With any All-Star list, it’s impossible to include everyone who is having a great year. There are only 12 roster spots and there will always be well-deserving candidates that just don’t fit on the roster. It’s what makes the All-Star selection so noteworthy.

With the All-Star Game this weekend, here is my list of valuable fantasy all-stars who just don’t receive as much love:

Eastern Conference:

Kemba Walker – The Hornets are right in the hunt for the 8th playoff seed in the east and that’s due to the play of Walker. Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (more on him later) have missed most of the season, while Nicolas Batum (11/6/5) has been in and out of the lineup. Walker produces night in and night out with whoever is playing alongside him. Walker scored 25 points with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals to lead the Hornets to another victory.

Nikola Vucevic – Vucci Mane has been the cornerstone of the Magic and has single-handedly won the game for them with a few recent game-winners. He did much of the same on Wednesday with 20 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks. He’s only 25 so there’s still time for him to make the roster one of these years.

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The last Tuesday before the All-Star break featured five games spread all over the USA. From South Beach to NYC, Wisconsin to Texas, and finishing up in the Bay Area out west, we had a handful of contests that featured some big fantasy lines.

In lieu of a Thursday night double-header as a result of the abbreviated week, TNT snagged the two marquee games on Tuesday. First up was the Spurs and Heat featuring the Kawhi Leonard show. He served fantasy owners a generous helping of popcorn (23 points, nine boards, four dimes) with just the right amount of butter (three steals, a block, and a trey). Despite a few quiet games recently, you’re not moving Leonard for anyone outside the top-5.

Also jumping at 8pm were tilts between the Wizards and Knicks, and Celtics and Bucks. John Wall put on a show at the Garden, dropping 17 dimes to complement his team-high 28 points. He and backcourt mate, Bradley Beal combined for 54 points, five steals, eight triples, and only three turnovers. The Wizards needed every bit of it as they narrowly escaped New York with a three point win. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, a wild and foul-filled last few seconds allowed the Bucks to steal one from the visiting Celts. Greg Monroe made his case for 6th Man of the Year as Jason Kidd decided it would be best for him to come off the bench on Tuesday. In 30 reserve minutes, Moose went off for 29/12/3/1/2. He was a team-best +11 and you have to wonder if him being so dominant as a reserve has Coach Kidd considering this as more than just a one game thing? So long as he’s getting the run, owners should continue to bank on the third round value he’s been returning on the season.

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ESPN picked a good one for their weekly Wednesday night NBA showcase. Stephen Curry vs. John Wall, two of the best point guards in the league. It was a very high scoring, up-tempo game, with the final score 134-121. And the stars did not disappoint.

Curry started out on fire, scoring 25 points in the first quarter and 36 in the first half. He cooled down a little bit, but still knocked down 11 of his 16 three point attempts, en route to 51 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Wow. Just like his Charlotte buddy Cam Newton, can they crown him MVP already?

John Wall was doing his best to cover Curry, but it’s a difficult job, even for a strong defender like Wall. Since he couldn’t stop him, Wall tried to match him offensively, finishing with 41 points, 10 assists, and 3 rebounds. He even knocked down all 3 of his three-point attempts, a facet of his game that is nowhere near the level of Curry. It was nice to watch two point guards with very different styles of game dominate the box score.

Oh, and lost in this point guard matchup was that Draymond Green got his league leading 10th triple-double with 12 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. He even added 5 blocks as a point forward!

As a Wizards fan, I figured that the Warriors would win the game, but was happy to see the Wizards play the defending NBA champions close for stretches of the game. Now onto the other nightly notables:

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It’s the takeover, the break’s over. Apparently firing David Blatt may have been the right decision after all, inspiring the recent play of LeBron James and company.

With the Cavs winning their last five games, I have no reasonable doubt that the Big 3 will fail to continue this trend after the All-Star Break. Despite heavy minutes and an up-tempo pace, James has unfinished business on his quest to win his third ring, and this style of play is the blueprint from the successes of his Miami Heat teams.

