isojoe

Listen, as a Hawks fan I have a special place in my sports heart for Joe Johnson. It’s special because of this strange dichotomy I call reluctant gratitude. The Hawks sucked. Hard. For years. And gave up far too much to get him, but once Joe Johnson arrived in Atlanta back in the ’05-’06 season the Hawks became a legit playoff team, with Johnson ascending to perennial All-Star level. Yet that damn contract (only to be rivaled by Allan Houston from 2001 as potentially the worst of all-time) handcuffed Atlanta into the nothingness that is the perpetual second-round, upper-middle tier of the NBA. It was awful.

However, Brooklyn came along and washed our bored tears away when they gulped down his albatross contract to usher in the new era of Atlanta basketball (still perpetual upper-middle tier, though). But when you think about it, that’s just what Joe does: usher in the next chapter for a franchise. Well, that and play incredible (dribble) ball-stopping (dribble) isolation (dribble) basketball (five more dribbles, contested shot with 3 second left). It started in Phoenix as Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash began their revolutionary 8-second offense, then shifted to Atlanta for the next seven years where he made six All-Star teams before becoming the epitome of the catastrophe that was the Brooklyn Nets post-prime project alongside Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. And now? Smack dab in the middle of the Rockies, Joe’s the biggest free agent signing the Utah Jazz have locked in for the past 10-15 years. At 35 years old he’s shooting 49% in 31mpg during their first five contests. Could it be that a new era is beginning in Utah with all of their young talent (and without Gordon Hayward as of yet)? They just crushed both the Spurs and then the Mavs, and I’m getting quite jazzed about the makeup of this team. Could they reach the playoffs for the first time in 5 years? Well, probably. Joe’s there now. It’s time for a new era.

And for this week…four games for the Jazz. Here’s the 7 Ahead for Week 3!

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terry-rozier-101315

October is here and you know what that means?  Hoops is just around the corner. With preseason games beginning, the excitement for meaningful basketball is now officially reaching boiling point.

After being out in the wilderness for 6 weeks with no internet access, I return with a slightly different flavor from my previous pieces, but rest assured that if you are tuning in to see “Dynasty rookie rankings 41-60”, then they are just around the corner.

As you can imagine, the excitement of having all TV and internet services installed after such a long delay (man, what did we do in the dark world before the internet?!) were soon quashed by opening my browser and the first piece of news I see in basketball news is Ben Simmons suffering a broken foot in practice. Yet more hurt for those Philly fans, with yet another top draft pick spending significant time with the medical staff. It may well be that there is some kind of curse in Philadelphia, but let’s hope the uber-talented phenom will be back on his feet soon (excuse the poor pun).

If, like me, you have a penchant for the deep league, then this may well be the article for you. Of the big fantasy sports, basketball is obvious sport where you don’t want to miss early in drafts ,with a big drop-off in production differential from the top tier to the middle tier.  But that doesn’t mean leagues can’t be won with crafty, late round selections. Without further ado, here are some late round fliers that might be tempting, depending on the depth of your league:

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As we prepare for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season, I’ll be taking a look at each NBA team with their major adds and drops to see if we can pan for any surprise rotational gold. This open is especially witty for the Nuggets. We’ll be counting down from worst NBA regular season to the best, mainly because I’m still figuring out how to rank the Warriors…

Minnesota Timberwolves (29-53)

Wolves

Key Acquisitions:

G Kris Dunn (Rookie)

C Cole Aldrich

F/C Jordan Hill

G/F Brandon Rush

COACH TIBBY TIBS!

Key Losses:

G Kevin Martin

G Andre Miller

Mayyyyybe Kevin Garnett, which would dramatically drop their average age…

Wow, this is going to be one of the most similar looking teams from last year to this season, with their only overhaul at the head coaching position. And yet, I think they’re going to be a popular sleeper playoff pick after finishing 5th worst in the NBA last year.

The Wolves will presumably roll out the same starting 5 that ended 15-16, and it’s a mad fun team. Rubio with the passes, LaVine with dunks, KAT with the post game, Wiggins with the isos, Dieng with the D, lions and tigers and bears, OH MY! And they add into the fold another combo guard who easily looks ready for the NBA, not to mention the Summer League MVP. Plus some underrated vet backups to get this young crew through their run at making the playoffs. Here’s how their roster is shaping up:

