Even though the Suns finished dead last in the Western Conference last year, and last in the entire NBA the year before that, they’ll always be first in the hearts and minds of fantasy owners everywhere. Their score first and play defense later mentality is fantasy gold, and this year is no different. There is reason to be optimistic this year though, with the arrival of Ricky Rubio and the emergence of Kelly Oubre. The Suns finally get their true point guard to distribute the ball and a veteran mentor for the young guns. Booker is looking healthy (for now) and Ayton should take a big step forward. I love the Suns when it comes to fantasy, and I have a sneaking suspicion they won’t be that bad in real life either.

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Are you a competitive fantasy basketball player? Perhaps you’re looking to dive into the Yahoo Pro Leagues, or throw your name into one of the many cash leagues advertised on Reddit or Rotoworld? Maybe you’re in a very competitive league with your friends and need to win for pride? 

Having played fantasy basketball for many years (since Elton Brand couldn’t buy alchohol), I’ve accumulated knowledge that I wish someone imparted upon me. Below are nine concepts that provide a road map for fantasy basketball success. Hopefully, I can save you from making some of the mistakes that I made.

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The defending champs are back for yet another year of dominance…Oh wait, they didn’t win last year. Sorry, I’m so used to it that in my mind they’re still somehow the champs, even though it’s really my precious Raptors. The NBA championship is up for grabs again, and for the first time in awhile the Warriors are not the heavy favorite to win the title. Some are even saying they may struggle to make the playoffs. Key pieces in Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala left town, and Klay Thompson will be out for the majority of the season, leaving gaping holes in their starting line up. Newcomers D’Angelo Russell and Willie Cauley-Stein will look to step into the new system and fill some giant shoes. If Steph Curry can stay healthy, I expect the Warriors to be contenders yet again.

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The Celtics have enjoyed four straight winning seasons, with the trend likely continuing this season despite losing several key pieces. Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris all bolted for greener pastures. These may seem like a devastating losses, but opportunities are now present for young guns Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to step up and take their games to the next level. Gordon Hayward is another year removed from his gruesome injury and should be a bounce back candidate. Oh, and the additions of Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter don’t hurt either. The Celts did some addition by subtraction, and are primed to challenge for the Eastern Conference title yet again.

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Like most of you fantasy nuts, I am starved for basketball this time of year and can’t wait to get started. I decided to take matters into my own hands and started a league. I wanted it to be realistic and meaningful, so I set the buy-in at $200. Thankfully, I was able to gather 11 knowledgeable players and we drafted last week. Most of these guys are sharp, so there weren’t many bargains. Here is a recap of how it went down.

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My beloved Wolves finished 36-46 last year, nowhere near what it took to get into the playoffs in the stacked Western Conference. Towns did his best and did what Towns does, but it wasn’t nearly enough.  This was largely due to the fact that Andrew Wiggins remained Andrew Wiggins, and Jimmy was shipped out of town. Teague being hurt for half the season didn’t help either.

The Wolves return this year not having made any real noise in the offseason. They did draft Jarrett Culver, so that’s something. Wiggins promised that he’d play more defense and work on his threes, while Towns should take yet another step forward. The stacked Western Conference just got a lot more stacked, so even with a healthy Teague and a bright young prospect, the Wolves will once again be golfing somewhere nice while the NBA playoffs are going on.

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The young Nuggets are on the rise, and the future is bright with a team full of young guns and great depth. This team is fun to watch in real life, and a gold mine for fantasy purposes. Despite missing Garry Harris and Will Barton for a large chunk of the year, they still managed to finish 2nd in the Western Conference. They return this season largely the same, and will look to build on last year’s success. Barton and Harris are reportedly healthy, so that should give them an added boost. Their season ended last year by running into the buzzsaw that is Damian Lilliard, but they are a year older and wiser, so look for them to make another deep run in the playoffs.

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The defending NBA Champion Toronto Raptors (that has such a nice ring to it) return to defend their title with all the key pieces intact, except for the devastating loss of Danny Green. They’ll miss his defense, dead-eye shooting, and the occasional spectacular block. Outside of Green, there’s really no one else that the Raptors will miss as they ramp up for yet another successful year. Well, I suppose they miss JVal, Caboclo, and Wright, but those guys were dealt mid-season so they don’t really count for the the purpose of this exercise. Anyone else I forgot to mention?

Ok fine, I guess it’s about time I face reality and accept the fact that Kawhi is forever gone, taking his talents to La La Land. The Raps had a brilliant year and a historic playoffs run, but they will have to temper expectations this year. Kyle Lowry just turned 33 and one has to wonder how much gas he’s got left in the tank. Pascal Siakam is their young star, who leads a team full of hungry young guns and a few vets who can still contribute. Expect to Raps to be a playoff team, but I’m afraid the glory days are a thing of the past. Winter has come and gone, and so has the King of the North.

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The Magic surprised everyone last year by earning the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs behind the strong play of Nikola Vucevic. The squad enters the 2019-20 season largely unchanged, with everyone a year older and a year more experienced. Newcomers Markelle Fultz and Al-Farouq Aminu should be welcomed additions to the team in both fantasy and real life. Aminu is a hard worker who plays his role well, and should be efficient while contributing in all areas. Fultz will hopefully provide some much needed help at the PG position, as the Magic have been relying heavily on a 31-year-old DJ Augustin. Look for them to be a playoff contender again, although they are unlikely to do a lot of damage in the early rounds.

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I was raised in a cold and desolate city in Canada known as Winterpeg. A city known for its giant mosquitoes, cruel winters, and incredibly cheap people who always NEED to get a bargain. Today, I put my skills to good use by identifying the early values for fantasy basketball, and passing the savings on to you! I present to you my list of players who should vastly outperform their draft position and help bring joy and happiness to your teams.

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