It pains me to write this, but I was never a big Kobe Bryant fan during his playing days, and I regret that fact, immensely. I never had him on my fantasy team. I never watched his games late at night on the east coast. I never applauded his championships and didn’t care much about his 60-point performance to end his career. With that said, his passing hit me much harder than I thought it would, and that was before I found out his daughter was alongside him, which made it all the more tragic. I have come to appreciate him more since his retirement. His business acumen, his desire to succeed in every facet of life, and his willingness to mentor young NBA players and aspiring professionals alike, is inspirational. Those are the types of things that I respect, as a professional and as a parent.

It occurred to me that Kobe Bryant had that Tom Brady effect on me. While my Knicks fandom was not directly affected by the Lakers’ success, I felt as if Kobe had the same suffocating hold on me as Tom Brady and the Patriots have on my Jets fandom. It turns out I was likely envious of the success my Lakers friends were witnessing, while I sat rooting for dysfunction.

Well, over the last few days I have taken the time to watch that final 60-point performance, along with tons of amazing highlights I have seen over the years, and I enjoyed every second of it. The culmination of the career of the immensely talented and competitive specimen that was Kobe Bryant came to a head on a historic night. I have taken the time to understand the competitiveness that drove Kobe, and I wish I had that Mamba Mentality on a daily basis. Seeing that Kobe’s passing has had such an impact nationally speaks volumes to who he was as a player, an icon, and a role model for so many, and he will be sorely missed.

Every year the trade deadline comes and goes. This year there are some intriguing names that could be hitting the market. The next man up mentality is true in all facets of the game, and trades open many opportunities for players to seize. Here are a few deep stashes for the upcoming trade deadline.

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By any objective measure, the Milwaukee Bucks are a historic team. They have the best record in the league at 41-6, they have the reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and they’re on pace to win 71 games. The Bucks rank first in Defensive Rating and second in Offensive Rating, behind a historic Dallas Mavericks offense. They would pass any old school eye test—they score in the paint (3rd in the league in points in the paint), get to the free-throw line often, and prevent teams from getting to the basket by walling off the paint with a conga-line of seven-footers (1st in the league in opponent points in the paint). At the same time, Daryl Morey would have few complaints with their offense. They are first in the league in fast break points at 18.8 a game, they take the fifth most threes a game at 38.5, and they attempt the fifth most free-throws a game at 24.7. They give up only the least desirable three-pointers and there is a full season’s worth of data validating this unique defensive strategy—they were first in the league in Defensive Rating last year.

The only thing the Bucks are incapable of doing is drawing the interest of the average fan. The Bucks are so dominant in such a specific, ruthlessly efficient way, as to make the outcome perfunctory, eliminating most if not all intrigue…..

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Oladipo, Ho! That jam would always get me so pumped up, and it’s perfect for the return of Victor Oladipo to the NBA. Two years ago, after being traded to Indiana for Paul George, there were questions about Oladipo’s place in the league. Was he a bust? For fantasy, many said yes because he finished as the #87 player in 2016. Well…..Oladipo, Ho! He came out with a vengeance the following year, garnered a 30.2 usage rate and finished as the #10 player! 23.1 points, 2.1 tres, 5.2 boards, 4.3 dimes, 2.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks with 47% shooting from the field and 79% from the line! Oladipo, Ho! Unfortunately, the following season, he ruptured a tendon in his quad after 36 games and was done for the season. After year of grueling rehab, Oladipo made his season debut last night.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
9 2 4 0 0 2 1/7 2/8 4/4

In 21 minutes off the bench. The shooting efficiency was off, which was to be expected, but he did send the game to OT with a game-tying tres. Once a baller, always a baller. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s always balling and shot calling? The Stocktonator. Anyways, the Pacers have said that there will be a 24-minutes cap through the All-Star break for Oladipo. It’s just nice to have him back on the court. If he can remain healthy, there’s a chance he gets ramped up to 30 minutes per game and help teams in the fantasy playoffs. Oladipo, Ho! 

