If your fantasy team had the misfortune of facing James Harden this week, my condolences. Thoughts and prayers go out to you and you family. You ran into the buzzsaw. I would know, I was one of them. Last night Harden went 8-48-8-6-4-1-6 on 14-of-30 shooting and 12-of-15 from the line in his worst scoring performance of the week. In three games this past week, he went 19-163-27-14-7-3-15. To be fair, there were two overtime games so his numbers got a slight boost, but this is probably the greatest three-game scoring performance in recent memory. RIP to my fantasy team. On a lighter note, here’s what else went down in the NBA last night:

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While perusing the standings the other day, I was surprised to see we’re already past the half-way mark of the NBA season. And for those in head-to-head leagues, that means we’re almost 2/3rds of the way through the fantasy regular season! It’s time to take stock of our team(s) and see where injuries, pick-ups, and dropped busts have left us situated. For example, half my starters this week on one team have been free agent pickups. I have some idea of my team’s strengths and weaknesses, but it’s a vastly different group than what I started with. Once we identify our short-comings, it’s as simple as grabbing a couple centers for a pair of guards to make up ground in boards and blocks, right? Maybe. But there are constraints that might make it more complicated than that. You may be losing stats you need by doing that and you may not be able to fit two extra centers into your lineup, anyway.

This week I’d like to bring up a concept many of you are probably familiar with, but often goes forgotten: Out-of-position stats. What if you’re low in rebounds, but you don’t have room to add/start a center? Well, you could trade a traditional point guard (assuming you were set with PG stats) for Dejounte Murray (9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, and yes, by the way, I’m choosing an alternate universe in which he’s healthy for this hypothetical situation). Considering trading for or picking up players that get atypical stats for their position can make a ton of sense for a lot of reasons. Maybe you lost a big assist guy like John Wall or your dominant rebounder in Clint Capela. Maybe you’ve got another out-of-position stats guy that hurts you because of what he lacks (Dejounte’s assists and three-pointers, for example). Also, when you have out-of-position stats, like say Nikola Mirotic’s 3s, you can afford to have additional atypical players that others in your league might devalue, like Elfrid Payton, a guard that doesn’t hit many threes. Get creative and check out some of the players I’ve listed below.

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It’s a contentious time in our nation’s capital. Bryce Harper may be departing, the name White House is being taken a little too literally, and questions abound regarding the viability of the Wall. That is why I propose that we, as a fantasy nation, Kneel4Beal 2020. Good things come from kneeling: marriage proposals, getting knighted, […]

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Once a decade or so, a rookie comes into the league and, not only is it extremely obvious that they are special, they immediately hit the floor running. Not since LeBron has a rookie demonstrated All-Star level production, keeping up with and often times dominating seasoned pros in the best basketball league in the world. Luka Doncic provides matchup issues for opposing teams and is such a dynamic offensive force for the Mavs, making every teammate better. While making serious waves in the NBA, in fantasy he still has plenty of areas he can improve. Currently, he’s been hovering around the top 80 in standard category leagues. The main culprits of keeping his fantasy value anchored are his percentages and turnovers. He also has room to grow in the steals department. For now, he’s an exciting, yet flawed player to roster on your fantasy squad, but he’s already one of the most fun players in real life and fantasy.

Luka Doncic

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
10/23 7/10 2/9 29 8 12 2 0 1

Luka was 2 boards short of messing around and was just a savage in this one. He scored at all 3 levels and was the obvious leader of the Mavs. When the percentages start to creep up, look out, because the sky’s the limit for Doncic.

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Have you ever read those stories of mothers that morph into the Hulk to lift a car so that their babies can be freed? Wild stuff. While that is an extreme example, it does show that motivation is a powerful tool that can propel us to do some insane things. And one of the greatest motivators comes from rejection. The hometown school doesn’t recruit a player? I know it’s narrative street, but said player often balls out against that school. A girl or guy breaks up with you? After the mourning period, you eventually rise from the ashes and try to be so nice that they become jealous. Well, last night, DeMar DeRozan provided another example.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
21 14 11 2 0 3 0 7/15 7/7

His first career trip-dub, as the Spurs blew out the Raptors 125-107. Don’t tell me he wasn’t extra motivated. Shh. Zip it. I can’t hear you. Anyways, he doesn’t play the Raptors every game, so what can we expect? Top 30-40 player sounds about right. He averages 35 minutes, around 22 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 0.5 blocks. 47% from the field and 84% free throw shooting on 6 attempts are nice. Turnovers are low at 2.4 and the usage rate is in the 27 range. The only thing that’s missing are the threeecolas. It’s not the debauchery we witnessed last night, but it’s not bad at all.

