LeBron James has missed 12 games due to injury. Entering last night’s game, the Lakers had four wins and seven losses without their king. After an overtime ordeal in Oklahoma City, the Lakers made it five wins and seven losses, thanks in part to the play of Kyle Kuzma.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
32 8 4 3 0 4 7/12 11/20 3/3

The seven threeecolas tied a career-high. Without LeBron on the floor, Kuzma has been the offensive leader, sporting a usage rate above 30. He’s averaged 34.2 minutes, 21 points, 7 boards, and 2.9 dimes. He’s jacked up 18.4 shots per game, with 7.2 being from downtown. Now, the efficiency hasn’t been good (41% from the field and 24% from downtown) and he provides little in the D cats. As a result, he’s not the best fantasy asset, which sucks because this is a fantasy website. Just let me enjoy a Lakers victory on the road in OKC with Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuz leading the way.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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One of the beautiful things about the English language is its vast nature. One of the worst things about the English language is its vast nature. Take the word crane for example. It can describe a type of bird, a machine that lifts objects, or a specific type of neck movement. How about Derrick Rose saying “kill yourself” the other day? In a vacuum, it’s a terrible thing to say, but if you delve into the context, it does make some sense. It’s basically slang for “shut the F up.” Now, what about the expression “god damnit?” It’s usually used to express frustration or angst, but it’s also a military expression of encouragement. Thanks urban dictionary. Anyways, I’m going through all of this because of what Landry Shamet did last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
29 3 1 1 0 1 8/14 8/15 5/5

In 24 minutes off the bench! God Shamet! Am I calling Shamet a God? Am I expressing awe and amazement? Am I frustrated because I did not play him in DFS? It’s all about context, right? At the same time, I could answer yes to all three. Gotta love the English language. Shamet has appeared in every game this season, so he has the trust of the coaching staff and fills a specific need for the Sixers, which is to space the floor and knock down shots. From a fantasy perspective, he doesn’t have that much value, as he doesn’t play enough minutes or jack up the necessary shots. On the season, he’s averaging 4.4 threeecola attempts per game and, outside of last night, he had only one other game with more than 10 attempts. With that said, it was nice to have him as the lede, as it was getting boring talking about the same guys over and over. In addition, he’s someone to monitor if injury strikes or he does take on a more significant role as the season progresses.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The Division of the Up and Comers
The Atlantic Division consists of up-and-coming teams, with the Toronto Raptors at the top of the league in wins, yet they are still learning how to incorporate Kawhi Leonard into their mix.  The Sixers are also integrating a new player in Jimmy Butler.  Boston struggled with offensive effectiveness early on, but they have started to figure things out, including an overtime thriller on Christmas against the 76ers.   The Nets have done well, winning nine of their last 10 games, a streak of success not seen in Brooklyn in many a day.  The Knicks, though, are going in the opposite direction, as they have lost nine of their last 10, but are still considered in the up and coming conversation because they have a stable of young players gaining valuable experience while their Latvian superstar, Kristaps Porzingis, mends.

Many feel the NBA season really doesn’t start until Christmas, as teams have now played about a third of the season with the strengths and weaknesses of each being exposed.  In addition, players are available as trade targets and teams that look to be lottery participants will begin to look toward the future and acquire draft assets. 

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I was a sucker for all the James Bond movies growing up. There was always action, women, lots of cool toys, and more action. What most confused me early on, but later fascinated me, was the overtness of the Bond character. At his core, he was a spy after all, and a spy is defined as “a person who secretly…” I don’t need to continue the definition. Could a ninja ever be famous? Wouldn’t that go against the fundamental premise of being a ninja? With all that said, Bond took the spy game to the next level. Everyone knew he was a spy, and he knew that everyone knew, yet he did his spy thing while everyone else played along. Translation: Bond was a freaking boss. Which is exactly what Harden, James Harden is.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
41 6 7 2 1 6 5/16 15/35 6/7

That’s seven straight games scoring 30+ points, with two games over 40 and one 50-burger in there. The overtness that Harden exhibits is just as bold as Bond. Defenders know his moves, yet still get played. Now, with Chris Paul out for an extended period of time, the usage rate spikes to the mid-40s. The comparable analogy would be Bond walking into a casino with both hands flashing the bird, acquiring the information that he came for, and of course bringing the D for the girl.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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You are all pretty familiar with the reliable rookies this year and are playing them every night – Luka, Trae, JJJ, and crew.  This week I’d like to showcase some of the other rookies who have considerably less hype and perhaps not any useful results yet either.  Even mining the forgotten talents of the draft turns up some good players, which again speaks to the strength of this year’s class.

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For this week’s article, I’m going to break down the rookies into 1st/2nd/3rd teams based on their performances over roughly the first third of the season. This is solely my own opinion, mostly based on statistical performance but also some other intangibles thrown in there. Feel free to drop your own teams in the comments! Let’s go!

