With the All-Star break just around the corner, I decided to run through my Fantasy All-Stars. This could be as simple as taking the best players based on rank, but that would be the easy way out. Instead, I'll be selecting my All-Stars based on a couple of other factors. The first is straightforward enough. Which players are the most fun to roster? Of course, this is subjective, but I'd like to think I have a pretty good read on which players have been pure joy to have on your roster. The second is Return on Investment, based on their Average Draft Position. Simply put, who has provided value to the point where they have been a real difference-maker across all formats?
Let's dive in.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder
Current 9-cat Rank: 4
This one is a no-brainer. Coming into the season with a knee injury, Gilgeous-Alexander's ADP fell into the 40s. Having already missed time in the past couple of seasons due to what many viewed as phantom injuries, managers were within their rights to view him as a risky target. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and for those who were prepared to take the said risk, it's been nothing but sunshine and lollipops. Currently, the fourth-ranked player in nine-category formats, Gilgeous-Alexander has been able to carry the Thunder to a position where they are now firmly in the discussion for postseason basketball. He is averaging 30.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks, adding an incredible 50.6 percent from the field and 91.2 percent from the line. With the Thunder now likely beyond the point of tanking, Gilgeous-Alexander could maintain his current pace rest of season. As someone unable to get him on my team, I can't speak from experience. Although, based on what I see in my leagues, anyone who did manage to snap him up is likely sitting very pretty at this point.
Current 9-cat Rank: 12
Doncic was never going to hit his ADP in standard leagues due to his unpredictable free-throw shooting and moderately high turnover count. However, these issues should have been accounted for when deciding to draft him, so it shouldn't be a surprise. Season averages of 33.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.8 three-pointers have him sitting just inside the first round. Honestly, this is better than what we expected. He is shooting 72.8 percent from the stripe, down from his previous few seasons. While this remains an ongoing source of frustration, he has countered that by shooting a career-high 50.4 percent from the field. The arrival of Kyrie Irving is likely to have some impact on Doncic -- precisely what remains to be seen. With that said, this is still Doncic's team, and his numbers should reflect that moving forward.
Jaren Jackson, Grizzlies
Current 9-cat Rank: 13
Coming into the season, managers were fully aware that Jackson would miss time to start the campaign. How much time remained a mystery. Due to the uncertainty, his ADP slid into the eighth and even ninth rounds. Looking back, this was certainly a lot lower than it needed to be. He missed the first three weeks of the season, a mere blip on the radar when we consider how much of an impact he has had. Currently the 13th-ranked player in standard leagues, Jackson is basically putting up career-high numbers across the board. He is averaging 16.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.5 triples to go with a league-leading 3.3 blocks per game. The big man has also upped his field goal percentage from last season, going from 41.5 percent to 49.8 percent. His overall value heavily relies on his shot-blocking ability, although other areas of his game are certainly contributing as he continues to develop. His importance to the team cannot be overstated, meaning his role is set in stone. He could be a fringe first-round player for years to come.
Current 9-cat Rank: 14
Coming into the season, Markkanen was seen as a potential breakout candidate, given his assumed role on a team that would be playing for ping-pong balls. The preseason hype saw his ADP float into the 60s, which seemed relatively safe, given he was the 70th-ranked player last season. Despite the fact the Jazz have slowed after an incredible start, Markkanen has been able to maintain his momentum, currently clocking in as the 14th-ranked player in nine-category leagues. Not unlike Jackson, Markkanen is putting up career-high numbers across multiple categories. His season numbers sit at 24.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 triples, shooting 51.8 percent from the floor and 87.4 percent from the line. His lack of defensive upside remains an issue, likely preventing him from cracking the first round. It is unclear exactly what the Jazz will do down the stretch, although given what they have seen from Markkanen thus far, he figures to be a key piece for them moving forward.
Current 9-cat Rank: 18
After missing 19 of the first 24 games this season, managers who took a flier on Leonard were left lamenting their decision. As a player with a well-documented injury history, the fear was that Leonard would once again be limited to just a handful of games. Many saw trading him as the only viable solution, although given the risk, potential trades were littered with lowball offers. That was a good thing for anyone who drafted him, as he has been a beast over the past two months. While he is still sitting out when the team has a back-to-back, his playing time and subsequent production have been as good as they have ever been. Over the span, he is the seventh-ranked player in standard formats, and if we narrow our focus to the past month, he has been a top-five player. In that time, he is averaging 28.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.3 three-pointers on 51.6 FG% and 92.3 FT%. While the threat of injury will forever loom large, managers have to be loving life right now.