For the first few weeks of the season, I try not to focus on the standings. I look, of course, but I do so knowing that there have been outlier games, whose impacts are more pronounced due to the small sample size. Also, most teams have a player or two that’s missed the majority of the games and they might also have been starting a replacement player that’s not going to keep it up much longer. However, we’re now about a quarter of the way through the NBA season. The data is relatively predictable. You should know which categories you need to focus on in order to gain points and which ones to ignore, either because you’re stuck at the bottom or entrenched at the top of a category (or if you always win or lose the category by a ton in head-to-head).

Today, we’ll look at the ESPN Player Rater. Tony RP’s Player Rater updates will give you a picture of who’s most valuable by position. I thought I’d go by category to see who’s doing what for us. Here are the top 20 players by category plus the bottom 20 for relevant ones, skipping players that have hardly played. So, it’s just the per-game stat leaders you may be familiar with, except that the percentage categories are weighted by volume. Turnovers are from BasketballMonster, since ESPN doesn’t include them.

So, how is this useful? Obviously, you want players that score well overall on the Player Rater. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be surprised to see some of your players pop up on these lists. Also, keeping in mind which categories you need help in, this can help you find some trade targets. Or, if you’re out of it in points or FG%, maybe ship off a guy that’s in the top 20 that’s not doing much else for you. If you’re in the middle of the pack in FT% and you see that you have one of the worst offenders there, maybe you can ditch him and gain points (just keep in mind what you might be losing in other categories from him). A lot can be gained by learning what’s actually happening compared to what we assume is happening based on previous years or projections.

Next week, I’ll get back into multi-category rankings for those that are ignoring categories, whether intentionally or as a matter of the hand you’ve been dealt. Think punt FG% & TOs, or for FT% punters: 3PTM+AST+ST+PTS+TO rankings, which are what you want to complement your FT% anchors with. That’s when you can really find trade value, since all players now have a new value to your specific team.

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A capella music is singing without instrumental accompaniment. According to choraldirectormag.com, here’s what’s needed to create an a capella group: soloist, great bass, original music, time together, and momentum. That basically describes the Houston Rockets. Let’s break it down. Mike D’Antoni doesn’t micromanage possessions like some coaches. Things flow naturally. Soloist. James Harden. Great bass, the voice that’s low and powerful. Clint Capela fills that role by battling down low and doing the dirty work on the glass. Original music. Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less” offense from the Phoenix days combined with the analytics of Daryl Morey equals “Game the Math.” Time together. Self explanatory. Momentum. The Rockets offense in a nutshell. Yesterday’s game against the Indiana Pacers was a microcosm of the synergy they’ve displayed all season enroute to an 11-3 record, with six victories in a row. Harden led the way with 26 points, five boards, 15 dimes, and two steals. Capela provided the base with 20 points, 17 boards, one dime, and one block. Eric Gordon filled his gunner role by hoisting up 11 downtowners. He finished with 21 points, one board, four dimes, two steals, and one block. If this was college, you’d think he was trying to get laid. Trevor Ariza scored 15 points, grabbed five boards, dished out a dime, and pilfered two. He’s Mr. Versatility. Can hit the high, low, and middle notes. Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker provide toughness while still being an offensive threat. It’s going to be interesting when Chris Paul returns to the fray.

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A new era has dawned in Milwaukee. The Eric Bledsoe era! Hopefully, this malcontent doesn’t foul up Giannis’ MVP caliber season. Only time will tell, but from the looks of last night, he seems to be fitting in nicely. One game is a small sample size obviously, but they topped the Spurs in San Antonio which is a good sign. Any way there was an eight game slate of games on the night so let’s jump right in to the action.

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Image result for jazz logo

I enjoy jazz music. Am I a connoisseur? No, so if I misrepresent the genre, don’t throw a hissy fit. With that said, jazz is so smooth to me. I especially love that it is primarily based on improvisation.

Very cool. So, it’s always funny to me that the Utah Jazz have been such a structured offensive team for so long. Except for a couple of Deron Williams years and the first four years of John Stockton, the Jazz have consistently been in the bottom third of the league for offensive pace. Conversely, they have been one of the more efficient offensive teams over the past 25 years and have routinely ranked high in offensive rating. Now that Gordon Hayward is gone and Ricky Rubio is in, will there be more improv in Utah this season? Will our own Viz throw internet tomatoes at me for me preview of his beloved Jazz?

