Fantasy basketball: LaVine among impressive group of ADP All-Stars

Zach LaVine's 25.3 PPG this season is a career high and ranks 11th in the league. David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

I possess an unquenchable thirst for Fantasy All-Star columns. They're my delicacy. My desert island roto subgenre.

These underappreciated works all contain one indelible message: "I'm taking the week the off." The greatest Fantasy All-Star columns distill the essence of "mailing it in" into its purest form.

I'll leave it as this: if your 2020 Fantasy All-Star column for this year contains the words "Harden," "LeBron" and "Antetokoumpo?" Maybe dig a little deeper in 2021. Try to focus a little less on your actual life.

Because my Fantasy All-Star column isn't some mere collection of six-to-eight hundred words. It's a damn event: the 3 a.m. IcyHot ADP All-Star Thursday 2020™.

It's held in a garage in Northwest Pasadena. From approximately 3:00 to 6:30 a.m. It tends to be a solitary affair. It eschews most big licensing deals and corporate partnerships. We circle our wagons around three brands: Nespresso, Cost Plus World Market, and (as always) IcyHot.

No celebrities. No influencers. Just an old 45 of Nils Lofgren's "Bullets Fever" and the YouTube link to "Seven Years to Glory." (But this year we do have a new space heater.)

CUT TO 4:06 A.M. The votes are in. Anticipation is at tepid room temperature. It may be cold outside, but this garage is getting IcyHot!

But before I announce the names... let's make some delicious, cost-effective Nespresso and reflect upon our criteria.

What constitutes true fantasy stardom? How do we quantify fake "great"? Does one just run one's index finger down the Player Rater until you hit a big name at each position?

That would be boring. Rote. Plain wrong. True fantasy greatness must be framed via one dynamic. The dynamic that fuels all imaginary championships.

Fantasy production relative to Average Draft Position.

Every fantasy team rosters one-to-two true Fantasy elites. Big names with high ADPs who by and large deliver the statistical goods. That's just what most first and second rounders do. Even a last-place fantasy team rosters one obvious top-15 player.

But if your squad contains a high number of players that vastly outperform their Average Draft Position? Disproportionately more than your competitors? You win your league. That's what counts.

So have fun in Chicago with Harden. AD. Giannis. LeBron.

ADP overproducers are the real Fantasy All-Stars. The People's Producers.

We have a fantastic group this year. So without further delay... the pixels, please.


Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors ADP: 116.2 Player Rater: 35

VanVleet is special because he defies a key fantasy truism: playoff performance doesn't guarantee regular season-based fantasy goodness. In VanVleet's case, his big 2019 playoff run was a case of a young role player coming into his own.

In retrospect, Kawhi Leonard's 2019 departure paved the way for VanVleet's 2020 fantasy explosion. Toronto needed offensive punch. So a chunk of those vacated touches moved over to VanVleet. VanVleet basically inherited the role of lead scorer... despite an obvious offensive flaw.

Here's the thing: VanVleet still isn't the world's most efficient player. He's sort of a fantasy All-Star anomaly in that his PER is barely above water (16.68). But he happens to excel in the areas that power elite fantasy guard production: 3s, free throws, assists, and steals. At the same time, he provides out-of-position production in rebounds (3.7 per game).

The divot in VanVleet's overall game is very specific: 2-point shooting. He only hits 42.7% of his 2s. The 2-point percentages at distance are night sweats-worthy (3-10 feet: 18.6%, 10-16 feet: 29.6%, 16-3pt: 30.0%). But because VanVleet is an elite 3-point shooter (2.8 3s per game at a 39.6 3PT%), his atrocious 2-point production tends to be masked by most fantasy scoring systems.

The good news? That means VanVleet still hasn't hit fantasy ceiling. As his career evolves, look for VanVleet to refine his 2-point rate. It could be what drives him into the top 25.

RESERVES: Devonte Graham (ADP 114.8/PR 34), Chris Paul (ADP 61.8/PR 10)


Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls ADP: 71.6 Player Rater: 9

LaVine cemented his IcyHot starter status Tuesday night. Before the eyes of the fantasy world, LaVine responded with the game of his life: 41 points, eight 3s, nine rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Okay, it was just me watching. And it was against the Wizards (hosts of many of a podium game this season). But numbers are numbers, and LaVine threw down one of the great "sell high" lines of 2019-20.

LaVine is the kind of points-first player I tend to back off of. But he's made subtle improvements in his offensive game I can really appreciate.

The key: shifting field goal attempts to downtown. LaVine is only taking 1.6 more shots per game this season. But he's increased his 3-point attempts by nearly 3 per game. That subtle shift boosted his 3s per game from 1.9 to an elite 3.1. He's made that refinement while upping his counting stats, especially in steals (1.0 to 1.4 per game).

Everything about LaVine screams "trade him." He's streaky. Injury-prone. His value can't get any higher. But if you took him in the 70s... you're playing with house money. He's a player that delivers his managers legit joy. But if you roster him? I'd put him on the block just to see what rolls in.

RESERVES: Shai-Gilgeous Alexander (ADP 89.4/PR 29), Evan Fournier (ADP 126.4/PR 46)


Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Hornets ADP: 70.5 Player Rater: 13

How does Ingram fit in alongside Zion? You might want to flip that question. But no matter what angle you take? Zion and Ingram are just fine. They're co-existing and evolving in real time. Little developmental jumps are happening every night.

I remember making Durant comp the night Ingram was drafted. It felt ludicrous to type at the time. But the box scores are getting harder to tell apart. Something about leaving the Lakers just seems to give players increased confidence.

The statistical leap Ingram has taken this season is in true IMAX. An epic surge of volume and efficiency. The more he touches the ball, the more he evolves. The evidence is everywhere. The 20 point-boost in free throw percentage (67.5% to 86.2%). The quadrupling in 3s (0.6 to 2.5). Doubling the steals (0.5 to 1.0).

From a fantasy perspective, my two favorite teams of tomorrow to watch are New Orleans and Memphis. But New Orleans is building something special. Here's another comp: they increasingly remind me of the Durant-Westbrook-Harden-Ibaka Thunder. And that was the Greatest Fantasy Team That Never Was.

RESERVES: T.J. Warren (ADP 128.3/PR 51), Kelly Oubre (ADP 99.3/PR 40)


Robert Covington, Houston Rockets ADP: 124.0 Player Rater: 41

Covington edges out Bjelica because of his rest-of-season outlook. Minnesota's criminal neglect of Covington's pure potential -- and subsequent dumping -- is one of the most underrated stories of the 2019-20 season.

Covington could be top-15 down the stretch. His defensive potential in Houston? Electric. The seven steals+blocks he posted Tuesday night is just the start.

RESERVES: Nemanja Bjelica (ADP 133.8/PR 45), Jaren Jackson, Jr. (ADP 77.8/PR 39)


Hassan Whiteside, Portland Trail Blazers ADP: 48.5 Player Rater: 7

Eric Karabell wrote a nice piece on Whiteside this week. And I've already drooled a great deal about why Whiteside is one of my most-rostered centers this season.

But Nurkic is about four weeks away. I don't think Nurkic hurts Whiteside's value that much... but the fantasy playoffs are coming. If you roster Whiteside (like me)? You have to kick around his trade value.

RESERVES: Brook Lopez (ADP 124.9/PR 38), Bam Adebayo (ADP 57.5/PR 14)