Fantasy basketball forces you to take a critical look at the NBA’s unmitigated success stories. Will a breakout performance translate from one season to the next? Should we expect the dreaded faux-scientific sophomore slump for rookies? Will a natural year-to-year fluctuation in shooting push a player out of fantasy relevance? These are the relevant questions we have to weigh as the NBA season winds down and the fantasy playoffs start. It will be the fantasy offseason before you know it—it’s never too early to start planning for the future.

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Back when Larry Nance Jr. was a Los Angeles Laker, younger Son had a Nance Romance. I’d watch this 6′ 7″, 245 pound poster maker get busy night in and night out. With his 7′ 1″ wingpan and 37.5″ hops, Nance would Statue of Liberty every dunk. It didn’t matter if there was a defender there or not. It was patriotism at its finest. Unfortunately, he was never able to get more than 22 minutes of run per game, as he was down on the depth chart, suffered an injury when the opportunity finally arrived, and his tweener status gave coaches the heebie jeebies. When he got traded to Cleveland, I was sad to see him go but was curious to see if he could thrive. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what always thrives? The Stocktonator. Once again, the depth chart was not kind to Nance, but the team signed him to a four-year, $44.8 million extension. He had to play, right? Of course not because it’s the Cavs we are talking about. He could never carve out a significant role and primarily relied on injuries to get run. Well, here we are now. Tristan Thompson is out with a knee injury while Andre Drummond is nursing a calf injury. Last night against the Boston Celtics:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
19 15 4 4 0 2 2/5 7/13 3/6

In 39 minutes. Nance has always been a good rebounder due to his athleticism and pursuit, but he’s developed a decent shot from downtown to go along with his handles and passing ability. He’s always been a maven for steals, as he plays the passing lanes well. The one conundrum has been the lack of blocks. He’s never come close to averaging 1 block per game despite receiving around 27 minutes per game during stretches. Probably has to do with overall defensive IQ, as athleticism isn’t the issue. Maybe he and Blake Griffin studied at the same dojo for how not to get blocks. Regardless, in nine games as a starter for the Cavs, Nance has averaged 35.2 minutes, 14.1 points, 1.3 tres, 9.9 boards, 3 dimes, 1.2 steals, and 0.8 blocks while shooting 50% from the field and 81% from the line. That’s equated to top 40 production for fantasy. Wouldn’t he be the perfect player for the Houston Rockets? Anyways, only use Nance when both Thompson and Drummond are out, or if the Cavs come out and say that he’s going to be the starting power forward from now on. Don’t hold your breath.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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15 or so years ago, I’m walking through a baggage claim area in the Los Cabos International Airport. It was eerie. The room wasn’t well lit and not another soul was in sight. I think I had to take a piss or maybe I was searching for a friend. I forget, but what will forever be etched in my brain were the two figures that appeared in the distance. I didn’t pay much heed at first, but it was hard not to be transfixed on this couple. The man was a giant and the woman was exquisite. As they got closer and closer, the man just oozed cool. Oh, shit! That’s Kobe freaking Bryant and his wife, Vanessa! Woo sah, woo sah. Be cool. Be cool. Oh, shit! That’s Kobe freaking Bryant. I didn’t know what to do. I was shook, but not as bad as when we all received the horrible news yesterday; that Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

There are so many memories of Kobe. Not flinching against the Matt Barnes inbound fake. The 2005 season in which he scored 81 points in a game, 62 points in another, had four 50-burgers, and 21 40-point outbursts. Kobe was robbed of the MVP that year! The alley-oop pass to Shaq in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals. Tearing his Achilles then draining the free throw. The five championships. The 60 points in his final game. Chills. The mic drop. The dunks. The game winners. But what I most treasure about Kobe is encapsulated in Game 5 against the Utah Jazz during the 1997 playoffs when he airballed not one, not two, not three, but four shots as a rookie. Despite the failure, he could not be fazed. He could not be shook, unlike my weak ass. He didn’t slump or put his head down. He just brushed it off and used it as motivation to get better. He was a true student of the game whose sole focus was to get buckets and win. The jump shot form was perfect. The footwork was immaculate. The evolution of his game was poetic. All of that did not happen by accident. It was due to the psychotic work ethic.

