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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The point guard position is where you will primarily be hunting for dimes. There are options later in the draft, but most have warts and will only provide around 4 per game. Compare that to the elite ones, who will dish out 7-9 dimes per game, while providing excellent free throw percentages, tres, and steals. The early rounds will dictate your fantasy path, as the top five point guards will likely be selected in the first two rounds of drafts.

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 “pg” and the table will sort by just point guards.

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The first time someone called me loco, I knew exactly what it meant without knowing what it meant. It’s just one of those words. The funny thing about the word is that it’s derogatory in nature, but is often used in a flattering context. Loco means crazy in Spanish. “He went loco” could mean: he literally lost his mind or he did something at the highest level possible. Well, what do you think Bruno went Caboclo means?

24 11 2 1 1 1 4/7 8/13 4/4

Got the start and played 35 minutes. Bruno had started nine of the last 11 games prior to last night, so he’s been getting the run. He just wasn’t doing much with the opportunity. For the season, he’s played a total of 26 games and scored in double figures just five times and grabbed double digit rebounds twice. Bruno is 23 years old and this is his fifth year in the league. With the Grizzlies out of it, he will likely receive as much run as he can handle down the stretch. The free throw shooting has been poor (63%) over the past six games, but Bruno can provide points, treys, boards, and a smattering of stocks. The usage rate is only 15, so I wouldn’t expect games like last night often, but there’s always a chance that something has clicked. Something to keep an eye on. If that happens, then we will all be going loco for Caboclo.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Before we embark upon a new endeavor, we often count one…two…three…then go! For the rookie down in Hotlanta, the start to this new season has gone uno…dos…Trae Young is here!

1 14 6 5 0 0 4 1/5 5/14 3/4
2 20 2 9 1 1 3 4/9 7/18 2/3
3 35 2 11 1 0 1 6/14 13/23 3/3

Young has improved each game in points, assists, turnovers, threeecolas, and field goals. Maybe it’s a case of “Third time is a charm,” but I’m more inclined to believe that it was a case of warming up the engine. You know who’s with me? The Stocktonator, as it liked him yesterday. Beep. Boop. Bop. There’s a reason he was the overall #5 pick in the NBA Draft and has been compared to Stephen Curry. Now, yesterday was likely a ceiling game and there will be plenty of ups and downs, but oh what a ceiling it is. Played 38 minutes and led his team to a 22 point victory over the Cavs. Make it rain, Trae.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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Is there anything better than getting unexpectedly great performances from your players in the first game of the season? Maybe they’ll do this EVERY GAME! I’m suddenly reminded of Michael Carter-Williams’ rookie debut of 22/7/12 with 4 threes and 9 steals. Of course we know that regression to the mean is coming to rain on our parade soon enough. But, there are guys that make leaps in production for entire seasons, and identifying them is one of the keys to winning. This is an outlier, but I fondly remember picking up Shawn Marion a few games into his second season, my first in fantasy, in which he finished as a first-rounder. He led me to a debut title, and I was hooked.

I’m generally very active in my leagues. However, I’m often slow to trust guys that come from out of nowhere. No prospect pedigree? I generally chalk it up to luck. I’m much more likely to speculate on players that have shown something in the past. But, sometimes dudes do just show up. I remember being way too slow to trust Hassan Whiteside’s explosion onto the scene in Miami. Another guy that I just refused to believe in for the longest time was Robert Covington. “Who’s this undrafted guy from a small school putting up big steals and threes on the Sixers? Never heard of him. They’re tanking. Of course they’ve got to have somebody taking shots and getting minutes.” I didn’t think it would last. And if he was too good, I thought they’d probably sit him more, so he wouldn’t accidentally help them win too many games. For players with whom I’m not familiar, I’m  always waiting for the sample size to get bigger. But you can’t wait too long, or you’ll miss your chance. If you can identify the right guys, you can still snatch up some of this season’s impact players as a free agent. So, how can we tell what’s likely to continue? What should we be watching for in these first few games that might be predictive?

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What’s up Razzballers? We had a doozy of a game last night in Toronto between the Raptors and the Warriors. I don’t typically like to give the lede to players on the losing team, but this was the best game in a night of great games, and DeMar DeRozan was the star of the show. He was a big reason the Raptors were even competitive as he went for 42/5/3 on 17-for-31 FG (0-for-4 3P, 8-for-10 FT) and two TOs. This was in a game the Raptors lost by just two after being down 81 to 54 (!) at halftime. The end was a big clusterfrick too. No other Raptor  played more than 30 minutes, as the almost-comeback was mostly led by DeMar and the bench since Kyle Lowry was out with injury. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

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Top o’ the morning, Razzballers. It was a battle of the past versus future down in the Garden last night, with the Knicks besting the Thunder. Unfortunately, Kristaps Porzingis sat with a knee injury. Fortunately, Michael Beasley gifted us all a gem of a game in his place, going for 30/5/4/0/2 on 11-for-18 FG (2-for-2 3P, 6-for-7 FT) and only turning it over twice. Beas has put up some nice fantasy lines when given the minutes, but that doesn’t happen too frequently. Next time Porzingis misses time, keep Beas in mind for the stream. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy basketball:

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For the first few weeks of the season, I try not to focus on the standings. I look, of course, but I do so knowing that there have been outlier games, whose impacts are more pronounced due to the small sample size. Also, most teams have a player or two that’s missed the majority of the games and they might also have been starting a replacement player that’s not going to keep it up much longer. However, we’re now about a quarter of the way through the NBA season. The data is relatively predictable. You should know which categories you need to focus on in order to gain points and which ones to ignore, either because you’re stuck at the bottom or entrenched at the top of a category (or if you always win or lose the category by a ton in head-to-head).

Today, we’ll look at the ESPN Player Rater. Tony RP’s Player Rater updates will give you a picture of who’s most valuable by position. I thought I’d go by category to see who’s doing what for us. Here are the top 20 players by category plus the bottom 20 for relevant ones, skipping players that have hardly played. So, it’s just the per-game stat leaders you may be familiar with, except that the percentage categories are weighted by volume. Turnovers are from BasketballMonster, since ESPN doesn’t include them.

So, how is this useful? Obviously, you want players that score well overall on the Player Rater. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be surprised to see some of your players pop up on these lists. Also, keeping in mind which categories you need help in, this can help you find some trade targets. Or, if you’re out of it in points or FG%, maybe ship off a guy that’s in the top 20 that’s not doing much else for you. If you’re in the middle of the pack in FT% and you see that you have one of the worst offenders there, maybe you can ditch him and gain points (just keep in mind what you might be losing in other categories from him). A lot can be gained by learning what’s actually happening compared to what we assume is happening based on previous years or projections.

Next week, I’ll get back into multi-category rankings for those that are ignoring categories, whether intentionally or as a matter of the hand you’ve been dealt. Think punt FG% & TOs, or for FT% punters: 3PTM+AST+ST+PTS+TO rankings, which are what you want to complement your FT% anchors with. That’s when you can really find trade value, since all players now have a new value to your specific team.

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In the Batman movies, Commissioner Gordon is portrayed as a subservient, damsel in distress character. “Oh no! There’s trouble in Gotham. Let me run up to the rooftop to signal the Batman so that he can take care of everything.” I kid. Commissioner Gordon was old and needed the youth, strength, and resources that Batman could provide. But, before he became a useless POS, Jim Gordon served in the US Marine Corps and was a Special Forces veteran who could kick some serious ass. That’s where we are at with Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic. He’s only 22 years old and 6′ 9″ 220 pounds. He can dribble, shoot, rebound, block, pass, jump like a flea, and run like a gazelle. He’s basically the new and improved version of Blake Griffin. Sad to see the Matrix slowly phasing out Blake for Aaron. Anyways, last night the NBA’s Commissioner Gordon put up the first 40-burger of his career:

 40 15 4 4 1 1 6/12 13/23 8/11

He led his team to a 121-108 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team led by Russell Westbrook, aka Beastbrook but I prefer to call him the Hulk. Off the court, Westbrook seems like a funny, charismatic guy. On the court, SMASH….SMASH….SMASH! Dude plays with reckless abandon, which results in an abundance of turnovers, but he will dunk on your grill at every opportunity. And keep coming. And coming. And coming. He truly leaves everything on the court, which is why I’d always want the Hulk on my side, because I know he’d always have my back. As for last night:

 37 11 5 5 0 7 7/10 11/23 8/12
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