We’ve made it through a quarter of the NBA season. Some players signed this summer will be eligible to be traded on December 15, others will be trade eligible on January 15. Fantasy trade deadlines aren’t far off. It’s  a good time to check-in on a few teams and see what’s shaking. The Miami Heat currently sit third in the Eastern Conference. They’re obviously firmly in the playoff race, but any Pat Riley-run organization is playing for much more than a simple playoff birth. The Heat are relying on two promising rookie guards and a third second-year player. How those players develop will not only help determine their fate this season, but it might also influence trade decisions around the deadline and in the summer. The Atlanta Hawks are at a bit of a hinge point in their rebuild. They came into the season with a lot of media buzz and some vague playoff talk. Trae Young went all scorched earth and they started the season 2-0. All hell broke loose after that. They’ve got to figure out what they have in their young players. Is this the beginning of the end of their rebuild or are they smack dab in the middle of it? The Minnesota Timberwolves are firmly in rebuilding mode, but for the first time they’re making decisions that prioritize Karl-Anthony Towns as the rightful centerpiece and key to their future. How do Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague, and Jarrett Culver fit into their future plans? What do Ryan Saunders lineup decisions portend for later this season? And most relevant to all of you beautiful readers, what does this mean for you and your fantasy team? Keep reading to find out.

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I’ve been watching Curb Your Enthusiasm lately. I know, I know. I’m like 20 years late but keep in mind that I finally watched (and absolutely loved) The Wire last year. Anyways, I just saw an episode of Curb in which a kid does a card trick for Larry David. Larry is impressed and asks the kid to tell him how he did it. The kid responds that he can’t because a magician never reveals his secrets. Well, Larry then asks how he learned the trick and the kid responds that a magician taught him the trick. Larry looks at him and tells him that when the magician taught him the trick that he was not a magician, so if he wasn’t a magician when he learned the trick, then he could tell Larry how the trick was performed. The kid responds that he’s a natural magician and that Larry is not. Ha! I love that show. Anyways, not all magic tricks are hidden secrets. Domantas Sabonis made the Magic disappear last night, as the Pacers defeated the Magic 109-102. How?

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
21 16 7 1 1 2 0/2 9/18 3/4

On the season, Sabonis is a top 25 player, as he’s averaging a whopping 35.6 minutes, 20 points, 13 boards, and 4.1 dimes. The percentages are excellent as well (52% from the field and 85% from the free throw line). Now, Myles Turner missed his fourth game in a row, so that’s been a boon for his short term production. The usage rate has fluctuated all over the map, but the assist and rebound percentages are significantly higher without Myles on the court. Makes sense. When Myles returns, Sabonis will likely return to being a top 50-60 player. It’s not smoke and mirrors that he’s a top 25 player, though. He is legit, but he’s not going to be the lone ranger all season long. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s not smoke and mirrors and is straight legit? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I always enjoyed the cartoons with the little red devil on one shoulder while the white angel was on the other. Maybe it’s my appreciation for the duality of life. Or maybe it’s because I understand there’s a time for talking shit and another time for just letting the results speak for themselves. Gordon Ramsay is the ultimate shit talker. How someone hasn’t grabbed a souffle and shoved it down his throat is beyond me. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what doesn’t talk shit and just delivers results? The Stocktonator. With that said, his Hell’s Kitchen franchise is a rousing success. The reality show was viewed by millions, primarily due to his berating of chefs. The restaurants seem to be popular (I’ve never gone), but I’ve heard that Ramsay isn’t just some shit talker with nothing behind it. He’s actually a good cook, but the shit-talking persona is why most people are familiar with him and his food. Gordon Hayward Heaven’s Kitchen is the complete opposite. Hayward is unassuming and has that All-American look. His game isn’t flashy but very effective. Last night, though, he put on a heavenly performance that was almost flawless:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
39 7 8 0 0 2 1/4 17/20 4/4

Unfortunately, the 40-burger wasn’t on the menu but there were plenty of goodies to go around. Granted, it was against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who don’t have the most stifling defense, but Hayward looked smooth, attacked the basket when given the opportunity, and his mid-range game was lethal. Fully healed from his gruesome leg injury two years ago, Hayward is currently the #28 player in fantasy and will likely end up in the 30-40 range come season’s end.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Last year, Jahlil Okafor had a plan to “burn fat and significantly improve his athleticism and stamina.” He hit the weight room and implemented yoga into his regimen. The biggest change was in diet, though. He had tried being a vegan, as he heard that certain foods were inflammatory. One of the side effects, though, was that it caused the iron level to be low, which affected his cardio. He needed more protein. Now, there are no processed foods, sugars, and red meat, but instead plenty of fish and chicken. As everyone that has tried to diet can attest to, there’s what’s called “cheat days.” Well, last night, Okafor had one of those, as he feasted on Denver Nuggets to the tune of:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
26 5 0 2 1 3 0 8/13 10/13

