If your league has been around a while, you have likely started the fantasy playoffs already. If not, you’re likely starting them very soon. There’s always a shift that happens after the all-star break as teams decide they need a drastic shift or they choose to tank.

As a result, players often slip into fantasy relevance that were once forgotten, or borderline, plays. All rankings in this article were taken from Basketball Monster and are the 9-category player rankings for the last two weeks of the season in PER GAME value, not total value.

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Hey everybody, it’s me Keith! Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Blue’s Clues and every episode starts like that… Anyways, let’s get down to business.

It’s officially NBA silly season with the trade deadline already in distant memory, and plenty of teams are not super interested in winning basketball games right now. If a team can finish 10th and get into the play-in, they may be more interested in resting their guys and getting a better draft pick.

So which teams are doing that? And, more importantly, which players benefit the most from this shift?

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It’s been just over a week since a friend of mine pointed me toward the Kevin Durant/Michael Rapaport beef that had bubbled up on social media. At the time, I somewhat gleefully read through their back and forth until I felt my emotions start to turn. KD, from all the stories I’ve heard and books that I’ve read, does not strike me as a happy man. The texts he sent to Rapaport support this. Then I saw the follow-up video that Rapaport put out that provide additional context for his spicy IG chat with Durant and I felt even worse. KD might be unhappy, but Rapaport strikes me as something far more distasteful than the aloof ennui of the unfathomably talented. After eating my fill of online garbage, I sent the following text to my buddy:

I wish I could get that time back. 

I can’t, obviously. None of us can. But what we can do is make up for the time lost, and Durant did just that in his return to NBA action on Wednesday night. All told, the Nets played 23 games since KD was last in uniform, but you wouldn’t have known that by watching him.

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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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One, two, three and to the four. Giannis Antetokounmpo is all that we ask for. Ready to make an entrance so put your hands up. ‘Cause you know he’s about to hammer the cup. Give him the rock and it’s nothing but trouble. Maybe he’ll mess around and get a triple-double. He racks up more points than a daily double. Ain’t nuthing but a G thang, baby. One loced out G going crazy. He racks up so many stats that it’s hazy. Unfadeable so please don’t ever fade him. But, um, back to the lecture at hand. Perfection is perfected so you best understand. From G’s persepctive. Every defense is completely ineffective.

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Yep, I’m going to subject you all to my friends and family league yet again. We’re at the midway point of our regular season after today, so I wanted to go back and see where my predictions from the preseason were right and wrong, and which fantasy players are performing better or worse than their average draft position (ADP).

What I hope you can take from this is how to better formulate your strategy in your own leagues, and what seems to work best for people in a relatively average league. Our league is listed as a “silver” league on Yahoo!, which isn’t really scientific but indicates our team levels combined are slightly below the average of “gold.” We have two platinum, one gold, four silver, and five bronze managers. It’s a top-heavy league, which is the case in most scenarios as the people who run the league seem to be far more invested.

Anyways, the below records and rankings are based on if the scores stay the same as they are at the writing of this article. Those are subject to change, but not by much.

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On Super Bowl Sunday, it was fitting that Donovan Mitchell was super and had his best game of the season. This is what I wrote for my DFS article for Draftkings on Sunday morning:

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz at Indiana Pacers, $7,900 – Mitchell is the “just right” porridge in the Three Little Bears story – not too hot, not too cold, just right. For slurping porridge, this is a good thing. For daily fantasy, not so much. He’s scored over 40 DKFP 10 times this season with two of those 50-burgers, but he’s gone lower than 40 DKFP 11 times. So why do I consider him a stud today? He garners a usage rate of 30.6% on the season and is hoisting up 18.6 shots per game. This game has a spread of four points, so it should be competitive. In addition, the Pacers boost the fantasy points per minute to shooting guards by 11.99% above league average, the fifth-most generous rate in the league. It wouldn’t surprise me if he notches his third 50-burger of the season.

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If you are curious about the title of the article, I divert your attention to the “Buy” entry about Cody Zeller. He is the Balding Mamba. He has always been the Balding Mamba. [Son’s note: There is only one Bald Mamba in the world, and that is Alex Caruso]

In the introduction, I want to touch on something totally different. Today’s NBA and the volatility of team rosters through trades makes it all the more difficult for cool player duos to develop together and have the narrative that they stay on the same team and help it grow to compete. The duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry was one of the few exceptions in Toronto, where it was obvious that they enjoyed a great friendship off the court as well. DeRozan’s trade to the Spurs may have brought a championship to Toronto but it also split the dynamic duo. Regardless, DeRozan didn’t miss the chance to roast his old friend in the wake of Fred VanVleet breaking his record for most points scored by a Raptor.

It is always nice to see the human side of these superstars and to understand that many of them are ordinary people behind the veil of fame that comes naturally with the job.

Regarding last week’s suggestions, Wayne Ellington, unfortunately, cooled off a lot after his lights out performances from beyond the arc, Ivica Zubac and T.J.McConnell were both serviceable while Danilo Gallinari confirmed his spot as a “Sell” candidate that can even be dropped at this point.

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