All-Star Weekend in Chicago reached its climax Sunday night, with the game matching Team LeBron and Team Giannis providing drama that the in-season showcase had not seen in quite some time. The change to the format had a lot to do with this, as teams could earn money for the charities they were representing by winning each quarter and the game itself. The fourth quarter was played without a clock, instead going with the “Elam Ending” made famous in The Tournament (a winner-take-all tournament played every summer). And it would be Team LeBron what would win by a 157-155 final score, with Anthony Davis making one of two free throws to determine the outcome.
Kawhi Leonard was named the first winner of the renamed Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP award, as he finished with 30 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and eight 3-pointers. He’s just the second player in league history to win Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Finals MVP and All-Star Game MVP, joining Michael Jordan. LeBron James (five rebounds, six assists, one steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers) and Chris Paul (two rebounds, six assists and seven 3-pointers), who played a major part in the NBA changing the format of the All-Star Game, added 23 points apiece while Davis added 20 to go along with nine rebounds, one assist, three steals, three blocks and one three-pointer.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for his team, as he tallied 25 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, one steal, three blocks and one three-pointer. Kemba Walker scored 23 points, Joel Embiid 22 with 10 rebounds, and Rudy Gobert added 21 and 11 in his All-Star Game debut. Team LeBron earned $400,000 for the Chicago Scholars program, while Team Giannis earned $100,000 for After School Matters. There wasn’t much to be found within the game if looking for an impact on fantasy basketball, but there was a noteworthy piece of news that dropped during the fourth quarter. Below is a look at that, preceded by Luka Doncic providing an update on his ankle.
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Doncic doing OK after busy weekend: The Mavericks star point guard was voted in as a starter for the All-Star Game, but in crunch time he was on the bench while the aforementioned Paul played with the other four starters for Team LeBron. Doncic played 18 minutes Sunday night, his second game in three days as he also participated in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, and finished with eight points, one rebound, four assists, one steal and two 3-pointers.
Following the game he said that his right ankle came out of the weekend OK, but added that “it has some problems but it’s good.” Doncic, who made his return to the Mavericks lineup Wednesday night and played 31 minutes in a win over the Kings, will be able to get some rest as Dallas doesn’t return to action until Friday night in Orlando. He should be good to go for that one, and those who have him rostered can carry on as they usually would.
Change coming in Cleveland?: This was the news that dropped during the fourth quarter. It was first reported by The Athletic that Cavaliers coach John Beilein is not expected to remain in his position beyond the end of the season, with ESPN reporting shortly thereafter that Beilein and the team have discussed the possibility of him stepping down during the All-Star break. The longtime college head coach’s transition to the NBA has been anything but smooth, as there have been struggles both on and off the court. Cleveland currently has the worst record (14-40) in the East, with 14 of those defeats being by 20 points or more.
At the trade deadline Andre Drummond, who can either opt into the final year of his contract or enter free agency this summer, was acquired from Detroit, adding another frontcourt player to the mix along with holdovers Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. In addition to getting a look at Drummond, Cleveland will also use the post-break games to get their young talents (Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr.) a significant amount of playing time in order to evaluate them with an eye towards the future. Garland and Sexton have been starters all season long, with Porter (who’s missed 12 games due to injury) coming off the bench.
Porter played 32 minutes in Cleveland’s final game ahead of the break, a win over the Hawks that Love sat out due to load management. An increase in playing time for the rookie wing would likely be bad news for Cedi Osman, who’s been a non-factor in fantasy this season, but there will also be nights when minutes can be freed up by resting a veteran as well. And it also remains to be seen what happens with Thompson. His representation (Rich Paul) traditionally hasn’t gone the route of negotiating buyouts in the past, but given the losing in Cleveland maybe that’s something they consider with the hope of joining a contender for the stretch run/postseason.
Bulls beginning to shake up front office: The hosts did not have a player in Sunday’s game, but there was some news. According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bulls VP John Paxson and COO Michael Reinsdorf used All-Star Weekend to begin the process of finding a new general manager, which obviously doesn’t bode well for current GM Gar Forman. Per the report, the expectation is that Forman would not be fired but rather reassigned within the organization, likely within the scouting department. A new general manager would also be given the right to determine the future of Jim Boylen, who has two seasons remaining on his contract.
Like Cleveland the Bulls have struggled this season, which in theory should open the door for the young players to take on more minutes after the break. But Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle) has been out since January 9, Daniel Gafford (right ankle) was a DNP-CD despite his having been a full participant in practice, Kris Dunn (MCL sprain) will be re-evaluated soon, and Lauri Markkanen (right pelvic stress reaction) isn’t expected back until early March at the earliest.
Chicago has been downright frustrating fantasy-wise due to the team’s injury reporting (Ryan Arcidiacono’s been listed as probable for what, two months now?) which makes for tough plays beyond Zach LaVine at this point in the season. Veterans Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young have provided late-round value over the last two weeks, but neither would be labeled as a “must-have” in standard leagues.
Marquese Chriss an important player for Golden State: The Warriors have spots to fill on their roster but not a lot of money to do so, as the team will pay its four best players (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins) a total of $130 million next season. As a result there’s a need for cost-effective options to fill out the roster, and one of those players is Chriss. According to Marcus Thompson of The Athletic there’s a chance that Chriss, who signed a two-year deal worth $2.5 million, will be the team’s starting center next season. He’s in that role currently, and over the last month the former lottery pick has provided sixth-round value in nine-cat. Chriss is a must-play in standard leagues due to both his production and the Warriors’ glaring need at the five, with the team having moved on from both Willie Cauley-Stein (now in Dallas) and Omari Spellman (Minnesota).
DeMarre Carroll looking for another opportunity: Carroll agreed to a three-year contract with the Spurs worth $20.6 million during the offseason, but he’s been out of the rotation and is now reportedly searching for his next opportunity. San Antonio was unable to move Carroll at the trade deadline, and the veteran forward told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News that he spoke with agent Mark Bartelstein about his situation during All-Star Weekend. Carroll’s a 3-and-D forward who obviously hasn’t been a factor in fantasy this season due to the lack of playing time. But his status is worth keeping an eye on, especially if he and the Spurs were to agree to a buyout.