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There are two points of a fantasy basketball season where seasons can be won and lost: the first is at the draft and the second is when there are about twenty games left in the season. The draft is obvious. That is when you set the foundation of your team. The second point is a little more subtle.

For those owners in head-to-head leagues, this second point is important because you are setting your team up (hopefully) for the playoffs. You want players who have a lot of games and are on teams who will not be resting them during the critical time. The subtle part is directed more at owners in roto leagues. There are still enough games left to make moves in categories you can climb in or maintain your lead in categories you are ahead in.

The waiver wire is your tool to win the league at this point. Young players are finally putting it together and playing well and injuries are opening up time for bench guys who have played well when given minutes. The Golden State Warriors, and their massive amount of injuries to star players, is a team to focus on in order to find one or two players who can help you with that late season charge.

Quinn Cook is the player I want to focus on in this recap, and if you need threes, points, assists, steals, I will pause for a moment so you can go and pick him up. While we are waiting for those owners to get back can we just talk about how dumb they are for not picking up Cook yet and having him active for this game against the lowly Suns? Wait, wait, quiet, they’re coming back…

Welcome back, we were just waiting quietly for you. I hope you were able to add him. Cook is a 2-way player, no, that is not sexual. It means that he is one of two players each team can send back and forth to the G-League during the season. Cook has dominated G-League play for most of the year and now, because of injuries to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant, Cook is getting 40 minutes per game and putting up more than decent fantasy point guard stats. Last night Quinn Cook went for: 5/28/4/4/2/0 with only 2 turnovers in 40 minutes. This was on 11-17 shooting, including 5-7 from three. Pick him up.

Here is what else I saw on a busy St. Patrick’s Day:

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Man, the Warriors cannot catch a break… I mean, I don’t feel bad for their fans a bit, because they’ve been one of the most dominant teams in all of sports the last couple of years, but lately their luck has been running out. Kevin Durant will miss two weeks with an apparent rib injury he sustained against the Wolves back on March 11th. Obviously, this is a a heavy blow for his fantasy owners. You’re probably gonna have to stream heavy to win. Good luck is all I’ve got to say to you. Steph Curry is going to miss at least the next week and Klay Thompson is out for the foreseeable future. One of the main winners in this horrible situation is Quinn Cook. Last night, he went 5-25-4-3-3-0-1 on a scalding 10-of-13 shooting in 40 starter’s minutes. He’s probably worth the add with all the injuries to the Warriors if you want to gamble, but it’s relatively unknown what he’s capable of.

March Madness is in full effect. Shout out to The University of Maryland, County of Baltimore for ruining my bracket… Unfortunately, fantasy hoops playoffs also started this week, so many of us are going to just OD on Bball these next few weeks, as we slip slowly into baseball season.  Anyway, here’s what went down in professional basketball last night:

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For playoff bound teams, every win at this point in the season is huge. This was not only a big win for the Washington Wizards, it was avoiding a terrible loss. Yes, they are missing All-Star point guard John Wall, but the Boston Celtics were starting someone named Guerschon Yabusele.

I did some digging and discovered that Mr. Yabusele, before donning a jersey and being announced with the Celtics’ starting five, was one of those giant security guards that stand at the bottom of each staircase with their arms crossed and their backs to the court during the game. In fact, prior to playing 18 minutes in last night’s double-OT loss against the Wizards, the most exciting thing to ever happen to Guerschon on a basketball court was high-fiving Marky Mark Wahlberg after a Kyrie Irving game winner.

The Celtics may have ultimately lost the game, but to get as close as they did is a real testament to just how much the Wizards play down to an opponent’s level. I am pretty sure a Division II high school basketball team could take Washington down to the wire.

Besides the Wizards almost losing the Celtics G-League squad, here is what else I saw last night:

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I usually reserve the lede for the best statistical performance of the night, as numbers don’t lie. Neither do hips. I learned that from Shakira and my elementary school basketball coach. Anyways, last night James Harden‘s line was:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
25 3 7 2 1 4 3/10 7/14 8/9

For Harden, that’s one half of basketball. No matter, though, because Harden went Cobra Kai on Wes Johnson and put him in a body game. Literally. Figuratively. Twitterively. Spiritually.

Damn…….

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I was 8 or 9 years old when I, like nearly all other boys I knew of similar age, started seriously collecting baseball cards. This beautiful card was to blame for a lot of the shared madness.

A fun, young player that wears his hat backward and is often featured in my Sports Illustrated for Kids magazines? And, what? A rookie card is worth more money? And one of his rookie cards will be in a set by a new company with much higher quality cards so that it’ll be worth a lot of money (for an 8 year-old)? I must have this glossy picture of Ken Griffey Jr.

Thanks to my parents and some friends that were as crazy about cards as I was, in probably five years I had many thousands of cards and hundreds of Griffeys. I subscribed to Beckett Baseball Card Monthly all along, and I’d track my most expensive cards month-by-month on a primitive Microsoft Works, I think, creating line graphs to show how rich I was becoming with my handful of cards worth over $20 apiece! Anyway, I sort of still do the same thing with my fantasy players. I’ll track rankings when they come out weekly, updating both season-long and dynasty when I really have the time. It’s a great way to know the market value of your players. You might also benefit from tracking player rater data, since it’s what’s actually happened instead of a prediction of what might happen. Though, a rest-of-season rankings projection does take the season data into account, as well as prior seasons and facts about past or present injuries to the player or his teammates. There’s value in paying attention to both, of course.

