Thought I’d have a little throwback fun this week. Who’s tired of the Jordan vs LeBron debates? Yep. Me too. Jordan never lost a finals! LeBron hasn’t lost a conference finals in 8 years! Look at his teammates! Look at HIS teammates!… blah, blah, blah. Here’s the real question we care about in our world: Who was the better fantasy player? Now, it’s not quite the same argument as greatest of all time, because there are at least a handful of other players that have been more valuable fantasy-wise than one or both of these guys, but lets see if we can make some sense out of their fantasy careers. Thanks once again to Basketball Monster for having historical player raters.

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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?

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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.

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The Dallas Mavericks have one of the greatest European basketball players ever – and they also have Dirk Nowitzki. The baton is being passed from Dirk to Luka Doncic, as the Mavericks jumped at the chance to draft the Euroleague Player of the Year, even forfeiting a first round draft pick in 2019 for the opportunity. When you add in the fact that DeAndre Jordan will now jump center for his home state Mavs (a few years later than originally envisioned and devoid of Clippers intervention) with an expected second year leap from point guard Dennis Smith Jr., you can see why Mark Cuban is feeling giddy. Anyone who has ever watched Shark Tank knows Cuban does not like to lose, so he could not have been pleased about a 24-win season. In a stacked Western Conference, the Mavs are not ready to start printing playoff tickets, but after upgrading 40% of the starting lineup, they definitely don’t intend to be looking up at the Sacramento Kings again.

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Just a few days left in the fantasy basketball season. That means it’s just a few days until the season of anticipating the next fantasy basketball season. I love the fantasy offseason almost as much as the actual season. The NBA playoffs, the draft lottery, the draft and draft night trades, free agency, summer league, training camp, and then we’ve made it back to fantasy draft season. And all the while, our hope is renewed. Until next season starts, we haven’t lost half our team to injuries!

Anyway, to round out the season next week, I plan on reviewing this season’s surprises. Who greatly exceeded expectations? Who didn’t come close to meeting them? These are the difference-makers that greatly determined the outcome of leagues this year. But first, this week, we’re gonna have some fun with an expanded version of my weekly classic fantasy line feature (which comes at the bottom of my weekly posts, in case you haven’t made it that far). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed looking back at old and not-so-old stats, whether I’d been familiar with them or not. Seeing the old stats through the lens of a fantasy bball player in 2018 fascinates me. If that sounds like something up your alley, feel free to go back and check them out to find some commentary on stats from great game, season, and career lines for legends like Wilt, MJ, and Steph. Today, I’m going with some championship teams whose seasons I just wanted to check out. And I thought I’d see who the key players could compare to these days, at least stat-wise. Thanks to basketballreference.com, of course.

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What’s up Razzballers? Fan favourite Aaron Gordon had a monster line, destroying the lowly Suns to the tune of 29/11/8/3/1 on 10-for-18 FG (3-for-6 3P, 6-for-9 FT) and three TOs. It was a clean and lethal stat line, and exactly the kind that you needed on the Saturday of your playoff semifinals. AG’s been a beast since his return and I really hope you stashed him where you could. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

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Basketball is a funny game. The Atlanta Hawks were riding a six-game losing streak and heading to Utah to face off against one of the best defensive teams in the league. Dennis Schroder, the point guard for the Hawks, had failed to score 20 points in each of the six losses. Then, a funny thing happened. The D went missing. Did Dennis change his name to Ennis? No!

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 41 5 7 0 0 2 3/7 16/28 6/10

Forty burger! Against a team that was 8th in defensive efficiency against the point guard position. Against Ricky Rubio, who was 10th in defensive real plus minus. Schroder had a 42.7 usage rate last night! Going forward, though, I wouldn’t expect too many performances like last night. Taurean Prince, who had been the alpha in terms of usage, got Prince’D, so someone had to step up. In addition, while Schroder has had a couple of big games this season, they have been too few to count on. Expect scoring to be in the 18-20 point range with 5-7 assists, and 2-3 boards.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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There are two points of a fantasy basketball season where seasons can be won and lost: the first is at the draft and the second is when there are about twenty games left in the season. The draft is obvious. That is when you set the foundation of your team. The second point is a little more subtle.

For those owners in head-to-head leagues, this second point is important because you are setting your team up (hopefully) for the playoffs. You want players who have a lot of games and are on teams who will not be resting them during the critical time. The subtle part is directed more at owners in roto leagues. There are still enough games left to make moves in categories you can climb in or maintain your lead in categories you are ahead in.

The waiver wire is your tool to win the league at this point. Young players are finally putting it together and playing well and injuries are opening up time for bench guys who have played well when given minutes. The Golden State Warriors, and their massive amount of injuries to star players, is a team to focus on in order to find one or two players who can help you with that late season charge.

Quinn Cook is the player I want to focus on in this recap, and if you need threes, points, assists, steals, I will pause for a moment so you can go and pick him up. While we are waiting for those owners to get back can we just talk about how dumb they are for not picking up Cook yet and having him active for this game against the lowly Suns? Wait, wait, quiet, they’re coming back…

Welcome back, we were just waiting quietly for you. I hope you were able to add him. Cook is a 2-way player, no, that is not sexual. It means that he is one of two players each team can send back and forth to the G-League during the season. Cook has dominated G-League play for most of the year and now, because of injuries to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant, Cook is getting 40 minutes per game and putting up more than decent fantasy point guard stats. Last night Quinn Cook went for: 5/28/4/4/2/0 with only 2 turnovers in 40 minutes. This was on 11-17 shooting, including 5-7 from three. Pick him up.

Here is what else I saw on a busy St. Patrick’s Day:

Please, blog, may I have some more?