41 years old. Gone. Just like that. I wanted to give you a pound when I saw you 15 or so years ago. I wanted to give you a hug. I wanted to take a selfie. I wanted to say wassup, but I was so shook that I just walked on by. Thanks for everything. Rest in peace, Kobe Bryant.

Here’s what happened in the games yesterday:

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The Phoenix Suns liked Deandre Ayton during the 2018 NBA draft. So much so that they drafted him with the number one overall pick. In hindsight, the pick looks silly because they selected him over the likes of Luka Doncic and Trae Young. If you look at the Suns history of drafting in the first round, it makes sense why they selected Ayton.

2017 – Josh Jackson. G-League.
2016 – Dragan Bender. Bucks.
2015 – Devin Booker. Yipee!
2014 – T. J. Warren. Pacers.
2013 – Alex Len. Hawks.
2012 – Kendall Marshall. LOL!
2011 – Markieff Morris. Knicks.
2010 – No first

Luka and Trae both had some perceived risks. Ayton was the safe pick because he was a big man who could shoot. Now, Luka should’ve been the pick, but it’s not like Ayton is a bust. Last night was an example of the fantasy goodies he can provide.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
26 21 2 0 2 2 0 11/15 4/4

Prior to last night’s game, the Suns were bringing Ayton off the bench, like a bunch of bobos. Regardless if he starts or comes off the bench, though, Ayton produces. Over the past seven games, he’s averaged 32.9 minutes, 18.1 points, 11.9 boards, 2.1 dimes, and 1.7 blocks. He’s converted 58% of the 14.1 shot attempts and shooting 78% from the line. That’s been good for top 30 production for fantasy. He can score down on the block or from the top of the key. The stroke is pretty. Is he a transcendent player like Luka? Negative, but he’s very, very good and could finish as a top 15 player. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what is transcendent like Luka? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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There are many different types of volcanoes. Cinder cones are the most common and are fairly small in both diameter and height. Stratovolcanoes are layered with lava, ash, and unmelted stone. These erupt with great violence because pressure builds in the magma chamber then…KABOOM! Like a shaken bottle of soda. Shield volcanoes are massive, with a huge base and gentle sloping sides. Eruptions are not explosive like stratovolcanoes. Instead, lava just flows out over the sides. Think Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Hassan Whiteside aka Mt. Whiteside is no cinder cone, as he stands 7′ 0″ and weights 235 pounds. He’s more stratovolcano due to his explosive performances in the past. Back in November of 2018, Mt. Whiteside erupted for 29 points, 20 boards, and 9 blocks! It was the consistency that was lacking, though. Sometimes it was injury, other times it was being in the coach’s doghouse. This season, though, Mt. Whiteside has been a hybrid shield/stratovolcano. Last night was the most recent example:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
23 21 1 0 5 1 0 8/14 7/8

He’s been erupting on the regular, but it’s felt like fantasy goodies have been just oozing over the edge, producing a fantasy island of extraordinary magnitude. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what oozes fantasy goodies on the regular? The Stocktonator. Mt. Whiteside is the #6 player for fantasy on the season. Points, boards, blocks, excellent field goal percentage, and the free throw shooting has been a robust 76%! I doubt Jusuf Nurkic returns and makes Mt. Whiteside dormant, so enjoy the nightly eruptions.

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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There was plenty of basketball to watch on Christmas Day, 13 hours worth to be exact. What figured to be a disappointing slate of easily predictable outcomes turned out to be a surprisingly fun, upset-filled NBA gift. A Golden State Warriors team full of two-way and minimum contract players managed to beat James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the rest of the Houston Rockets. Joel Embiid played grinch for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, leading to fans firing up all of the familiar “Bucks are a regular season team” takes. The solid, wing-heavy Boston Celtics comfortably beat an injury ravaged Raptors team and a newly rejuvenated New Orleans Pelicans squad pulled out a victory against the Denver Nuggets. And in the most anticipated game of the day, Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers outlasted and outshot LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. I enjoyed myself.

