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The midway point of the NBA season is already in the rearview mirror, but with games going on constantly, there wasn't much time to stop to catch our collective breath. That's what the All-Star break is for, and this year's break is extra long, with no games for six full days. That's a perfect time to take a look back at the season so far -- the look ahead toward the unofficial second half will come next week.
Normally in this place, you would see a planner for the upcoming Fantasy week, with start/sit recommendations, waiver-wire targets and a schedule analysis. However, with just two games -- at the most -- on the schedule for Weeks 15 and 16, it doesn't make much sense to expend that kind of energy. If you have a player with two games on the schedule, and your choice is either him or someone with one game, you probably have a pretty easy call to make. Ninety-four players average at least half as many Fantasy points per game as Russell Westbrook, the current per-game leader, so the two-to-one game difference isn't tough to call.
Instead, we'll be spending the next two weeks alternately looking back and ahead at the season. Next week, I will look ahead at the storylines that could change the Fantasy landscape in the second half, but this week is all about looking back.
First-half All-Fantasy teams
These picks are thoroughly boring. They have been the top options at their positions all season long, and were the top players taken on Draft Day at their respective positions as well. The toughest omission was probably Chris Paul, who has been typically brilliant and un-typically healthy and consistent. He is the only member of the second team who really had a case for inclusion.
This one was significantly tougher. Kevin Durant has arguably been the best player in the league on a per-game basis, but he has only been available for 22 games, and is averaging just 33.3 minutes per game overall as the team has sought to keep him healthy. Gordon Hayward isn't quite a default pick, though small forward is an awfully shallow position. He had to fight off Rudy Gay, but gets the edge for his 3-point shooting and more consistent playmaking. And Pau Gasol was the toughest omission at either big position, especially with his massive rebounding and shot-blocking numbers. A very good case could be made for him as a first-team center as well, but ultimately he falls just short for me. Gasol and Griffin's playmaking abilities from the power forward and center positions are just a bit more valuable than the pretty standard production you get from Gasol, even if it's been tough to find anyone as good as him overall. He has probably been the fifth-best big man overall, but that leaves him on the outside looking in here.
Preseason predictions review
Before the season, we put our picks for the best Breakout , Sleeper and Bust candidates on paper, and for better or worse, those picks are still around for anyone to check on. With more than half the season under our belts, now is a good time to look back on our biggest hits -- and misses -- from before the season.
Best breakout picks
Markieff Morris, F, Suns
Morris hasn't improved as much as his per-game scoring numbers might indicate, as he has taken a slight step back on a per-minute basis overall. His rebounding, scoring and efficiency are all down from his per-36 minute totals a year ago, so much of this boost is the result of an increase in playing time. Still, he's a power forward who can pass a bit, shoot a bit, score and rebound, and provides decent defensive numbers as well, and that is very valuable for Rotisserie leagues. Add in his consistency -- between 14.6 and 15.6 points per game in each month -- and he has been just about what we expected, ranking 50th in Fantasy scoring as of Thursday.
Derrick Favors, F, Jazz
On the other hand, Favors is probably more improved than his per-game numbers indication. He has become a go-to scorer for the Jazz, averaging 18.4 points per-36 minutes, while posting his highest assist rate ever and second-highest block percent yet. He has also been a model of consistency, averaging between 15.3 and 15.9 points per game in each month, while maintaining his high level of play even with the emergence of two other valuable young bigs in the Jazz rotation. He bumped his scoring by more than a point per game after last year's All-Star break, so don't be surprised if he jumps up another notch in the second half. Favors is a top-15 forward or top-10 center this season, and was drafted just 59th overall this year on average.
Best sleeper picks
Draymond Green, F, Warriors
It almost seems unfair to take credit for this one, because Green has gone beyond even the most optimistic projections. He has taken on a larger role and held on to it, which was expected, but he is also playing better than ever before, improving his production in every single per-36 minute category except steals -- he's down from 2.0 to 1.8 there. Green has been a Roto players' dream, filling the statsheet better than anyone in the league, but he has also brought the volume to make himself a very valuable piece in H2H points leagues too. Green ranks 57th in Fantasy points per game overall, and has been a rare bright spot at a forward position that has mostly been a disaster otherwise.
Mason Plumlee, C, Nets
Playing time is the only thing that can hold Plumlee back, though that has remained an issue this season. He is averaging just 23.3 minutes per game, and has actually seen his production fall off just a bit across the board on a per-minute basis from a year ago. Much of that is the result of him playing just 13.1 minutes per game in the month of November, however; he has started 29 of 33 games since Dec. 1, and has been everything we expected, averaging 12.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 64.3 percent shooting from the field. He is a poor man's Andre Drummond, just like we said he would be before the season.
Best bust picks
Joakim Noah, C, Bulls
If you were drafting Noah with the expectation he would replicate last season's numbers, there was no way you weren't going to be disappointed. However, I'm not sure anyone thought he would be this bad, even though we called him a bust preseason. Noah is posting his lowest points per game average since 2008-09, and is shooting a putrid 43.4 percent from the field; even Nerlens Noel has him beat out there. Noah can still provide exceptional passing numbers for a big man, and his defense and rebounding numbers are 90 percent what they were a year ago. Still, the Bulls never let on how serious his knee surgery in the offseason was, and it has limited him to his worst season his sophomore campaign.