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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Remember when Emmanuel Mudiay was the #7 overall pick by Denver? He never seemed to live up to his potential or draft position. He ended up in NY and, for fantasy teams, was a complete afterthought. Well, looks like we were wrong because he has been playing great lately. I am skeptical about Mudiay’s overall production and his ability to continue, but for now, enjoy the ride because he’s playing like a totally new player. He’ll probably fall victim to the notorious Knicks rotation, but you have to like the production recently and, if you could use points, assists, and surprisingly solid percentages, you could do worse. He’s a definite sell high if you can find someone who is buying in. Just point to this game and see what a GM might give you in exchange.

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
14/21 5/6 1/4 34 3 8 1 0 3

Wow! Mudiay had been hovering close to the top 100 over the last month, on the strength of nice scoring, assists, and FT%, but this was his coming out game. The 34 points were a career-high. More importantly, he showed confidence and swagger and seemed to know he was the man. He nearly hit the game winner, which we all thought was going in. He could be a contender for Most Improved Player if he keeps it rolling.

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Cue the epic guitar solo! Hayward’s owners can lay their weary heads to rest. Don’t you cry no more! Last night Gordon Hayward went 4-30-9-8-2-0-2 on 8-of-16 shooting and a perfect 10-of-10 from the stripe in 30 minutes off the bench. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of the return of Hayward to his old self. It has been pretty miserable owning him this year, but this could be a turning point for him. He’s still getting his confidence/sea-legs back and was  averaging only 10.3 points coming into this one. This was on the heels of a back-to-back as well which means Brad Stevens is confident enough in Hayward’s health to give him big minutes. Many owners used a 4th/5th round pick on him, so if he can return to any semblance of the player he was in Utah, his owners will be happy.

There were seven games on the slate last night in the NBA so let’s dive on in to the Daily Notes!

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In the year LXXX A.D., the construction of the Roman Colosseum was completed. While Classical mythology dramas were performed there, the Colosseum was more well-known for the gory public spectacles: gladiator fight, executions, and animal vs. animal clashes. Thanks to Google, we are able to learn about some of the most epic battles. Were they true? When I buy my DeLorean, I’ll let you know. Until that day, assume all the accounts are true, because I got it from a page on the internet. There was the elephant vs rhino fight, in which the elephant picked up a broken spear and gouged the rhino’s eyes out. A former Syrian soldier named Flamma was victorious 33 times. He so impressed the masses that the politicians offered him freedom four times. Titus filled the Colsseum with water, brought in ships, and re-enacted a sea battle with three thousand men. All impressive and no doubt had all the spectators on the edge of their seats, but none could compare with what went down at Scotiabank Arena last night, where the Toronto Raptors edged the Golden State Warriors, 131-128 in OT. The game looked like it was going to be a laugher, as the Raptors stormed out to a 13-point advantage after the first period, but then Kevin Durant went into F U mode and….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
51 11 6 0 0 1 4/7 18/31 11/12

KD has scored 44, 49, and 51 points over the last three games. With no Steph Curry on the court, he has a mind-boggling 41% usage rate. There’s really not much to say, as KD is the #3 player for fantasy, and we all know it, but…..30.1 points, 1.5 threeecolas, 7.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.1 blocks, 51% from the field, and 93% from the line is so silly to write and look at regardless. Anyways, landofbasketball.com has the head-to-head stats for KD vs Kawhi Leonard. They have played 32 times against each other (13 regular season/19 playoffs). KD averages 28 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.2 blocks against KL. NBA is faaaaaaantastic!

Beep. Boop. Bop. I was wondering why I saw famous battles at the Colosseum on the History Channel when I walked by the Stocktonator earlier in the day, as it had KD as the #1 player last night.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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This season of 50-point games and JaVale McGee relevance is already about 25% complete. How are your teams looking? We should have a pretty good picture of what we can expect from our lineups and most players, so where can we go from here? Let’s get creative. I’ve been talking about how the practice of ignoring categories that aren’t affecting us can give us an advantage (even if we weren’t trying to punt categories), as it presents a market tilted in our favor. Shaking up the values of players and customizing them to our teams is a great way to make some effective trades. Trades that are more likely to get accepted, because they can more easily be win/win deals. Today, I’m going to give a variety of lists of multi-category “punts” to help identify targets that often go undervalued, in addition to those that complement punting teams best.

I’ve gone on and on about how most categories get overlooked. That’s something that can give savvy managers an advantage. The masses, if they aren’t looking closely at player raters and rankings, may essentially be “punting” the ignored categories like steals, for example. As I often mention, I truly think most fantasy managers subconsciously weigh points, rebounds, and assists more heavily than the other stats. It’s understandable, as that’s how most media outlets report stats, but it’s ridiculous to do so in fantasy, as all categories are created equal.

So, first up, here’s a list of some startable players with the biggest jumps in 9-cat per-game value (per Basketball Monster through 11/25) when we ignore Points, Rebounds, and Assists. These 6-category rankings should give us the players that are most undervalued, especially by casual fantasy players. Think of them as the thinking-man’s fantasy all-stars, fittingly led by it’s perpetual mascot.

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