Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 23!  My goal is to help you win your league championship by finding widely available streaming candidates for your specific categorical needs.  As the title suggests, we are firmly in fantasy no man’s land as it relates to erratic player availability, as teams in both conferences pack it in to avoid injuries and bolster their chances of receiving a top draft pick.  While it pales in comparison to the 250 players who faced quarantine between December and January, one can be forgiven for saying that the luck side of the luck:skill ratio increases as the season winds down.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Regarding last week’s suggestions, the inclusion of Tyus Jones stands out as he had a tremendous week and tilted many fantasy matchups with his assists alone, so hopefully you capitalized. The same can be said for Kris Dunn and his steals, as he had 7 in four games, rewarding fantasy owners who trusted him. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Jaxson Hayes, who was underwhelming and has an awful schedule, so he is a clear drop. Bones Hyland was mediocre at best. What can I say, you win some, you lose some, but Jones and Dunn were big wins indeed.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Trae Young is the clear choice for Friday’s fantasy star of the night after scoring 33 points and dishing out 15 assists in a 121-110 win over the Warriors. Young had one of his best games of the season at the perfect time for fantasy managers. He should continue to carry the Hawks offensively as they push for the best possible seed in the play-in tournament. Danilo Gallinari added 25 points before exiting with an elbow injury in the fourth quarter. It did not appear to be too serious but the Hawks would be very thin if he were to miss any time. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

In this fantasy corner, besides the usual fantasy recommendations, we are all about weird and interesting stats. Some of them mean a lot for team and player performances and some of them mean absolutely nothing (remember the infamous number 2 Bane game). The stat that caught my eye this week has to do with the stumbling Lakers and the effect LeBron has on this team. Since the All-Star Break the Lakers are 0-9 when LeBron does not score 50 points or more, which you can certainly say is a bad look for his supporting cast. Of course it is common knowledge that he had a huge say on how this team is constructed and that stat alone does not describe how many points he gives up on the other end, which are truthfully a lot. Just take a lot at the following clip that summarizes the Lakers season and to an extent their superstars both on the offensive and the defensive side.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Indiana Pacers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 129-98. In a rarity for this version of the Pacers, they were the more veteran team. Oshae Brissett spearheaded the Pacers’ attack, as he tallied 24 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), nine rebounds, one assist, and one steal. His day also included a highlight reveal reverse dunk in transition which came off a behind-the-back pass from Lance Stephenson. Have I mentioned that the Pacers are fun now!? Justin Anderson added 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Jalen Smith notched 17 points, five rebounds, and one block in just 17 minutes of play. I’m not sure if Smith will ever become the player the Suns hoped they were getting when he was drafted with the 10th pick in 2020, but he has at least grown into an intriguing prospect. He was 2-of-3 from behind the arc and also whipped out a Dirk-esque step-back off the dribble in the midrange. Terry Taylor (17) and Duane Washington Jr. (13) both had solid games as well. The Pacers led wire to wire and the lack of competitiveness of the game is reflected in the lower minute totals for Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Haliburton finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. Hield tallied nine points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Finally, Lance Stephenson scored just two points, but grabbed six rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and swiped three steals.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Hope and confidence are high for the Atlanta Hawks heading into the 2021-22 NBA season after their surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals in last year’s playoffs. After this offseason, the Hawks have maybe the best mix of veteran reliability and youthful upside in the entire NBA. Delon Wright and Lou Williams can comfortably back up Trae Young as well as play alongside him in the right matchups. Sharife Cooper will be there to soak up all the veteran know-how whenever he’s not testing the limits of his creativity for the College Park Skyhawks, the Hawks G League affiliate. Ditto for Jalen Johnson. It’s unreasonable to expect the Hawks to make it back to the Conference Finals, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Barring a long-term injury to Trae Young, this team should be even better than they were in the regular season last year. For those who “couldn’t watch Trae Young” because of his mastery of the dark arts of foul drawing—you’re in luck! The rules changes should see Young and every other crafty on-ball creator playing more “honest” basketball this season. Combine that with the wealth of talent on the roster and the Hawks should be a popular league pass team. They came in at #7 in Zach Lowe’s annual League Pass Rankings.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