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Allonzo Trier seemed destined for greatness from an early age. Dubbed a hoops prodigy at the tender age of 13 years old, Trier was featured on the cover of New York Times Magazine in 2009. He utilized the childhood workouts of Pete Maravich found on the internet, travelled and starred in the A.A.U. circuit, and even had his own line of clothing with the signature: “When the lights come on, it’s time to perform.” Throughout middle school, he and his mother moved to four different cities (Seattle, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa) all for basketball. In high school, he was a McDonald’s All-American, a five-star recruit, and the Washington Post wrote that he “may be the purest high school basketball scorer in the county and the most devoted to his craft.” At the University of Arizona, he was the Most Outstanding Player of the the Pac-12 Tournament and Second-team All-Pac-12 in 2017. The following season he earned First-team All-Pac-12 honors. Unfortunately, he tested twice for PEDs, which Trier said was medication given to him due to a car crash. As a result, he was ruled ineligibile and declared for the 2018 NBA draft. Then one team did not believe. Then two. Then three. Then thirty? Like a bad nightmare that was set on loop, the 30 teams passed over him again. Undrafted. There were no believers in Trier, but on July 3, 2018, the New York Knicks signed him to a two-way contract. After balling out in the preseason, coach David Fizdale conveyed that he was indeed a believer in Trier, and declared that he would spend most of the time in the NBA, rather than the G-League. Fizdale kept his word and Trier received close to 21 minutes per game….and Iso Zo was born. Or better yet, Trier was Carmelo Anthony reincarnate. There were inconsistencies and plenty of bricks early on, but Trier eventually shed his Melo mask and….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
24 10 7 0 0 1 1/2 7/11 9/12

Played 31 minutes off the bench. Trier had his Iso moments, but more often than not, he was initiating offense via pick-and-roll action and dishing out dimes. He’s explosive and finishes strong when he attacks the rim, but he always looks smooth and composed with the ball, and never seems to rush anything. He’s averaging only 1.8 turnovers per game and is shooting 49% from the field, 45% from downtown, and 82% from the charity stripe. I’m a believer in Trier.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Ok, maybe they didn’t forget him, but Andre Drummond definitely doesn’t get the credit he’s due. He might have gotten lost in a massive 13-game night, filled with double-doubles, but let’s give Dre his due. He’s leading the league in rebounding, going for 16 boards a game, and averaging a career-high 19.4 points.

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
9/18 5/8 0/1 23 20 1 3 5 1

I’m not sure what’s more impressive, the 23 and 20 or the 8 combined stocks. Over the past three seasons, Drummond had been averaging 1.5 steals per game (those are guard number!) So far this year, he’s only averaging 0.9 steals, but that is still great for a center. If the steals come back up, so will his fantasy value, but the free throw percentage will always be his anchor. If you punt free throw percentage, Drummond is a clear-cut top 10 player. 

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I’m going to keep it pretty simple this week. I’d like to check in on category leaders to help figure out who the best specialists might be this season. There’s a lot of value sitting out in the free agent pool just waiting for you to stream it. Adding and rotating through these category specialists applies in roto leagues when you notice individual categories in which you stand to gain a few points. But, this information will probably help the most in head-to-head leagues where you should be swapping out at least a couple players each week (assuming you can) to customize and maximize your stats in a way that nets you the most category wins against your opponent.

“So… you’re just pasting an NBA stat leaders’ page?” Nope. I’m only going to feature players rostered in less than 50% of Yahoo leagues. Italicized players are owned in less than 25%. For shooting percentages, I’m using Basketball Monster’s values that are weighted for volume. Next week, I’ll do sorta the opposite and list the punt specialists (value rankings with each individual category removed), as well as the rankings according to some other helpful stat combinations. I’ll leave out the flukey or injured players to save you some time here, as well.

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Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. At 6′ 3″, 236 pounds, Ali was a physical giant in his era. The average height/weight of a male in 1960 was 5′ 8″, 166 pounds. In the ring, Ali could physically pummel foes into submission like a rhino, yet he was nimble enough to flutter around the opposition and peck them humming bird style. Wait? Why am I making this difficult? He could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. It was the lyrical flow that unlocked the Pantheon, though. He would talk trash, spit rhymes, and back it all up in the process. Depending on your persepective, it was entertainment or a fly buzzing around your head. Joel Embiid could be the modern day Ali. At 7′ 0″, 260 pounds, he is a giant in his era. The average height/weight of a male in 2018 is 5′ 9″, 195 pounds. Thanks McDonald’s. On the court, Embiid can bully down low in the post or Euro step left and spin cycle right on the perimeter, leaving defenders in a tizzy. Like Ali, Embiid has the lyrical flow, both on and off the court. Man, imagine Ali on Twitter! Like Ali, Embiid walks the walk, backs up all the talk, and is the living embodiment of The Process. For all the messing around he does, though, last night was the first time he messed around…..

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
19 13 10 0 2 2 4/7 6/20 3/4

….and got a triple-double. Beep. Boop. Bop. I was wondering why I saw the Stocktonator watching old clips of Ali with Ice Cube blaring from the speakers yesterday morning. It liked Embiid a lot.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?