We know the NBA is a serious business, but even it is not immune to the occasional mix up. Such an occurrence happened last week, sparked by a three-team trade centered around Trevor Ariza. Per reports, part of the deal that Memphis agreed was to send MarShon Brooks to the Phoenix Suns, but Phoenix thought they were getting Dillon Brooks. I guess that’s what happens when you have two players with the same surname on the same team and you are trading with a team whose coach also has the same surname. And with that, the deal was off, only to happen two days later without the involvement of Memphis. Now that I think about it more, maybe the Wizards’ master plan was to trade their head coach, but Memphis found out before it was too late. Imagine a team with all three members of the Holiday family: Jrue, Justin, and Aaron. How about a team with all four members of the Antetokounmpo family: Giannis, Thanasis, Alex, and Kostas? I would pay just to hear trade discussions involving players from those two families.

Taking a look at last week’s suggestions, Wendell Carter Jr. has hit the well-documented “rookie-wall,” but I still think he is an excellent Buy option, as he is too good to struggle for much longer. Nicolas Batum had a breakthrough performance vs the Knicks and I think he can improve more as we approach the second half of the season, while De’Anthony Melton maintained his minutes and production even with Devin Booker back. Finally, Trey Lyles has been underwhelming with his increased opportunity, but has the ability to get hot in a hurry, in contrast to Rodney McGruder, for whom I maintain the opinion that he should be off standard league rosters.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

 

Most of the teams in this division are what we thought they were. The Dallas Mavericks are more competitive with their new additions, but still not playoff ready. The Memphis Grizzlies, with a healthier roster, are returning to Grit-and-Grind, playing at a pace nobody wants to play. The New Orleans Pelicans will go as far as AD takes them, while hoping to capitalize on the momentum of sweeping the Trail Blazers in last year’s playoffs, but ultimately realizing the rest of the roster has a second-round ceiling. The Spurs are the Spurs, so even with multiple roster changes, the Kawhi Leonard drama, loss of veteran leadership, injuries, and adjustments, Coach Greg Popovich is still the master puppeteer who will figure out how to win more than he loses. He would probably do that even if you gave him a roster of Lilliputians. Which leaves the exception and the outlier, the Houston Rockets, who have not been what we thought they were. We all thought they would take a step back defensively, but who thought they would forget how to shoot? They seem to be finding their sea legs, and even beat the World Champion Golden State Warriors, but who would have guessed the team with the best record in the league last year would be happy to be 7-7 after 14 games?

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I’m old enough to remember when # was something located at the bottom right of the phone dial pad. Geez, I’m old. I’m also old enough to remember when Stan was a person’s name. Now? It has a definition in the dictionary: an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity. Shoutout to Eminem. That’s what you call influence. Anyways, Khloe Kardashian must be a Tristan, right? How about you? No?

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
19 16 4 0 1 3 0 9/12 1/3

How about now? Damn Tristan! He played 34 minutes and produced his third double-dub of the season. We all thought Larry Nance Jr. would be the man at center for the Cavaliers, yet he only played 14 minutes last night and has failed to reach the 20 minute mark in each of the past four games. If you need boards, Tristan is your guy. Just don’t expect much else and the free throw shooting is craptastic. I figured there wouldn’t be many other instances to stan for Tristan this season, and I’m an equal opportunity writer, so enjoy being a Tristan for a day.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I often reminisce about the 2011 Oklahoma City Thunder squad: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and…..Cole Aldrich. I kid, I kid. Serge Ibaka aka I-block-a…aka Air Congo….aka Serge Protector was a freaking animal, blocking over 3.7 shots a game and grabbing 7.5 rebounds. Man, that team. One of the greatest video game teams of all time? Anyways, Ibaka was raw from an offensive stand point, but was a maven on the glass and defensive end of the floor. If he could hone his offensive game, we were looking at the next superstar. The athleticism was that profound. Well, he did ascertain an offensive game and extended his range out to beyond the arc. Unfortunately, the rebounds went down and the block numbers cratered to the 1.3 mark set last season. He lost a lot of that dog, as he preferred to just chill on the perimeter and shoot jumpers all night. Well, it looks like Bow Wow made a visit because, so far, Ibaka is grabbing more rebounds (over 7 for the first time since 2014) and the blocks have ticked back up. We will never see the 3.7 level again, but any increase is a good increase. We are not here to talk about the blocks and boards, though. We are here to talk about the scoring Serge Ibaka exhibited last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
34 10 2 2 0 1 1/1 15/17 3/3

A career-high!!! And he wasn’t just camped out outside. He was running in transition and making hard cuts to the basket in the half court. Ferocious dunk after ferocious dunk. Now, he may not start every game, as Jonas Valanciunas will likely go up against bruisers, but he should consistently get around 28 minutes regardless, as Coach Nurse does like play small-ball with Ibaka at the 5. I think a huge change for Ibaka this season is the fewer attempts from downtown. It’s allowed him to shoot a higher percentage from the field and gets him more involved for rebounds, as he’s not just spectating on the perimeter. Don’t ever expect any assists from him, but points, rebounds, and blocks with good percentages are on the menu. Ibaka is currently the #36 player according to Basketball Monster.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Sid Meier’s Civilization is a game that is near and dear to my heart. Not a minute of those countless hours spent playing were wasted. So good. So much fun. Anyways, the basic premise of the game is to build a civilization from scratch. You start out with a small group of settlers and survey the land to establish a permanent home. From there, you ascertain resources, knowledge, and provide infrastructure so that the colony can advance intellectually and grow in physical number. All of this leads to the ultimate goal of world conquest. In my pursuit of global domination, I’d often over-extend myself and be susceptible to counter attack, which would force me to retreat and build up my forces once again. This is how I view the Memphis/Vancouver Grizzlies. Founded in 1995, the team was a fledgling outfit, winning fewer than 20 games each of the first four years in existence. Then progress happened over the next four years, as the team won 22, 23, 23, and 28 games. In 2003, Hubie Brown led the team to a 50-win season and first playoff appearance in franchise history. After two more playoff appearances, the team went back to the 20-win Dark Ages for three seasons. But that was just a brief retreat, as it set up a 7-year Golden Age in which the team made the playoffs every season. It all came crashing down last year, though, as injuries decimated the squad. Are we heading back to the Dark Ages or was last season just a blip on the radar?

