Basketball is back!

It was a wild offseason in the NBA, one highlighted by more off-the-court news than on. Kevin Durant demanded a trade; then after a long, drawn-out soap opera, ended up remaining in Brooklyn.  The defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics lost their head coach Ime Udoka for the season, after he was suspended for an “improper intimate and consensual relationship” with a female staff member. Lastly and most devastatingly, the basketball world lost all-time legend Bill Russell after 88 of the most accomplished years anyone’s ever seen on this earth.

In terms of impact roster moves, old-school center Rudy Gobert was dealt to the Timberwolves, the Spurs’ best player Dejounte Murray was traded to the Hawks and Donovan Mitchell – after being linked to the Knicks in over 10,000 rumors – ended up being shipped to the Cavs. But without further ado or hoopla, let’s jump right into my NBA preseason predictions and rapid-fire fantasy summaries.

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The Hornets were buzzing to have LaMelo back and that showed on the court with their victory over a Detroit Pistons team that is already officially out of playoff contention and without their best player in Jerami Grant. 

Frank Jackson surprisingly led the way for the Pistons off the bench with 25 points, seven rebounds, and three assists while he shot. 42.1% from the field and hit six triples. Rookie Killian Hayes played nearly 32 minutes as he continues to progress back from that hip injury and to prove to the many doubters that he is not a bust. You cannot call someone a bust when he has barely played. Last night he put up 10 points, six rebounds, and six assists as well as two steals. “Beef Stew” Isaiah Stewart had an underwhelming game with only nine points and two rebounds while playing the bulk of the minutes in the stead of Mason Plumlee who was held out for rest purposes. 

For the Hornets, LaMelo Ball was up to his usual shenanigans, as he returned to action and made Hornets announcer Eric Collins lose his cool and go bananas in his booth. His full-court passes were in full effect as shown through his eight total assists that went along with seven rebounds and 11 points. Malik Monk also returned to action and scored 11 points, stole the ball once, and grabbed two boards in 22 minutes of action. Meanwhile, LaMelo’s best bud on the team was flying even higher than usual to throw down his passes. Miles Bridges scored 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Miles has really come into his own this season and one upside of Hayward’s unfortunate injury is that now Miles has an even bigger opportunity to do so. We cannot forget about Scary Terry Rozier, who scored a game-high 29 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out four assists. An excellent season as well for Rozier. These Hornets are fighting and LaMelo’s return may now be that extra punch they need to stay in a play-in spot. 

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How about some love for the underdog?

These daily recaps, especially on nights with a lot of games, often demand focusing on one of two players per team that had good nights. Most of the time we’re looking at star players doing what they do. It’s tough for a role player to get a write-up, and it’s even tougher for those end of the bench guys to get any ink.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to…

Alize Johnson

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
23 15 3 2 0 0 11/15 1/1 1

Johnson signed a 10-day contract with Brooklyn on Sunday and had himself a debut on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. A G-League monster who averaged 16 points and 13 boards in this season’s bubble, Johnson stepped up for a Nets squad that was without Durant, Irving, and Harden while playing the second night of a back-to-back against the best team in the West. If you watched the highlights, you noticed that this game was O-V-E-R pretty much from the jump. Johnson was doing major mop up work and will be facing an uphill battle for PT going forward. He’s not an add by any stretch, but I’ve got no problem highlighting him to celebrate his big night. Raise a glass to my man. He earned it.

Here’s what else caught my eye on a busy night of basketball…

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On a night riddled with postponed NBA games due to COVID-19 protocols and safety precautions, the avid basketball fan was probably a little underwhelmed. I mean no Bradley Beal going off for 40+ against the Pistons. No matchup between Stephen Curry and Devin Booker. Shoot, we could not even see Anthony Edwards show out against the Memphis Grizzlies. Nonetheless, the games we did get were nothing less than entertaining. There were a few blowouts but there were also plenty of nail biters to go around. But what made these games so great was the emergence of even more young talent across the NBA landscape. The New York Knicks with RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickly. Zach Lavine and Coby White over in Chicago. Even Shai Gilgeous-Alexander came out and had a career night. There is a saying that goes “Out with old and in with the new.” Well, I am here to say that there are a handful of “new” guys that are starting to make a name for themselves, and what better way to announce yourself to the league than great performance under the Friday night lights! Here are some of the top performers from yesterday’s games.

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Fantasy projections are hard. We look to others in the industry for guidance without plagiarizing or pilfering, overanalyze quotes from team personnel, and process the preseason (paltry as this one is) like we’re being given tea leaves to read — when by and large they should be treated like used tea bags and be tossed. Yet, we try to put forth the best information possible — even if some of it is conjured from the Ether — because, above all, NONE of us want to hear about it later if we miss poorly.

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With the new season approaching sooner rather than later, I think it’s time for some “right on time” or “way too early,” however you want to see it, predictions for the season. More specifically, the top 8 seeds in both conferences, including the 9th and 10th seeds that can be involved in the newly implemented play-in tournament.

