The 2018-19 Brooklyn Nets exceeded expectations in many ways, from player development to overall record. Few pundits had them making the playoffs, myself included, but I guess I shouldn’t have underestimated Kenny Atkinson, who has established himself as one of the  upper-echelon coaches in the league. Sean Marks can also be credited for assembling a team with a good mix of youthful exuberance and veteran experience. Although, they were bounced in the first round by Philadelphia, hardly any Nets fans could feel disappointed with how the season turned out given the low expectations.

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I used to enjoy watching Get Smart, a satirical secret agent show. Agent Maxwell Smart is a fumbling, bumbling, stumbling secret agent who always saves the day somehow. One of the catch phrases of the show is “Missed it by that much!” Which would’ve been appropriate to say whenever Marcus Smart jacked up a shot, as he could barely hit the side of a barn in past seasons. This season, though, he’s vastly improved the shooting and is therefore able to put up lines like this:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
21 6 4 3 1 1 2/5 8/14 3/3

The 21 points tied a season high! Smart is shooting 42% from the field and 36% from downtown this season. Over his first four seasons in the league, he had never posted a mark better than 37% from the field and 33% from downtown. As a result, while he always provided boards, dimes, and stocks, he was never able to crack the top 100 for fantasy on a per-game basis. This season, he’s a top 85 player and has had streaks where he’s been a top 60 player. Get Smart y’all!

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I quit smoking a few years back, but man, I needed one today. The NBA trade deadline came and went, and it was akin to the first night I ever stepped into a club. Look left. Look right. Left. Right. LeftRight. LeftRightLeftRight. So much eye candy that my head was spinning, before I even sat down to enjoy some liqs. Below is a recap of the transactions on trade deadline day, with the corresponding impacts for fantasy.

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I recently met a conspiracy theorist. He seemed so proud and satisfied that he had the inside scoop on so many topics (“You know what’s going on in Cuba, don’t you?”), while the rest of us only know what the government wants us to know. Well, I went down a rabbit hole to which he directed me just for kicks. Wow, there are a lot of crazies out there trying to obtain knowledge that no one else has, regardless of how insane it is. Shout out to Kyrie.

I realized, though, that I can relate. At least when it comes to fantasy basketball. There’s certainly a draw to uncovering a conspiracy and being part of only a small group of people that feels wiser than everyone else. Or, more relatably, being the only person to know a secret. This is how I felt the first time I manipulated a fantasy bball player rater. I was finally confident enough in my Excel skills to subtract categorical columns for punt rankings. I had decided to go all-in on a punt free throw percentage 8-category Roto dynasty team. Removing the FT% category dramatically changes the value of many players. I realized that I could trade players for much more than they were worth to me while acquiring players for much less than they were worth to me. Obviously, the downside was taking last place in a category. But since I was near the bottom in FT% anyway, I only lost maybe 2 points there while gaining something like 7 or 8 total points combined in other categories. The problem in a league like that is that I would’ve needed to get first in nearly every other category to win it all. I peaked at second place.

Yeah, yeah, you’re aware of the simplest of punt strategies. I know. But, aside from overrating rookies in dynasty drafts, this is really what I’m most passionate about: the concept of ignoring categories that aren’t going to help or hurt you.

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Julius Caesar was a brilliant tactician and politician, who expanded the Roman Empire. He got greedy, though, when he declared himself dictator. As a result, members of the Roman Senate conspired and stabbed him in the back, both literally and figuratively. Julius Randle is a no-nonsense player who bullies defenders down low. Bull in a china shop is an apt description, especially since he’s 6′ 9″ and 250 pounds. After he spent the first four years of his career in Los Angeles, he took his talents to New Orleans and didn’t mess around. He was the same bull that he had been with the Lakers. Last night, though….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
21 14 10 1 0 0 0/1 9/13 3/3