Please, blog, may I have some more?

October is upon us and that is a wonderful thing. The leaves turn beauteous colors while the weather provides crisp breezes. Both adults and kids get to dress up. Kids to beg for huge bags of candy. Adults to fantasize and act silly. There is even a holiday when some folks get to stay home from work to celebrate the “discovery” of America by Christopher Columbus! But the real greatness of October lies in the fact that it is the month where our sports converge together like women for the 70% off sale at Nordstroms. College football, which if you haven’t heard, is its own religion in the South, and the NFL are into their second month. The guys in the US and Canada start wielding sticks and slapping pucks around, as the NHL season begins. Our national pastime breaks into its glorious playoff season. But for fantasy hoopheads, the most important thing that happens is the NBA season kicks off in earnest.

It is almost here. We have just a few days until October 16, and there are mock drafts, real drafts, online drafts, auction drafts, snake drafts, and dynasty drafts scheduled over the next two weeks in every hamlet in this fair country.

On September 28th, we saw Gordon Hayward in the Boston Green to kick off the preseason. Each team will play five games that don’t count in preparation for those that do. What then to watch for to help you  hoodwink all your buddies and have the best draft imaginable?

I will look Division by Division to give you some keys to watch that might provide some guidance.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

You know a team is peaking at the right time when its role players are shining. The Pacers are getting set for an epic playoff run led by their All-Star Victor Oladipo (3/27/3/5/3/0) and their breakout star Domantas Sabonis (0/30/8/3/3/0). Yes, the 30 points were a career high and, yes, both players were acquired via trade (for Paul George) in the off-season, but that is not even the most amazing thing about the Pacers’ season. The crazy thing is that the person who was supposed to be their can’t-miss stud has been an all-time dud.

Myles Turner has had an extremely disappointing season in both real-life and fantasy (funny how those are tied together) and last night he may have finally hit rock-bottom: 0/0/1/0/0/0 in just 6 minutes. No, it wasn’t injury-related. It was foul-trouble related, which should be strictly a rookie problem for big-men. The Pacers could end up being a very dangerous playoff team if somehow Turner can figure out his issues. My money is on…..drumroll…..no, no he won’t. This has been a problem the entire season, so there is no reason to believe he will suddenly be the team star again. I do think he will have some good nights, but overall he will be the same.

The good news is that the Pacers can win without him (maybe that is messing with his head and confidence), so it is not really that big a deal. The bad news is the Pacers cannot win a championship without him. But more good news, nobody expected them to even be in the playoffs, so they are playing with house money.

Anyway, here is what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

We choose to supersize that meal or put cheese on the burger so that our stomachs look like Kuato in Total Recall. That’s our choice. We choose to wear the jimmy hat or live dangerously. That’s our choice. We choose to draft KAT over Anthony Davis in fantasy. That’s our choice. But there is so much out of our control. The world we were born into. Our parents. What we look like. In a videogame, we choose what difficulty level we play on. In life, that has been chosen for us. Some play on hard, while others get cheat codes. Willy Hernangomez hit the genetic lottery. 6′ 11″ 240 pounds, athletically skilled, and good looking. Sure, he worked his ass off to get where he’s at. Lifting weights, running, and plucking eyebrows, but he had a nice base to work with. Last year during his rookie campaign, he was a monster per-36: 16 points, 13.6 boards, 2.6 dimes, 1.1 steals, 1.0 blocks, 53% field goal percentage, and 73% free throw percentage. Unfortunately, he only played 18 minutes per game. Out of his control. Regardless, Willy was viewed as a franchise piece, but then the Knicks acquired Enes Kanter. The minutes plummeted to 9 a game, even though the per-36 numbers were still robust. Out of his control. If you go back to my earlier blurbs regarding Willy, I mentioned that he hooked up with Hornacek’s daughter. I’d hit up the Google machine right now. Wouldn’t you? I’m still not dismissing that angle, so maybe Willy had some control in the matter. Anyways, after bitching and complaining, he finally got his wish and was shipped to the Hornets. Too bad the Hornets had some guy named Dwight Howard. Can’t forget about Cody Zeller as well. So, Willy was not freed and the situation looked identical to the one in New York. But, Zeller is out for the season due to injury and yesterday, Willy played a season-high 22 minutes.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 15 11 0 2 0 0 0/1 2/3 11/14

Per-36 in CHA, Willy is at: 17.7 points, 14.9 boards, 1.8 dimes, 1.1 steals, and 1.6 blocks. The Hornets are out of the playoff picture and there’s no reason to push Dwight, so Willy should see significant run to end the season. Free at last….free at last….Willy is free at last.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

First of all, Joel Embiid is ok and it is probable that he makes it back for the game in Atlanta on Friday. Now, the second most important thing out of Philadelphia is Dario Saric’s huge game. Super Dario went off for 2/26/14/5/2/0 with only 2 turnovers in 36 minutes. The 76ers are rolling right now and I would not want to play this team in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Sorry for the quick open but it is getting late here in Arizona. So here is what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?