It was tough to write this one until I was absolutely sure we could beat a Nets team without Kevin Durant or James Harden. The Bulls beat the Nets on Sunday 115-107, where they controlled the game from tip to the buzzer. I’m happy to report that I don’t have to commit fandom seppuku, and the Bulls still are very much relevant in the NBA playoff race this season.

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Last Friday I participated in my first fantasy baseball draft, which is the informal cue that we’re beginning to come down the home stretch for this fantasy basketball season. Depending on your league settings, we’re roughly a month out before the fantasy playoffs and the silly season of DNPs, phantom injuries, and more overt tanking tactics. 

To combat the non-competitive play that plagues spring basketball, the NBA has expanded the playoff format this year to incorporate the 9- and 10-place teams in each conference, making the line between buyers and sellers ahead of the March 25 trade deadline harder to see than in seasons past. Trade targets both IRL and fantasy will be hot topics in the coming days, so I decided to see if I could parse what the future holds for the Chicago Bulls, who are currently in 9th place out East and have held my fascination for the last few weeks. 

Currently sitting at 17-20, Chicago will have to hold off the 17-21 Pacers and the 17-22 Raptors if they’re going to return to postseason play for the first time since the Jimmy Butler era. Without a 2021 first round pick and contract decisions to make, I find the Bulls intriguing and genuinely don’t have much of a clue about how they’ll proceed. I’ll give away the game early and say that I don’t have any answers and my crystal ball is on the fritz. What follows is simply a consideration of the pieces that could be in play in the coming weeks. 

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Now THIS is the Luka we all expect to see, not his bricklaying doppelganger who’s plagued us with his presence too many times this season. It was a proper shootout in Texas last night, with Luka emerging the victor. He’s still only the 22nd-ranked player in fantasy despite projections, but, shooting like this should catapult him back into the top-10 if he can keep it up.

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The Chicago Bulls had a disappointing season by anyone’s measure as they had a promising group of talent on paper and couldn’t quite translate that to success on the court. The Bulls front office took the heat and a massive shake up ensued. For the first time in almost a decade,  Bulls fans have some hope for a franchise that has been reeling since Derrick Rose suffered a catastrophic knee injury in the closing minutes of a first round 2012 playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

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R. J. Barrett is the 361st player on a per-game basis for the 2019 fantasy basketball season. There are 13 active players on each of the 30 NBA teams. That means that there are 390 active players. Thanks to my handy dandy abacus, that means that Barrett is better than 29 players. Yippee……That’s kind of not good for the 3rd overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. But he’s put together three straight decent games in a row. Are things turning around and is there merit to Barrett being fantasy relevant?

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
27 5 5 1 0 3 3/8 10/18 4/7

The 27 points tied a career-high, which Barrett has accomplished three times this season. Barrett can score, even though he shoots with the wrong hand. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what performs regardless of the circumstances? The Stocktonator. He can also grab boards and dish out dimes. There is a reason why he was selected number three overall. With that said, there is a cavernous hole in his game: the shooting efficiency. On the season, he’s shooting 39% from the field and 59% from the line. There are stretches when he shoots sub-40% from the line. I will never understand how a professional ball player can’t shoot free throws at a high clip. It’s like literally their job. Anyways, he’s only 19 years old, so from a dynasty perspective, there is hope. For this season, he’s too inconsistent and doesn’t excel enough in the other categories to make the destruction of percentages worth it. So, the only merit to Barrett is in fading him.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Bam Adebayo is 6′ 9″ and 255 pounds with a 7′ 1″ wingspan. So, grabbing boards and accumulating defensive stats are within reach, which he does often. What separates Bam from the other big men in the league, though, are the handles and playmaking ability. During the Summer League before his rookie season, I remember watching Bam grab a rebound, dribble down the court, Euro step around a defender, then convert a layup as if he were a svelte point guard. That’s when I fell in love. He’s also an incredible passer. Whether it be getting the ball in the post, at the elbow, or at the top of the key, Bam is able to deliver precise passes to cutters flowing through the middle of the lane or slicing from the baseline. Bam often initiates the Heat offense himself by bringing the ball up court. The beauty of that is teams aren’t able to put pressure, and the action they can run off of it is deadly. The dribble-hand-off to a shooter works because he’s an excellent screener and his defender is usually a big man who can’t go over the top or slide over because Bam then has a clear path to the rim. If defenses switch that action, then Bam abuses the smaller defender down low. As a result, open three-pointers are readily available. So we have boards, dimes, and the defensive stats. Let’s not forget about the scoring. He has jump hooks in the lane, can cross over defenders on the perimeter leading to dunks, and the jumper is much improved. The range on the J hasn’t been expanded to downtown, but he’s draining 20-footers on the regular, so it’s only a matter of time. Last night, the full repertoire was on displays. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what always provides the full repertoire? The Stocktonator.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
20 10 10 1 0 1 0/1 10/16 0