….Julius did mess around, notching his sixth career triple-dub. In only 25 minutes! There’s been nothing but love for Julius in New Orleans, as he provides the team with a physical presence down low, who can also be a playmaker in the third-fastest team in the NBA for offensive pace. Ain’t nobody stabbing this Julius in the back. From a fantasy perspective, though, don’t go slicing and dicing your team to acquire his services. He’s a fine player, as he’s currently the 87th player according to Basketball Monster. The issues are the limited minutes, lack of threeecolas, low assists, and miniscule defensive contributions. Hopefully no one comes and stab me in the back now.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Consistency has been a hallmark for the career of LeBron James. Year in and year out, you could Sharpie him in for 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Within that consistency bubble, though, are different shades of LeBron. There’s “Deferential” LeBron, who props up his teammates and lets them shine. There’s “We’ve Lost How Many Games?” LeBron, who could probably stop a flower from blooming. There’s “Playoff” LeBron, but the shade of LeBron that I want to discuss is “You Forgetting About Me” LeBron, which is my favorite because he announces it with the force of Thor’s hammer screaming to the ground. It all started two games ago against the Portland Trail Blazers. Entering that game, LeBron was averaging 26.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. Yawn, but then he exploded for 44/10/3. Last night….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
51 8 3 2 1 2 6/8 19/31 7/10

….A fifty-burger usually brings out the cops, but not for LeBron. It’s just another shade. Beep. Boop. Bop. The Stocktonator knows all the different shades, as it had LeBron as the #1 player yesterday. For the season, LeBron is the #4 player according to Basketball Monster. Long live the King!

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. At 6′ 3″, 236 pounds, Ali was a physical giant in his era. The average height/weight of a male in 1960 was 5′ 8″, 166 pounds. In the ring, Ali could physically pummel foes into submission like a rhino, yet he was nimble enough to flutter around the opposition and peck them humming bird style. Wait? Why am I making this difficult? He could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. It was the lyrical flow that unlocked the Pantheon, though. He would talk trash, spit rhymes, and back it all up in the process. Depending on your persepective, it was entertainment or a fly buzzing around your head. Joel Embiid could be the modern day Ali. At 7′ 0″, 260 pounds, he is a giant in his era. The average height/weight of a male in 2018 is 5′ 9″, 195 pounds. Thanks McDonald’s. On the court, Embiid can bully down low in the post or Euro step left and spin cycle right on the perimeter, leaving defenders in a tizzy. Like Ali, Embiid has the lyrical flow, both on and off the court. Man, imagine Ali on Twitter! Like Ali, Embiid walks the walk, backs up all the talk, and is the living embodiment of The Process. For all the messing around he does, though, last night was the first time he messed around…..

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
19 13 10 0 2 2 4/7 6/20 3/4

….and got a triple-double. Beep. Boop. Bop. I was wondering why I saw the Stocktonator watching old clips of Ali with Ice Cube blaring from the speakers yesterday morning. It liked Embiid a lot.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Remember the first videogame system you got as a kid? The excitement you felt when you unwrapped it at Christmas? For many of us, the first gaming system was like the Red Rider BB gun of our childhoods. That’s how Doc Rivers probably feels watching Shai Gilgeous-Alexander blossom before his eyes.

The Bucks and the Clippers squared off in an epic afternoon overtime battle yesterday and fantasy owners reaped the benefits. Probably, the biggest takeaway from this one was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander getting the start and getting 40 minutes of run going 2-16-6-4-1-3-2 on 5-of-13 shooting and 4-for-4 FTs. SGA is in the Genesis of his career and Doc Rivers has expressed his love for this kid. His percentages are very good and he gets those out-of-position blocks we all love. His arrow is pointing up and he should be owned in most leagues going forward.

Sorry for burying the lede, because the real news in the NBA is that Jimmy Butler got traded to the 76ers in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Jerryd Bayless. I think Covington and Butler’s value should remain relatively in tact, while Saric’s value can only go up. This may put a pretty big damper on Taj Gibson however. Keep an eye on Wilson Chandler, who could slide into the four-spot for the Sixers.

It was a busy Saturday Night so let’s dive on into into the Daily Notes!

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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:

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I try to reserve the lede for players that had unbelieveable games. It usually works out because one of the superstars is always doing something amazing. Every once in a while, though, an outlier happens which pushes all others to the wayside. Last night, we had one of those events, as the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrated their first win of the season over the Atlanta Hawks. Geez, how bad are the Hawks? Anyways, the Cavs are dead-last in defensive efficiency and near the bottom in offensive pace, assists, efficient field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage. Good times. Looking at the schedule, they play the Hawks once more on December 29th. 2-80!!!

When looking at the stats below, make sure you view them in the proper context: they played the Atlanta Hawks.

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