Andre Drummond, C Pistons
The easy comparison for Drummond this season was to Dwight Howard's third season in the NBA, when he first became a truly dominant player. Howard's field-goal percentage jumped, his blocks went up 0.5 per game, and his scoring improved nearly two full points. Drummond has not followed that script, to say the least. He remains the best rebounder in the league, but his efficiency has completely disappeared under the weight of an increase offensive workload. Drummond is shooting just 49.5 percent from the field, a decent number for most players, but hardly acceptable for a player who cleared 60.0 percent with east a year ago. It's also much harder to swallow his 41.5 percent mark at the free-throw line when he isn't singlehandedly carrying you to wins in the other percentage category. It seemed like Drummond was starting to figure things out in December, when he averaged 15.6 points per game on 53.3 percent shooting, but he fell back to 47.4 percent and scored just 11.4 per game in January. He was going off the board above players like Al Horford and Marc Gasol despite having little track record to back that up. We like to think of player development as linear, but Drummond is a walking, dunking example of how often it comes in fits and starts.
Worst breakout picks
Kenneth Faried, F, Nuggets
Between his second-half performance a year ago and his invaluable presence on Team USA over the summer, Faried seemed primed for the best season of his career. 46 games later, and Faried looks a lot like the guy we saw before his play after last year's All-Star break. Faried and coach Brian Shaw have always seemed to have an uneasy working relationship, and that has led pretty directly to Faried's inconsistent play, I would say. His per-game production has trended upward in each month of the season, but he hasn't come close to the level we expected from him. Maybe we shouldn't have expected him to replicate his 18.8-10.1 average line from after last year's All-Star break, but he has barely been able to match his 2012-13 production either. Maybe a coaching change can get him going, but Faried is such a frustrating player, I wouldn't want to bet on it.
Rodney Stuckey, G, Pacers
Between Stuckey's moderate comeback campaign in 2013-14 and the Pacers' projected offensive woes, we were expecting Stuckey to play a solid role for the Pacers this season. And, if you had told me George Hill would basically be a non-factor until February, I would have doubled down on my Stuckey pick, so this was just a miss. The Pacers have been desperate for scoring and playmaking, but Stuckey has played more than 30 minutes just 12 times all season. This was a perfect opportunity for Stuckey to show off the combo guard skills that once made him such a desirable piece. However, at the deep guard position, his pedestrian production makes him utterly forgettable.
Worst sleeper picks
Mario Chalmers, G, Heat
After the first month of the season, this pick looked brilliant. Chalmers was struggling with his jump shot just a bit, but was getting to the free-throw line a ton en route to 14.3-2.4-4.7 averages in the month of November. However, the struggles he had getting 3-pointers to fall have turned into a killer for his overall game, as he is shooting just 37.1 percent from the field and 22.5 percent from 3-point range since Dec. 1, while averaging just 9.0 points per game. He might be a solid buy-low candidate for the second half -- if he isn't on waivers already -- because Chalmers has to shoot better than this moving forward, but it seems unlikely that he will be able to emerge as a starting Fantasy option unless the Heat opt to shut Dwyane Wade down.
Nik Stauskas, G, Kings
With Ben McLemore's struggles as a rookie, it seemed like there would be a big opportunity for Stauskas to emerge in a big role for the shooting-starved Kings as a rookie. Unfortunately, for as bad as McLemore was a year ago, Stauskas has made him look like a future All-Star. Stauskas has been worse in pretty much every way, while McLemore has taken enough steps forward this season to ensure Stauskas can't push him for playing time. Stauskas seemed like he had enough skill coming out of college to be a solid deep-league option in Roto leagues, but he has been completely useless overall, and doesn't look to have much value even in Dynasty leagues.
Worst bust picks
Pau Gasol, F, Bulls
A player with a history of knee and foot injuries going to a team with a history of having trouble keeping players healthy; what could go wrong? Turns out, nothing, at least so far. Gasol has been the most productive member of the Bulls' frontcourt rotation, and has made it tough for Tom Thibodeau to take him off the floor. Noah and Taj Gibson's injuries have also helped Gasol, because he hasn't had to fight for playing time as much as we thought he might this season. I'm wary of him in the second half, because the Bulls would probably be smart to start limiting his workload a bit, but there's no doubting we missed on this one so far.
Tyreke Evans, G, Pelicans
This one looked wrong immediately, as Evans established himself as the Hornets' second-best ball-handler and third-best offensive option overall. We thought his production might slip a bit with Jrue Holiday back to full health, just as it did last season. Evans averaged 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game overall, but saw his averages jump five points and two assists per game after the All-Star break. He had no such issues this season, averaging 15.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game in November, and has only improved since. There is some reason to be concerned about whether he can keep it up once Holiday comes back, but he has been so good so far, this one is an obvious miss.