I viewed the Christmas day outcomes as a reminder of all there is to love about the NBA. Star-players duking it out for legacy supremacy and short-lived bragging rights. Yes, the regular season isn’t the most accurate prediction of playoff success, but it is still entertaining and compelling nonetheless. Wednesday’s games continued to reinforce my belief that, if you’re truly interested in the NBA, there is more than enough nightly entertainment to satisfy your intrigue.

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Bruce Lee was the man. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. He was an actor, director, philosopher, teacher, and professional ass-kicker. His speed and quickness would mesmerize and put me into a trance. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what always mesmerizes? The Stocktonator. But what I most admired about him was his mind. My favorite Bruce Lee quote is, “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash.” When he first arrived to the United States, he was all about the Wing Chun style, but he realized it was too rigid for the chaos of street fighting. As a result, he developed “the style of no style” which emphasized “practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency.” Brother-from-another-mother, Damion Lee utilized the same techniques as he led the Warriors to a victory over the Rockets, 116-104.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
22 15 4 3 0 2 2/2 5/9 10/10

Made his fifth start in a row and played 31 minutes. He was efficient from the floor, displayed speed in getting his 211 on, showed flexibility in his game by dishing out dimes, and was practically impossible to bottle up. He flowed like water through and around the Rockets. Now, Lee is a two-way player, and he has 15 days left before he’s sent down to the G-League. The Warriors cannot waive anyone to free up a spot because they are right at the hard cap. They could trade someone like Marquese Chriss, Alec Burks, or Glenn Robinson III, but that is unlikely. Translation: this will probably not last. With that said, he’s been a top 25 player over the past three games. He’s averaged 31.4 minutes, 18.7 points, 2.7 tres, 9.7 boards, 2.7 dimes, and 1.3 steals. The turnovers have been low while the percentages have been good. Like brother-from-another Bruce, the party will likely end prematurely, but there will be plenty of ass-kicking until that happens.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Money, money, money, monnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnney. Moooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnneeeey. Love it or hate it, we need money to survive; to eat, cloth, and find shelter. The more you have, the greater number of times you can put cheese on that Whopper, get bling to accessorize the outfits, and/or accumulate various forms of entertainment. What’s the color of money in the United States? Green. Lots of green is usually a good thing. Well, last night, Troy Brown Jr. was money.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
26 9 7 1 1 0 2/4 9/15 6/7

Since Brown was money and money is green, then Brown is the new green. Don’t bother Googling, I’ve done the research. The 26 points and 7 dimes were both career highs! Now, Davis Bertans did not play last night, so Brown’s offense was needed. Don’t expect this kind of performance every night, but Brown can provide some tres, boards, and steals when he plays. On the season, he’s averaging 23.2 minutes per game. Over the past six games, that number has ticked up to 27.6. With all the injuries, Brown will be the main scoring option off the bench, so Brown can be money for as long as he continues getting the opportunities. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s always money? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

No, not Michael. That would be weird and unbelieveable at the same time. Did he travel in time? Or did he sell his shares in the Hornets, pass through waivers, and get signed by an NBA team? He is 56 years old, so it would be quite the feat if he was able to ball in today’s NBA, and go on a scoring binge no less. Vince Carter is 42 years old and still playing, so anything is possible. Plus, if there was one guy who could pull off the feat, Michael Jordan would have to be at the top of the list. That would be one helluva 30 for 30. But alas, Michael is not the Jordan that I’m talking about. That would be Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who went 30 in 30 last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
33 6 1 0 1 1 6/8 12/17 3/5

In 30 minutes! Jordan gets buckets. How could he not? In five of six NBA seasons, Jordan has scored at least 30 points in one game. Unfortunately, he’s inconsistent and has never averaged more than 17 points per game. Plus, his last name is Clarkson. Ok, 17 points ain’t bad, as De’Aaron Fox averaged 17.3 points per game last season, which was good for 44th in the NBA. Clarkson just doesn’t do much else, which crimps his overall fantasy value. On the season, he’s a top 140 player.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?