Maybe this is all a convoluted way of saying the Ruler’s back, but King James and the Cavs look rejuvenated under new coach Tyronn Lue, attacking the opposing defense and getting to the foul line. Playing 43 minutes in an overtime contest, James finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block while shooting 9-22 from the field. Although shooting 4-8 from the foul line is more Drummond-like than MVP level, just remember everyone makes mistakes, everyone has those days.

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Monday night’s heavyweight match between the two best teams in the league mostly disappointed. Sure, Stephen Curry and the Warriors were fun to watch, but the Spurs were mostly a no show, losing 120-90.

On Wednesday, the Spurs returned home to host the Rockets. They took all of their rage out on the self-destructing Rockets, destroying them 130-99. Do you think the Spurs were mad about losing by 30 on Monday night?

Scoring only 5 points on Monday, LaMarcus Aldridge rebounded to lead the Spurs with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. Danny Green knocked down 6 threes to post 18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. That’s more like it Aldridge and Green!

Kawhi Leonard (18 points) and Tony Parker (15 points, 7 assists) got in on the fun too, as Tim Duncan sat another game, while the Spurs await the MRI results on his knee. If Duncan misses substantial time, the Spurs will roll with a combo of Kyle Anderson (7/3/1), David West (4/2/2), and Boris Diaw (0/2/3), depending on matchups.

I would really love to see more of Boban Marjanovic, but I think he’s a little too big to see much more than 20 minutes a night. The dude’s 7’3” and weighs 290, with ears that give Barack Obama a run for his money, but his hands are crazy big. They make normal people’s hands look worthless, Ray McCallum’s head small, and a gallon of ice tea look like a juice box. Thanks to the blowout, Marjanovic posted a 13/10 double-double in 17 minutes.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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As many of you already know (or as my avatar may suggest), I’m a Canadian so I don’t really have a dog in the 2016 United States Presidential fight. I do, however, live close to the border and have enjoyed traveling throughout the United States (including the entire northeast, Florida, California, Colorado, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands) with my wife over the better part of the last ten years. So I have a keen interest in American politics as it indirectly impacts “my world.”

That leads me to my admission – I watched President Barack Obama’s eighth and final State of the Union address last night (and the subsequent analysis & reaction) instead of basketball. There was basketball to be watched up here, I just chose not to. But it gave me some perspective – it reminded me that a common sense approach to the big picture issues is never as simple as it should be, and that holds true in the NBA as well. Examples from some of the 16 teams in action on Tuesday alone:

  • The Timberwolves have a wealth of young talent to cultivate and yet they start Kevin Garnett & Tayshaun Prince?
  • The Suns have a cancerous presence in their locker room (Markieff Morris) and they can’t decide what to do about it – they give him multiple healthy DNPs in a row, and then they unleash him for 27 minutes, taking opportunity from someone like Jon Leuer (17 minutes) who could actually be a part of their future plans.
  • The Celtics and Knicks – both of whom are in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt – continue to run heavier-than-necessary rotations rather than identifying the best court combinations and maximizing their efficiency and output.
  • The Rockets have an extremely fragile, high-salaried starting center (Dwight Howard) who is prone to usage-related injuries and they run him for 38 minutes when they have a number of other very capable young frontcourt players to ease the burden.
  • The Bulls appear to embrace their future for a moment by giving a solid rotation spot to Bobby Portis, only to yank it out from under him (he played 4 minutes on Tuesday) once they’re back to full health.
  • The Pelicans offer center Omer Asik a massive contract in the offseason and even when he’s playing well (13 rebounds, a steal and a block, team-high +7 net rating), and they’re absent their best frontcourt player, he can’t get minutes (18).