It’s not a great sign that the most valuable Grizzly on the 2020-21 roster (Jonas Valanciunas, the 31st best player in fantasy on a per-game basis last year) is now playing for another team. The news gets worse when the second-best (Jaren Jackson Jr. at 62) only played eleven games, and worse still when you have to click Next Page to find franchise cornerstone, Ja Morant, at 206 overall. Despite these drawbacks, there is value to be cultivated in Memphis — a team that played at the league’s ninth-fastest pace last year and, after securing two play-in wins, arrived at the 8-seed in the Western Conference well ahead of schedule. Slo-Mo Kyle Anderson turned in sixth-round value for the first time since 17-18, Brandon Clarke proved his rookie year was no fluke by returning value just outside the top-100, and Dillon Brooks took another step forward in his fourth season as a pro. Backup guard and per-36 darling De’Anthony Melton is a trendy breakout pick headed into this year, especially on the heels of Grayson Allen’s departure and the allotment of minutes that have come available. If only that Morant fella were as valuable in our game as he is to the fortunes of basketball in the Home of the Blues. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

It was a bit of a light week for watching games here in the Hooper house. I know this is a fantasy corner of the internet, but reality always manages to find a way in. The ratio of news to NBA games got flipped in the middle of the week, so instead of longer, deeper looks into one or two specific teams, this edition of Hangin’ will feature check-ins on past (incorrect) statements and some quick hitters on what I was able to catch this week. I’m aiming to get back on track this week — aren’t we all? — so hopefully next time will be less doom and gloom and more dimes and dunks.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Coming out of the RazzJam I was heavily leveraged with Hawks. It wasn’t exactly intentional–how far can one deviate from an idea that never was?–but it wasn’t a mistake either. The headline in Atlanta coming into 2020-21 read: We want to score so much that it’s crowded now! And after six games, yes, the buckets are indeed plentiful. Atlanta is currently home to the second-most efficient offense in basketball, scoring 114.9 points per 100 possessions. For reference, 113.7 was last year’s league-leading mark set by the Mavs. This year’s Bucks, Madone, are scoring 117.9 per 100 possessions!

So the Hawks score and I drafted a lot of them. Picking up Trae Young and John Collins in the first three rounds set off the trap of me having to watch a ton of Hawks games this season. Committing to the bit, I also added shares of Danilo Gallinari, Onyeka Okongwu, and Kris Dunn over the course of the 25-round marathon. I had been eying box scores over the first three games of the season before lowering myself into a vat of Hawks games this last week, consuming every second of the double-dip with the Nets and single shot of the Cavaliers. I woke up on Sunday with lightly ruffled feathers.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

There are a lot of differences between Jimmy Butler and myself. I, for example, am not a five time NBA All-Star. I’ve also never been named the Most Improved Player, won a gold medal, or screamed at Karl-Anthony Towns with such vigor that I had to be sent to Philadelphia. But perhaps the biggest wedge between Jimmy and myself is our feelings toward rear-view mirrors. 

See, I’m a look back kind of guy. There’s wisdom (and cars!) back there if you care to investigate. This willingness to wallow, to ruminate, to linger and consider all the roads not traveled means that I signed myself up to do the tedious work of taking long, wistful gazes at how this first ever RazzJam went down and try to glean something useful from it. Son, our fearless leader and fellow RazzJam League 14 draftee, is here to keep an eye on my blind spots. You strike me as a reasonable guy, Son, you’re pro-mirror, right?

Please, blog, may I have some more?

No team had a more interesting offseason than the Atlanta Hawks (check out the November 30 edition of The Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe and Kevin Arnovitz for a detailed, non-fantasy breakdown). What had been a carefully constructed youth-movement-style rebuild for the past several years suddenly accelerated into “win-now” mode, beefing up the rotation with veteran contributors and casting the roles of the majority of last season’s core pieces into considerable doubt. Let’s take a look at where the roster’s fantasy values stand as we head into the 2020-21 season.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

There’s always a lot of attention on who is the top dog in fantasy basketball and who to take early on, but the back end of the draft is often ignored. This makes sense since a lot of leagues allow for picks ups and drops, so the guys you snag in the end could very well end up on the waiver wire multiple times throughout the season.

But what if I told you that it’s entirely possible to find great value at the end of your drafts? Snagging a mid round value play in the final rounds is my bread and butter, and it sets up a lot of interesting scenarios, as you will have more trade chips to dangle and dominate your league even if your top guys have to miss some time. Pro tip: They will. Even more pro tip: It’s a lot more likely this year with COVID.

Please, blog, may I have some more?