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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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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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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On July 31, 2019, RTS Sat (Radio Television Serbia) sent a team to Memphis, as the Grizzlies signed Marko Guduric to a multi-year contract. Their first questions for the Serbian star were, Do you like Memphis? Ja. Do you like rock-n-roll music? Ja. Do you like Elvis? Uh huh huh. Fast forward six months, and the RTS Sat crew didn’t care about the 13.2 minutes in 33 games played for their Serbian. What excites you most about the Grizzlies? Ja. Who will win the Rookie of the Year? Ja. What will the name of your child be? Ja. The RTS Sat crew wasn’t messing around. Guduric wasn’t messing around. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what also never messes around? The Stocktonator. Ja Morant, on the other hand, messed around for the first time in his young career last night.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
27 10 10 1 1 3 2/7 9/17 7/9

In 35 minutes. On the season, Ja is just outside the top 100 for fantasy. Much of that had to do with the playing time, as there were many games, especially early on, when he was receiving only 25 minutes of run a night. That was probably by design, to bring Ja along slowly. He’s at 30 minutes per game right now. If he gets another two to three minutes per game, a top 75 finish isn’t out of the question because he averages around 18 points, 4 boards, 7 dimes, and 1 steal per game. The percentages are excellent, around 50% from the field and over 80% from the line. The most impressive aspect of his game is his ability to get to the rim and convert amongst the bigs. Over 65% of his shot attempts are within 10 feet from the basket. He’s 6′ 3″ and 174 pounds, y’all! And only 20 years old! Wait until he fills out physically! The comps to Russell Westbrook have been made. The advanced stats for NBA.com only go back to 2013, the sixth year of Westbrook’s career, and only 38% of his shots were within 10 feet! Will Morant be better than Westbrook? Ja?

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The Miami Heat are in a truly delicious position. They are second in the Eastern Conference with a 31-13 record, a near lock to make the playoffs, and a good bet to have home court in the first-round. The Heat are good, but not great, flawed and exciting because of it. They shoot threes and shoot them well—they’re second in the league in three-point percentage at 37.9 percent and eighth in the league in three-pointers made at 12.8 a game. They play more than enough zone to satisfy curmudgeonly high school coaches; they are always in an overtime game and they keep winning those overtime games and other close games in dramatic, heart-pounding fashion. Most league insiders expected them to make the playoffs, finishing the season somewhere in the 4 to 6 range in the Eastern Conference. They’ve overshot all reasonable expectations during the first half of the season and have arrived as a pesky playoff contender ahead of schedule. For the moment, the Heat are playing with house money.

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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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The Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks played one of the most exciting games of the season on Tuesday, October 10. The Heat eventually came out victorious in overtime 135-121, but only after Trae Young pronounced the game “over,” right before the Heat scored six straight points to tie the score in the final 59 seconds of regulation. The Heat then scored 16 straight points in overtime, making the final outcome a formality. The fireworks didn’t start or stop there, however. Trae Young had a relatively quiet first half (8 points and 6 assists), but he came out aggressive in the second half and scored 10 quick points and finished with 11 points in the quarter, and then the fourth quarter happened. Young was in rhythm and headed for another gaudy stat-line before Erik Spoelstra made the astute decision to put Derrick Jones Jr. on him. Jones Jr. is length personified, or as Scott Van Pelt used to say, “He’s all arms and legs, he can’t buy pants at the mall.” Jones’ length and quick feet turned a potentially explosive night into a sour one for Trae Young and the Hawks—Young finished the fourth quarter with only two points. He was unable to draw fouls to counter Jones’ length and physicality, though it was not for a lack of trying. There might be some brewing animus between Jones and Young. Fortunately for us, the Hawks and Heat matchup one more time this season. Get the popcorn ready.

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Yesterday’s game between Miami and Atlanta was not supposed to be as epic as it ended up being. The 17-6 Heat were against the 6-17 Hawks and the symmetry of their records was appeasing my order-obsessed mind. After a close game, Atlanta went up by six and Trae Young declared the game was over…

However, two triples from Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson forced overtime, where the Heat completed a 22-0 run to win it by 13. The most impressive stat from an already impressive boxscore was that Kendrick Nunn, Bam Adebayo, and Duncan Robinson combined for 100 (!!) points, with Adebayo and Jimmy Butler becoming the first teammates in Miami’s history with triple-doubles in the same game and Robinson hitting 10 triples. Miami has steadily developed seemingly fringe players into valuable rotation pieces and this has become a huge part of their success early in the season.

Regarding last week’s suggestions, Davis Bertans has been on fire and has climbed to 33rd in per-game value. Hope you got him as he will no longer be available after those performances. Tim Hardaway Jr. also performed admirably, as he poured in 29 points with nine triples in his last game, while Tyus Jones chipped in with assists and steals but is a drop now that Ja Morant is healthy.

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