What is this new play-in mini tournament thing you ask? Well, we first saw it in the Bubble and it allowed the teams that finished outside the top eight, specifically the ninth seed to play for a shot at entering the playoffs. This season, the rules will be that the 7th and 8th seed will play in order to win the spot of the 7th seed, while the 9th and 10th seed will battle it out for a chance at the loser of the previously mentioned matchup, where the winner takes that last 8th seed. 

There are also the questions of who will find themselves with the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, and the Most Improved Player awards. I’ll give my predictions for those later on. This season will be one like no other. 72 instead of 82 games. No All-Star game, but an All-Star break. The usual frustrations of injuries, both in the fan bases and of the fantasy players will only be heightened since now we will also have inevitable positive COVID cases flying around. But who will come out on top and consider their teams “successful”? 

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Last night was interesting because we had some surprise performances and inefficient scoring. One performance stood out, though. Both in statistics and in how he just took over the game. Remember on opening night when everyone was freaking out about Jayson Tatum? Kyrie Irving was being called washed up and there were a lot of reactionaries out there saying that this was now Tatum’s team. That take proved to be dumb. Watching Irving and Kawhi Leonard battle in an overtime affair was a pleasure to watch. Last night’s game became a classic and will help build anticipation for a potential showdown in the playoffs.

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
18/26 4/6 3/6 43 2 11 3 1 3

Irving has been electric this season and was the sixth-ranked player in fantasy heading into last night’s game. He ended with a double-double (43 points and 11 assists). Add in three 3’s and three steals and you have an incredibly dynamic performance. The icing on the cake was the super efficiency on high volume. Boston is his team and they go as he does. For fantasy teams that roster Kyrie, your team goes as far as he can lead you, which is looking pretty far.

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Watching Chris Paul can be so fun. When he’s not catching spit followed by hooks from fellow old man Rondo, CP3 is hustling, using his old man tricks to take down young teams that dare challenge him. He’ll drive the lane, fake passes, shoot from 8 feet behind the line. He doesn’t care. Trying to keep the ship afloat without Harden is his responsibility and he’s gonna do it. Like the old curmudgeon in your neighborhood that refuses to offer candy to trick-or-treating kids, this grumpy old man will shoo you off his lawn and do what he wants.

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
13/27 1/1 5/12 32 7 11 2 2 2

We got classic, but still grumpy CP3 tonight! Paul had a sensational game, carrying the Rockets on his back and beating an up-and-coming Brooklyn team. It always amazes me how he gets so many rebounds for someone who looks to be 5’11 tops. Ride him while Harden is out, but if he keeps playing 37 minutes, expect some rest games soon.

Here’s what else happened last night:

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Another Wednesday, another Buy/Sell column for you good folks. As established in the last post, I will start by briefly assessing the performances of the players I included last week. Will Barton has not yet taken off with two underwhelming games to end the week, but I still believe he is the one to benefit the most from the Millsap injury. Bojan Bogdanovic is on a THRAGNOFy streak for the ages and, in the past three games, is averaging 17.0/1.0/1.7/0/0.3/0/0.7. I can’t believe that a player averaging 36 minutes in those games has so little peripheral stats, but he is the wing scorer Indiana needs and trusts. Denzel Valentine is filling up the stat sheet and has been more than useful. Kris Dunn had his breakout performance yesterday with a career-high 24 points and as Son says, “the PG competition in Chicago in Dunn.” Finally, Lord Covington’s shot started to fail him as predicted (35% in his last five games), so I hope you capitalized on the sell high opportunity. Without further ado, let’s look at this week’s candidates…

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Happy 2017 to everyone!  Hopefully, you all had a good holiday break and enjoyed a great slate of games.  As for this segment, it’s a new year but it’s somewhat of the same old.  We continue where we left off.  In the last installment, we took a look at the best teams to target for marksmen shooting guards.  Let’s hop on over to a very similar and often tagged with the same position eligibility–the SF or the wingmen.  Small forwards tend to be the defender against the opposing teams best back court player during key parts of a game.  Think Kawhi Leonard and Lebron James.  For most of us, the term wingman has a very different meaning but whether it’s used for social events or basketball, they tend to have the backs of their teammate(s).

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Gentle reader, I must confess: I have a sweet tooth. And a meat tooth as well. A touch of the wheat tooth, I suppose. Oh, and I guess you may as well throw in a gravy and mash tooth in there as well. What I’m saying to you is that I’m a glutton at this time of year, even more than most other times of the year. As the title suggests, there is slightly more of me to love at this time. And with Black Friday behind us, I think it safe to look ahead to the Holiday Season, and all the indulging that comes with it. I have to trim up. Which means trimming some fat off this old long-baller. How will I do this, I’m sure you’re asking yourself? By trading away the hard to shed fantasy players, of course! I see no other manner in which to do this than to do an (almost) all SELL article this week! So lets take a look at the following prime cut, as well as all the giblets…

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