The Utah Jazz provided the biggest surprise last season, taking advantage of a second half schedule that ranked as the easiest in the league to go on a remarkable run and finish as the 5th seed in the West. More importantly, they knocked out Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony from the first round of the playoffs with their usual gritty, defense-first style. The emergence of Donovan Mitchell as a potential NBA star, vast improvements in the pick-and-roll chemistry between Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert, and a roster that has been carefully molded to fit the system lends for plenty of optimism for the Jazz to build on last season’s success. It won’t be easier, however, as a number of teams in the West improved in the offseason. With that said, there should be plenty in the tank for the Jazz to walk away from the regular season looking forward to playoff basketball once again.

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My Charlotte Bobcats fandom reached it’s peak during the 2006-2007 NBA season. My Bulls had been one of the worst teams in the NBA for nearly a decade and I liked cheering for the recent expansion team. I had NBA League Pass back then, since I was providing live box scores for a website more nights than not. The Bobcats weren’t one of the in-demand teams to cover, so I got to do a lot of their games. While the Bulls had just drafted LaMarcus Aldridge at #2 and traded him for #4 Tyrus Thomas and Victor Khryapa (yes, that happened), the Bobcats selected one of my favorite players right between those picks to join forces with other favorites Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor. That’s right, Adam Morrison was going to light up my tiny 19-inch box TV that sat beside my giant desktop computer as he turned (yes, people thought this) into Larry Bird 2.0! It was going to be fun watching this franchise, in just it’s third year, develop into a contender with those pieces.

Check it out! That weird, slippery ball they used briefly!

Okay, so the ‘Cats never really went anywhere, though Morrison did have some fun 3-point shooting streaks. I still love the snubbed and rightful 2012 Las Vegas NBA Summer League MVP and two-time NBA Champ (true). And, I still wear my Bobcats hat proudly (also true). Why am I going on and on about a player who only played in 161 career games and was out of the NBA four years after he was drafted? Because, he’s the theme of today’s strategy: The ‘Stache! I guess it’s The Stash, but at least I got to talk about Adam Morrison and Victor Khryapa.

This is a good time to stock up on and stash the players that might take off toward the end of the season and lead you to a championship.

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All units. All units. Be advised. We have reports of a 187 at 7000 Coliseum Way. Subject is armed and considered dangerous. Over. 

Lou Williams is a bad, bad man. No Blake. No Milos. No Rivers. No problemo.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 50 2 7 0 0 4 8/16 16/27 10/10
Armed with but a jump shot, Lou single-handedly took down the Warriors, 125-106 in Oakland. Five-Oh. You know what sound that is. Now, he played 35 minutes and had a 39.4 usage rate last night. Here was the rest of the Clippers starting lineup: Jawun Evans, CJ Williams, Wesley Johnson, and DeAndre Jordan. That usage rate seems a little light to me. Obviously, Lou isn’t going to bring out the men in blue every night and Lou will transition back to the bench when the team gets healthy. Regardless, he’s a professional scorer of buckets and will flourish in any capacity. It wouldn’t surprise me if the men in blue make a few more appearances before the end of the season.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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In my younger days, I used to run with a pretty deep crew. Most of them were older and more experienced than me. Most were better looking and had more charisma then me. Emphasis on most. Not being the man was just fine. You’d be surprised at how many layups you’d get by just being. All of this happened on the basketball court as well. Anyways, with so much attention on the alphas, dudes like me would be afforded all sorts of opportunities to score. At some point, the stars would align and everything would come to a climax. Whether it be on the court or at the club, there’s always that moment. Last night, Clint Capela had his moment.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 24 20 3 0 2 2 0 10/12 4/5

It was his first 20/20 game of the season and he actually hit his free throws. Chris Paul, James Harden, and Eric Gordon all had great games, but it was all about Capela last night. Now, most of his opportunities came because of all the attention given to the superstars on the team. No matter. Production is production. And that’s how it’s going to be all season. Capela is a top 30 fantasy player right now. Imagine if he shot better than 58% from the charity stripe.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Top o’ the morning, Razzballers. It was a battle of the past versus future down in the Garden last night, with the Knicks besting the Thunder. Unfortunately, Kristaps Porzingis sat with a knee injury. Fortunately, Michael Beasley gifted us all a gem of a game in his place, going for 30/5/4/0/2 on 11-for-18 FG (2-for-2 3P, 6-for-7 FT) and only turning it over twice. Beas has put up some nice fantasy lines when given the minutes, but that doesn’t happen too frequently. Next time Porzingis misses time, keep Beas in mind for the stream. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy basketball:

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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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