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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The fantasy playoffs are fast approaching, or maybe they’ve already arrived for you. Tough decisions will need to be made—the game is survival. Some of you may be in win-now mode. Others may be planning ahead, looking for keeper value on the wire, or last-minute trades with an eye toward the future.

The primary league I play in is a 9-cat Yahoo keeper league. You’re allowed to keep five players. I enjoy the keeper format because it’s an (extremely mild) replication of the control and decision-making required of an NBA general manager. You don’t start with a brand-new team every year in the NBA (as you do in re-draft leagues). You pay a price for the bad decisions of yesteryear or reap the benefits from the good ones. Keeper and dynasty leagues also force you to do the most scouting and projecting. If you insist on waiting until a player pops, you’re going to miss out on a lot of players. A competitive league ups the pressure to be first, it pushes the timeline of your decision-making forward. Of course, if you’re wrong about a player, that comes at a cost too.

Keeper values incorporate a value estimation and vague salary cap structure, at least during the offseason and through the draft. In the Scorekeeper League, you’re allowed 5 keepers and your draft capital is $200 minus the cost of your keepers. Every player’s cost increases by five dollars each year and you can only hold a player for four seasons. Keepers force you to always be thinking about the future even as the present rages on.

With the playoffs two weeks away, my Fat Mamba fantasy team is sitting in 9th place. I’m faithfully looking ahead to next season. Just in case you are too, here are some thoughts.

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It’s been an up and down rookie season for Coby White of the Chicago Bulls. In his second professional game, he scored 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting. The next five games, he scored a combined 31 points. He would then score 20 points in back-to-back games, only to drop a single-digit turd the next. To his credit, he never turned shy and meek, continuing to jack up shot after shot, despite creating enough bricks to soften the nationwide homeless crisis. Sounds like another Coby, expect he spells his name K-O-B-E. Maybe KOBE has channeled some of his spirit into Coby, because he’s been balling the F out lately. Last night was the latest iteration.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
35 7 3 0 0 1 6/9 13/21 3/3

In 33 minutes off the bench. The last three games, Coby has scored 35, 33, and 33 points while playing 33, 34, and 34 minutes. He’s shot a combined 35-for-61 (64%) from the field and 18-for-31 (58%) from downtown! Coby! Kobe! Coby! Kobe! What an amazing run. He’s even chipped in 3 steals, a block, and 16 rebounds. Now, this is a ceiling outcome for Coby. Let’s just not dismiss the fact that he’s shooting 38% from the field on the season. He’s developed, grown, and become more accustomed to the NBA game, so improvement was to be expected, but this level of play is unsustainable. For fantasy, he’s going to continue being the guy off the bench for the Bulls and playing over 30 minutes. The points, tres, and and sprinkling of boards, dimes, and steals will be provided. With that said, expect the field goal percentage to be in the 40% range, which will have us remembering that there is only one Kobe.

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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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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For much of the season, Collin Sexton was a one-dimensional, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am player. He’d huck. He’d chuck. He’d blow you away with how little the contributions would be in the periphery stats. There have been only three games this season in which he’s scored single digits. He’s failed to jack up double digits shots in just one game. What makes it more impressive is that he dished out more than four dimes in only four games and hasn’t been punched in the face by his teammates. Yet, here we are in game number 45. Are we witnessing a new, improved, and more mature Sexton show?

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
29 4 4 2 0 2 2/2 10/15 7/7

Jordan Clarkson was traded from the Cavs 15 games ago. When he left, Sexton saw an increase of over two minutes of run per game and close to two more shot attempts. Over the past three games, though, Sexton has averaged 23.7 points, 2.7 tres, 5.3 boards, and 4 dimes! The usage rate has been 30.8 and he’s jacking up 20.7 shots per game. The boards and dimes are the most eye-opening stats, as the season numbers are 3.3 boards and 2.4 dimes. Small sample size I know. Not something you want at a Sexton show. Anyways, Sexton is only 21 years old and has played 126 career games. There’s a chance things have clicked. Now, from a fantasy perspective, Sexton is still outside the top 100, even with the increase in boards and dimes, because of the lack of defensive stats. Hey, can’t go from a zero to a hero overnight. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s heroic every day? The Stocktonator.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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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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