Neither Okafor or Jamison are great fantasy players, but with Richard Jefferson going down, it was pretty slim pickings. I wasn’t going to reward Vince Carter (who has solidified has status as “Canada’s All-Time Worst Employee”) for finally deciding to try, Drew Gooden isn’t that good, and Antoine Walker is just horrible. So Antawn, with your 20 and 8, come on down!
C – Ben Wallace. “Big Benny Wallace” is up to his old tricks. Despite being unseated by AK-47 as the ultimate defensive stat machine, Big Ben can still sway an entire head-to-head matchup without even seeing the ball on the offensive end. He’s pulling down 11.9 rebounds per game (second in the league), swatting 2.5 shots a night (third), grabbing 1.4 steals per contest (first among centers), and he’s even upped his scoring average to 9.4 a night. He’s staying out of foul trouble, logging 40 minutes a night, and doing whatever it takes to help both the Pistons and fantasy owners win games. Plus, he trails only Kirilenko in the extremely important “Adam’s Ball Control Calculation”* statistic with a terrific mark of +2.4.
*The ABCC is a simple statistic that measures how well a player takes care of the ball on the offensive end and forces turnovers on the other end. By adding a player’s steals and blocks you get the total number of turnovers forced per game (it’s not completely accurate due to the fact that not all blocks results in a TO, but you get the idea). From that number, simply subtract a player’s turnover average to get his total ABCC. For instance, Kobe Bryant is averaging 1.0 blocks, 1.4 steals, and 4.4 turnovers, so his ABCC is a horrific -2.0 (1.0 + 1.4 – 4.4 = -2.0.)
Just Missed: Jamaal Tinsley (too fragile), Kirk Hinrich (great season, but brutal FG%), Emeka Okafor (just needs to boost blocks and FG%), and Jason Kidd (missed a few too many games).
Additional Apologies to: Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter (you should be ashamed of yourself, Vince, and yes, I realize that you are playing like a top-10 stud now, but too bad), Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Rafer Alston, and Chris Bosh.
So there you have it! The Eastern Conference All-Star team by the fantasy numbers.
Adam Hoff is a columnist for WhatifSports.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by sitemail at adamo112.