2018-19 Eastern Conference Fantasy All-Stars

What exactly is a fantasy all-star anyways?

It’s all-star season in the NBA. The internet is littered with mock ballots and accompanying hot takes on a silly Sunday evening spectacle. The entertainment value of an NBA All-Star game is equivalent to a Super Bowl Halftime Show at this point. Sure, I’ll glance at it, but I’m probably not going to enjoy it.

All that being said, I’ll be furious if DeMar DeRozan doesn’t make the team this year. I’ll scream injustice and foul play. I’ll even tweet about it if I have to.

Fantasy is different from real life. The all-star teams in both conferences will largely be made up of the top-25 ranked fantasy players in our league. Production from first and second round fantasy picks or “real life” all-stars is a given. The fantasy general managers who discover emerging players, or all-stars, in later rounds are usually the ones who succeed.

So what constitutes an all-star in fantasy basketball? Here’s our criteria:

  • Player not drafted in the first or second round in the fantasy draft.

  • Player currently owned by a team.

  • Player grossly exceeding pre-season ranking as of 1/27/19.

Using the Yahoo! rankings is an imperfect measure since the rankings tend to over-value percentages and don’t take into account how a player contributes to the overall composition of a team. But we’ll still move forward with this criteria for the purposes of this exercise since it’s the only truly objective “before and after” measure at our disposal.

Below is the starting lineup for the 2018-19 Eastern Conference Fantasy All-Stars.

C - NIKOLA VUCEVIC, Pre-season ranking: 59, Current Ranking: 8 (+51)
I’ve been waiting for Vucevic to fade but he’s only getting stronger as the season goes on. Maybe this is who he is now. An elite rebounder (11.9 per game), reliable playmaker (3.8 assists per game) and legitimate three-point threat (38 percent on 3.1 atempts).

Only Nikola Jokic (7.7) and Marc Gasol (4.7) are averaging more assists per game than Vucevic from the center position. He’s also tied for sixth in the league with 32 double-doubles on the season. This is the third straight season that Vucevic is averaging at least 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.

Vucevic is the only fantasy all-star in either conference that is also likely to be a real all-star this season.

PF - DOMANTAS SABONIS, Pre-season ranking: 190, Current Ranking: 40 (+150)
I can’t resist the “poooooooooooossssttteeeeeer” take.

How did he fall to the fourth last pick in our draft?

SF - MARCUS MORRIS, Pre-season ranking: 223, Current Ranking: 51 (+172)
Marcus Morris went undrafted in our league this year. That’s fair considering all the hype around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The baby Celtics were supposed to break out. Instead, the Celtics have relied on adults to carry them through the regular season. Morris is an adult’s adult. He’s averaging career-highs in almost every statistical category.With shooting percentages of 47.6/42.2/86.5, he’s only slightly off the pace of a historic 50/40/90 season.

Only seven players have ever had a 50/40/90 season: Larry Bird (x3), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash (x4), Dirk Nowitski, Kevin Durant and most recently Steph Curry in 2015-16.

Morris is also a pest defensively and is essential to the Celtics’ attempts to guard Giannis, Kawhi and Ben Simmons in upcoming playoff matchups after causal switches well above the three-point line. Switching used to be a last resort when you lost your guy and now it’s as casual as a handshake. It’s pre-medidated regardless of the situation. I don’t want to get into this right now. It’s too much. Maybe another day. The main takeway: Morris is capable of doing whatever he’s asked to do on both the offensive and defensive ends this year.

SG - JOE HARRIS, Pre-season ranking: 128, Current Ranking: 54 (+74)
Harris is shooting 46.8 percent from three on 5.1 attempts per game which ranks third behind Davis Bertans (49.2) and Seth Curry (48.1) in the league. Harris ranks first amongst players averaging more than 5.0 attempts per game.

Harris’ three-point percentage this season ranks sixth all-time amongst rotation players averaging more than 5.0 attempts. Players ahead of him: Glen Rice, Steve Novak, JJ Reddick and Kyle Korver (twice).

He doesn’t do much beyond scoring efficiently but he also doesn’t hurt you in any category. Stellar fantasy value for a player taken with the second pick in the 13th and final round this season.

PG - MALCOLM BROGDON, Pre-season ranking: 105, Current Ranking: 43 (+62)
Brogdon is already having a 50-40-90 season. He’s shooting 51.8/42.3/96.1 on the best team in the Eastern Conference. In only his third season in the league, he exhibits an uncanny mastery of the game. He’s not fast but he can get defenders off-balance and out-of-position with his size and agility. The threat to shoot is an adequate alternate to speed. Geometry and patience are his allies.

I’m excited to see the eventual development of his post-up game. I think we finally found the next Chauncey Billups. Finally.

A note on these all-stars: the contracts of Vucevic, Morris and Brogdon all expire at the end of this year and Sabonis can negotiate an extension this summer. Harris is signed through the 2019-20 season. The fantasy value and production of players on the last year of their contracts is a topic for another day.