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Ranks are hard! I almost changed the title to “Way Too Much Of A Headache Ranks” since 2016-17 is gonna be ridiculous on draft day! So many guys with upside, so many injury question marks, free agency is gonna explode, we still have rookies to mix in here… And I don’t feel like I have as many “on a limb” calls as the past few seasons. Everything seems to be nebulous, murky, jiggly-like-Raymond-Felton-running, “I guess this guy seems about right” kind of ranks filling out the top 50. If anyone thinks they’re more excited than I am for free agency and the NBA Draft, they would be sorely mistaken! I need some clarity out here, dammit! Hopefully with some signings and scouting the rookies, I can find some more bold calls when we get to the “real” ranks in August. Or maybe I’m gun shy after the Wiggins fiasco. That will go down as one of the biggest international scandals in history… Dammit, eh! Here’s my Way Too Early Top 50 (1-10 can be read here, 11-25 here) for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season (with 1-50 in a complete list below):

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Full disclosure – the entirety of this post was written before Sunday afternoon. I know that either A – I would be too drunk to try to finish this if the Panthers win the Super Bowl, and my writing would be as incoherent as the screenplay of Southland Tales. Although to be fair, I actually kinda liked that movie! It was a mess; but a weird mess! A little JT before he went full movie star! And Amy Poehler before she, ummmm, fired her agent. And Cheri Oteri! Before she, ummmmm, was never heard from again. Or B – I would be too depressed to write anything about basketball.

As we chug along into the All-Star Break, one train is certainly doing the Ozzy Crazy Train right now! Gorgui Dieng just tore apart the Bulls, going 24/14/7/0/1 in 41 minutes, hitting 10-13 FG and 4-4 FT. And you’ve been benching this guy for Kevin fuc$*$*$&#*#*$$ing Garnett!? Even Ricky Rubio is like, “wait, he got more assists than even MI last game!? Ay dios mio!” The Dieng Train is on an absolute tear the past 7 games, and Coach Sam Mitchell said “he might be willing to find out” if Dieng can play 40 minutes a night. Hey Mitchell, I might be willing to bitchslap you if you play KG at the starting 4 again! I might go so far as saying Dieng is a top-50 option ROS, which is as disheartening as it gets as I own him nowhere. I was late for the Train! The conductor was like “All Aboard!” and I was like, “F that, Mitchell isn’t playing him enough!” Kudos to you if you hopped aboard anyway right before this run. Here’s what else went down over the weekend, plus the 14 [kinda] Ahead for Week 16:

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ESPN picked a good one for their weekly Wednesday night NBA showcase. Stephen Curry vs. John Wall, two of the best point guards in the league. It was a very high scoring, up-tempo game, with the final score 134-121. And the stars did not disappoint.

Curry started out on fire, scoring 25 points in the first quarter and 36 in the first half. He cooled down a little bit, but still knocked down 11 of his 16 three point attempts, en route to 51 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Wow. Just like his Charlotte buddy Cam Newton, can they crown him MVP already?

John Wall was doing his best to cover Curry, but it’s a difficult job, even for a strong defender like Wall. Since he couldn’t stop him, Wall tried to match him offensively, finishing with 41 points, 10 assists, and 3 rebounds. He even knocked down all 3 of his three-point attempts, a facet of his game that is nowhere near the level of Curry. It was nice to watch two point guards with very different styles of game dominate the box score.

Oh, and lost in this point guard matchup was that Draymond Green got his league leading 10th triple-double with 12 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. He even added 5 blocks as a point forward!

As a Wizards fan, I figured that the Warriors would win the game, but was happy to see the Wizards play the defending NBA champions close for stretches of the game. Now onto the other nightly notables:

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Been a bad start to the year for NBA coaches.

David Blatt could have realized that all he had to do was get out of the way and let LeBron James coach. But I’m pretty sure the clock was running on his tenure in Cleveland the second he was hired.

Jeff Hornacek could have figured out how to turn Archie Goodwin into “Teen Wolf,” or mastered whatever weird magic/religion that fire woman from “Game of Thrones” practices. Not sure either one of those tricks would have turned an injury-ravaged Suns team into a playoff squad.

Somehow, without doing anything close to the above, and racking up a record of 14-35 with a talented but raw roster, Sam Mitchell has managed to keep his job.

And thanks to injuries to Kevin Garnett (wink, wink) and Nikola Pekovic (big shocker), he might actually be forced into doing something right. Mitchell is now playing his best young players, a group that so obviously includes Gorgui Dieng.

After riding the pine all year so Garnett and Tayshaun Prince could log minutes in meaningless games, Dieng finally has the starting slot and minutes (close to 40 per) that he deserves.

He’s responded by averaging 17.6 ppg and 11.3 rpg in those three starts. All Mitchell could do was mutter that he’s “getting a lot better.” No, he’s playing a lot better, because you’re playing him!

