With the All-Star break now upon us, this season's stars have once again separated themselves from the rest of the pack in terms of consistent production. The household names (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul to name a few), are putting up the numbers we all expected and living up to their expectations as top picks in most fantasy leagues. There have been some surprises, namely Amar'e Stoudemire's ascent to perhaps being the most valuable fantasy power forward, as well as some disappointments (Tyreke Evans). However, so far, this fantasy basketball season has unfolded relatively closely to how we all expected.
In the weeks leading up to All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, several players have caught the eye of fantasy owners for their increases in production. Most notably, Trail Blazers' forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging 32 points per game to go along with 7.5 boards over his last six contests (all Portland victories). Aldridge has reached the thirty point plateau in four of those games, including a dominant 42-point, eight rebound performance in a win over Chicago. With star guard Brandon Roy sidelined due to chronic knee problems, Aldridge has taken over the brunt of the scoring load and emerged as one of the league's best young forwards. He leads all fantasy scorers over the past seven games and ranks as the twelfth most productive player overall, according to ESPN.com.
Nuggets' (for now) forward Carmelo Anthony has, by all accounts, put all of the attention surrounding his request to play elsewhere behind him, as he has gone on a scoring binge lately, putting up at least 28 points in five of his last six games, including a 50-point explosion versus Houston. With New Jersey now emerging as his most likely destination, his scoring barrage should only continue, as he will be the Nets' undisputed No. 1 scoring option. In addition to scoring and free throw shooting, Melo offers fantasy value as a rebounder (nearly eight boards per game); however, his lack of assists and sometimes sporadic field goal percentage may diminish his value to some owners.
For fantasy owners looking to improve defensively, Grizzlies' guard Mike Conley is a potential option. The former Ohio State star is leading the league in steals over the past seven games at well over three per game, and also offers formidable rebounding. With OJ Mayo falling out of favor with Coach Lionel Hollins, Conley is likely to receive the majority of the minutes at point guard. Though he is a pedestrian offensive point guard (13 points per game, 7 assists per contest), his defense and high field goal percentage make Conley a valuable fantasy asset.
For teams in need of a center to boost rebounding and defensive statistics, attempting to trade for a big-name player like Dwight Howard may not be the answer. While Howard cleans up the boards at a high rate and is a virtual lock for a double-double every night, his lack of assists and poor free throw percentage hurt his value. Howard is also liable to get into foul trouble, which decreases his minutes and, thus, his statistics. In terms of three-point shooting, Milwaukee Bucks forward Carlos Delfino is a solid option. He is owned in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues, but is good for two three-pointers per game. His percentage from downtown (33 percent) is by no means stellar, but Delfino has the ability to go off any night, as evidenced by his seven three-pointers Monday versus the Clippers.
One player owners may want to stay away from is New Jersey Nets' center Brook Lopez. While his scoring is enticing (19 points per game), his rebounding numbers are pretty weak for a starting center playing significant minutes. Through 57 games, Lopez has recorded a whopping three double-doubles. Three. To put it into perspective, he is being out-rebounded by the great Ersan Ilyasova, who is playing nine fewer minutes per game. If Lopez can find a way to improve his rebounding numbers, his fantasy value will increase significantly, though his first half statistics are not exactly promising.