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I am 25 years old. I idolized Michael Jordan, but was too young to watch him live when he built his legend. On the contrary, the player that my generation grew up with is Kobe Bryant. We got to witness him build his dynasty with the Lakers, hit tough shot after tough shot, return from gruesome injuries and give his absolute all for the game he loved so much. And after his retirement, we watched him grow as a businessman, a community leader, an ambassador for basketball, and a motivator for any young player that wants to get better through hard work and devotion.

His influence is not easy to grasp or describe and that’s why his loss has that enormous an impact to the whole basketball world. Kobe was unique in every way, a true sports titan and he will be remembered for a long time to come, whether from basketball fans appreciating his game and mentality or by anyone shooting a piece of paper to a can and yelling “Kobe”. It is always a reality check when these tragic things happen as people of his stature, so famous and successful, seem invincible. It’s an instant reminder of our own morality and how fragile and precious human life is. It’s not a great time to talk about player performances and fantasy contributions but I’ll try my best.

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Bam Adebayo is 6′ 9″ and 255 pounds with a 7′ 1″ wingspan. So, grabbing boards and accumulating defensive stats are within reach, which he does often. What separates Bam from the other big men in the league, though, are the handles and playmaking ability. During the Summer League before his rookie season, I remember watching Bam grab a rebound, dribble down the court, Euro step around a defender, then convert a layup as if he were a svelte point guard. That’s when I fell in love. He’s also an incredible passer. Whether it be getting the ball in the post, at the elbow, or at the top of the key, Bam is able to deliver precise passes to cutters flowing through the middle of the lane or slicing from the baseline. Bam often initiates the Heat offense himself by bringing the ball up court. The beauty of that is teams aren’t able to put pressure, and the action they can run off of it is deadly. The dribble-hand-off to a shooter works because he’s an excellent screener and his defender is usually a big man who can’t go over the top or slide over because Bam then has a clear path to the rim. If defenses switch that action, then Bam abuses the smaller defender down low. As a result, open three-pointers are readily available. So we have boards, dimes, and the defensive stats. Let’s not forget about the scoring. He has jump hooks in the lane, can cross over defenders on the perimeter leading to dunks, and the jumper is much improved. The range on the J hasn’t been expanded to downtown, but he’s draining 20-footers on the regular, so it’s only a matter of time. Last night, the full repertoire was on displays. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what always provides the full repertoire? The Stocktonator.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
20 10 10 1 0 1 0/1 10/16 0

His third time messing around in his career. On the season, Bam is a top 40 player for fantasy, averaging 16 points, 10.4 boards, 4.8 dimes, 1.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks. The field goal percentage is 58%. The only bugaboos are the free throw shooting (69%) and the lack of tres. I can see both improving over the course of his career. He’s only 22 years old! I wrote this a week or so ago, but I need to post it again. Since 1946, there have been 10 times a player has averaged 20 points, 10 boards, 5 dimes, 1 steal, and 1 block per game in a season: Giannis Antetokounmpo (twice), Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Garnett (three times), and Chris Webber. Bam could be the eighth player to join that illustrious group.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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15 or so years ago, I’m walking through a baggage claim area in the Los Cabos International Airport. It was eerie. The room wasn’t well lit and not another soul was in sight. I think I had to take a piss or maybe I was searching for a friend. I forget, but what will forever be etched in my brain were the two figures that appeared in the distance. I didn’t pay much heed at first, but it was hard not to be transfixed on this couple. The man was a giant and the woman was exquisite. As they got closer and closer, the man just oozed cool. Oh, shit! That’s Kobe freaking Bryant and his wife, Vanessa! Woo sah, woo sah. Be cool. Be cool. Oh, shit! That’s Kobe freaking Bryant. I didn’t know what to do. I was shook, but not as bad as when we all received the horrible news yesterday; that Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

There are so many memories of Kobe. Not flinching against the Matt Barnes inbound fake. The 2005 season in which he scored 81 points in a game, 62 points in another, had four 50-burgers, and 21 40-point outbursts. Kobe was robbed of the MVP that year! The alley-oop pass to Shaq in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals. Tearing his Achilles then draining the free throw. The five championships. The 60 points in his final game. Chills. The mic drop. The dunks. The game winners. But what I most treasure about Kobe is encapsulated in Game 5 against the Utah Jazz during the 1997 playoffs when he airballed not one, not two, not three, but four shots as a rookie. Despite the failure, he could not be fazed. He could not be shook, unlike my weak ass. He didn’t slump or put his head down. He just brushed it off and used it as motivation to get better. He was a true student of the game whose sole focus was to get buckets and win. The jump shot form was perfect. The footwork was immaculate. The evolution of his game was poetic. All of that did not happen by accident. It was due to the psychotic work ethic.

