The Celtics’ impressive 16-game winning streak is now over. Is it a coincidence that 16 is half of 32, which is the number of games that the ’71 Lakers won in a row? I do not believe in coincidences, until I do. Which makes this iteration of the Celtics half the team of that glorious Lakers squad. All kidding aside, it was an impressive run. The team stepped up when they lost Gordon Hayward, Brad Stevens is now a legitimate Presidential candidate, Kyrie is…..well, Kyrie, and the defense has been the league’s best, by a big margin according to defensive efficiency. I tried everything in the book to jinx the streak. Voodoo dolls, shrines, sacrificing of virgins, and rubbing my scrotum with four-leaf clovers. All to no avail. I had to harken back to the past. All the way back to the ancient days of the early 1990’s. It was during that time, the secret was unlocked by the Leprechaun movies. You see, in the original, the leprechaun is defeated when the well it falls into is blown up. Explosion. Fire. In the third movie, the lepechaun is defeated via flamethrower. Heat was needed and Heat we got Wednesday night, as the Miami Heat took down the Boston Leprechauns 104-98. Who led the way? None other than Goran Dragic, aka the Dragon, who was spewing fire from all over the court: 27 points, five boards, four dimes, and one liberation. He shot 8-of-17 from the field and 2-of-4 from downtown. Waiters Island was booming, as Dion Waiters scored 26 points, grabbed two boards, and dished out six dimes. He shot 11-of-24 from the field and 4-of-10 from downtown. How do you beat the Celtics? Shoot 49.4% from the field, which was 4% higher than their season average. Translation: bring the Heat.
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.
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:
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:
The Player Rater is a tool to evaluate the performance of a player with only one number. This is not a perfect tool, and will not guarantee victory in fantasy, but this is useful to improve and evaluate your team.
In each category of scoring, a number is calculated to represent the average total in that category. If a player has the average, his rating in that category is 0.00. The numbers represent how much a player is above or below the average.
If the rating is positive, that player is an above-average fantasy player in that category. If the rating is negative that player is below-average. The sum of all ratings in each category gives us a number (the PR), and then we rank the players accordingly.
I have not included turnovers, as the evaluation in PR is very controversial in my opinion, so if you’re in a league with turnovers, you must keep in mind this.
Welcome back everyone to the second installment of the Sunday Recap. This edition is full of fright for fantasy owners and fans alike, as there were some strange(r) things affront given the scores we saw. And no Winona Ryder performance either.
Ben Simmons became the first player, since Hambone Williams in 1967, to post a triple-dub within his first four career games last night (stat courtesy of ESPN Stats). Freaking Oscar Robertson put up three triple-dubs in his first four career games. GOAT. Anyways, the final stat line for Simmons: 21 pts, 12 boards, 10 dimes, and one steal on 8-for-11 shooting. So this is what everyone’s been talking about! Before he even played a professional game, the City of Philadelphia nicknamed Simmons the “Fresh Prince.” After last night’s performance, it may be an apt nickname but….let’s not completely dismiss the OG Fresh Prince.
Did Ben ever grab the opening tip and drain a half-court shot before his feet touched the ground? Did Ben ever cut across the lane, catch the ball at the left elbow, then scoop it underhanded without turning to face the bucket? And banking it in? Huh? Huh? So, before we go crowning his ass, let’s pay some respect to the OG. I’ll be honest. I had some doubts regarding Ben coming into this year. I did think that he would grab boards and drop a ton of dimes, but would his lack of outside shot hold him down? After watching him play, he can get to the rim at will. He is so long and such a graceful strider that resistance is futile. He kind of reminds me of Giannis in that aspect. Ben has trouble finishing strong, though, while Giannis….uh…uh….oh my…..awwwwwwwwwww. Sorry, I just had to “take care” of something real quick. I also had some concerns that the Sixers would be conservative with Ben. Well, he’s playing 34.6 minutes on average over the first four games. Concern eradicated. He’s shooting 49.1% from the field, grabbing 10.8 boards, dishing out seven dimes, and pilfering one a game. There are no threes in his game with very few blocks (0.3). And he’s turning the ball over three times a game, but Ben is going to improve as the season rolls along. Who’s better? Will Smith or Ben Simmons? Will has a more diverse and explosive offensive game. He straight up clowns his opponents, but gotta knock him for level of competition. I gotta go with Ben here. It’s just no fun playing with Black Holes.
One of the reasons I prefer fantasy basketball to fantasy football is that in basketball it is much less likely to have your entire season derailed by an injury. That being said, opening night of the 2017-18 NBA season twisted my world view right along with Gordon Hayward’s ankle. Ouch!
It is when these things happen that I am reminded of two famous quotes: “Knowledge is power,” which I saw on a bumper sticker, and “Chaos is a ladder,” words spoken by the scheming Littlefinger in Season 1 of Game of Thrones. An injury can open the door for this year’s waiver wire MVP or at least offer a younger player an opportunity to get more minutes and become fantasy relevant. In order to take advantage you must not only act quickly, but you need to know which players will benefit the most, and that my friend is not easy.
So without further ado, here are the major injuries lingering around the NBA, some suggestions for which replacements to target, and whether you should stash, drop, or use an I.R. spot (if your league allows it):
After opening the season with a two-game appetizer, the NBA provided us with an 11-course meal on Wednesday. No low-carb dieting here, as fantasy manna was raining down from the heavens. All you can eat, baby! There were some impressive performances, as Hassan Whiteside went 26 and 22, DeMarcus Cousins went 28 and 10 with seven blocks, while teammate Anthony Davis went 33 and 18. On a side note, the Pelicans still managed to lose by 12. Trade alert already? Of all the performances, there was one that rose above the rest. Giannis Antetokoumpo went 37 and 13 with three dimes and three pilfers. The number one fantasy pick in many leagues, G showed why and looks poised to carry teams to the Promised Land. As Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and climbed Mount Sinai to raise two tablets above his head, so shall G lead fantasy owners across the barren landscape and up the mountain so that they may lift the trophy and bring glory to those that had faith in him. So it was written by Missy Elliot 0:58….to Get Ur Freak On.