All-February Team I Fantasy Basketball I Razzball
Ask around and everyone will tell you that, really, it’s been alarmingly mild. There’s been a flurry or two, a bit of ice, and the usual spotty sun. How much better could it get? This is still Wisconsin after all. But, man, that shit still got to me. February, though trending in a more agreeable direction, has successfully headlocked me for two straight seasons and, mild or otherwise, I still don’t think I can rightly call this one a draw. Seemingly everyone in my life dipped out to sunnier spots — Georgia, Florida, Arizona, the good green of spring in Northern California — leaving me to either salt the walk and lose myself in small, accomplishable tasks or just let them all pile up while I dozed off in the afternoon grey, dreaming of warmer sunsets.
For 28 days I did not outperform ADP. Call it a funk or giving in to the broken toe that demanded some stillness and avoidance of uneven ground. But while I floundered, others got busy. When standing on an icy beach, distant dynamism looks all the more impressive. It’s one thing to hit full stride in the sun but another thing altogether to pull ahead while so many others lag behind, unable to give over the grind.
Apologies for all the throat-clearing. It’s the tail end of Ricola season and I’m still searching for a groove.
A few days ago, I spotted green coming up in my neighborhood — courageous shoots of the coming turn — and the orange bravado of the red wing blackbirds has been streaking along the lakefront trail. For hoops, we draw ever nearer to the era of the 10-day mavins — Moses Brown szn in April and all that. So before we lose ourselves in the sound of songbirds and the Aaron Wiggins Experience, I offer up an appreciation for those who kept at it and didn’t give in.
Behold your All-February team.
Damian Lillard – 10 G, 37.4 MPG, 38.5 PPG, 5.7 REB, 7 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.2 BLK, 5 3PM, 49.6% FG, 96.3% FT, 3.2 TO
The number one February fantasy player with a bullet. The usage rate approached 40% and with good reason. Shooting 49% from the field and 41% from deep on 23 shots a game wins you a license to launch, especially after Anfernee Simons hit the infirmary and Josh Hart split for Gotham. Cam Reddish and Nassir Little nodded along while Dame canned 105 out of 109 free throws, giving him more value from the stripe than Kyrie Irving and Trae Young combined. Remember how Lillard was available at the end of too many first rounds in October and we were all getting cute about Golden Boy Tyrese Haliburton? I know the competition gets tough in a hurry with Doncic and Curry, but 2023 has been First-Team All-NBA-worthy. Despite the heroics, the Blazers only managed to go 5-5, and the bleh results in Portland will dampen enthusiasm, but Dame did not run from that late winter grind.
James Harden – 11 G, 36.6 MPG, 22.5 PPG, 5.7 REB, 9.8 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.7 BLK, 3 3PM, 45.6% FG, 86.3% FT, 3.4 TO
Harden’s February, a month that ended with him posting top-12 value, is remarkable because it’s a bang-on representation of his season as a whole. The dimes are elite, the threes are really nice, and the free throws, scoring, and steals are all comfortably above league average. Harden, who played in all 11 games this month, missed almost all of November but has been available and productive ever since. Fewer attempts and a higher hit rate looks good on him. It’s strange that 22/6/10 on a top-five team wasn’t good enough to keep a 12-year streak of All-Star appearances intact, but DeMar DeRozan is due flowers of his own, I suppose. It remains to be seen if this version of James is going to show up in the postseason, but this run of play is evidence enough of a legitimate danger.
Domantas Sabonis – 12 G, 34.5 MPG, 19.8 PPG, 12.5 REB, 6.3 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.4 BLK, 0.3 3PM, 62.6% FG, 84.7% FT, 3.1 TO
A broken bone brother, Domas’ February feasting put my “low-impact” approach to recovery to shame. If it means this kind of production, then sign me up to get my thumb broken, I guess. The combination of boards, efficient scoring, dimes, and steals is reminiscent of Jokic, and while we fret about the Warriors running it back, the Clippers trying to gel, and the Lakers just getting through it, it’s the freakin’ Kings who are looking at hosting a first-round playoff series in the Golden State. The defense (or lack thereof) might bring the run to an abrupt end, but it’s been a marvelous season in the Capital City — one that wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without making the move for Sabonis.
Walker Kessler – 11 G, 29.1 MPG, 10.6 PPG, 11.4 REB, 0.9 AST, 3.2 BLK, 0.1 3PM, 68.9% FG, 51.9 FT%, 0.8 TO
Son’s large, white, shot-blocking son has arrived! Kessler took advantage of Kelly Olynyk’s injury and Jarred Vanderbilt’s departure and started all 11 contests. Now the world may never be the same. Only Jaren Jackson Jr. – who could have had this spot if I didn’t favor games played — turned back more February shots than Kessler. The kid ate on the glass too and even splashed in his lone three-point attempt of the month. Would Danny Ainge trade him straight up for Rudy Gobert? Sorry, Wolves fans. Though I do relish knowing that no matter how bleak this month can get here in Milwaukee, it’s always worse in Minnesota.
Deandre Ayton – 10 G, 32.1 MPG, 22.8 PPG, 10.2 REB, 1.3 AST, 0.9 STL, 1.3 BLK, 0 3PM, 67.1% FG, 82.4% FT, 1.1 TO
Yes, I am familiar with Nikola Jokic, and I’ve heard of Joel Embiid too, but what more is there to say about those two? Last year’s MVP and runner-up look like good bets to do that dance again this year. Instead, we’ll praise Ayton, who made the most of the opportunity presented to him. This offseason, Phoenix made the big man get his money elsewhere before handing over the bag, and his season-long stats speak more to another hum-drum effort rather than a thorough F-you response — an efficient 18.5 and 10 with less than a swat per is something like the Ayton’s special – but there was a good usage bump in post-Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges, pre-Kevin Durant interval that powered a four-point bump in scoring. The blocks too, 12 in ten games, flashed during the short month. Ayton gets pushed further down the pecking order again now that KD is skulking around, but he seized his moment in the winter sun.
Apologies to — Jokic, Embiid, Donovan Mitchell, Kyrie, JJJ, Kristaps Porzingis, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (who missed the final three games of the month with Wembanyaningitis. Thoughts and prayers.) De’Aaron Fox, Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Mikal Bridges, and Myles Turner.
Early Front Runner for Mr. March
Jalen Williams – 3 G, 33.8 MPG, 25.3 PPG, 5 REB, 5.3 AST, 2.7 STL, 1 BLK, 2.7 3PM, 64.4% FG, 71.4%% FT, 1.3
Is it too late for him to win ROY? Paolo came out of the gates with a flurry and the Magic are a clear-cut above the genuine cellar-dwellers — an accomplishment that cannot be overlooked. Kessler has been the better season-long fantasy asset, but Williams has been on an unholy tear for the last two weeks. A top 15 player over the last fortnight and a top 5 contributor this first week of March, the ball has been in JDub’s hands more while Shai has been on the sidelines and the results have been marvelous. Usage has bubbled up above 20% and the blend of efficient scoring and a little bit of everything is now complimenting his excellent season-long steals rate (1.4 per game). Don’t be alarmed by those joyful shrieks you’re hearing. It’s just me and my budding dynasty team of Williams, Chet, Mobley, and Scottie – and Wemby comes aboard this summer.