Win or lose, the Wolves have to keep running Dieng out there with Karl-Anthony Towns and make it work. Or Sam might go the way of Blatt and Hornacek.

Get Dieng, any way you can, and check out some of these other guys:

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The Flash is finally finding his stride!

Skiles still had some “SKIIIIIIILES!” moments, but is finally letting the youngun Aaron Gordon get his consistent minutes in the starting 5. It was such a tough decision sitting that phenomenal Channing Frye! Ugh. And as much as I’d like to see the Magic lose every game to get Skiles the hell outta there, he’s coached Orlando to a better record than anyone woulda thought. Last night he kept rotations that were sparking a comeback, led by Gordon who went 19/14/5/0/2 in 39 minutes, shooting 8-11 with no TO. The only black eye was a very unsavory 3-9 FT. That’s almost two black eyes! But he’s been a decent enough FT shooter to not worry too much on that… With the minutes starting to look consistent (gulp, I may have jynxed it… SKIIIIILES!), Gordon is looking like a must own in all 10 team leagues or deeper. The STL and BLK have been pretty anemic until last night, but as the Magic were streaking late in the 3rd quarter, he just seemed to get this stride in him, and little extra pep in his step. He had a nasty steal with a behind the back shake-n-bake then dime during the comeback run, and a great putback slam in the 4th. Sometimes the younguns can really build off success, so let’s hope this is the start of a streak as epic as Will Ferrell heading to the quad. There’s more coming! Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops, plus The 7 Ahead for Week 15:

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We’ve seen so many coaches jack it up before.  Year after year, coaches fail to play their best line-ups the most minutes due to “fit” or “rotations” or “Kevin Garnett decides what the Timberwolves do.”

But Frank Vogel is quickly becoming my favorite coach.  He kept the Pacers decent last year after a really disheartening second half and playoff exit in 13-14 plus losing Paul George, and last night he did the absolutely unthinkable – he played his best players as the starters.  ANTI-SKIIIIIILES!  Although Aaron Gordon is getting his run lately…  Let’s go ANTI-BICKERSTAFFFFFFF!

Getting his first start at PF (and first start ever!) after playing virtually all his rookie minutes at center, Myles Turner got the nod at the 4 next to Ian Mahinmi and went 20/6/1/0/1 on 9-17 shooting in 26 minutes.  And the twin towers rotation worked sooooo well, with the Pacers up virtually the whole game and running away with it late.  The Hawks reserves in the early 4th quarter made a nice run to take a 2-point lead with 6 minutes left 90-88, then Vogel went back to the same starting 5 and Indiana ended the game on a crazy hot 23-2 run.  What a unit!  Coach Butthole is like, “suck my unit!”  When I made my original crazy rank for Turner in the pre-season, my love was based around his fit for the run-and-gun offense, and the crazy part is we still haven’t seen the perimeter game yet.  He didn’t take any treys in this one, but there’s no reason to think this starting line-up doesn’t stick, which means more minutes for Turner and more opportunities on the perimeter.  Hopefully you added him when Mahinmi was out and didn’t let go, because, well, NEVER LET GO JACK!  I would totally have Myles take me in the steamy car in the cargo hold…  Here’s what else went down in fantasy hoops last night:

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Monday night’s heavyweight match between the two best teams in the league mostly disappointed. Sure, Stephen Curry and the Warriors were fun to watch, but the Spurs were mostly a no show, losing 120-90.

On Wednesday, the Spurs returned home to host the Rockets. They took all of their rage out on the self-destructing Rockets, destroying them 130-99. Do you think the Spurs were mad about losing by 30 on Monday night?

Scoring only 5 points on Monday, LaMarcus Aldridge rebounded to lead the Spurs with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. Danny Green knocked down 6 threes to post 18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. That’s more like it Aldridge and Green!

Kawhi Leonard (18 points) and Tony Parker (15 points, 7 assists) got in on the fun too, as Tim Duncan sat another game, while the Spurs await the MRI results on his knee. If Duncan misses substantial time, the Spurs will roll with a combo of Kyle Anderson (7/3/1), David West (4/2/2), and Boris Diaw (0/2/3), depending on matchups.

I would really love to see more of Boban Marjanovic, but I think he’s a little too big to see much more than 20 minutes a night. The dude’s 7’3” and weighs 290, with ears that give Barack Obama a run for his money, but his hands are crazy big. They make normal people’s hands look worthless, Ray McCallum’s head small, and a gallon of ice tea look like a juice box. Thanks to the blowout, Marjanovic posted a 13/10 double-double in 17 minutes.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

Please, blog, may I have some more?