2018-19 Western Conference Fantasy All-Stars

No controversies in the fantasy selections.

Last week we went through the Eastern Conference Fantasy All-Stars. Now it’s time for the Western Conference.

Here’s a refresher on our criteria:

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

  • Player currently owned by a team.

  • Player grossly exceeding Yahoo’s pre-season ranking as of 1/30/19.

Now, I present to you the 2018-19 Western Conference All-Stars.

C - JUSUF NURKIC, Pre-season ranking: 101, Current Ranking: 25 (+76)
Despite being demonized in the “modern” NBA, centers are alive and well in the fantasy game. Nine of the top-25 ranked fantasy players in our league are currently centers and that list doesn’t included Anthony Davis at the number one spot.

True Centers Ranked in the Top-25 of Yahoo!’s rankings as of 1/31/19:
5 - Karl Anthony Towns
7 - Nikola Vucevic
10 - Joel Embiid
11 - Rudy Gobert
12 - Nikola Jokic
14 - Clint Capela
20 - Deandre Ayton
24 - Marc Gasol
25 - Jusuf Nurkic

The uptick in free throw percentage (75.3 percent on a career-high 5.0 attempts) and steals (1.1) has propelled Nurkic to greater fantasy heights this year.

Nurkic, Davis and Andre Drummond are the only players in the league averaging over 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals per game this season.

Centers are thriving in fantasy despite often being overlooked by the small-ball craze in real life.

PF - DANILO GALLINARI, Pre-season ranking: 151, Current Ranking: 20 (+131)
Oh no. It’s happening again. Danilo Gallinari has missed the last eight games with back spasms. He hasn’t appeared in over 80 games in a season since 2009-10. It’s always something with the Rooster. This year he’s shooting a career-best 44.6 percent from three on a career-high 5.5 attempts, and is consistently getting to the free throw line again. Gallinari has always been one of the most efficient offensive players in the league. He’s a modern day Corey Maggette. But health has consistently let Gallinari down throughout his career.

SF - RUDY GAY, Pre-season ranking: 142, Current Ranking: 58 (+84)
What’s wrong with a guy who goes out and gets buckets? Isn’t that what basketball is about — getting buckets? Two points, three points, back-to-the-basket, layup, dunk, bank-shot — who cares — need buckets to win. Rudy Gay can get you buckets. It doesn’t matter how he does it or with what degree of efficiency. He’s going to get his.

Gay hasn’t changed much since he entered the league but the collective expectation of him as flattened. Gay’s appearance was always deceiving. He’s big, long, quick and athletic which made you immediately think “star.” The expectation was that his performance would match his gifts and physique. Gay has always been good but you always wanted more from him.

Gay’s meteoric rise in fantasy value this year can largely be attributed to his improved shooting percentages. For the first time in his career, Gay is shooting above 50 percent from the field (51.8) and 40 percent from three (40.4). Yahoo’s rankings value shooting efficiency as much as bulk stats.

He’s the same guy that he’s always been. He goes out and gets you buckets. And now, we finally accept him for who he is and not who we wished he would be.

SG - BUDDY HIELD, Pre-season ranking: 85, Current Ranking: 19 (+66)
We all messed up with Buddy Hield. Maybe we all overlooked him because he had the stain of the Pelicans’ and Kings’ draft rooms on him? We don’t treat Spurs’ draft picks this poorly. Hield fell to the 12th pick in the fifth round this year. Darren Collison, Taureen Prince and Otto Porter Jr. were all taken ahead of him.

Hield is shooting 45.8 percent on 7.4 attempts (!!!) per game. There are 13 players averaging more than 7.0 three-point attempts per game this season and Hield is shooting a higher percentage than all of them. Steph Curry is second at 45.1 percent.

De’Aaron Fox/Hield might be the next big thing in the NBA. It’s time for us (mostly me) to throw out my preconceived notions of a player on the Kings.

PG - DERRICK ROSE, Pre-season ranking: 270, Current Ranking: 63 (+207)
This was the first year in the our league’s history in which Derrick Rose was not drafted. Even during Rose’s most severe injury-plagued stretches, some speculative general manager would always take a chance on him at some point during the draft. Hope was lost this year.

Derrick Rose Fantasy Draft History (2011-2018)
2018 - Undrafted
2017 - Round 10 / 11th Pick
2016 - 11 / 11th
2015 - 8 / 7th
2014 - 2 / 4th
2013 - 1 / 4th
2012 - 11 / 3rd
2011 - 1 / 7th

Rose is having an all-time comeback year. He’s shooting a career-best 41.7 percent from three, 48 percent from the field overall, and has won games by himself this season for the Timberwolves.

He was ranked behind Shelvin Mack, Garrett Temple, and Dante Exum in the pre-season and now he’s one of the most productive fantasy players in the league. His +207 leap from pre-season to now is the largest jump among all the fantasy all-stars this year and maybe ever.