In 2016, Daryl Morey hired Mike D’Antoni as head coach. It was a match made in heaven, as Morey believed that three-pointers, layups, and free throws were the most efficient shots to take. D’Antoni? Did someone say three-pointers? Three-coooooola. The Rockets improved from 41-41 in 2015 to 55-27 with D’Antonio at the helm. They blitzed the league with 115.3 points per game, just 0.6 fewer than the vaunted Golden State Warriors. They hoisted up an absurd 40.3 three-pointers a game and made a league-high 14.4. Then the playoffs happened. After disposing of the Oklahoma City Thunder, D’Antoni and Morey were bested by Greg Popovich. Pop did not figure out the magic formula to shut down the Rockets O. What he did do was disrupt the rhythm and force the Rockets to do what they were most uncomfortable doing: shoot the midrange. Pop would use Kawhi Leonard to chase James Harden all over the court and plant Pau Gasol in the middle of the lane. The other three players would be paparrazi and follow their subjects wherever they went. As a result, three-pointers, layups, and free throws were defended. Everything in the midrange was conceded. Result? Spurs 4. Rockets 2. There was only one option to pursue. Better Call Paul, as in

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Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I’m only falling apart
And there’s nothing I can do
A Joel eclipse of the heart
Good morning/afternoon/night sports fans. Welcome back to another special edition of the Saturday Daily Notes presented by Razzball. We had a bit of a rivalry game (I guess?) between the Pistons and the 76ers last night, with Andre Drummond and Joel Embiid jawing at each other over social media then battling it out on the court. Drummond had a great game going for 14/11/6/5/1 on 4-for-8 FG and 6-for-8 FT and only one turnover, but Embiid had 25/10/0/1 with six turnovers on 7-for-21 FG and 11-for-12 FT along with the all-important win. It was a battle between two of the game’s best centers and hopefully a matchup we’ll be seeing many times going forward. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night 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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Hey y’all. We’re back again, like we never left, with another Saturday Special. Today we’re kicking it off with none other than the Tall Baller From the G himself, Dirk Nowitzki. He had a nice little vintage performance, as he led the Mavericks to a win over the Thunder, going for 19/5/4/2 on 7-for-10 shooting with four threes. Dirk’s no longer a fantasy stud, but it’s nice to be able to show love to one of the greats when they deserve it. Dirk might get sporadic rest days as the season goes on, but he’ll generally be given free reign to do as he pleases while the Mavericks happily tank for a pick. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

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Dinner was done, the kids were in bed, the dog was walked, and I was just about to kick back and finally watch the next episode of Stranger Things Season 2, when my phone buzzed. It was an email from Son letting me know that he had not left the bathroom since happy hour ended at his local sushi joint and he needed me to write today’s fantasy recap. So of course being the dedicated Razzball soldier I am, I let him know that I would add to my assist total and take the rock. It was only after agreeing to write the recap that I realized this was one of the busiest nights of basketball all season, so Son, I want to see a doctor’s note.

I know I have some big shoes to fill, but I will do my best to entertain the masses with a recap of yesterday’s action.

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“The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.” (Pele)

This has definitely been the week of the records. Last Wednesday, “Salvator Mundi”, a painting of Christ attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, was auctioned in New York for $450 million, smashing the previous record for a piece of art. One day later, we had something similar in the NBA. Our artist, called Joel Embiid finished with 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and seven blocks in 34 sensational minutes. It was one of the strongest performances in the history of the NBA.

PLAYER YEAR Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Joel Embiid 2017 46 15 7 0 7
Shaquille O’Neal 2000 61 23 3 0 0
David Robinson 1994 71 14 5 0 2
Patrick Ewing 1990 44 22 4 2 7
Hakeem Olajuwon 1996 46 19 8 3 3
Anthony Davis 2016 59 20 4 0 1

This stratospheric performance impacted all of our leagues with most of his owners soaring. This tarnished other great performances.

Ben Simmons is averaging 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 7.7 assists. Throughout NBA history, only two rookies averaged (at least) seven rebounds and seven assists per game. The members of this select club are Oscar Robertson with 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 9.7 assists and Magic Johnson with 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists.

Kristaps Porzingis made another record, as he is now the only player in NBA history with more than 200 3-points and more than 200 blocks in his first 150 games. In other words, he has made more 3-points than Kevin Durant and more blocks than Dwight Howard in this span.

Moreover, Robert Covington is averaging more 3pts (3.7) than Stephen Curry (3.6) and more steals (1.5) than Victor Oladipo (1.3).

 

The team of the week is Newbie. As you can guess he has Joel Embiid. But, he also has James Harden, the number one fantasy player the last two weeks (35.7 points, 10.2 assists, 2.0 steals, and 5.0 3pts). A match made in heaven.

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Here is how the action went down in week 5 across our 12 RCL Leagues:

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Howdy basketboys and girls, welcome back to another Saturday recap special. There was a great game last night as Ben Simmons and the Sixers almost cooked Steph Curry’s Warriors. The Sixers jumped out to an early 47-28 lead after the first quarter, but the Warriors did Warriors things and pulled off their own 47-15 rout in the third quarter to take back the lead and put the game away. Simmons had 23/8/12 on 11-for-15 shooting and only one turnover in the close loss. Wow. We knew he was great, but he’s blowing past everyone’s expectations this season. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy basketball:

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Before I begin, the Razzball site was down all day yesterday. Either the Russians and North Koreans were hacking us or our servers couldn’t handle all the pings from people wanting to read our content. We are flattered by either scenario. Anyways, we just wanted to apologize for what happened and thank you for being patient. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

I used to hang out with this girl waaaaaaaaay back in the day. She was not the prettiest girl. She was not the smartest girl, but we could have endless conversations about nothing and everything. And boy, could she dance. If you know what I mean. When I watch James Harden play, I always think about that girl. She did not look like him, you weirdos. Harden won’t dunk on anyone’s grill or make Superman-esque plays. His game is in the subtleties. He waits and probes until he sees a defender cheating one way or the other. Then, like a Viet Cong hiding in the bushes, attacks. And boy, can he shoot and Euro-step. If you know what I mean. Anyways, last night Harden scored 48 points on 12-of-22 from the field and 6-of-11 from downtown. Kobe’s like, “Does not compute.” Ladies, he’s a very charitable guy, as he went 18-of-18 from the stripe. It’s doesn’t end there, though. Harden also grabbed two boards, dished out seven dimes, pilfered two, and blocked one. I am excited, but that’s just a tent in my pants. Now, it was against the Phoenix Suns so there’s that. But how about this? He got busy with Chris Paul making his return with 21 minutes of run.

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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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Part of fantasy basketball is forming a team using the predictable stats in a way that maximizes your roto points or head-to-head category wins. Another part is getting the less predictable stats right more often than your competition, whether that means you’re benefiting from an increase in value or avoiding a decrease.

It’s early, but I thought I’d take a look at what the biggest differences are in this season’s stats versus last season’s by using the ESPN Player Rater averages (per-game).

Aaron Gordon. This season’s highest leaper.

First, a quick detour while I’m talking player rater. Here’s something it teaches us that we should keep in mind. Many people think of rankings as linear. Like, the best player is the same amount better than the 5th player as the 5th player is better than the 9th player. Not so, and we see the difference especially among the top few players when we look at their overall rating. Like with most data sets, there are outliers. That’s these fantasy stars. The top five players with their per-game ratings in each of the past two seasons:

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