At long last, the new NBA season is upon us! You’ve finally learned your Adebayos from your Anunobys from your Anigbogus. Now, let’s get our Miltons, Meltons, Okobos, and Okogies straight. The Charlotte Michael-Hyphens (Kidd-Gilchrist and Carter-Williams) and the Miami Derrick Juniors (Jones and Walton) broke up, but I think all three NBA Reggies are still on the Pistons, at least. It’s going to be a great season. We’ll start playing more with numbers next week in this column. But for now, let’s talk drafting!

Fantasy drafts are the best. Snake, auction, slow, in-person. Whatever the format, I’m in. You’re likely a grizzled veteran of fantasy hoops drafts at this point as well, if you’re part of Razzball Nation. But whether you are or not, I’m hoping I can give you a couple advantages you may not have thought of yet. Or maybe, with all the aspects of a draft to consider, something I mention will be a helpful reminder when you’re frantically scrolling through late round players that all look terrible.

Last year, I went pretty in-depth with a two-part draft strategy series (Part 1, Part 2). Some of the names may have changed, but it holds up pretty well (thank goodness I said something positive about Donovan Mitchell). This year, I’ll try to keep it a bit more brief, but no promises.

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With the season a week away, and drafts in full swing, now is the perfect time to dig deep for those late round fliers. Once you get past round 9, I believe the best strategy is to pick players who may pop in a moments notice. Whether they are in a new scheme, new location, getting more minutes or just primed for a breakout, there are potential underrated stars to be had on every team. I will go team by team in each conference and highlight a player who can be had for cheap and can make an impact sooner rather than later.

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Fantasy basketball can be very different from other fantasy sports, in that there is not one proven draft strategy. The “Running Back-Running Back” fantasy football strategy is timeless, along with the standard mantra of “Wait on Tight End, Kicker, and Defense,” to which “Wait on Quarterback” is being added more frequently. In fantasy basketball, the position is not as important as the player.

The best players in basketball play all different positions, so targeting specific positions early in drafts is not a reliable strategy. Some people plan to “punt” categories, which means they intentionally draft players who do not excel in a certain category (free-throw percentage is a popular one), but that is a strategy that presents itself out of desperation as the draft progresses. The lack of a specific, proven strategy is why you will hear a lot of experts tell you that the best fantasy basketball draft strategy is no strategy. But I disagree.

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After a long hiatus, the preseason is finally upon us. Now come the discussion, speculation and, most importantly, the projections. Our very own SON has released his Top 100 H2H Rankings with more on the way. I am preparing the Top 155 Roto Projections just like last year, which should be ready to go by next week. In order to conquer the fantasy basketball maze, we must continue to learn, especially from our mistakes. That will be the focus of this article, as I highlight the players that greatly under or overperformed their preseason projections and focus on which statistical category had the most impact.

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John Wall went from hero to zero back to hero in Washington this season. Nobody will argue that John Wall is the most talented player on the Wizards, but when he went down with a knee injury and the team started playing its best basketball of the season, people started questioning Wall’s value to the team. His selfish play was viewed as holding the team back in the day-and-age of the Hoosier method of at least three passes before a shot. The team’s hot streak wore off, however, and everyone started clamoring for Wall’s return. Now the Wizards are battling for a playoff spot and John Wall stepped up for one of his best games of the season: 4/29/7/13/3/3. I mean, wow, nice game and nice timing. Anyone still playing in fantasy who has John Wall is as excited about the timing of this as the city of Washington D.C.

Anyway, here is what else I saw last night as teams battle for the last playoff spot and just plain old last place:

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What’s up Razzballers!? Considering this is either the final or semifinal playoff week for most leagues, I want to say I’m proud of anyone reading this. Even if you’re in the consolation bracket (or in a roto league), it was a fun season and I love all of you. You know who else loves you? Otto Porter, if you have him on your team (if you’re against him this week then he hates you deeply). He had a pretty forgettable game on Thursday, but made up for it in a big way on Saturday going for 26/11/2/1/2 on 10-for-15 FG (6-for-10 3P) and zero TOs. This line was cleaner than Tony Montana’s! Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

