Pat Connaughton benefited from the absence of Donte DiVincenzo, playing 26 minutes off the bench. He hit four of his 11 threes to score 14 points, while also hauling in eight rebounds. It was Connaughton’s third straight double-digit scoring game, and he’s dropped in 11 threes in that stretch. However, he’s as streaky as they come as he finished with single-digit point totals and only three triples over his previous seven outings. If you’re desperate for threes you can stream him and hope he gets hot from deep, and he provides solid rebounding for his position as well (five percent owned in Yahoo!).

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LeBron. Le Cordon Bleu. Le Diplomate. Le Creuset. Le Meruice. Le Meridien. Le PS5. Le Los Angeles Lakers. Le just means The but that doesn’t diminish its greatness. It’s the first one written, first one seen, first one spoken, and introduces all things, big or small. With that said, only a select few are blessed with the Le. In France, not so much but in the good ole’ US of A, it’s akin to finding Coke in a glass bottle. LeVert, as in Caris LeVert has been great and looks to have finally found his footing in Indiana. Two games ago, he went for 34 points, two tres, five boards, three dimes, one steal, and three blocks. For an encore, he went bonkers again….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
26 6 6 2 3 2 1/8 7/18 11/13

….in 36 minutes. The usage rate was a whopping 29. Over the last four games, LeVert has been a top 15 player. Houston sure could use a player of his caliber.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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This was the Gary Trent Jr. game! He willed the Raptors to a much-needed victory over the Cavs in Cleveland. Of course, we have to start off with Trent Jr. Last night, the man shot 17-19 (89.5%!) from the field and did not miss a single two-pointer on his way to 44 points! He also grabbed seven boards while dishing out four assists. Rookie Malachi Flynn also had a very good game scoring 20 points, handing out 11 assists, and stealing the ball twice. Chris Boucher had another excellent defensive night swatting four shots while getting one steal with his teammate OG Anunoby scored 15 points with five rebounds and three assists. 

On the other side, the Cavs got 29 points from Collin Sexton, who shot 50% from the field and also handed out five dimes. Kevin Love put another 20 minutes of action under his belt scoring 18 points, grabbing in three boards, and stealing the ball once. Before exiting the game due to injury, Darius Garland put up 19 points and had eight dimes on 41.2% shooting from the field.

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Lauri Markkanen shot the ball exceedingly well, making eight out of 10 attempts for 18 points. Everything else about his night was concerning though, especially the minutes, which also topped out at just 18. Markkanen’s playing time has taken a hit—he’s been under 24 minutes in five of his past six outings. In those limited runs, he’s failed to corral more than six rebounds in a game, and totaled just two assists, one steal, and one block. With fantasy playoffs looming, he could be a cut candidate. Chicago just embarked upon a four-in-five-nights set, so let’s see if he can slingshot his hot shooting from last night into some real momentum.

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The buyout market has always been a contentious topic in the NBA, but especially this year as LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin went to the Nets while Andre Drummond signed with the Lakers. These moves would normally cost teams current or future assets, but this is not the case in a buyout situation. This is especially a concern for smaller market teams that lack the allure to convince players to join them via the buyout market, essentially widening the margin between big and small-market teams. I am not sure if this is in the immediate agenda of the league but even as a fan I have to admit that it feels a little bit like cheating for a team to get players of that caliber for essentially no cap space hit. Another unfortunate side effect is that trades for these players are unlikely to happen, as rival executives know that the players will be eventually bought out and are reluctant to give anything of value for them. All in all, it seems like a situation that needs to be further explored for potential changes next year.

Getting back to the fantasy talk and regarding last week’s suggestions, I hope you followed my advice on selling Al Horford, as the Thunder announced he will not play again this season as they shift their focus to tank…ahem to player development…Tyler Herro was also featured as a “Buy” candidate and has since improved his shooting and peripheral stats, while Jordan Poole also had a good run but is a drop due to Stephen Curry’s return.