He looked spry and nimble, cutting to the basket and pirouetting in the lane for bucket after bucket. Granted, Nikola Jokic looked completely disinterested in playing last night, but was that due to the age old question of: Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Okafor received the start and played a whopping 34 minutes because Derrick Favors sat due to a knee injury. It sounds like Favors will return shortly, so Okafor will be relegated to the bench, but when Favors does sit, Jahlil could have another cheat day and feast.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Two nights ago, Andre Drummond punked the Indiana Pacers worse than Dr. Dre and Snoop did Eazy-E in Dre Day. 32 points, 23 boards, 2 dimes, 3 steals, and 4 blocks! With no Blake Griffin in the lineup, it’s all about Dre. I contemplated making his performance the lede, but Kyrie’s 50-burger took precedence, so Dre Day was overshadowed. Last night, Dre was nice again, putting up a line of:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
21 12 2 4 1 4 0 8/12 5/6

Dre is stuffing the stat sheet and shooting 13-for-16 from the free throw line so far in two games!!! Yet, he was once again overshadowed by Trae Young, as last night was Trae Day.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
38 7 9 1 0 6 6/10 11/21 10/12

He shoots from the logo at halfcourt, breaks down defenders if they get up too close, and dishes exquisite dimes. The Hawks play at a hyper-fast pace and have a plethora of shooters surrounding Trae, so every game could be a Trae Day. Do we have to start calling him Trae Souffle? Because he cooks his opponents? How about Trae Sensei? Because he educates his defenders. Put your suggestions in the comments. Anyways, Trae isn’t going to shoot so efficiently from the field every game, and the turnovers will be high, but the points, tres, dimes, and excellent free throw percentage should be there every night. If he chips in boards, then…..

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Points guards are the Mother Teresas of the fantasy basketball world, as they like to give. Shooting guards are….the cavemen. See ball, shoot ball, take ball, then shoot ball. Rinse and repeat. These are obviously generalizations, but shooters shoot, and that’s what this post is all about. I kid, kind of. The elite at this position are across-the-board contributers, while the rest are indeed cavemen.

To see my per-game value projections for each player, click HERE. In the “Pos” box (which stands for position, not the other thing you were thinking), type in “sg” and the table will sort by just shooting guards.

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The Hawks won 29 games last year, but were a much tougher opponent in the second half. 29-53 is 12 games under .500, but the Hawks were only three games under .500 over the last 41. That was due to the young’uns getting better as the season progressed. The Hawks brain trust is optimistic the growth spurt continues, as they have added even more youth to the mix.

De’Andre Hunter’s Final Four heroics moved him up the draft board, and the Hawks paid a ransom to acquire him, but leadership has earned the benefit of the doubt. Their picks, combined with the teaching style of coach Lloyd Pierce and his staff, have drawn visible dividends, but will the expected leaps turn into hops? Not paying Dewayne Dedmon, when they could afford to, may hurt more than they realize.

Most projections have the Hawks winning 30-ish games. That may be conservative, but I expect a minor flirtation with .500 and another round of ping pong balls, as youth continues to mature.

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Out of all the sports, basketball is the most projectable, as there are more possessions to provide a larger sample size. But that doesn’t mean variance doesn’t exist. Blake Griffin can miraculously block a shot one game or DeAndre Jordan can shoot 8-for-9 from the free throw line on any given night. The LA nightlife can affect a team’s performance or the hotel wifi could cause players to go on tilt which affects their performance on the court. Whatever the reason, shit happens sometimes.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
33 3 0 0 0 2 8/12 11/16 3/4

C. J. Miles did that. C. J. Miles never does that. He hasn’t scored more than 15 points in any game this season. To be fair, C. J. Miles used to do that. His career high is 40 points, back in 2010. In his prime, he’d only average around 12-13 points, but he’d go off for 30+ points every once in a while. Anyways, he will likely score 5 points in the next game, so in no way am I advocating walking 500 Miles with him. With that said, it’s always nice to acknowledge greatness, even if it probably won’t be replicated.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I usually highlight a player for the lede, but today, it’s all about the playoffs for many of you. You’ve scratched and clawed for 21 weeks. If you heeded my advice, you also likely sacrificed a few virgins as well. Anyways, don’t get complacent now. Utilize all your moves for the week. Send out the scouts and project your opponent. Where is he/she weak? How does your squad match up? Games played, minutes, and opportunities are truly king now. It’s win this week or go home. I wish everyone good fortune and let’s bring home some chips for the Razzball family!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming. Here’s what I saw in yesterday’s action:

Please, blog, may I have some more?