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Average. Middle. Meh? I guess it all depends on perception. Someone born into poverty would be praised if he/she achieved average economic status. On the flip side, if you are a one-percenter, I assume that average would prompt seppuku. Average is often associated with boring. He/she was average in the sack. The higher above the line probably correlates well with intenstity of orgasm. For flip side? Supplant higher with lower. Why does average get such a bad rap? It ain’t great, but it puts food on the table. It often gives 1.5 children and a white picket fence, if you are so inclined to have either. With that said, we are a “what have you done for me lately” society. We are all about celebrating the highs, while conveniently eschewing the trials and tribulations. Well, yesterday Joe Harris was not your Average Joe.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 30 7 2 1 0 1 6/7 11/14 2/2

The CLE defense is atrocious, but let’s not forget about the……REVENGE!!!! Harris was drafted by the Cavaliers back in 2014. He played two seasons there, never averaging more than 10 points or scoring 3 points a game. During the 2016 season, though, Joe underwent surgery on his foot and was traded to ORL a week later. Then he was immediately waived. BKN picked him up and the rest, as they say, is history. Two years with the Nets has produced…..wait for it (an homage to HIMYM)…..average results. This season, in particular, Joe is averaging 10.3 points, 3.3 boards, 1.5 dimes, and 1.8 downtowners in 25.1 minutes a game. He’s scored double figures in 41 of 71 games played, but has not eclipsed the 20 point threshold once. Anyways, I clowned him earlier in the season, but Harris is no Average Joe, and the Nets don’t think so either. Even with all the wing players that they have, Joe has been getting consistent playing time for most of the season. He can shoot and is able to drive strong to the rack and finish. An Average Joe on most nights, but yesterday, he was anything but.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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There are two points of a fantasy basketball season where seasons can be won and lost: the first is at the draft and the second is when there are about twenty games left in the season. The draft is obvious. That is when you set the foundation of your team. The second point is a little more subtle.

For those owners in head-to-head leagues, this second point is important because you are setting your team up (hopefully) for the playoffs. You want players who have a lot of games and are on teams who will not be resting them during the critical time. The subtle part is directed more at owners in roto leagues. There are still enough games left to make moves in categories you can climb in or maintain your lead in categories you are ahead in.

The waiver wire is your tool to win the league at this point. Young players are finally putting it together and playing well and injuries are opening up time for bench guys who have played well when given minutes. The Golden State Warriors, and their massive amount of injuries to star players, is a team to focus on in order to find one or two players who can help you with that late season charge.

Quinn Cook is the player I want to focus on in this recap, and if you need threes, points, assists, steals, I will pause for a moment so you can go and pick him up. While we are waiting for those owners to get back can we just talk about how dumb they are for not picking up Cook yet and having him active for this game against the lowly Suns? Wait, wait, quiet, they’re coming back…

Welcome back, we were just waiting quietly for you. I hope you were able to add him. Cook is a 2-way player, no, that is not sexual. It means that he is one of two players each team can send back and forth to the G-League during the season. Cook has dominated G-League play for most of the year and now, because of injuries to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant, Cook is getting 40 minutes per game and putting up more than decent fantasy point guard stats. Last night Quinn Cook went for: 5/28/4/4/2/0 with only 2 turnovers in 40 minutes. This was on 11-17 shooting, including 5-7 from three. Pick him up.

Here is what else I saw on a busy St. Patrick’s Day:

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I recently reviewed the transactions that happened during the offseason and realized how much of an impact they had for this year’s playoff-bound teams. And while Kyrie Irving, Paul George, and Victor Oladipo had a huge impact on their teams, I personally think the most successful one was Daryl Morey’s acquisition of Chris Paul. The Rockets are playing D’Antoni basketball, racking up threes at a historic pace and are currently on a 16-game winning streak. The opposition does not seem to have an answer for their P&R and the fact that either Paul or James Harden are always on the floor spells double trouble. And unlike another Team Rocket, they don’t seem likely to go away easily…

And now, after trying to shamelessly exploit your childhood nostalgia by including a Pokemon reference, let’s move on to the usual review of last week’s calls. Alex Len was useful when he played, but Tyson Chandler’s return demoted him to a bench role again and he is an easy drop in my book. David Nwaba and Nemanja Bjelica, on the other hand, are getting starter minutes and look capable to maintain them going forward. The same can be said for JaMychal Green, who enjoyed a great week averaging 14 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks. With Memphis going nowhere, he has a great ROS outlook. On the sell front, there is a rumor that Adam Silver warned the Chicago Bulls to stop benching their healthy veterans, but even if they do return to the rotation it won’t be for more than a handful of minutes each game. Finally, Ersan Ilyasova’s minutes took a major hit in Philadelphia as predicted and will struggle to maintain fantasy relevance in standard leagues.

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