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Steve Urkel and CJ McCollum have so much in common. Just look at them. Both are underappreciated and often get brushed aside. In Urkel’s case, he’s got an annoying, nasally voice, the style is juvenile, and he’s just a straight-up nerd. McCollum plays alongside Damian Lillard, who spits hot fire off the court and goes NBA Jam He’s Heating Up on it. But man, both are ballers on the hardwood. Here’s Urkel:

McCollum had his own heroics last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
23 7 5 2 3 1 1/7 9/18 4/4

Yes, he did that. He rarely is a maven on defense but he got busy last night. In his career, that was the eighth time in his career that he’s notched at least two steals and two blocks in the same game. Since returning from injury, McCollum has played eight games, scored at least 20 points in four with two of those over 30, and garnered a usage rate over 30 in four of those contests. Last night, the usage rate was 22. With Norman Powell now in the mix, it will be interesting to see how the pie is spliced between Lillard, McCollum, and Powell. Regardless, McCollum gonna get his and could finish as a top 40 player in fantasy.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The NBA trade deadline is one week away and with the addition of the playoff play-in tournament, more teams are expected to be buyers than before. This makes the roster spot and fantasy value of many veterans in rebuilding teams quite precarious and I would expect a number of them to be moved to less ideal fantasy situations before the deadline. This could also provide more opportunities for younger guys to generate fantasy value, so it would be wise to stay especially active during the next week in an attempt to try and capitalize quickly on trades, by adding the correct players from the waiver wire. Fantasy goodness is about opportunity after all so all these potential roster changes can shake up the rotation of many teams. Finally, this year we have seen a record number of cases of teams flat out sitting veterans when they don’t fit in their timeline, so that could be interesting to watch in the future, with names like Andre Drummond, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin already on that list.

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I had the good fortune of playing on some pretty good basketball teams in my youth. Well, good fortune in the sense that I was on teams that won a bunch of games and had the best seat in the house at the end of the bench. The two high school classes ahead of mine were absolutely loaded, creating a bottleneck of talent and pushing varsity-caliber players down to a JV squad that churned through overmatched programs over and over again. Winning by 15+ and then getting an earful about how poorly we played the next day in practice was a pretty routine occurrence. I’m not sure we lost more than three games over the course of two years.

What Jonas Valanciunas did to the Wizards reminded of these glory days, as JV was absolutely dominant against a frontcourt that didn’t have anything resembling an answer for the Memphis big man. Jonas is a load in the paint, and if you don’t have a big body to throw at him, the results can be Just Vicious.

Jonas Valanciuias 

PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 3PM FG FT
29 20 3 0 4 2 0 12/21 5/7

JV feasted on Washington’s undersized group. Moritz Wagner could only hang for 21 minutes with him before collecting six fouls. Davis Bertans racked up five fouls in 20 minutes. Robin Lopez fared better than those other two, but Scott Brooks eventually had to turn to his fourth big, Alex Len, for a couple of minutes in search of relief from the abuse. This is the second time Valanciunas has posted a 20+  points and 20+ rebounds line this year. Skilled and huge, he abuses teams that don’t have an ogre of their own to throw at him. With only two games on the slate, there was nowhere to hide JV’s dominance.

Here’s what else I saw on slow Wednesday in the NBA:

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If you’re looking for intro material, check out yesterday’s post regarding the Eastern Conference All-Star team. If click and reading isn’t your thing, here’s a quick refresher:

The task was to assemble a 12-man ballot comprised of 3 Guards, 3 Forwards, 2 Centers, and 4 Flex positions with 9-category scoring (points, boards, dimes, steals, swats, turnovers, three-pointers made, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage) in mind. Votes were cast and write-ups were, uh, written up by the Razzball basketball staff.

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Andre Drummond is THE prime example of why fantasy value is not equal to real-life value. When you look at his stats, with career averages of 13.8 REB, 1.4 STL, and 1.5 BLK you think you are looking at the best rebounder in the game and an elite defensive player. Surely this guy must be an elite player and perennial All-Star! The reality is far from that. First off, he is a player who is a non-factor from behind the arc, dismal from the free-throw line, and he doesn’t even have elite efficiency on his 2-point attempts. This year, his effective field goal percentage sits at a dismal 47.4%. This is ranked 118th in the league among qualifiers, below Kelly Oubre Jr. even with Oubre’s dismal start. Even though he is nowhere near the type of player any NBA team should be running their offense through in the modern game, he constantly demands the ball, putting his usage rate at 30.8%, higher than Kawhi Leonard, De’Aaron Fox, and Nikola Jokic. Simply put, he plays like he is Hakeem Olujawon when his skill level is that of Charlotte Hornets Dwight Howard. These, along with his bloated contract are the primary reasons why his real-life value is very low, and why his situation is causing serious uncertainty for his fantasy owners.

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