Hey there all you Razzball readers! The Duke is coming at you with an entire rundown of the Western Conference from a 9-cat fantasy perspective. We’ll start with a top 20 player ranking, then go team by team looking at all the viable fantasy options for the 2020-2021 season and see how to fit them into your roster to bring home another chip for the mantle!

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The fantasy playoffs are fast approaching, or maybe they’ve already arrived for you. Tough decisions will need to be made—the game is survival. Some of you may be in win-now mode. Others may be planning ahead, looking for keeper value on the wire, or last-minute trades with an eye toward the future.

The primary league I play in is a 9-cat Yahoo keeper league. You’re allowed to keep five players. I enjoy the keeper format because it’s an (extremely mild) replication of the control and decision-making required of an NBA general manager. You don’t start with a brand-new team every year in the NBA (as you do in re-draft leagues). You pay a price for the bad decisions of yesteryear or reap the benefits from the good ones. Keeper and dynasty leagues also force you to do the most scouting and projecting. If you insist on waiting until a player pops, you’re going to miss out on a lot of players. A competitive league ups the pressure to be first, it pushes the timeline of your decision-making forward. Of course, if you’re wrong about a player, that comes at a cost too.

Keeper values incorporate a value estimation and vague salary cap structure, at least during the offseason and through the draft. In the Scorekeeper League, you’re allowed 5 keepers and your draft capital is $200 minus the cost of your keepers. Every player’s cost increases by five dollars each year and you can only hold a player for four seasons. Keepers force you to always be thinking about the future even as the present rages on.

With the playoffs two weeks away, my Fat Mamba fantasy team is sitting in 9th place. I’m faithfully looking ahead to next season. Just in case you are too, here are some thoughts.

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There are countless amazing moments that happen every year in the NBA. Dunks, blocks, buzzer beaters, you name it. But there are also some that are head scratching. Like this for example.

Did the spirit of Nate Robinson enter Kyle Lowry’s body? Did he make an informed judgment call that he could fit through there? Was that a futile attempt to draw a foul. Fatigue just kicking in? Or was that an unsuccessful attempt at a forced piggyback ride? We will never know with certainty. Nick Nurse’s surprised reaction is just the icing on the cake.

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Joel Embiid is 7 feet and weighs 249 pounds. There are only around 2800 people in the world who are 7 feet or taller. With 7.4 billion people, that comes out to 0.000038% of the population! Add in the fact that he’s as nimble as a ballerina, possesses the feathery touch of players much smaller than him, and is almost as witty as Grey…..it all culminates in a human that is…..is he even human? Regardless, Embiid is truly a unique breed. Last night was just the most recent display of his uniqueness.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
49 14 3 3 1 4 1/3 17/24 14/15

The #11 player for fantasy on a per-game basis, which is key because he’s missed 16 games on the season. That is the only chink in the armor. It’s a massive one for sure, but things can change quickly. Just look at KAT. On the season, Embiid is averaging 23.8 points, 1.3 tres, 12 boards, 3.2 dimes, 0.9 steals, and 1.4 blocks with 47% shooting from the field and 82% from the line. He literally does it all. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what literally does it all day in and day out? The Stocktonator. Now, Ben Simmons did not play last night and could be out for a while. Without Simmons on the court, Embiid garners a usage rate of 36.4, and increase of 4.2%. He scores 1.59 fantasy points per minute! Here’s praying for the health of this outlier of a human.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The Oklahoma City Thunder entered the 2019 season with rebuilding expectations, as the team traded away Paul George and Russell Westbrook in the offseason. Two full months into the season, the Thunder are one game above .500 and are currently the seventh-best team in the stacked Western Conference. A big reason why has been the play of Chris Paul who, like a good neighbor, has provided stability to the team. Last night, Paul aaaaaaalllllmmmmmooooooooosssssttttt messed around.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
25 11 8 0 0 5 3/6 9/18 4/4

On the season, Paul is a top 25 player for fantasy. Over the past 15 games, he’s been a top 15 player and averaged 33.1 minutes, 17 points, 1.5 tres, 5.5 boards, 7.5 dimes, and 1.4 steals. He’s been shooting 48% from the field and 94% from the line. The usage rate has been 21.6 and the turnovers have been a miniscule 1.7 per game. Now, Paul is 34 years old and since the 2015 season, he has missed 8, 21, 24, and 24 games. It may be time to explore getting some insurance, as there’s a good probability that Paul will miss more than a few games. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what never misses a game? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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If you go to Lawry’s and order the prime rib, there are five cuts to choose from: The California Cut (for lighter appetites), the English Cut (three thin slices), the Diamond Jim Brady Cut (an extra thick portion, bone in), the Beef Bowl Double Cut (celebratory Rose Bowl cut), and the Lawry Cut (the traditional and most popular). Because I’m a fat ass, it’s all about the Beef Bowl Double Cut, 22 ounces of heaven.

