Trades, Trades, Trades

Kevin Love wants out of #Believeland. Love is slapping chairs and chucking basketballs at teammates. He ignored the mere pretense of defense for a while. He has since got his act together, but the damage has been done, though maybe not the exact damage he was expecting. It appears his reputation took a larger hit than he anticipated and for now, the pressure he applied to Koby Altman and the Cavaliers front office, has not lead to a trade. The Cavaliers, I imagine, are trying to avoid dumping Love without receiving a meaningful return, or worse, giving up assets to get off his expensive deal. The stark reality for Kevin Love is this: he’s a modern center who lacks the ability to protect the rim—a necessity at the center position. He’s playing out the final four seasons (including this one) of a bloated contract that no other sane general manager would have signed him to. He can play either the power forward or center position on offense, he can play neither position well on defense. He’s no longer an efficient low-post scorer and his injury history is longer than the Odyssey. If age is only a number, in this case it’s one of a long list of numbers preventing the Cavs from securing a useful return for Kevin Love. In spite of all that, here’s a trade idea:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

As NBA fans and fantasy basketball players we all lust for the power of NBA general managers. Many of us wrongly assume we could do a better job heading our favorite team’s basketball operations—it isn’t hard to get those ideas if you happen to be a Knicks, Magic, Timberwolves, Suns, or Kings fan. But what we long for as much as the power, is the seriousness of the endeavor. NBA GM’s get to make decisions that carry weight. A draft pick is quite simply a choice—a highly public, decade-defining choice in some cases, but a choice all the same. We make choices every day—the blue or the red tie, Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima, Fleabag or The Good Place, two drinks or twelve, poetry or literally anything else that might actually pay the bills. We make applicable sports decisions as well. We choose between Kyrie Irving or Damian Lillard in our fantasy draft, we add Kendrick Nunn or Davis Bertans off the wire, we kill Russell Westbrook in the group chat, we build property on Julius Randle, Dion Waiters, or Lonzo Ball Island. We tweet, we engage, and we argue. We win our league or we don’t. In time, we are either vindicated or pilloried. At best, we have a lighthearted thing to lord over people we care about, at worst, we have to dye our hair, wear ugly ill-fitting clothes, or in a more recent trend, consume enough waffles to avoid sleeping in a Waffle House. But largely, no one notices or cares, as our sports opinions are indiscernible dots in a sea of data points.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I would like to ask for the internet’s help with something. I won’t be asking you intensely-online people to creepily track down the trilingual, poetry obsessed woman I chatted with during a Denver layover on a return flight from Hawaii, whom, I’m certain was charmed by my decidedly average height and intelligence. None of that. I’m sitting here today, in front of a loaned laptop from a college IT department, neurotically scratching at the dry scalp beneath my messy afro, in custom full-body face pajamas—the face being my ex-girlfriends—and asking you to work a little post-holiday magic for yours truly. I’m asking you, people of the internet, to do something you’ve already successfully done before, so it should be easy.

Before James Harden won the 2018 MVP Award, before he and Chris Paul pushed a historic Golden State Warriors team to the brink of playoff elimination, before he broke isolation and pull-up three-point records, and before he began flirting with historic scoring numbers not seen since Wilt Chamberlain, James Harden had to prove that he belonged in the upper echelon of NBA players. Harden had largely existed in the shadow of Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook in Oklahoma City. The first order of business for Harden was to stake his claim to NBA superstardom by dominating on the offensive end and to do so with panache. Harden quickly established himself as a bona fide superstar, but his singular allegiance to the offensive end of the floor was, to put it mildly, concerning.

Harden was an all-star and made it to the playoffs in his first two seasons in Houston, but he was also eliminated in the first round of the playoffs each year. As Harden settled in to his new position as front-page daily news, he also built an endless lowlight reel of defensive lethargy. It was this backdrop of increased attention coinciding with mild playoff failure and a noxious disinterest in defense that provided the perfect platform for the internet’s only example of helpful public shaming. In a show of intense, wide-spread harmony, the NBA watching populous banded together to shame James Harden into playing defense. There’s no other way to read the situation. Fans, sportswriters, and analysts alike took to YouTube, NBA Twitter, and any other available medium to share clips of Harden’s avant-garde interpretation of defense. Harden was so comically bad, so plainly allergic to defense that a novice fan could watch 10 minutes of a Houston Rockets game and realize something was amiss. It was almost as if Harden had his brain wiped every time his team’s offensive possession ended

We’ve moved past Harden’s patented space cadet method acting, to viewers wrongly, but not completely irrationally suggesting that James Harden is a good defender. He’s not. He’s a good post-defender in 2020, which if you know anything about NBA basketball means he rarely gets the opportunity to be good. The Houston Rockets have crafted a switch everything defense in large part, so Harden never has to endure the unpleasantness of fighting over a screen. In fairness, the Rockets have the personnel to make a switch defense work and they did so to great effect in the 2018 playoffs when they befuddled the Warriors historic offense. Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and now Russell Westbrook are all capable of battling with bigger players in the post as well as defending on the perimeter.

This brings me to Trae Young. You, beautiful people, have already worked your magic once before and I beseech you to do it again. It’s time we start the shaming of Trae Young (SHAME SHAME SHAME!).

