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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Entering the season, Jrue Holiday was being drafted as a top 12 player for fantasy. And for good reason, as he finished as the 22nd and 21st player on a per-game basis the past two years. Anthony Davis was gone, so the expectation was that he was going to be the alpha, with the young kids following his lead. That is not how things worked out to begin the season, though. Jrue looked like he was on a Holiday, while Brandon Ingram took the league by storm. Then Zion Williamson returned from injury and the hype was all on him. Now, Lonzo has been Ball-ing with his new shot, which looks excellent by the way, and Jrue became the forgotten man. We are silly humans because Jrue never went anywhere. Last night, Jrue reminded us that he can still barbecue the opposition. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what always cooks the competition? The Stocktonator.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
37 9 8 1 1 1 3/8 13/20 8/9

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalmost messed around, which would have been the fifth time in his career. Over the past 21 games, Jrue has been a top 25 player. Over the past four games, he’s been top 15. He’s been lurking in the bushes, sniping off Charlie without anyone noticing. But I see you, Jrue! The usage rate isn’t crazy like most stars, as it’s in the 22% range, but he’s playing a ton of minutes for a team that plays at a fast offensive pace, and contributes across-the-board production. The only bugaboo to his game is the 70% free throw shooting.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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There is no stopping the King. Those who stand his way are forced to bow down to his greatness. With the Friday night lights gleaming, no superstar shines brighter. In a head-to-head battle between MVP candidates, one man rose to the occasion and asserted himself as the leading candidate. That man would happen to be Lebron James. Flirting with a triple-double, James was aggressive all night as he placed his stamp all over the game and all over the Milwaukee Bucks. Even when struggling from behind the three-point line, “Logo Lebron” still found a way to drop a near 40-ball in a big time win. Talk about “young bucks,” the 35-year-old babied and bullied the Bucks all night as he continues his historic MVP run.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
37 8 8 3 0 4 1/7 12/21 12/15

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Naz Reid was a highly-touted recruit in high school and was ranked as the third-best power forward/15th-best overall player in the nation. He played his college ball at LSU and declared for the draft after one season. He’s 6′ 10″, 240 pounds, has feathery touch from downtown, has decent handles with a wicked spin move to maneuver in the paint, is agile for a man his size, and can dish out dimes. Then why did he go undrafted? He didn’t dominate his one year in college and tanked the pre-draft combine. But the Minnesota Timberwolves knew because it wasn’t hard to tell that he was Illmatic…….

Ahhhhh, love that song. Anyways, can’t give the Timberwolves that much credit because if they truly knew then they would’ve drafted him. Regardless, they took a shot and their gamble looks to have paid off.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
13 14 3 3 2 1 1/4 5/12 2/2

In 27 minutes. Over the past seven games, Naz has averaged 25.4 minutes, 10.9 points, 0.9 tres, 7 boards, 1.6 dimes, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks. A 1/1/1 player!!! The field goal percentage is very poor for a big man, though, as it’s been 40% recently and 41% on the season. He’s a 70% shooter from the free throw line. Now, much depends on whether or not Karl-Anthony Towns returns. If he does, then Naz will have little value, but if KAT does get shut down, then……Naz will be Illmatic. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s always Illmatic? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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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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Duncan Robinson is one of the NBA’s best three-point shooters in only his second season in the Association. After playing in only 15 games and starting just one last season, Duncan Robinson has had an outsized impact on the Heat’s success this year. Robinson is fourth in the league in three-pointers made, behind only James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Buddy Hield. Among players with at least 200 attempts, Robinson is tied with Khris Middleton for fourth in the league in percentage at 43.8. The effectiveness of Robinson’s two-man game with Bam Adebayo helps unlock Bam’s playmaking and driving game.