41 years old. Gone. Just like that. I wanted to give you a pound when I saw you 15 or so years ago. I wanted to give you a hug. I wanted to take a selfie. I wanted to say wassup, but I was so shook that I just walked on by. Thanks for everything. Rest in peace, Kobe Bryant.

Here’s what happened in the games yesterday:

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The Miami Heat are in a truly delicious position. They are second in the Eastern Conference with a 31-13 record, a near lock to make the playoffs, and a good bet to have home court in the first-round. The Heat are good, but not great, flawed and exciting because of it. They shoot threes and shoot them well—they’re second in the league in three-point percentage at 37.9 percent and eighth in the league in three-pointers made at 12.8 a game. They play more than enough zone to satisfy curmudgeonly high school coaches; they are always in an overtime game and they keep winning those overtime games and other close games in dramatic, heart-pounding fashion. Most league insiders expected them to make the playoffs, finishing the season somewhere in the 4 to 6 range in the Eastern Conference. They’ve overshot all reasonable expectations during the first half of the season and have arrived as a pesky playoff contender ahead of schedule. For the moment, the Heat are playing with house money.

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For much of the season, Collin Sexton was a one-dimensional, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am player. He’d huck. He’d chuck. He’d blow you away with how little the contributions would be in the periphery stats. There have been only three games this season in which he’s scored single digits. He’s failed to jack up double digits shots in just one game. What makes it more impressive is that he dished out more than four dimes in only four games and hasn’t been punched in the face by his teammates. Yet, here we are in game number 45. Are we witnessing a new, improved, and more mature Sexton show?

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
29 4 4 2 0 2 2/2 10/15 7/7

Jordan Clarkson was traded from the Cavs 15 games ago. When he left, Sexton saw an increase of over two minutes of run per game and close to two more shot attempts. Over the past three games, though, Sexton has averaged 23.7 points, 2.7 tres, 5.3 boards, and 4 dimes! The usage rate has been 30.8 and he’s jacking up 20.7 shots per game. The boards and dimes are the most eye-opening stats, as the season numbers are 3.3 boards and 2.4 dimes. Small sample size I know. Not something you want at a Sexton show. Anyways, Sexton is only 21 years old and has played 126 career games. There’s a chance things have clicked. Now, from a fantasy perspective, Sexton is still outside the top 100, even with the increase in boards and dimes, because of the lack of defensive stats. Hey, can’t go from a zero to a hero overnight. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s heroic every day? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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What are the roles of a butler? To answer the phone, greet guests at the door, plan events and parties, serve drinks and food, manage the wine cellar, and keep the paparazzi and solicitors at bay. Jimmy Butler does none of those things. Jimmy Butler gets buckets. Jimmy Butler takes manhoods. Jimmy Butler gets defensive. But what Jimmy Butler does best is protect his house.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
24 7 10 0 1 2 0/1 7/10 16/18

In 34 minutes in an overtime victory over the Wizards, 134-129. The Miami Heat are 20-1 at home, with the lone loss coming to the Lakers. Jimmy Butler is good but he ain’t that good. I kid. He protects his house. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been known to make themselves feel comfortable anywhere. For fantasy, it seems like Butler hasn’t done much this season, but you look at the numbers and he’s the #12 player on the season. Even when the shooting volume and efficiency aren’t there, he’s still posting top 30-40 value. That’s because of his all-around game. The tres have been light this season (first time under 1 since 2012), but the points, steals, blocks, good percentages have all been there. The biggest boosts have come in the boards and dimes departments; 7 boards and 6.5 dimes on the season, both career-highs. Butlers are good helpers. Jimmy Butler is the help and the master. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s also the help and a master? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?