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Merry Christmas Razzball Nation!  I hope everyone is looking forward to a great holiday.  What have you asked for for Christmas?  A ridiculous stroke of luck to get you a Fantasy Football championship tonight?  A Christmas Day where three of your guys have triple doubles?  Mine is hoping that no more injuries roll through the NBA, at least with questionable return dates.  Hey, at least Brook Lopez has a certain return date.  October 2014.  Huge loss (I was going to say break, but um, yea) for fantasy owners with a broken foot.  Here’s what I said in my ranks with him at 50, lower than most other places: “Love his game, had him top-20 in May.  Foot injury and big trade limits #s.”  That’s me quoting me!  Ok, ok, so I get a ton wrong and you can’t project injuries (which I didn’t really, gotta love vagueness!), but I avoided Lopez everywhere so I am not suffering a stocking full of coal like BroLo owners.  BroLo’s stocking is actually full of a swollen foot, but you get the idea.  Andray Blatche becomes a must-own with the boost in minutes, and was already at double-digits and 19:40 plus of playing time in 15 of 17 games before Friday night’s dud when BroLo got hurt.  I see him grabbing 7 to 8 boards with decent %s – along with his scoring – for a bottom end guy on rosters with a tad of upside.  Here’s what else/who else got hurt over the weekend:

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In what was some brutally bad basketball last night, John Henson led the woeful Milwaukee Bucks into Chicago against a Bulls team more battered up than a candy bar at a state fair… and the Bucks actually won!  It’s horrifying to think in today’s NBA that a guy like Henson might have been the most polished offensive player on the court for EITHER TEAM.  It was brutal.  This was the game I made the Yahoo highlights for, and man, it was more of a wreck than if you went out partying and decided that Lindsay Lohan would be your DD.  But for fantasy, whew-ee if you’re a Henson owner!  Huge rainbow line of 25/14/2/3/6.  It was so good from the big man that Larry Sanders punched a wall.  But the icing on the cake, was this preposterous rainbow shot to close out the rainbow night.  I love the Bulls announcers reacting to that.  “You’ve got to be kidding me!”  Good thing he didn’t take that shot in Cowboys Stadium, that mighta hit the scoreboard!  It feels really good seeing Henson going off, as he was a guy I ranked really high (#100 exactly) and have recommended him over a lot of fringe-wire adds through the young season.  His stats are helping fill all the Andre Drummond voids I have!  Win some, lose some… Henson is obviously a must-own in all leagues, and I think can maintain solid production playing at the 4 when The Colonel is back.  Here’s what else I saw last night in hoopsland:

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Well, this is the peril you get playing in other countries…  After a generator next to the stadium in Mexico City failed, last night’s Spurs at [hah] Timberwolves got postponed after the stadium filled with smoke.  It looked like Mexico City’s skyline of smog in there!  Man, so many people are going to get fired over this.  “Who let their 5 year olds with squirt guns play next to the exposed wires?!”  All the sudden the NBA is looking like the MLB…  I haven’t seen a PPD since September!  Brutal break for Spurs and Wolves owners in H2H formats as the reschedule is sure to be a while down the road.  Usually I like H2H for hoops because you don’t get rocked when your team has bad weather (vs. H2H Fantasy Baseball which I loathe), but now you have to think about generator fires when playing in other countries!  Well, I guess except Canada… They better have their shizz in order!  Breaking News!  The Raptors stadium has a Rob Ford crack den hidden within the locker room that caught fire, and they’re relocating to become the Reno Lt. Dangles.  Go Reno!  Here’s what else happened last night across fantasy hoops:

