As NBA fans and fantasy basketball players we all lust for the power of NBA general managers. Many of us wrongly assume we could do a better job heading our favorite team’s basketball operations—it isn’t hard to get those ideas if you happen to be a Knicks, Magic, Timberwolves, Suns, or Kings fan. But what we long for as much as the power, is the seriousness of the endeavor. NBA GM’s get to make decisions that carry weight. A draft pick is quite simply a choice—a highly public, decade-defining choice in some cases, but a choice all the same. We make choices every day—the blue or the red tie, Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima, Fleabag or The Good Place, two drinks or twelve, poetry or literally anything else that might actually pay the bills. We make applicable sports decisions as well. We choose between Kyrie Irving or Damian Lillard in our fantasy draft, we add Kendrick Nunn or Davis Bertans off the wire, we kill Russell Westbrook in the group chat, we build property on Julius Randle, Dion Waiters, or Lonzo Ball Island. We tweet, we engage, and we argue. We win our league or we don’t. In time, we are either vindicated or pilloried. At best, we have a lighthearted thing to lord over people we care about, at worst, we have to dye our hair, wear ugly ill-fitting clothes, or in a more recent trend, consume enough waffles to avoid sleeping in a Waffle House. But largely, no one notices or cares, as our sports opinions are indiscernible dots in a sea of data points.

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There are few things in life that get me hard and excited. Let’s see, all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ, 9-0 h2h victory for fantasy, PornHub, and watching the LeBron/AD pick-and-roll. I have to add James Harden to the list. I try not to write up the same player for the lede, but Harden is a freaking basketball savant and could be one of the best one-on-one players of all time. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s also an all-timer? The Stocktonator. The jumper from downtown is so pure that Skunk Works is reverse engineering it. The handles have caused many of sleepless nights for Ricky Jay. He’s also 6′ 5″ 220 pounds, so he can stampede to the rim against smaller players and big men have no chance on the perimeter, as he just makes them dance. Last night was yet another example of his brilliance:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
55 3 8 2 2 6 10/18 20/34 5/5

This was Harden’s 22nd career game scoring at least 50 points, which is good for fourth all time. Kobe Bryant had 25 while Michael Jordan had 31. Laughably, Wilt Chamberlain posted 118 50-point games!! LOL. Anyways, Harden is the numero uno player for fantasy on the season. He’s AVERAGING 37.9 minutes, 38.7 points, 4.9 tres, 5.9 boards, 7.5 dimes, 2 steals, and is shooting 88% from the line on 14 attempts! The turnovers are sky-high at 5 per game, but the production is so bountiful in the other categories that it is but a fly on the windshield. Are you not Harden excited?

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Weed. Pot. Grass. Dope. Reefer. Ganga. Hash. Herb. Chronic. These are all names for marijuana, but not all weed is the same. There’s swag, dank, kind, kush, etc. The quality, aroma, taste, and potency differ depending on which you choose. Obviously, the higher the quality, the better the high, but sometimes the bargain basement green can be just as productive as the most expensive. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s of the highest quality? The Stocktonator. The Sacramento Kings drafted Marvin Bagley with the second overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Yes, ahead of Luka Doncic. Regardless, Bagley is high quality, but unfortunately he fractured his thumb in the season opener. Enter Nemanja Bjelica. The Nemanja isn’t bargain basement, but he’s not the highest quality either. He is more than capable of producing and can even access the highest of high ceilings. Last night was one of those games:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
30 7 4 1 1 0 4/7 13/18 0

Nemanja has started 21 games this season and produced top 85 value for fantasy. He provides points, tres, boards, a handful of dimes, and a little something something in the defensive cats. The percentages are decent as well. Over the past four games, though, he’s been the #12 player, as he’s averaged 17.5 points, 2.5 tres, 7.8 boards, 3.3 dimes, 1.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks while shooting 53% from the field. The Nemanja has been potent! Now for the buzzkill. Bagley is set to return soon. Once that happens, he will likely get around 20 minutes of run per game.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Who came up with the names for the forward positions? There’s small and power. Why didn’t they go small and big? Or weak and power? Maybe there was a power struggle within the name manufacturing plant and small/power was the compromise to appease all parties. Politics, man. Anyways, you will find some of the best two-way players in the league here. There are also 3-and-D, 3-without-the-D, and D-without-the-3 players. Enjoy!

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While perusing the standings the other day, I was surprised to see we’re already past the half-way mark of the NBA season. And for those in head-to-head leagues, that means we’re almost 2/3rds of the way through the fantasy regular season! It’s time to take stock of our team(s) and see where injuries, pick-ups, and dropped busts have left us situated. For example, half my starters this week on one team have been free agent pickups. I have some idea of my team’s strengths and weaknesses, but it’s a vastly different group than what I started with. Once we identify our short-comings, it’s as simple as grabbing a couple centers for a pair of guards to make up ground in boards and blocks, right? Maybe. But there are constraints that might make it more complicated than that. You may be losing stats you need by doing that and you may not be able to fit two extra centers into your lineup, anyway.

