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.
The Chosen One showed up last night in Washington to restore balance to The Force (The NBA). LeBron is still awaiting the return of his Padawan, Isaiah Thomas, and he made the Wizards look like Younglings in that scene where Anakin massacres all the Younglings. Yeah, I watched some Episode III earlier in the week…Anyway, last night I caught a bit of the NBA action and this is what I saw:
Man, you guys don’t even know. There’s been a mob outside my house every night for the past two weeks carrying tiki torches and screaming, “We want the Top 200 with stats!” Or at least I think that’s what they were saying. Anyways, big shout out to Rudy who waved his magic wand and created the beautiful looking spreadsheet below. It even sorts. Here is Rudy in his lab:
It’s nice to live minute-to-minute. Riding the wave of life, experiencing the gamut of emotions, and acquiring a rolodex of memories with nary a stress in the world. A life lived like this is unfulfilling, though. To truly get the most out of life, one must try to achieve. And in order to achieve, one must have a plan. Look at the current NBA. So many smart people running teams, yet they navigate the landscape like a stoned teenager walking through a grocery store. Look! Twinkies! Mmmmm, I’m so hungry. These will taste so good. Oh! Chips.
Former general manager of the 76ers, Sam Hinkie, had a plan. If you haven’t read his Manifesto, I highly recommend that you do. There’s so much goodness there, but I wanted to focus on this excerpt:
“It is critical to be cycle aware in a talent-driven league. In a situation like yours at the Sixers, where a variety of circumstances left you near a trough in the cycle (and falling), amplifying this cycle became crucial. Today’s outcomes for every team are heavily impacted by decisions past (who to draft, sign, trade, hire, etc.). Jeff Bezos says that if Amazon has a good quarter it’s because of work they did 3, 4, 5 years ago-not because they did a good job that quarter. Today’s league-leading Golden State Warriors acquired Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut, and Klay Thompson almost 4 years ago, nearly 4 years ago exactly, and almost 5 years ago. In this league, the long view picks at the lock of mediocrity.”
It’s been a while since the East has boasted a better division than the West, but even when you spot a lowly East team a big lead on a West team, nothing is safe! Russell Westbrook just went insane (I would too if the Magic were beating my playoff bound team!) in the OKC comeback charge, turning around a 21-point deficit during the second half on his way to a 57/13/11/3/0 line. He shot 21-40 from the field with 6 treys, just willing OKC to the W after this dramatic 3 to get it into OT.
Good thing Nikola Vucevic can’t hit his FT! Westbrook took the missed freebie board, and no Magic was gonna stop him… Take that, Voldemort! It’s come to pass as just the norm, but at 31.8/10.6/10.4, it looks like Westbrook is going to easily average the tripdub, something I really didn’t think we’d ever see again. Hopefully you built your team around his deficiencies fairly well, because man he’s tough to beat if you can slaughter the right cats. Westy is your besty! What an unbelievable season, Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy basketball action:
The Bulls came into Toronto having beat the Raptors in 11 straight games. It took overtime, but the Raptors snapped the losing streak behind DeMar DeRozan’s 42 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. Double D shot 17-38 and helped erase a 16-point deficit in the 4th quarter to secure the win.
DeRozan battled all game against Jimmy Butler, who also went off for 37/10/6. Despite these two all-stars’ phenomenal performances, the game was overshadowed by the fight between Serge Ibaka (16 and 6) and Robin Lopez (12 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocks):
Usually Lopez only fights mascots, but took exception to Ibaka’s shove in the back. Fortunately the guys were separated rather quickly, but the league will obviously review the fight and make a decision later on whether either player will be suspended any games. Personally, I’d expect both guys to miss at least one game, but hopefully it’s just a fine and they return for their teams’ next game.
Andrew Wiggins will turn 22 in less than a month, but he knocked down what should be the first of many buzzer-beating game winners, becoming the youngest player of the season to do so:
A buzzer-beater win in Minnesota is rarer than a healthy Nikola Pekovic. The last one happened almost 5 years ago on a Luke Ridnour floater on February 22, 2012. About the same time as Pek’s last game.
In addition to the game-winner, Wiggins added 31 points (11-22 FG), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 threes. Wiggins continues to develop in his third NBA season and makes the young Timberwolves roster a fun team to watch.
So I’m not a basketball historian, and I’m still a young pup. I barely remember the Bulls glory years – I was in elementary school when they won titles 4-6 (yikes, aging the crap outta myself), but I do vividly remember the Byron Russell push-off and I cherished my Michael Jordan cards. I still have a bunch of em! This one is still in a nice case and one of my favorites… Anyway, when I saw Jimmy Butler go off for 52/12/6/3/1 last night, I was about to make all sorts of tongue-and-cheek MJ parallels…
Got the same reverse layup and everything! But then it dawned on me… Butler is more like Scottie Pippen if there was no Jordan. Pippen’s best season was 93-94, unsurprisingly the year without MJ, and went 22.0/8.7/5.6/2.9/0.8 on 49% shooting with 0.9 treys. So far this year, J Buckets is 25.3/6.8/4.4/1.7/0.3 on 46% shooting with 1.1 treys. While Pippen was obviously one of the best defensive players of his generation, Butler is a much better FT shooter and gets to the line more. But the rest is really close, and I thought kinda interesting food for thought. So the answer for the Bulls is simple – find a Michael Jordan for Buckets to play next to! I’m a problem-solver – if only every team’s issue in the NBA was this easy! Hah! Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy basketball action:
…title sounds like some sort of Adult Swim episode. Something the Squidbillies might do! Oh man, what a time to be a Nikola Jokic owner! I don’t know if any top-50 pick has played with your emotions quite like this! It’s like the crazy hot girlfriend in college – and might as well be a crazy hot redhead because ginger girls are nuts! She’s hot as hell at first, goes a little nuts on you early on, but the hotness keeps you around. 16/8/11/0/1 last night on 6-12 shooting, and point guard-ing the shit outta that game last night!
He was dishing so good, I decided to edit together that GIF this time! And it was tough to show only 15 seconds worth! Perils of trying to explain why you’re hanging out with a hot redhead that is acting nuts in your dorm (I have no personal experience here…)… it takes some finesse explaining it! Anyway, the Nuggets are looking soooooo much better with Jock Itch running the point: after ups and downs with his AST, since Dec 10th when he got 6 dimes, the Nuggets are 6-3 over the last 9 games with Jokic averaging 5.7 dimes and 67.7% shooting from the field. While the dimes from a C are beastly and all, he still only has 19 STL and 19 BLK on the season, good for 0.7/0.7. I thought my #44 overall rank was going to end up being bold, but turns out the hype machine pushed him top-30 in several ranks/draft selections, which made his value a little bit of a bubble. But thankfully if you gutted through that rough November, you’ve got a mad case of Jock Itch keeping you red hot right now! Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action: