The Dose recaps All-Star Saturday Night, previews Sunday’s All-Star Game, and examines the fantasy fallout from the shakeup in New Orleans.
* Saturday Night Lights
Jayson Tatum got the festivities started on Saturday night by winning the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. After beating Grizzlies guard Mike Conley and then Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in the first two rounds, Tatum was matched up with Trae Young in the finals. He fell behind early and it appeared Young was going to cruise to victory until Tatum banked in a miraculous heave from halfcourt to take home the title.
Next up was the 3-point contest. Joe Harris, Stephen Curry, and Buddy Hield all advanced to the finals after strong showings in the opening round. Harris was up first in the finals and posted a solid score of 26 points. Hield went next and tallied 19. Then Steph stepped up, and it looked like he was a lock to win after he nailed each of his first nine shots. However, Steph slowed down after that and ended up totaling 24, which allowed Harris to hoist the hardware.
In the last event of the evening, Oklahoma City's Hamidou Diallo jumped over Shaquille O'Neal on his way to being crowned the NBA’s slam dunk champion. Dennis Smith Jr. of the Knicks advanced to the final against Diallo, but was no match for the kid from Oklahoma City.
* Making Sense of the AD Mess
The major story this weekend has been the Pelicans firing GM Dell Demps and naming Danny Ferry as the interim replacement.
So, from a fantasy perspective, the question now is: How does this impact Anthony Davis over the final two months of the 2018-19 season? New Orleans has 23 games left; how many will AD appear in?
As I discussed in my YouTube Q&A on Friday, I think there is now a decent chance that Davis has played his final game for the Pels. It has been an extremely uncomfortable situation for both AD, who has been booed in New Orleans, as well as for Alvin Gentry the coaching staff and the front office. As Gentry himself stated after Thursday’s victory over the Thunder, “this whole thing has been a dumpster fire.”
Davis injured his shoulder in that contest when he banged into Nerlens Noel in the second quarter. He exited the game and did not play in the second half, as he had already left the arena with his agent, Rich Paul, at halftime to get an MRI, which upset the Pels.
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However, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, an MRI on Anthony Davis' left shoulder showed a muscle contusion but "nothing too bad." AD is in Charlotte for All-Star weekend receiving treatment. On Saturday, he said he’s unsure if he will be able to play in the All-Star game but was planning to do so. He will see how he feels on Sunday before deciding whether he can play Sunday night.
If it weren’t for the All-Star break, the Pels could probably use this shoulder ailment as an excuse to hold him out for at least a couple of weeks. However, if he plays on Sunday, it would be impossible to declare him medically unfit for New Orleans’ first game after the break, which is Friday, Feb. 22 at the Pacers.
Still, with a new GM in place and the owner clearly peeved, I think it’s possible they decided to shut him down and send him home. It will be fascinating to see how new GM Danny Ferry and Alvin Gentry address this issue next week when they get peppered by questions from reporters.
All things considered, I think the firing of Demps is potentially terrible news for Davis owners, as it adds to the unpredictability of the situation. As a result, if I owned him, I’d look to trade AD as soon as possible. Even if I got offered a player in the top-50 to the top-75 overall range, I think I’d have to pull the trigger. Even if the Pels decided to trot him out there Friday night, his minutes will be limited, and, should he suffer even the slightest injury, you know all parties will be looking for any excuse to keep him sidelined.
As far as other Pelicans are concerned, Jahlil Okafor would be the primary beneficiary if AD gets shut down. In the eight games Okafor started while AD was out due to his finger injury, Jahlil averaged a whopping 18.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks, while shooting 66.7 percent from the floor. He ranked 16th overall in nine-category formats during this short stretch. In my opinion, Okafor is a very smart stash and should be owned until we have a resolution to this situation next week. Julius Randle, who exploded for 33 points with 11 rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers in 39 minutes on Thursday, would also see his fantasy value spike if AD is out of the mix. Kenrich Williams would benefit as well.
* Kyrie Good to Go
Other than banter and buzz about which teams may or may not be on Anthony Davis’ list of preferred trade destinations, the only other notable news from Saturday was Kyrie Irving (knee) telling reporters that he felt healthy and will play in the All-Star Game on Sunday night. Kyrie missed the Celtics final two games heading into the All-Star break due to the knee issue, but was expected to suit up Sunday night. On Friday, Boston’s team president Danny Ainge said that Kyrie was "very, very close" to a return. Assuming he doesn't suffer any setbacks on Sunday or during practice next week, Kyrie should be good to go for the C's first game after the break, which is Thursday in Milwaukee.
*The Grand Finale
This weekend’s action comes to close Sunday night when the 68th NBA All-Star Game tips off at 8:00 pm EST at the Spectrum Center. Team LeBron, featuring a starting five of James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard are matched up against Team Giannis, who’s starting five includes Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Joel Embiid, Kemba Walker and Stephen Curry.
For those interested in such details, Team LeBron is a 6-point sportsbook favorite in most sportsbooks. The over-under for total points scored sits at 310.5. Here are the All-Star game MVP odds, according to OddsShark:
LeBron James +400
Giannis Antetokounmpo +500
Kevin Durant +600
Stephen Curry +700
Joel Embiid +750
Kemba Walker +800
Kyrie Irving +800
Paul George +800
Anthony Davis +1000
James Harden +1000
Kawhi Leonard +1000
Russell Westbrook +1200
Dwyane Wade +2000
Ben Simmons +2800
Blake Griffin +3300
Bradley Beal +4000
Damian Lillard +4000
Karl-Anthony Towns +4000
Klay Thompson +4000
Dirk Nowitzki +5000
LaMarcus Aldridge +5000
Kyle Lowry +6600
Nikola Jokic +6600
Khris Middleton +8000
D'Angelo Russell +10000
Nikola Vucevic +10000
My preferred play would be Russell Westbrook at +1,200. First, you want to find a guard or a forward that will have the ball in their hands frequently. In this type of game, big men are often left to pick up the scraps left behind by ball-dominant players. Thus, Steph Curry is tempting because we know he is capable of hitting five or six straight treys and sending the crowd into a frenzy. Kemba is also an enticing option, as he’s the hometown favorite and has a built-in advantage. However, we know Westbrook is an attack mode every second he steps on the floor, even in All-Star exhibitions. As proof, he has already twice been named the game’s MVP. In 2015 in New York, he exploded for a game-high 41 points, on 16-for-28 shooting from the floor and 5-for-9 from beyond the 3-point line, to go along with five rebounds and three steals. He finished just one point shy of Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star Game record of 42 points. The following year, in Toronto, he tallied 31 points, eight rebounds and five assists to win a second consecutive MVP award.
Other players to win two All-Star game MVP’s are Bob Cousy, Julius Erving, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone and Allen Iverson. Russ will be looking to join the rare company of players that have each won the award three times: Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and LeBron James. There are only two players, Bob Pettit and Kobe Bryant, to win a total of four All-Star Game MVP’s.