This week I’d like to bring up a concept many of you are probably familiar with, but often goes forgotten: Out-of-position stats. What if you’re low in rebounds, but you don’t have room to add/start a center? Well, you could trade a traditional point guard (assuming you were set with PG stats) for Dejounte Murray (9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, and yes, by the way, I’m choosing an alternate universe in which he’s healthy for this hypothetical situation). Considering trading for or picking up players that get atypical stats for their position can make a ton of sense for a lot of reasons. Maybe you lost a big assist guy like John Wall or your dominant rebounder in Clint Capela. Maybe you’ve got another out-of-position stats guy that hurts you because of what he lacks (Dejounte’s assists and three-pointers, for example). Also, when you have out-of-position stats, like say Nikola Mirotic’s 3s, you can afford to have additional atypical players that others in your league might devalue, like Elfrid Payton, a guard that doesn’t hit many threes. Get creative and check out some of the players I’ve listed below.

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Oh yeah! Big Bad Blake, the Earthquake Griffin is the first player to get highlighted twice by me this year! Clap it up! I really wanted to give the lede to anyone else, but no-one else’s line came close to what Blake did last night. Blake Griffin went 5-44-8-5-3-1-4 on 13-of-23 shooting and 13-of-14 FTs as Detroit topped the Clippers 109-104. Detroit inches closer to that highly coveted 8th seed in the East, and Blake is licking his chops at the prospect of a seven-game series with the Raptors. I had to shoutout Blake for bringing the defensive stats last night for once. It was his first block in the last six games so I wouldn’t get used to this level of elite blocks production.

A lot went down last night so let’s dive on in to the daily notes!

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The SouthLEAST Division

Here we are at the quarter turn, as teams have played approximately 25% of their games.

We know enough to be able to make some pretty cogent observations. Try this one on: this division is the worst in the NBA. Last year, the Heat won the division with 44 wins, while the Wizards had 43. Most thought it would be those two teams battling again, but alas, the Hornets and Magic currently sit atop the divisional heap. Any of these teams will be hard pressed to win 44 this year, although since they have to play each other four times each, somebody might get close. We could easily see a sub-.500 Division champion. What has been evident is that there are four coaches who are doing a notable job with inadequate star power, while one coach has been doing an inadequate job with notable star power.

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I recently met a conspiracy theorist. He seemed so proud and satisfied that he had the inside scoop on so many topics (“You know what’s going on in Cuba, don’t you?”), while the rest of us only know what the government wants us to know. Well, I went down a rabbit hole to which he directed me just for kicks. Wow, there are a lot of crazies out there trying to obtain knowledge that no one else has, regardless of how insane it is. Shout out to Kyrie.

I realized, though, that I can relate. At least when it comes to fantasy basketball. There’s certainly a draw to uncovering a conspiracy and being part of only a small group of people that feels wiser than everyone else. Or, more relatably, being the only person to know a secret. This is how I felt the first time I manipulated a fantasy bball player rater. I was finally confident enough in my Excel skills to subtract categorical columns for punt rankings. I had decided to go all-in on a punt free throw percentage 8-category Roto dynasty team. Removing the FT% category dramatically changes the value of many players. I realized that I could trade players for much more than they were worth to me while acquiring players for much less than they were worth to me. Obviously, the downside was taking last place in a category. But since I was near the bottom in FT% anyway, I only lost maybe 2 points there while gaining something like 7 or 8 total points combined in other categories. The problem in a league like that is that I would’ve needed to get first in nearly every other category to win it all. I peaked at second place.

Yeah, yeah, you’re aware of the simplest of punt strategies. I know. But, aside from overrating rookies in dynasty drafts, this is really what I’m most passionate about: the concept of ignoring categories that aren’t going to help or hurt you.

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I’m going to keep it pretty simple this week. I’d like to check in on category leaders to help figure out who the best specialists might be this season. There’s a lot of value sitting out in the free agent pool just waiting for you to stream it. Adding and rotating through these category specialists applies in roto leagues when you notice individual categories in which you stand to gain a few points. But, this information will probably help the most in head-to-head leagues where you should be swapping out at least a couple players each week (assuming you can) to customize and maximize your stats in a way that nets you the most category wins against your opponent.

“So… you’re just pasting an NBA stat leaders’ page?” Nope. I’m only going to feature players rostered in less than 50% of Yahoo leagues. Italicized players are owned in less than 25%. For shooting percentages, I’m using Basketball Monster’s values that are weighted for volume. Next week, I’ll do sorta the opposite and list the punt specialists (value rankings with each individual category removed), as well as the rankings according to some other helpful stat combinations. I’ll leave out the flukey or injured players to save you some time here, as well.

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There are certain things that cut across all cultures and have the same meaning, irrespective of language differences. When a signficant other says, “We need to talk,” you’re F’d. When a parent addresses you by your full name, you done F’d up. When you hear the opening bars of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, something bad is about to happen. Or someone bad is about to do some very bad things. DRUM DRUM DRUMMOND. Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons was a bad, bad man yesterday:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
23 22 3 3 2 2 0 9/16 5/7

That was Drummond’s fifth 20/20 game of the season and 10th double-dub. He has played 12 games. He is also leading the league in rebounds with 16.6 per game. DRUM DRUM DRUMMOND. Currently, he is the 39th player according to Basketball Monster after finishing as the 22nd player last season. The main reason is the drop in assists (3 vs 1.5). If only he could hit his free throws! Regardless, 19.6 points, 16.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks while shooting 56% from the field makes for a bad, bad (as in good, good) player for fantasy. DRUM DRUM DRUMMOND.

Beep. Boop. Bop. I was wondering why the Stocktonator had Beethoven’s 5th Symphony on loop yesterday. It loved Drummond and had him as the #4 player.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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