James, Durant, Love all among fantasy's best of season's first half
LeBron James has better stats from first year with Miami and shooting 55 percent
Dwight Howard is averaging NBA-best 10.9 FTs a game but hitting only 49 percent
While averaging 27.6 ppg, Kevin Durant is also hitting 1.7 three-pointers per game
With the first half of the NBA season behind us and the All-Star break coming up this week, this is a good time to acknowledge some of the league's best fantasy basketball performances so far this season. What more appropriate way to do that than with some All-Star teams? So, in terms of cumulative statistical performance (to take into account games played) in traditional nine-category leagues, here are this season's fantasy All-Stars.
PG: Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets -- Chicago's Derrick Rose has been better on a per game basis, but he's also missed 10 games and counting over the first half of the season. Williams, on the other hand, has played in 32 of the Nets' 33 games and leads the team in a number of statistical categories with 21.7 points, 8.3 assists and 2.2 threes per game. However, it hasn't been all good news for Williams this year; his 41 percent shooting from the field so far this season would be a career low and he's averaging a career-high 4.1 turnovers per game.
SG: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat -- Like Rose, Wade frustrated fantasy owners by missing a number of games over the first half of the season. But the shooting guard crop in the East is a weak one, so 23 games from Wade is actually better than a full season from someone like Joe Johnson or Ray Allen. Wade's stats are down from his peak of a few seasons ago as it appears that playing alongside LeBron James has eased his burden of carrying the entire Heat franchise on his back. While he has all but stopped taking threes this season, Wade's 22.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.4 blocks is still one of the best per game shooting guard lines available in the league.
SF: LeBron James, Miami Heat -- James just beats out Kevin Durant and Kevin Love for the top fantasy performance through this point in the season. One of the best things about building a team around James is that, other than shooting free throws, he does everything well. That makes him an ideal building block for any style of fantasy team. His 27.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game are an improvement over his first season with the Heat, to go along with 6.8 assists and 1.7 steals. James is also shooting an incredible 55 percent from the field, which is good for sixth overall in the league behind five of the league's best centers.
PF: Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic -- Anderson has to be one of the biggest surprises so far this season. Going into the year, it was anticipated that he'd split time at power forward with Glen Davis. Instead, Davis got into early foul trouble in the Magic's first game and Anderson never looked back, securing the starting role thanks to a breakout season in which he's averaging 16.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and league-leading 3.0 threes a game. Anderson might not be a traditional power forward who blocks shots and works the paint, but he has been one of the best fantasy draft values so far this season. The only small issue to worry about over the second half is how a potential Dwight Howard trade would affect Anderson's role on the team.
C: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic -- Howard's kryptonite has always been his trouble at the free throw line. The big man is currently shooting 49 percent from the line this season while attempting a league leading 10.9 shots per game. Provided you are punting the free throw percentage category and can live with his category-killing work from the line, Howard owns the paint like no other big man in the league. He leads the league with 15.3 rebounds per game, to go along with 20.1 points, 2.2 blocks and 55 percent shooting from the field.
Reserves: Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe
PG: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers -- Paul's move to the Clippers has been a success as he now gets to work alongside the human highlight reel, Blake Griffin, for the foreseeable future. His 8.7 assists per game is his lowest output since his second season in the league and injuries will always be a concern with Paul, but his 18.3 points, 2.3 steals and great percentages make him an ideal point guard to build a fantasy team around.
SG: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers -- It was easy to write-off Kobe before the start of the season. He was a 33-year old whose body started to show the effects of a 15-year career at times last season. So it was expected that he would continue to see an age-related decline in his numbers, and as a result, he slid in many fantasy drafts this year. But instead of declining, Kobe has actually stepped up his game and his numbers have improved across the board. He currently leads the league in scoring at 29 points per game, his highest total in five years.
SF: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder -- Fantasy owners didn't need a career-high 51-point performance to know that Durant can flat out score against anyone in the league. While Durant is "only" averaging 27.6 points a game this season, he's shooting 52 percent from the field, which is amazing since he's also making 1.7 threes a game. While his fantasy game isn't quite as well-rounded as someone like LeBron, Durant is much more than just a scorer. He is currently averaging 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Best of all, Durant is still only 23 years old, which makes him an ideal player to build a team around in dynasty leagues.
PF: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves -- Last season's most improved player has continued to improve this year and has led the Timberwolves with 25.6 points, 14.2 rebounds and 1.6 threes per game. The promotion of Nikola Pekovic into the team's starting lineup has not affected Love's scoring or rebounding rate, as a recent 30-point, 20-rebound game will attest. The only minor complaint with Love's game is that he doesn't block many shots (only 0.6 per game this season), although that is a small price to pay for one of the league's best inside/outside threats.
C: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies -- No longer playing in the shadow of his brother Pau, Marc has stepped up his game while Zach Randolph has been out, averaging 15.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game over his first 32 games. One concern fantasy owners should have about Gasol for the second half of the season is that the return of Randolph will likely slow him down -- he averaged six fewer minutes a game with Randolph in the lineup last year than he has so far this year. His scoring and rebounding numbers could especially take a big hit once Randolph returns to the court in March.
Reserves: Kyle Lowry, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Al Jefferson
Penguins squeak past Ducks in shootout
Johan Franzen scores two as Red Wings pound Devils in Detroit