His third time messing around in his career. On the season, Bam is a top 40 player for fantasy, averaging 16 points, 10.4 boards, 4.8 dimes, 1.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks. The field goal percentage is 58%. The only bugaboos are the free throw shooting (69%) and the lack of tres. I can see both improving over the course of his career. He’s only 22 years old! I wrote this a week or so ago, but I need to post it again. Since 1946, there have been 10 times a player has averaged 20 points, 10 boards, 5 dimes, 1 steal, and 1 block per game in a season: Giannis Antetokounmpo (twice), Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Garnett (three times), and Chris Webber. Bam could be the eighth player to join that illustrious group.

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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There are few things in life that get me hard and excited. Let’s see, all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ, 9-0 h2h victory for fantasy, PornHub, and watching the LeBron/AD pick-and-roll. I have to add James Harden to the list. I try not to write up the same player for the lede, but Harden is a freaking basketball savant and could be one of the best one-on-one players of all time. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s also an all-timer? The Stocktonator. The jumper from downtown is so pure that Skunk Works is reverse engineering it. The handles have caused many of sleepless nights for Ricky Jay. He’s also 6′ 5″ 220 pounds, so he can stampede to the rim against smaller players and big men have no chance on the perimeter, as he just makes them dance. Last night was yet another example of his brilliance:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
55 3 8 2 2 6 10/18 20/34 5/5

This was Harden’s 22nd career game scoring at least 50 points, which is good for fourth all time. Kobe Bryant had 25 while Michael Jordan had 31. Laughably, Wilt Chamberlain posted 118 50-point games!! LOL. Anyways, Harden is the numero uno player for fantasy on the season. He’s AVERAGING 37.9 minutes, 38.7 points, 4.9 tres, 5.9 boards, 7.5 dimes, 2 steals, and is shooting 88% from the line on 14 attempts! The turnovers are sky-high at 5 per game, but the production is so bountiful in the other categories that it is but a fly on the windshield. Are you not Harden excited?

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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There was a time when Channing Tatum was an international sensation, as he starred in blockbusters such as Step Up, G. I. Joe, 21 Jump Street, White House Down, and the Lego Movie. Ok, maybe some hyperbole but 43 movies are 43 movies. Don’t forget about the TV shows, video games, music videos, Saturday Night Live, and MTV Awards. Times started getting lean around 2014, though. The Google queries declined. The downloading of pics ceased. But then his phone began beeping incessantly in 2017, as he set up notifications whenever anyone Googled his name. He was back! Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what never leaves? The Stocktonator. Life was good again. Unfortunately, the queries all consisted of, “Is Jayson Tatum related to Channing Tatum?” Whatever, he took whatever he could get. Jayson Tatum was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He was a sensation his rookie year, to the point where some were saying that they wouldn’t trade him for Anthony Davis. Crazy. Anyways, the sophomore slump came and so did Channing’s pain, as his phone stopped buzzing. But here we are in 2019, as Channing’s phone has been off the hook, as his brother-from-another- mother has been balling out this season. Last night, he…..

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
19 11 2 2 2 4 4/6 7/14 1/2

His rookie year, Tatum ended as the 63rd player for fantasy. The following year, he finished as the 59th player. So far this season, he’s the 33rd player. Over the past six games, Tatum has been a top 10 player!!! The points, tres, boards, dimes, and steals have all increased. The shooting efficiency has declined, which sucks because the volume has increased, but that’s been the only blemish. The usage rate is 28 on the season, but it’s ticked up to over 32 at times. People are going to be Googling Tatum’s name for a long, long time. That makes Channing very happy.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Who came up with the names for the forward positions? There’s small and power. Why didn’t they go small and big? Or weak and power? Maybe there was a power struggle within the name manufacturing plant and small/power was the compromise to appease all parties. Politics, man. Anyways, you will find some of the best two-way players in the league here. There are also 3-and-D, 3-without-the-D, and D-without-the-3 players. Enjoy!

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