Entering the season, Jrue Holiday was being drafted as a top 12 player for fantasy. And for good reason, as he finished as the 22nd and 21st player on a per-game basis the past two years. Anthony Davis was gone, so the expectation was that he was going to be the alpha, with the young kids following his lead. That is not how things worked out to begin the season, though. Jrue looked like he was on a Holiday, while Brandon Ingram took the league by storm. Then Zion Williamson returned from injury and the hype was all on him. Now, Lonzo has been Ball-ing with his new shot, which looks excellent by the way, and Jrue became the forgotten man. We are silly humans because Jrue never went anywhere. Last night, Jrue reminded us that he can still barbecue the opposition. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what always cooks the competition? The Stocktonator.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
37 9 8 1 1 1 3/8 13/20 8/9

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalmost messed around, which would have been the fifth time in his career. Over the past 21 games, Jrue has been a top 25 player. Over the past four games, he’s been top 15. He’s been lurking in the bushes, sniping off Charlie without anyone noticing. But I see you, Jrue! The usage rate isn’t crazy like most stars, as it’s in the 22% range, but he’s playing a ton of minutes for a team that plays at a fast offensive pace, and contributes across-the-board production. The only bugaboo to his game is the 70% free throw shooting.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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There is no stopping the King. Those who stand his way are forced to bow down to his greatness. With the Friday night lights gleaming, no superstar shines brighter. In a head-to-head battle between MVP candidates, one man rose to the occasion and asserted himself as the leading candidate. That man would happen to be Lebron James. Flirting with a triple-double, James was aggressive all night as he placed his stamp all over the game and all over the Milwaukee Bucks. Even when struggling from behind the three-point line, “Logo Lebron” still found a way to drop a near 40-ball in a big time win. Talk about “young bucks,” the 35-year-old babied and bullied the Bucks all night as he continues his historic MVP run.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
37 8 8 3 0 4 1/7 12/21 12/15

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Fantasy basketball forces you to take a critical look at the NBA’s unmitigated success stories. Will a breakout performance translate from one season to the next? Should we expect the dreaded faux-scientific sophomore slump for rookies? Will a natural year-to-year fluctuation in shooting push a player out of fantasy relevance? These are the relevant questions we have to weigh as the NBA season winds down and the fantasy playoffs start. It will be the fantasy offseason before you know it—it’s never too early to start planning for the future.

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Naz Reid was a highly-touted recruit in high school and was ranked as the third-best power forward/15th-best overall player in the nation. He played his college ball at LSU and declared for the draft after one season. He’s 6′ 10″, 240 pounds, has feathery touch from downtown, has decent handles with a wicked spin move to maneuver in the paint, is agile for a man his size, and can dish out dimes. Then why did he go undrafted? He didn’t dominate his one year in college and tanked the pre-draft combine. But the Minnesota Timberwolves knew because it wasn’t hard to tell that he was Illmatic…….

Ahhhhh, love that song. Anyways, can’t give the Timberwolves that much credit because if they truly knew then they would’ve drafted him. Regardless, they took a shot and their gamble looks to have paid off.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
13 14 3 3 2 1 1/4 5/12 2/2

In 27 minutes. Over the past seven games, Naz has averaged 25.4 minutes, 10.9 points, 0.9 tres, 7 boards, 1.6 dimes, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks. A 1/1/1 player!!! The field goal percentage is very poor for a big man, though, as it’s been 40% recently and 41% on the season. He’s a 70% shooter from the free throw line. Now, much depends on whether or not Karl-Anthony Towns returns. If he does, then Naz will have little value, but if KAT does get shut down, then……Naz will be Illmatic. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s always Illmatic? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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My buddy was talking about his girl a week or so ago and mentioned that he loved taking her out to eat now. She doesn’t eat sushi, which is healthy on the wallet. He no longer needs to take her to fancy steakhouses now because the last time he took her to one, she ordered her meat well done. “Woman,” he said, “if you want your meat cooked well done, I could’ve just taken you to Fatburger!” Meat should be cooked on the rare side so that it’s extra tender and juicy. Veal is no different. Beal on the other hand? Well done, all day and all night, especially when cooked into a 50-burger.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
53 5 4 2 1 7 5/11 15/27 18/20

A career-high and the second 50-burger of Beal’s career!!! Mmmmmm, delicious! Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what provides deliciousness every day? The Stocktonator. Over the past four games, Beal has garnered a usage rate of 40% and averaged 34.8 points, 2.8 tres, 3.5 boards, 3.8 dimes, and 2 steals, while shooting 46% from the field and 85% from the line. He’s been a top 40 player. On the season, he’s averaging 6 dimes per game, which accounts for the lower overall value. When the dimes are getting cashed, Beal is a top 25 player for fantasy.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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When Zach LaVine popped his head out from his mother’s womb, his first words were, “Who’s got next?” On his first day of school, his mother tried to dress him in his finest clothes. LaVine responded, “No, mom. We skins today.” When the other kids would go out and party, LaVine would be in the backyard playing hoops. As a result, he would receive Valentine’s Day cards from basketballs and they/it would write letters to Santa saying that they were good basketballs and that all they wanted for Christmas was Zach LaVine. LaVine was born a baller. He lived his life as a baller. Now, he’s a baller on the grandest of stages. Last night was the latest example.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
41 9 4 2 0 5 8/11 15/21 3/4

Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s always a baller on the grandest of stages? The Stocktonator. That was the fifth 40-burger of the season for LaVine. He’s averaging 25.3 points on the season, which is good for 11th in all of basketball. The tres are at a career-high 3.1 per game, and so are the steals at 1.4 per. He’s not just a 3-and-D player, though. The usage rate is over 31 and he supplies a consistent supply of 5 boards and 4 dimes per game. That all translates to a top 35 player for fantasy on the season.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The foundation of a house is underrated. When guests come over, they never utter, “Oh my goodness! The foundation is absolutely amazing! How much did you pay for it?” Log onto Zillow.com and the description is never, “Exquisite colonial-style home with a foundation to die for.” It’s always the kitchen, the bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, garage, even the pool that get all the love. The pool! The place where little kids go to urinate in. I’m here to give the foundation its proper due. Without the foundation, the house would blow away when the big, bad wolf huffs and puffs. Without the foundation, that minor earthquake won’t be so minor. Without the foundation, there is no kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, bay windows, etc. So it only makes sense that Danuel House provides a solid foundation for fantasy.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
22 9 1 3 1 0 6/11 8/13 0

A team cannot consist of all superstars. Specialists and role players fill out the rosters of many fantasy squads, so a player who contributes in all the categories provides? Yes, a solid foundation. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what always provides a solid foundation? The Stocktonator. On the season, he’s a top 100 player, but over the past eight games, he’s been top 30. House has averaged 32.3 minutes, 12 points, 2.6 tres, 6.6 boards, 1.4 dimes, 1.8 steals, and 0.8 blocks. The field goal percentage has been 42% on 9.8 attempts while the free throw shooting has been excellent at 81% on only 1.4 attempts. Solid, solid foundation for this House.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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15 or so years ago, I’m walking through a baggage claim area in the Los Cabos International Airport. It was eerie. The room wasn’t well lit and not another soul was in sight. I think I had to take a piss or maybe I was searching for a friend. I forget, but what will forever be etched in my brain were the two figures that appeared in the distance. I didn’t pay much heed at first, but it was hard not to be transfixed on this couple. The man was a giant and the woman was exquisite. As they got closer and closer, the man just oozed cool. Oh, shit! That’s Kobe freaking Bryant and his wife, Vanessa! Woo sah, woo sah. Be cool. Be cool. Oh, shit! That’s Kobe freaking Bryant. I didn’t know what to do. I was shook, but not as bad as when we all received the horrible news yesterday; that Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

There are so many memories of Kobe. Not flinching against the Matt Barnes inbound fake. The 2005 season in which he scored 81 points in a game, 62 points in another, had four 50-burgers, and 21 40-point outbursts. Kobe was robbed of the MVP that year! The alley-oop pass to Shaq in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals. Tearing his Achilles then draining the free throw. The five championships. The 60 points in his final game. Chills. The mic drop. The dunks. The game winners. But what I most treasure about Kobe is encapsulated in Game 5 against the Utah Jazz during the 1997 playoffs when he airballed not one, not two, not three, but four shots as a rookie. Despite the failure, he could not be fazed. He could not be shook, unlike my weak ass. He didn’t slump or put his head down. He just brushed it off and used it as motivation to get better. He was a true student of the game whose sole focus was to get buckets and win. The jump shot form was perfect. The footwork was immaculate. The evolution of his game was poetic. All of that did not happen by accident. It was due to the psychotic work ethic.

41 years old. Gone. Just like that. I wanted to give you a pound when I saw you 15 or so years ago. I wanted to give you a hug. I wanted to take a selfie. I wanted to say wassup, but I was so shook that I just walked on by. Thanks for everything. Rest in peace, Kobe Bryant.

Here’s what happened in the games yesterday:

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What are the roles of a butler? To answer the phone, greet guests at the door, plan events and parties, serve drinks and food, manage the wine cellar, and keep the paparazzi and solicitors at bay. Jimmy Butler does none of those things. Jimmy Butler gets buckets. Jimmy Butler takes manhoods. Jimmy Butler gets defensive. But what Jimmy Butler does best is protect his house.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
24 7 10 0 1 2 0/1 7/10 16/18

In 34 minutes in an overtime victory over the Wizards, 134-129. The Miami Heat are 20-1 at home, with the lone loss coming to the Lakers. Jimmy Butler is good but he ain’t that good. I kid. He protects his house. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been known to make themselves feel comfortable anywhere. For fantasy, it seems like Butler hasn’t done much this season, but you look at the numbers and he’s the #12 player on the season. Even when the shooting volume and efficiency aren’t there, he’s still posting top 30-40 value. That’s because of his all-around game. The tres have been light this season (first time under 1 since 2012), but the points, steals, blocks, good percentages have all been there. The biggest boosts have come in the boards and dimes departments; 7 boards and 6.5 dimes on the season, both career-highs. Butlers are good helpers. Jimmy Butler is the help and the master. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s also the help and a master? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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There was plenty of basketball to watch on Christmas Day, 13 hours worth to be exact. What figured to be a disappointing slate of easily predictable outcomes turned out to be a surprisingly fun, upset-filled NBA gift. A Golden State Warriors team full of two-way and minimum contract players managed to beat James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the rest of the Houston Rockets. Joel Embiid played grinch for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, leading to fans firing up all of the familiar “Bucks are a regular season team” takes. The solid, wing-heavy Boston Celtics comfortably beat an injury ravaged Raptors team and a newly rejuvenated New Orleans Pelicans squad pulled out a victory against the Denver Nuggets. And in the most anticipated game of the day, Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers outlasted and outshot LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. I enjoyed myself.

I viewed the Christmas day outcomes as a reminder of all there is to love about the NBA. Star-players duking it out for legacy supremacy and short-lived bragging rights. Yes, the regular season isn’t the most accurate prediction of playoff success, but it is still entertaining and compelling nonetheless. Wednesday’s games continued to reinforce my belief that, if you’re truly interested in the NBA, there is more than enough nightly entertainment to satisfy your intrigue.

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