Please, blog, may I have some more?

There was plenty of basketball to watch on Christmas Day, 13 hours worth to be exact. What figured to be a disappointing slate of easily predictable outcomes turned out to be a surprisingly fun, upset-filled NBA gift. A Golden State Warriors team full of two-way and minimum contract players managed to beat James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the rest of the Houston Rockets. Joel Embiid played grinch for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, leading to fans firing up all of the familiar “Bucks are a regular season team” takes. The solid, wing-heavy Boston Celtics comfortably beat an injury ravaged Raptors team and a newly rejuvenated New Orleans Pelicans squad pulled out a victory against the Denver Nuggets. And in the most anticipated game of the day, Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers outlasted and outshot LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. I enjoyed myself.

I viewed the Christmas day outcomes as a reminder of all there is to love about the NBA. Star-players duking it out for legacy supremacy and short-lived bragging rights. Yes, the regular season isn’t the most accurate prediction of playoff success, but it is still entertaining and compelling nonetheless. Wednesday’s games continued to reinforce my belief that, if you’re truly interested in the NBA, there is more than enough nightly entertainment to satisfy your intrigue.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks played one of the most exciting games of the season on Tuesday, October 10. The Heat eventually came out victorious in overtime 135-121, but only after Trae Young pronounced the game “over,” right before the Heat scored six straight points to tie the score in the final 59 seconds of regulation. The Heat then scored 16 straight points in overtime, making the final outcome a formality. The fireworks didn’t start or stop there, however. Trae Young had a relatively quiet first half (8 points and 6 assists), but he came out aggressive in the second half and scored 10 quick points and finished with 11 points in the quarter, and then the fourth quarter happened. Young was in rhythm and headed for another gaudy stat-line before Erik Spoelstra made the astute decision to put Derrick Jones Jr. on him. Jones Jr. is length personified, or as Scott Van Pelt used to say, “He’s all arms and legs, he can’t buy pants at the mall.” Jones’ length and quick feet turned a potentially explosive night into a sour one for Trae Young and the Hawks—Young finished the fourth quarter with only two points. He was unable to draw fouls to counter Jones’ length and physicality, though it was not for a lack of trying. There might be some brewing animus between Jones and Young. Fortunately for us, the Hawks and Heat matchup one more time this season. Get the popcorn ready.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

We’ve made it through a quarter of the NBA season. Some players signed this summer will be eligible to be traded on December 15, others will be trade eligible on January 15. Fantasy trade deadlines aren’t far off. It’s  a good time to check-in on a few teams and see what’s shaking. The Miami Heat currently sit third in the Eastern Conference. They’re obviously firmly in the playoff race, but any Pat Riley-run organization is playing for much more than a simple playoff birth. The Heat are relying on two promising rookie guards and a third second-year player. How those players develop will not only help determine their fate this season, but it might also influence trade decisions around the deadline and in the summer. The Atlanta Hawks are at a bit of a hinge point in their rebuild. They came into the season with a lot of media buzz and some vague playoff talk. Trae Young went all scorched earth and they started the season 2-0. All hell broke loose after that. They’ve got to figure out what they have in their young players. Is this the beginning of the end of their rebuild or are they smack dab in the middle of it? The Minnesota Timberwolves are firmly in rebuilding mode, but for the first time they’re making decisions that prioritize Karl-Anthony Towns as the rightful centerpiece and key to their future. How do Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague, and Jarrett Culver fit into their future plans? What do Ryan Saunders lineup decisions portend for later this season? And most relevant to all of you beautiful readers, what does this mean for you and your fantasy team? Keep reading to find out.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Potential, Potential, Potential

Potential is enticing, if fickle. Potential is a first date. A 0-0 count in the top of the first. Potential is a stray glance or wink, a few perfectly volleyed bits of of banter between two people soon to be lovers. Potential is the essay before its written, the hazy four-line outline in the mind. Potential is the moment before the moment, where dream and reality meet, if only for an instant.

Potential is not, however, negative capability, as Keats described it: “I mean Negative Capability, that is when man ‘or woman’ is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without, any irritable reaching after fact or reason.” Potential implies a payoff, a return on investment. The hung curveball must be sent screaming to the seats. The alley must be ooped. The first date must lead to a second.

In the poem, the reward is the exploration of uncertainty itself. In fantasy sports, that irritable reaching after fact or reason is all we know. With that in mind, here are some players who’ve been blessed with the wicked kiss of potential.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

If you’re a habitual bad drafter like I am, you’re probably well acquainted with the power of the waiver wire. First I was a bad drafter in fantasy football and now that non-skill has transferred over to fantasy basketball. I often make too much of my hay on the wire. I have never won the championship in my fantasy football league—an indication that I haven’t had the top-end talent necessary to take home the trophy. But I have made the playoffs every year except one—an indication that timely, intelligent pick-ups on the wire are not to be taken for granted, especially in football where long injury absences are common. I also made the playoffs in my first year of fantasy basketball as an expansion team after auto-drafting. It’s a 14 team, 9-category, head-to-head Yahoo league for perspective. I tell you all this not to toot my own horn, but to lay out my strengths and weaknesses, to cement my waiver wire guru credentials.

Please, blog, may I have some more?