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When the Nets acquired D’Angelo Russell in the offseason from the Lakers, it was expected that the former number two overall pick would be the face of the franchise. Made sense, as I’ve heard the rat population is huge in New York. I kid. I kid. Early on, Russell was playing like the face of the franchise, sporting a 35.8 usage rate. At the same time, a relative unknown started balling out, to the point where Atkinson could no longer deny what he was seeing. Every time he’d give him extended playing time, production would ensue. Coach Atkinson even moved Russell to shooting guard to accomodate. Then Russell went down with injury. And, as they say, the rest is history. Spencer Dinwiddie was made for New York City. He’s a tough, no-frills kind of player. Biggie would have been proud, as he went from “ashy to classy.” He was selected with the 38th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and spent time in the D-League, before finding a home in Brooklyn. It all culminated with last night’s performance:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 31 5 8 2 0 1 3/10 10/24 8/9

Now, Russell is expected back soon from injury. The logical expectation is that he garners the 30+ usage rate from pre-injury, which would obviously nuke much of Dinwiddie’s value. With that said, I do expect Dinwiddie to play the point with Russell at shooting guard. I also think that Dinwiddie has built up some equity, with both the coach and teammates, so he won’t be one of those bodies with concrete blocks that were shoved into the Hudson River.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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There were only two games on last night and since I grew up in the California Bay Area I will be making Stephen Curry the lead player in the recap. No, I am not a fair-weather Warriors fan. I grew up watching them through the ‘80s and ‘90s and early 2000s, where I learned to love the little things about a team and not just insignificant statistics like Wins and Losses.

Curry does deserve this honor, however. This is only Curry’s third game back after a pretty long recovery from an ankle injury, and he has been nothing short of spectacular. While Curry was out, Kevin Durant moved himself into the MVP conversation and the Warriors only lost twice. Now it is Curry’s turn to remind the world why he won back-to-back MVP awards and changed the Warriors from a fun, fast-paced team with amazing fans into arguably a Top 3 team of ALL-TIME (go ahead, argue with me).

Steph’s juicy slash: 4/29/9/5/1/0 in 36 minutes. He hit 10-of-20 shots, including 4-of-10 from deep, and had only three turnovers. Yes, the Rockets did not have James Harden in this Warriors win, but the Dubs did not have Kevin Durant, so this win and performance were impressive nonetheless.

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There will come a time when you  look back and regret not taking the plunge and picking up a player, who at this point in time, is averaging just 10 minutes a game. That time spent on the court has amassed stats of four points and three rebounds on under three shots per outing. The thing is, if we dig a little deeper, over the last seven days, a span of merely three games, this same player is averaging 13 minutes per contest, with 7.5 points, 3.3 boards, 1 steal, and 1.3 blocks on 78% shooting. Come again…. 78% shooting? Yes sirs and small group of ladies.

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For the first few weeks of the season, I try not to focus on the standings. I look, of course, but I do so knowing that there have been outlier games, whose impacts are more pronounced due to the small sample size. Also, most teams have a player or two that’s missed the majority of the games and they might also have been starting a replacement player that’s not going to keep it up much longer. However, we’re now about a quarter of the way through the NBA season. The data is relatively predictable. You should know which categories you need to focus on in order to gain points and which ones to ignore, either because you’re stuck at the bottom or entrenched at the top of a category (or if you always win or lose the category by a ton in head-to-head).

Today, we’ll look at the ESPN Player Rater. Tony RP’s Player Rater updates will give you a picture of who’s most valuable by position. I thought I’d go by category to see who’s doing what for us. Here are the top 20 players by category plus the bottom 20 for relevant ones, skipping players that have hardly played. So, it’s just the per-game stat leaders you may be familiar with, except that the percentage categories are weighted by volume. Turnovers are from BasketballMonster, since ESPN doesn’t include them.

So, how is this useful? Obviously, you want players that score well overall on the Player Rater. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be surprised to see some of your players pop up on these lists. Also, keeping in mind which categories you need help in, this can help you find some trade targets. Or, if you’re out of it in points or FG%, maybe ship off a guy that’s in the top 20 that’s not doing much else for you. If you’re in the middle of the pack in FT% and you see that you have one of the worst offenders there, maybe you can ditch him and gain points (just keep in mind what you might be losing in other categories from him). A lot can be gained by learning what’s actually happening compared to what we assume is happening based on previous years or projections.

Next week, I’ll get back into multi-category rankings for those that are ignoring categories, whether intentionally or as a matter of the hand you’ve been dealt. Think punt FG% & TOs, or for FT% punters: 3PTM+AST+ST+PTS+TO rankings, which are what you want to complement your FT% anchors with. That’s when you can really find trade value, since all players now have a new value to your specific team.

Please, blog, may I have some more?