With the All-Star break in the background and the second half of the NBA season upon us, our writers provide their first-half superlatives and look ahead to the weeks ahead to help you prepare for the playoff run in fantasy hoops.
Who is the fantasy MVP right now?
Russell Westbrook. James Harden has been amazing, hitting more 3's and shooting better than Westbrook. But how many times has a player who was considered the No. 1 pick overall actually managed to exceed expectations with what could be a historic season? Russ is averaging a triple-double and you can't ask for anything more as a fantasy owner. Let's just hope he doesn't slow down in the second half considering the amount of energy he is spending. -- Ohm Youngmisuk
James Harden edges out Westbrook for me because he's better at assists and 3-pointers, two categories that are more difficult to come by than points and rebounds, where Westbrook holds the edge. What both players have done through the first 50 games of the season is nothing short of remarkable, and the thought that anyone could edge out a player averaging a triple-double seems borderline insane. It takes a monster effort to do something like that, and Harden has managed to do just that in his first season under Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni. -- Joe Kaiser
Kevin Durant. He's averaging fewer minutes. His scoring average is down from 28.2 points per game to 25.8. His usage rate is the lowest it's been since 2009. He's taking and making less 3-pointers (down from 2.6 per game to 1.9). And yet, Durant is over two points better on the ESPN Player Rater. He's outperforming his 5.0 ADP by three slots. He's within spitting distance of James Harden for No. 1 overall. Durant is pulling off a rare feat: he's making up for a 10 percent drop in volume with a huge boost in efficiency and blocked shots. The key: playing in the kind of space Stephen Curry creates. Twenty-seven percent of Durant's shots are coming from 3 feet or less (a career-high). -- John Cregan
Giannis Antetokounmpo. Harden and Westbrook have been ridiculous and worthy of the elite investment it took to land them in drafts this fall. That said, I deem Antetokounmpo as the most valuable player in fantasy basketball this season. The Bucks' breakout star was taken 12th on average in drafts and is fourth overall on the Player Rater and third overall by averages. No player has ever averaged 2 blocks, 1.8 steals and 5.5 assists during a full season, although Antetokounmpo is currently sustaining this amazing blend of numbers. This is league-winning type production. -- Jim McCormick
Who has been the biggest surprise?
Isaiah Thomas. Drafted on an average around 24th, Thomas is playing like a top-eight fantasy player, increasing his scoring average by nearly eight points to 29.9 points and increasing all of his shooting percentages from last season. His fourth-quarter numbers have been terrific and the consistency is amazing -- he hasn't scored fewer than 20 points since Nov. 18! -- O.Y.
Bradley Beal entered the season as one of the most overrated and overhyped players in fantasy. His perception as a lethal scorer and 3-point shooter was overblown. In his first four NBA seasons, he never scored more than 17.4 points, made more than 1.9 3s per game or managed to shoot 45 percent from the field. This season, all that has gone out the window, as Beal is putting up 22.2 points per game, shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 81.1 percent from the free throw line while making 2.9 3PG. All of these shatter previous career-bests. In addition, Beal's 3.7 assists per game is also a career-high. At 23, Beal is finally living up to his name and his best years are still ahead of him. -- J.K.
Otto Porter Jr. The Wizards were linked to some of the DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors. But after years of salivating over reuniting Cousins, the Wizards fan in me was more worried about losing Otto Porter Jr. in a potential deal. Which shows how far Porter has come. He's posting career-highs in every fantasy category. A year after finishing 68th on the player rater, Porter has shot all the up to 26th. Porter is outperforming his ADP by 62 slots and leading the NBA in 3-point percentage (.462). -- J.C.
Isaiah Thomas. It has to be the awesome surge in scoring from Thomas, as the diminutive dynamo is producing 34 percent more points per game this season than last. I thought this season was all about Thomas proving he could maintain last season's breakout numbers, and yet he's taken his game to a new level and is providing differentiating offensive numbers. It will be really interesting how Thomas' usage might change if the team makes a significant acquisition by the deadline. -- J.M.
Which player has been the biggest disappointment?
Damian Lillard. Lillard has actually slightly increased his scoring average from 25.1 to 25.7 points and his shooting to 43.3 percent so it's not like he's having a bad season. But the Blazers were supposed to take a step forward from last season and I bought into the "I want to be the MVP" preseason hype. Lillard hasn't been as much of a disappointment as the Blazers have been, but I had huge expectations and thought Dame might be doing what IT is doing this season. -- O.Y.
Derrick Favors has never been an amazing fantasy player, but over the past few years he's been a reliable 16-point, 8-rebound, 1.5-block guy. This year, he's clearly not himself as he plays through a leg condition. His minutes are all the way down to 23.5 per game and his scoring (9.2 PPG), rebounding (6.1 RPG) and blocks (0.8 BPG) have all suffered mightily as a result. This is his seventh NBA season and even at the age of 25 it's fair to wonder if his best years could already be behind him. -- J.K.
Hassan Whiteside is averaging career-highs in minutes, field goal attempts, points and rebounds...but he's still managing to under perform in ADP by nearly 20 slots. Last year's league-leading 3.7 per game average is all the way down to 2.1 per game. But the most disappointing aspect is how Whiteside has responded to extended offensive opportunities and field goal attempts. His field percentage and free throw percentage have both taken big hits. Whiteside has shown signs of improvement this month (.621 FG percentage in his past 10 games). This could be the final opportunity to fleece an opposition owner for Whiteside's services. -- J.C.
D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. The Lakers' backcourt has proven disappointing. We have witnessed Lou Williams continue his microwave scoring potential from the pine, while Nick Young has become a shooting specialist for fantasy purposes. It's the young duo of Russell and Clarkson I regard disappointing. The Lakers' new space-and-pace scheme was supposed to see Russell shine, but he's just 136th on the Player Rater, while Clarkson has regressed this season. -- J.M.