Heaven ain’t no place in the sky. It’s right down here on Earth….at Lawry’s. There are not many things better looking than that. But since we are fantasy nerds, seeing your player mess around and drop a triple-double in the stat box has got to be up there. Last night, Kyle Lowry expertly cooked the Triple-Double Cut:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
20 10 10 2 1 3 3/6 5/17 7/8

Mmmm, mmmm, mmm. So delicious. Since returning from injury, Lowry has AVERAGED 38.6 minutes per game! For the season, he’s second with 37.3, right behind James Harden. That is great for fantasy, as the counting stats have been abundant: 2.3 trees, 5.8 boards, 8 dimes, and 1.4 steals. The shooting has been atrocious, though, as he’s been shooting 31% from the field. For the season, he’s at 40%. As a result, he’s putting up top 45 production and will likely finish in the top 35-40 range when all is said and done. Outside of the poor shooting, the other main concern is health. He’s already missed games this season and, with the elevated run per night, can he hold up for the entire season? If he can, there should be more cooking of the Triple-Double Cut this season, as Lowry has now messed around 15 times in his career. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what never messes around? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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A ravine is a “deep, narrow gorge with steep sides” according to Google. LaVine’s RaVine is a sight to see. The drop off in his stats based on the outcome of the game is truly something to witness. In wins, he’s great… he averages 27.1 points per game, with an offensive rating of 119, a FG% of 51.7, and an absolutely absurd 3Pt% of 57.5. And that’s similar to the LaVine we saw last night, in the Bulls’ unexpected victory over the Kawhi-less Clippers:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
31 4 2 2 0 3 4-7 11-21 5-6

In losses? LaVine’s scoring output falls to 20.2 points per game, with an offensive rating of 95 and FG and 3Pt percentages of 38.5% and 32.4%, respectively. That’s some sort of drop off, and it speaks to how much the Bulls depend on him if they want any chance of winning. His usage is nearly identical in both, but his inability to consistently perform at a top level makes us question his future as the leader of a team.

Here’s what else we saw around the league on Saturday night.

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I have much to be thankful for. A loving wife. Beautiful kids. Razzball. Beep. Boop. Bop. The Stocktonator. I’m thankful that there’s a holiday to remind us to be thankful, which gives us Black Friday and Cyber Monday so that companies can show their thanks by taking all our money. Gotta love capitalism. What’s next? Thankful Thursdays? At this point, might as well. The other week, someone texted me about Happy International Men’s Day. Are you f’ing kidding me? Does that imply that there’s a Domestic Men’s Day? Anyways, what I’m most thankful for this year has been drafting Bam Adebayo in every fantasy basketball league I could. Why? Just look what he did yesterday:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
17 16 1 1 1 4 0 6/14 5/7

Bam is only 22 years old. He’s 6′ 9″ 255lbs, so he can bang down low with the big boys, yet he’s agile enough to Euro step in transition for a dunk. The 7′ 1″ wingspan allows him to gobble up rebounds, while his vision and passing acumen have him dishing out 4.2 dimes per game. Bam is averaging 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks. The only thing he doesn’t contribute are tres, and the free throw shooting is poor (65%), although he’s been converting 72% of the freebies over the past seven games. Put it all together and Bam is a top 50-ish player for fantasy. Arigato Adebayo.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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When something is referred to as historic, we think of arms raised toward the sky, fireworks bursting and illuminating the world, with smiles and wet panties. We think of heroes. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s also a hero? The Stocktonator. Yet, historic can also reference the zeroes. Those who do something so bad that it’s actually impressive. Joel Embiid had one of those games last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
0 13 2 0 0 4 0/4 0/11 0/3

Embiid is no doubt a hero. If he wasn’t, then there wouldn’t be a line outside of the stadium after every game with both men and women waiting to sex him. With that said, he was a straight zero, both literally and figuratively last night. And I wasn’t being hyperbolic when I said that he had a historic performance. Since 1946, there have been only two other players who went 0-for-10 from the field, 0-for-3 from downtown, and 0-for-2 from the free throw line: Doug Christie in 1999 and Devean George in 2008. Make that duo a trio now. Now, Embiid is a fantasy stud, as he literally does everything. He hasn’t been producing like one recently, but have no fear, the good times will return again. If anyone is panicking, relieve them of their anxiety.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The stage was set.

After having a two-week long stretch of fantastic performances night after night, capped by a 27 point, five assist, seven rebound, and four steal pseudo-revenge game against the Bulls, all signs were pointing to Jimmy going OFF in the real revenge game on Saturday night.

The boos poured down from the Wells Fargo Center as he was introduced. It just felt like he was ready to explode and lead his Heat to their sixth-straight win. But alas, the opposite occurred. Harvard Sports Analysis actually found that superstars perform worse by a pretty good margin in “revenge” games, so maybe we should reverse that narrative. Here’s the line that Jimmy put up:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
11 5 3 2 0 1 0-2 4-13 3-4

Here’s what else happened around the league on Saturday night.

Please, blog, may I have some more?