Essentially what I’m saying is that there are a lot of things we, as fantasy owners, think should happen by any measure of common sense, but just don’t because of a number of factors beyond our control. We can go data mining until the cows come home and have an open & shut case to make why Player X deserves more minutes/opportunity, but it doesn’t matter. We can only do so much. There will always be someone on the other side who impacts that situation and we just have to make the best of it. Thankfully, the NBA has a long season and, unlike football, one or two bad weeks won’t spell doom for your campaign. I love that we get 82 games to try and figure out what the heck is going on. We’ll never be right 100% of the time, no matter that the stats or common sense says we maybe could be, but it sure doesn’t stop us from trying…

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With the sporting world turning its attention to the College Football Championship game last night, professional basketball was put on the back burner with only 3 games played. As I flipped between athletic contests, I couldn’t help but notice the parallel between the historical consistency of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the San Antonio Spurs. While the Crimson Tide hold the distinction of being the best team in college football (and one of the most hated at the same time), the Spurs excellence does not always translate to the proper accolades (although I don’t think it’s possible to hate the Spurs). Despite this difference in perception, both teams are the models of achievement in the respective sports.

So on a night in which a new champion was crowned, it was San Antonio’s victory, its tenth game this by a margin greater than 25 points, that illustrated the disparity between the Spurs and the rest of the 28 non-Warrior teams in the NBA.

As the Spurs fight to catch up to Golden State for home court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs, LaMarcus Aldridge not only played against the lowly Brooklyn Nets, he dominated them. The power forward recorded 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists in 28 minutes of action, marking his 38th 20/10 game over the past 2 seasons.

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I’m living at home with my parents temporarily, while work is being done on my condo. I didn’t want to be bothered living there while they’re painting and installing new carpeting and flooring. As a result, I’m getting kicked off the television so that my mom can watch her shows. I missed the Sunday Night Football game for “Downton Abbey” and then had to turn off the Wizards/Cavs and Knicks/Heat games for “Law & Order.” I guess it’s a fair trade, since I’m getting so many home cooked meals and leftovers for lunch.

Fortunately SVU ended early enough for me to catch the Thunder’s dismantling of the Grizzlies. Kevin Durant returned from a toe injury to post 26 points and 17 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook continued his near triple-double stat lines with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. You always worry with Durant’s foot being a problem last season, but it was nice to see KD back, after only missing one game.

It was all Thunder in this game, as the Grizzlies played down due to injuries. Mike Conley was out because of a sore left Achilles and Courtney Lee, who started for Conley, left early in the second half after injuring his hip. That left Mario Chalmers, who exploded for 23 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 threes. It’s unclear how long Conley and Lee could be out, but Chalmers would become the starter by default. It’s not like the Grizzlies will give Vince Carter lots of minutes!

Now onto the other Wednesday night games:

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Much has been written about Jimmy Butler and Bulls lately. Butler publicly criticized head coach Fred Hoiberg saying that the team needed to be coached harder. Reports then came out that there is growing tension in the locker room between Butler and his teammates. With Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose taking back seat roles this season, there are questions around Butler’s leadership. Just because he is paid well, doesn’t mean he’s the leader.

Leader or not, Butler willed the Bulls to victory over the Pacers in overtime. He scored 7 points in the final minute to force OT, before knocking down the game winner on an alley-oop tip in with 1.2 seconds remaining. The Pacers tried an alley-oop of their own on the ensuing inbounds, but Butler defended Paul George on the lob to preserve the Bulls’ win.

For the game, Butler finished with 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. This was a much needed game for Butler, as Rose was a game time scratch with right hamstring tendinitis. As long as Butler is producing, owners shouldn’t worry about the drama surrounding the team. These things usually get blown out of proportion when teams are playing below expectations.

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I hope everyone is having a nice Christmas with their families and stayed off Santa’s naughty list.  It wouldn’t be Christmas without the NBA.  We have a nice five game slate and since I am pressed for time let’s get on with it.

New Orleans Pelicans (8-19) at Miami Heat (16-11)  Spread: Mia  -6 O/U 200

Chicago Bulls (15-11) at Oklahoma City Thunder (19-9)   Spread: OKC -8 O/U 206

Cleveland Cavaliers (18-7) at Golden St. Warriors (26-1)  Spread: GSW -8 O/U 212

San Antonio Spurs (24-50) at Houston Rockets (15 -14)  Spread: SAS -8 O/U 204

L.A. Clippers (16-13) at L.A. Lakers (5-23)   Spread: LAC -11 O/U 207 ½

Please, blog, may I have some more?