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All hail Trey Burke!  May all the inhabitants of the great Salt Lake City and all their respective wives rejoice!  And… the Jazz are still atrocious.  Poor Tyrone Corbin.  He’s got to fiddle with Burke, Alec Burks, John Lucas III and now Diante Garrett at the point.  Jerry Sloan got John Stockton.  Then Deron Williams.  It just ain’t fair!  In yet another Jazz loss moving them down to 1-12, Burke got 12 minutes even, going 11/1/1 with a steal and hitting a trey shooting 5-8.  Trey with the trey!  If only Deuce McAllister was an NBA player.   Deuce with the deuce!  Or if McAllister was a dunker, “Deuce with the upper decker!”  I had the unfortunate pleasure of doing highlights for my second Jazz game now, but it was cool to see Burke’s debut and I thought he looked pretty good.  His first NBA points were off a long rebound then coast-to-coast for a controlled, attacking floater.  Obviously he’s getting eased in and he’ll get more minutes – hippity-skippity to a few months back and I was bigger on Burke than anyone – but I’m not ready to go nuts and drop quality guys for him.  Of course it’s a case-by-case scenario, but I really wanted Burke to get tons of preseason work; instead he broke his finger and missed some really crucial development time.  For example, I think I’m still holding Patrick Beverley over him.  PBev is the Razzball “why can’t I quit you?!” fantasy asset.  Lucas III is obviously not a long-term solution, and while he’s in the mix, he didn’t look good last night but was the only guy that could hit any long balls.  Alec Burks looked awful, sure his line 8/1/1/1/2 is fine, shot 3-6 – fine – but racked up 4 TOs in 16 minutes.  Just looked bad.  Which brings me to Diante G, who I thought looked really good.  Garrett actually led the Jazz in PG minutes with 20, and racked up a 4/1/6 line with three steals and only 2 TOs (one late one was pretty bad, but the game was over) and played down the stretch.  Garrett was the only point who could create opportunities.  So it’s a little crowded with Burks’ potential wilting away and Garrett looking decent as a D-League gamble and could get run through the season.  I think Lucas III gets cut at some point and Burks plays strictly backup 2 minutes, but that’s just me.  It’s a mess.  Shocker, considering it’s the Jazz!  Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Even though he looks exactly like the youngest kid from Malcolm in the Middle, Steve Blake is playing like an NBA PG in the top.  Last night’s 16 Asts gives him 10+ in four straight, and starting to remind us of Chris Paul who has started the year with the ten straight 10+ dime games.  You can’t go anywhere in LA without someone trying to give you a dimebag!  I think that’s going to be a new term I’m going to add into the Razzball lexicon, 10+ assists equals a dimebag.  As in, “the Lakers got so high last night with Steve Blake handing out a dimebag!”  Pretty soon it won’t even be a crime anywhere.  Rasheed Wallace is like, “man I played at the wrong time!” Blake is an obvious must-own in all leagues, and I think will be all year.  He’s been D-Antoni-ed. Here’s what else I saw across fantasy hoops over the weekend:

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Things were looking oh so good for the Colonel’s original recipe heading into the season.  I bought the whole bucket, the two sides and a giant big gulp of tea.  But Larry Sanders could very well be one of fantasy’s biggest disappointments in 2013-14, for reasons on and off the court.

Sanders signed a 4-year deal in the offseason worth a cool $44 million bucks (worth, about, a million buckets of chicken!), and the Bucks regime had big plans for their center.  GM John Hammond, while trying to keep his Jurassic Park island under control, said Sanders was the key to the team.  Hammond, you lost your keys!  Bucks are locked out… Then the season started with Sanders nearly fouling out in 12 minutes, and in three games hasn’t played more than 22 minutes, hit 2 FGs, or grabbed more than 4 boards.  I was on the buy low bandwagon faster than a short sell in Trading Places.  But after complaining about playing time, Sanders reportedly got into a bar fight Saturday night and effed up his thumb.  Stop giving him roids, Braun, we don’t need more roid rage in Milwaukee!  I wonder if he was getting hazed by Ersan Ilyasova like Richie Incognito.  “You must play better, now!” yells Ersan in a thick Turkish accident.  Hey, Ilyasova was a scratch last night too, Gus Ayonin’!  Anyway, Sanders is accused of breaking champagne bottles over peoples’ heads, and to top if off he then missed Monday’s game because his wife went into labor.  Sorry Larry Sanders Jr… I’m just sorry… Hopefully this version of The Larry Sanders Show ends anti-climatically with Sanders getting back on the court and giving fantasy owners something.  If you’ve got him, you have to be holding and hoping Sanders can settle down and have this blow over, before he’s looking back at his life and he’s Robert Swift.  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops:

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