I used to love watching Animal Planet. That is, when they actually used to show freaking wild animals in their natural habitat. Now it’s a bunch of BS shows that IDGAF about. Anyways, watching a cackle of hyenas or a pride of lions working together to take down prey was always an exhilarating watch. That’s usually because the prey was a big, burly beast who could F shit up. It would take hours and a coordinated precision to take it down. Sometimes they trudged home empty-handed, but every once in a while, they would overcome and feast. Last night, a pack of Pacers Voltron’d up and took down the hurly-burly Grizzly for a 132-125 victory. Domantas Sabonis produced 18 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Malcolm Brogdon contributed 29 points, nine rebounds, 11 assists, and one steal. Caris LeVert went for 34 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three blocks. It took 48 minutes, but the Pacers finally defeated the Grizzlies, 132-125 as Jonas Valanciunas was a freaking beast, going for 34 points, 22 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. He shot 16-for-25 from the field.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Rundown of tonight’s dynamic slate of 10 Games with five Triple-Doubles on this Hump Day.

RAPTORS -VS- (W) PISTONS
Fred Van Vleet: Blessings to my dude for battling Covid-19 this month and making a full recovery.
First game back and understandably rusty.  The three steals and the 7-of-8 from the charity make it much more palatable.  Yum.  
FVV is actually 3rd on the planet in steals rate at 1.7 SPG.

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I had the good fortune of playing on some pretty good basketball teams in my youth. Well, good fortune in the sense that I was on teams that won a bunch of games and had the best seat in the house at the end of the bench. The two high school classes ahead of mine were absolutely loaded, creating a bottleneck of talent and pushing varsity-caliber players down to a JV squad that churned through overmatched programs over and over again. Winning by 15+ and then getting an earful about how poorly we played the next day in practice was a pretty routine occurrence. I’m not sure we lost more than three games over the course of two years.

What Jonas Valanciunas did to the Wizards reminded of these glory days, as JV was absolutely dominant against a frontcourt that didn’t have anything resembling an answer for the Memphis big man. Jonas is a load in the paint, and if you don’t have a big body to throw at him, the results can be Just Vicious.

Jonas Valanciuias 

PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 3PM FG FT
29 20 3 0 4 2 0 12/21 5/7

JV feasted on Washington’s undersized group. Moritz Wagner could only hang for 21 minutes with him before collecting six fouls. Davis Bertans racked up five fouls in 20 minutes. Robin Lopez fared better than those other two, but Scott Brooks eventually had to turn to his fourth big, Alex Len, for a couple of minutes in search of relief from the abuse. This is the second time Valanciunas has posted a 20+  points and 20+ rebounds line this year. Skilled and huge, he abuses teams that don’t have an ogre of their own to throw at him. With only two games on the slate, there was nowhere to hide JV’s dominance.

Here’s what else I saw on slow Wednesday in the NBA:

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I kid you not, I’ve spent a good chunk of my life learning foreign languages, have visited Austria (shoutout to the Mozartstübe in Vienna), and when I was browsing 538’s RAPTOR looking for unknown fantasy basketball values, I had no idea how to pronounce Jakob Poeltl’s name. Seems like it rhymes with “Myrtle” or “Yertle the Turtle.” As the backup big man on the San Antonio Spurs, it might be fair to title the article “Jakob Poeltl the Turtle” but with last week’s article about a McConnell, I figured I had used up the ration of my turtle jokes for the year. So! Let’s move on to dinosaurs, and the guy who is dominating the “on” side of the On/Off Defensive Leaderboard on 538’s RAPTOR system. 

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Yep, I’m going to subject you all to my friends and family league yet again. We’re at the midway point of our regular season after today, so I wanted to go back and see where my predictions from the preseason were right and wrong, and which fantasy players are performing better or worse than their average draft position (ADP).

What I hope you can take from this is how to better formulate your strategy in your own leagues, and what seems to work best for people in a relatively average league. Our league is listed as a “silver” league on Yahoo!, which isn’t really scientific but indicates our team levels combined are slightly below the average of “gold.” We have two platinum, one gold, four silver, and five bronze managers. It’s a top-heavy league, which is the case in most scenarios as the people who run the league seem to be far more invested.

Anyways, the below records and rankings are based on if the scores stay the same as they are at the writing of this article. Those are subject to change, but not by much.

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We have already seen a good chunk of the season and can safely see how the stats and teams are shaping up. An interesting topic every year around the NBA is the MVP race and this year it is supposedly a very ambiguous one, with Lebron being Lebron, Embiid and Jokic stepping up, and Durant returning to his pre-injury form. However, the true MVP this year in my mind up to this point is someone that is not being mentioned so often as the aforementioned players and is only ranked 7th in ESPN’s early MVP rankings.

Stephen Curry is carrying the Warriors to the playoffs by averaging 30.1 points per game on a ridiculous 66.9% True Shooting Percentage. Opposing defenses have been often helpless and left standing to watch in awe as Steph dribbles, razzles and dazzles through them, making tough shot after tough shot with insane accuracy. The most mind-boggling stat is that in 2016, Curry won the first unanimous MVP award by averaging……… 30.1 points per game, on a ridiculous 66.9% True Shooting Percentage, the exact same stats that he is currently averaging. The fact that he is only viewed as the 7th candidate for MVP is atrocious in my mind. Plus, he can casually do this at the end of games.

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Is Mason Plumlee the Great White Hope? This is the second consecutive time I’ve written him up for the lede to this internationally renowned fantasy basketball blog, and y’all know how precious this real estate is. Not good enough? How about the fact that not since B-Rabbit has a white guy gotten the folks in Detroit to get up off their seats, bob their heads up and down, and raise their hands to the sky? Still not feeling it? Then how about this?

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Russell Westbrook has always been a controversial figure in basketball. There are those who love his competitive spirit, ability to lead and mentor his teammates, and dynamic and physical play. There are also those who criticize the lack of progress in his shooting, defensive commitment, and success in the playoffs. Whatever your take is on Westbrook, in terms of fantasy, there was one moment that proved to be a major turning point. And it wasn’t a trade, an injury, or anything else related to his play.

Over the summer of 2017, the NBA changed the delay of game rules, making it so that a free throw shooter is no longer allowed to go beyond the 3-point line, or he will be assessed a delay of game violation. Westbrook’s ft% average before this rule was 82.4%. His average after it is 70.3%. And he is shooting a whopping 7.1 free throws per game for his career, so you can understand the fantasy impact this has. His shooting woes this year (41.3%) along with a major decrease in steals (0.8) and increase in turnovers (4.9) has him ranked 207th in per-game value. Let that sink in…Take an extra moment, you need it. Now see things clearly and try with all your might to trade him if you drafted him, taking advantage of his name value and the owners in your league that like him in real life, because he is actively hurting your fantasy team, even if you are punting turnovers.

Regarding last week’s suggestions, all were serviceable, with Thaddeus Young leading the bunch with three excellent fantasy lines. Beware that from the “Buy” suggestions, De’Anthony Melton hurt his shoulder and is questionable, so feel free to stream his spot, if necessary.

Please, blog, may I have some more?