The Magic surprised everyone last year by earning the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs behind the strong play of Nikola Vucevic. The squad enters the 2019-20 season largely unchanged, with everyone a year older and a year more experienced. Newcomers Markelle Fultz and Al-Farouq Aminu should be welcomed additions to the team in both fantasy and real life. Aminu is a hard worker who plays his role well, and should be efficient while contributing in all areas. Fultz will hopefully provide some much needed help at the PG position, as the Magic have been relying heavily on a 31-year-old DJ Augustin. Look for them to be a playoff contender again, although they are unlikely to do a lot of damage in the early rounds.

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Look ahead—Trade Deadline Edition

Now we are just past the halfway mark of the season and into the annual fun that masquerades as the trade deadline.

Teams are either hoping to find the one additional piece to move them into championship contention, ensure that playoff slot which has eluded the home fans for several seasons, or offload some contracts to save a few bucks and better the future.

The interesting thing is figuring out who the sellers and buyers are. More intriguing for us fantasy hoop heads is how it affects/changes/improves/negates the numbers of current players and what kind of new opportunities can now be found for players in new situations.

We will take a look at the Eastern Conference first – identify some trade targets and discuss what that might mean.  Then we will do the same with the West.

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The SouthLEAST Division

Here we are at the quarter turn, as teams have played approximately 25% of their games.

We know enough to be able to make some pretty cogent observations. Try this one on: this division is the worst in the NBA. Last year, the Heat won the division with 44 wins, while the Wizards had 43. Most thought it would be those two teams battling again, but alas, the Hornets and Magic currently sit atop the divisional heap. Any of these teams will be hard pressed to win 44 this year, although since they have to play each other four times each, somebody might get close. We could easily see a sub-.500 Division champion. What has been evident is that there are four coaches who are doing a notable job with inadequate star power, while one coach has been doing an inadequate job with notable star power.

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Heading into the offseason, it was clear that the Magic were in desperate need of a playmaker. As a result, many draft analysts, myself included, were anticipating that the Magic were going to select Trae Young with the 6th overall pick in the draft. The unexpected happened instead, as the Mavericks traded up to select Luka Doncic while the Hawks selected Trae Young at number five, leaving the Magic with the decision to take the best player available on their board or select based on need, which would have been one of the point guards in Collin Sexton or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Magic chose the former, but in doing so left a big hole at the point guard position and added to a crowded front-court that already consisted of arguably their three most talented players in Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and potential breakout star Jonathan Isaac, the 5th overall pick in 2017. Common sense suggests that it is likely that the Magic will explore the trade market throughout the season, potentially dangling Vucevic to address the need at point guard. Without strengthening the back court and given the inexperienced level of the team, another season missing the playoffs in the desecrated East division seems likely.

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Russell Westbrook gets triple-doubles so often that I think most fans take for granted the greatness that we are witnessing. Like NBA history making greatness. Last night, Russ picked up the 100th triple-double of his career, as he led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 16-0 run late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory over the lowly Atlanta Hawks in a game they were supposed to win.

Westy scored 32 points, dropped 12 dimes, and pulled down 12 rebounds to become the third-fastest player to reach the 100 trip-dub mark. Only Oscar Robertson (277 games) and Magic Johnson (656 games) got to number 100 quicker than Russ, who accomplished the feat in just his 736th game. These stats tell me two things: 1) Russell Westbrook is really awesome and we are lucky to be able to witness his greatness and 2) The Big O was friggin’ unbelievable! 277 games? I mean, what? Nikola Jokic better hurry if he wants to even come close to sniffing that kind of epic-ness.

LeBron James, the so called “King,” has played in over 1,000 NBA games and he is not really even that close to 100 triple-doubles (ok, he’s pretty close, but still). I am saying (typing) all of this in an effort to put Westbrook’s greatness in perspective (because I am sensing that he is not getting the kind of love he deserves, most likely because ya’ll jealous of the man’s killer threads and overall sense of style). But anyway, yeah he’s good. Russell Westbrook also only trails Robertson (181), Johnson (138), and Jason Kidd (107) on the career triple-double list and trails only Kidd on the my head’s shaped like a basketball list.

However, since we are a fantasy basketball website I will stop boring you with general NBA history and give you Russ’ final line from last night: 0/32/12/12/1/1. I know, zero threes, what a bum.

Here is what else I saw last night:

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What’s up Razzball Nation! Welcome back to another edition of Any Given Saturday. I just feel like I haven’t talked about LeBron James enough. The man just turned 33 and is putting up MVP numbers. Hell, with James Harden injured, LeBron is probably the frontrunner. This season he’s putting up career-highs in assists, 3PM, FT%, and he’s even putting up 1.0 blocks, the most since his first Cleveland stint. He was built in a Nike laboratory to be the perfect basketball specimen. Anyway, against the lowly Magic on Sunday, LeBron messed around and almost got a quadruple-double, going for 33/10/9/6/1 on 12-for-23 FG (4-for-7 3P, 5-for-7 FT) with three turnovers. His usage might go down with the return of Isaiah Thomas, but it’s not like Kyrie Irving dug into LeBron’s stats in previous years. LeBron might even average more assists and be more efficient with IT in the fold. Good lord. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

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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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Good morrow to thee, neighbours! It was a fun night for hoops, especially if you’re a fan of mediocre basketball teams! The Atlanta Hawks scraped by the previously decent Orlando Magic and what a matchup it was! A special shoutout goes to Ersan Ilyasova who went for 26/3/4 on a perfect 9-for-9 FG with five threes, 3-for-5 FT. and no turnovers. It was a pretty spectacular game for Ersan. With Dewayne Dedmon and John Collins (and Mike Muscala) all missing from the Hawks’ frontcourt, there’s minutes to go around and Ilyasova is definitely the man in line to take them. Here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

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I always enjoyed Outkast when I was younger. Their music would always get me to bob my head from side to side and up and down. The thing I most admired about them, though, was their ability to change. Early on, they were a more “traditional” rap group. As time progressed, they started experimenting and adding elements to their music which made them more funky. End result? My head continued to bob from side to side and up and down. The lead singer was Andre Benjamin, who performed under the stage name “Dre.” As the group changed their style, Benjamin changed his name to “Andre 3000.” The new and improved version, perhaps? Well, the same evolution has been taking place in Detroit, as Andre Drummond has been a beast. On the season, he’s averaging:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 13.7 15.2 3.4 1.4 1.2 3.5 0 99/188 49/81

The boards, assists, and free throw percentage are all at career-highs! The turnovers are at a career-high as well, but that’s a residual effect of being a playmaker. I should’ve known big things were coming when I saw highlights of him playing at the Drew League over the summer. Splashing step back 20-footers? What? The most impressive improvement has obviously been the free throw shooting. The Pistons broadcasters analyzed the differences here. Now, it all culminated last night for Drummond against the Boston Celtics:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 26 22 6 4 0 3 0 10/12 6/8

Season-high in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage. Let’s cut to Andre performing and get a glimpse of how all his fantasy owners are feeling right now:

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