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.

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I always enjoyed Outkast when I was younger. Their music would always get me to bob my head from side to side and up and down. The thing I most admired about them, though, was their ability to change. Early on, they were a more “traditional” rap group. As time progressed, they started experimenting and adding elements to their music which made them more funky. End result? My head continued to bob from side to side and up and down. The lead singer was Andre Benjamin, who performed under the stage name “Dre.” As the group changed their style, Benjamin changed his name to “Andre 3000.” The new and improved version, perhaps? Well, the same evolution has been taking place in Detroit, as Andre Drummond has been a beast. On the season, he’s averaging:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 13.7 15.2 3.4 1.4 1.2 3.5 0 99/188 49/81

The boards, assists, and free throw percentage are all at career-highs! The turnovers are at a career-high as well, but that’s a residual effect of being a playmaker. I should’ve known big things were coming when I saw highlights of him playing at the Drew League over the summer. Splashing step back 20-footers? What? The most impressive improvement has obviously been the free throw shooting. The Pistons broadcasters analyzed the differences here. Now, it all culminated last night for Drummond against the Boston Celtics:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 26 22 6 4 0 3 0 10/12 6/8

Season-high in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage. Let’s cut to Andre performing and get a glimpse of how all his fantasy owners are feeling right now:

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Hey y’all. We’re back again, like we never left, with another Saturday Special. Today we’re kicking it off with none other than the Tall Baller From the G himself, Dirk Nowitzki. He had a nice little vintage performance, as he led the Mavericks to a win over the Thunder, going for 19/5/4/2 on 7-for-10 shooting with four threes. Dirk’s no longer a fantasy stud, but it’s nice to be able to show love to one of the greats when they deserve it. Dirk might get sporadic rest days as the season goes on, but he’ll generally be given free reign to do as he pleases while the Mavericks happily tank for a pick. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

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Image result for draymond green

One of the reasons I prefer fantasy basketball to fantasy football is that in basketball it is much less likely to have your entire season derailed by an injury. That being said, opening night of the 2017-18 NBA season twisted my world view right along with Gordon Hayward’s ankle. Ouch!

It is when these things happen that I am reminded of two famous quotes: “Knowledge is power,” which I saw on a bumper sticker, and “Chaos is a ladder,” words spoken by the scheming Littlefinger in Season 1 of Game of Thrones. An injury can open the door for this year’s waiver wire MVP or at least offer a younger player an opportunity to get more minutes and become fantasy relevant. In order to take advantage you must not only act quickly, but you need to know which players will benefit the most, and that my friend is not easy.

So without further ado, here are the major injuries lingering around the NBA, some suggestions for which replacements to target, and whether you should stash, drop, or use an I.R. spot (if your league allows it):

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Image result for warriors logo

I’ve had fun writing these team previews, so I’m sad that this will be the final one for this season. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the journey with me. Not all is poo poo, though, because it means the season starts tomorrow night! Yaaaaaassssssss! Any of you remember Voltron, Defender of the Universe? Five robot lions, that each had specialized skills and roles, would come together and form a super robot to protect the universe from evil? That’s what the Warriors are. Five players that can do damage individually, but go to a completely different level when playing with a collective consciousness. What if the response by the aliens to one of the SETI signals beamed out to outer space is: Game on, bitches! Putting all hate aside, the Warriors would be the squad we’d send, right? They are the NBA’s Voltron.

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Whew. 100 down. 100 to go. It’s been a helluva ride, but we almost there. This is where things get really interesting, as it’s a group where some starters still reside, but is mostly populated with bench players. Do you go with a specialist or someone that contributes across the board? Decisions decisions.

Yes! I’m freaking pumped now. Go do your thing right now! I’m going to finish this post then run like Forrest Gump.

If you missed them, here are the links for:

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For anyone who is in their early 30s (or older), this song would be familiar.  Sadly, I’m giving away my age.  Slim is totally not gonna be drafting me if I was a professional NBA player.

In any case, it’s the 1st week of the playoffs and where it’s either you make it to the next round, or it’s sayonara until next season.  Going into the weekend, it could be do or die… as is the case for most of my teams in Razzball leagues where I hobbled into the playoff spot without Kevin Durant.  So if you’re finding yourself in the similar situation of trying to get through via the band aid solution, these ideas below might help.

Let’s take it by day and some potential pick ups:

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