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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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What are the roles of a butler? To answer the phone, greet guests at the door, plan events and parties, serve drinks and food, manage the wine cellar, and keep the paparazzi and solicitors at bay. Jimmy Butler does none of those things. Jimmy Butler gets buckets. Jimmy Butler takes manhoods. Jimmy Butler gets defensive. But what Jimmy Butler does best is protect his house.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
24 7 10 0 1 2 0/1 7/10 16/18

In 34 minutes in an overtime victory over the Wizards, 134-129. The Miami Heat are 20-1 at home, with the lone loss coming to the Lakers. Jimmy Butler is good but he ain’t that good. I kid. He protects his house. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been known to make themselves feel comfortable anywhere. For fantasy, it seems like Butler hasn’t done much this season, but you look at the numbers and he’s the #12 player on the season. Even when the shooting volume and efficiency aren’t there, he’s still posting top 30-40 value. That’s because of his all-around game. The tres have been light this season (first time under 1 since 2012), but the points, steals, blocks, good percentages have all been there. The biggest boosts have come in the boards and dimes departments; 7 boards and 6.5 dimes on the season, both career-highs. Butlers are good helpers. Jimmy Butler is the help and the master. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s also the help and a master? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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What is love? Haddaway asked that question many decades ago. Did he find the answer? Naw, just more questions but the one thing he wanted us to know is that he didn’t want to get hurt anymore. As we well know in the fantasy world, Love hurts. Last night, the Phoenix Suns were singing the same tune, as Kevin Huerter kept bringing the pain.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
23 15 8 1 0 2 4/5 8/14 3/4

Baby don’t Huerter, don’t Huerter, no more. It was a career game in terms of boards and dimes. As I’ve written in the past, the thing that most impressed me about Huerter’s game was the playmaking ability. He is an excellent ball handler and can navigate pick-and-roll action competently. He’s been averaging 4.8 dimes over the past four games. I thought he would strictly be a 3-and-D player when he was drafted, but his game is multi-dimensional. Case in point, over the past seven games, he’s averaged 7.1 boards per game. Now, he’s been shooting 49% from the field over that stretch. I was always bullish on his shooting acumen, but he was only shooting 42% from the field for most of the season. If the efficiency is real, then top 50 is attainable. I have my doubts, at least this season. Maybe going forward, but top 100 production this season is reasonable, with averages of 13 points, 2 tres, 4 boards, 4 dimes, 1 steal, with 43% shooting from the field and 83% shooting from the line.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The 1992 movie, Boomerang, is severely underrated. Rotten Tomatoes has a Tomatometer score of 44%, while the Audience Score is 59%. Rotten Tomatoes is stupid and so is the audience. Fine, the movie does suck but there are some great things about it. Eddie Murphy is in his prime, a young Halle Berry is so damn fine, and there are some of the greatest cinematic scenes of all time: GSCOAT #1. GSCOAT #2. GSCOAT #3. But the reason for referencing Boomerang in this post is because of this scene: Marcus, darling. Lady Eloise is old and over-the-hill, but she still has the gumption of a youngster, just like Marcus Morris Sr. of the New York Knicks.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
38 5 1 2 1 3 6/7 13/19 6/10

On the season, Morris is a top 65 player. Over the past three games, he’s been a top 40 one, averaging 34.5 minutes, 27 points, 4 tres, 5 boards, 2 dimes, 1.3 steals, and 0.7 blocks whille shooting 50% from the field on 18.3 shot attempts! LOL! Recently, Morris said that he would prefer to stay in New York. No shit! He’s getting paid $15 million this season to jack up a ton of shots on a shitty team and live in NYC. Plus, he knows the Knicks are so dumb that they may actually give him a multi-year extension. The Knicks have said that they would like to keep Morris. Maybe they are playing 3-D chess or are just dummies. I side with the latter. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s never a dummy? The Stocktonator. Regardless, what you think the Knicks do with Morris determines how you should view him for fantasy. If he stays on the Knicks, then he can be a top 75 player for fantasy, as the sheer volume and playing time would allow him to produce. If he gets traded, then there’s no way he sees the minutes or shot attempts, and would likely be outside the top 100.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

Please, blog, may I have some more?