Every Saturday, I will update the below Google sheet. It will show the upcoming schedule for all teams with color coding for pace rankings. RED = slowest. YELLOW = middle of the pack. GREEN = fastest. Pace is the number of possessions a team has per game. More possessions increase the chances of more fantasy goodies. The data I use for pace, which is year-to-date, is from ESPN. I also want to give a shoutout to Hashtag Basketball, as their schedule grid is fantastic and allowed me to save time by not having to look at each teams schedule. Good luck!

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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:

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I have sporadically mentioned in these articles how much I admire Gregg Popovic. Not only for his coaching ability, love for the game, and competitiveness, but also for his personality. The guy is a quote machine, always providing something clever/funny/deep to comment, depending on the situation. And after a game-winning performance by DeMar Derozan against the Raptors, he had this to say.

DeRozan got the star treatment on his return in Toronto but Pop was quick to bring him back to earth in his own unique way. It really makes you think about the culture of the San Antonio organization as a whole and appreciate their commitment to success through teamwork.

Regarding last week’s suggestions, Bradley Beal returned, but this hasn’t slowed down both Ish Smith and Jordan Mcrae, who continued their productive streaks. Sekou Doumbouya also looks like a big hit, as Blake Griffin should be out for the rest of the season and Daniel Gafford is a start-worthy player as long as Wendell Carter Jr. is out.

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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.

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OUCH…. If it was two or three years ago, Davis would have been already ruled out for the next two months., but the Lakers need to stay competitive so he should be back at the earliest opportunity. It is always a shock to see NBA athletes of that size take such falls or collisions, but it is a contact sport after all. However, Andre Robertson had a similar awful injury three years go and he has yet to return in any resemblance of form. Let’s hope AD is fine because he is having an awesome season and has ever so slightly gotten rid of the injury prone label.

Regarding last week’s suggestions, I will freely admit that it was a bad week. I blame it on too much food during the holiday season. Or I was just in a suggesting slump that I will surely shake off during the next game. Both help me sleep better at night so I’m sticking with them. More specifically, Gary Payton II’s hot start is a distant memory and Delon Wright’s emergence is not happening, unfortunately. Both were terrible this past week and I dropped them already in standard leagues. Only De’Anthony Melton was usable but, with the Memphis returning to full strength, he will also struggle to find meaningful minutes.

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It’s amazing how time can cause us to forget some of the greatest talents in our midst. The NBA, like any other sport, is a “what have you done for me lately” league. We sometimes forget that a potentially transcendent talent has yet to make his NBA debut. All the summer hype slowly disappears when the player, who’s talents surpass narrative, has been missing in action. The high school hype, the college hype, the draft hype, and injury hype, all wither away into the abyss, before sprouting it’s head once more, and injecting something special into our veins. The NBA needs a savior, in a dark time when stars are injured and ratings drop. The savior I am speaking of is not Zion Williamson, shocker, I know. I am talking about Michael Porter Jr.

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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!).

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Happy New Year to all the Razzball readers out there. I hope the new year brings health, peace, and fantasy silverware from all your competitive leagues. So we are officially at 2020. It’s incredible how mind-blowingly fast time passes. It seems like it was yesterday when Dirk led the Mavericks to one of the most satisfying championships of all time or since the Boston’s Big 3 brought the Larry O’Brien trophy back to where it is used to be, for the 17th time. But it’s been nine and 12 years respectively. Did I mention how quickly time flies? On a more optimistic note, you just have to love the symmetry of the new Year’s number, which of course plays a major role in how good and productive it will turn out to be. Joking aside, I decided to take a look at the three best individual fantasy games from the start of the season so far, and all of them reminded me how NBA players can produce truly spectacular performances when they are locked in.

No 3: James Harden vs ATL 60/8/3/8/3/1/3 on 66.7%/87%

No 2: Anthony Davis vs MIN 50/0/7/6/4/1/1 on 69%/100%

No 1: James Harden vs ORL 54/10/5/7/2/3/3 ON 61.3%/100%

Where to begin and where to end…Especially the last line by Harden is dazzling. Truly magnificent performances overall and I can’t wait to see them try to best them.

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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.

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