I’ve got a punt free throw percentage dynasty team that I love so much that I practically cheer for missed free throws. Logically, I know this is silly, but bricked freebies are my brand, I guess you’d say. For those of you punters that can relate, today I’ll give you some adjusted player rankings for the season. And if you haven’t tried a punt strategy, or haven’t been successful with one, maybe this’ll pique your interest for next season.

Last week, I listed the top 20 players in each category as well as the relevant bottom 20. This week, we’ll kinda do the opposite. I’ll remove some categories that you might benefit from ignoring, whether it was part of your plan or you just found yourself uncompetitive in a category that’s not worth trying to catch up in by patching it together at the expense of other categories.

First, free throw punters. I’ll give you the top 20 in per-game value (and others that make big leaps) for 8-category and 9-category with free throw percentage removed (through 12/5). All of today’s lists come from Basketball Monster stat ratings. Keep in mind that you’re not just looking for the worst free throw shooters. Those are the guys that benefit the most from removing this category, but it doesn’t mean they’re the most valuable to your team. They ARE, however, significantly more valuable to a free throw punter than anyone else. So, if you’re at the bottom of your roto league in FT% (or if you never compete in head-2-head), don’t try to just add a couple good FT shooters to fix it. Maybe that gets you a roto point or two at most. Go all in, and trade off some good FT shooters for the guys below, especially those that are cheaper since they benefit the most from punting (in bold) and watch your team gain in FG%, rebounds, and blocks.

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Welcome to the Kawhi Leonard-return waiting room. We hope you enjoy your stay. Leonard is getting close to returning to action and it can happen as soon as this week. But as the gods of basketball always seek to keep balance, the gods both giveth and taketh away. Unfortunately, both Stephen Curry and Devin Booker went down with injuries that could likely keep them out for an extended period of time. Even my boy Tim Hardaway Jr and his $70 million contract caught the injury bug and will be reevaluated in two weeks. Maybe this is a good opportunity to buy kinda low on these guys, if you feel comfortable you can make the playoffs by giving some immediate production for them. As for last week’s calls, Rudy Gobert was eased back into action but the fact he beat his initial 4-6 weeks timetable by a week is a great sign. Pascal Siakam pulled a Houdini and disappeared, while Wesley Johnson is bringing great defensive stats with awesome consistency (nine straight games with at least a block and a steal), but his shooting is off. The attempts are there so be patient and he will eventually start making them. Moving to the sell candidates from last week, Justin Holiday’s window of opportunity to sell high will remain open for a little longer as Zach LaVine’s return got pushed back to January. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came back to Earth, averaging a more realistic 12.3 attempts from the field and Rajon Rondo has actually benefited from Anthony Davis’ absence and his usage warrants a pickup. Before the prologue gets into the “too long didn’t read” category, let’s get to this week’s Buy/Sell suggestions…

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I try not to use the same player twice as the lede for this post. You’d think with over 300 players in the NBA, that wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, teams do not play every day and most of the players are not worthy. Sure, I could write up Nik Stauskas and how he didn’t score, rebound, assist, steal, or block in eight minutes of run. I could go into detail how he turned the ball over twice and picked up a personal foul, but even Momma Stauskas would be like, “I had to pause the curling match for this crap?” So, as much as I try not to use the same player for the lede, sometimes a performance is just too good. Last Wednesday, Devin Booker was The Razzballer after he dropped 33 points on the hapless Bulls. That was nothing compared to what he did to the Philadelphia 76ers:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 46 8 1 2 1 3 5/8 17/32 7/8

Booker started the game shooting 1-for-8. So, according to my handy dandy desktop abacus, he shot .666 the rest of the way. Ahhhh, the Devil lives!

The Wells Fargo Center used to be located at 3601 Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19148. You can now just input 46 Booker St, Philadelphia, PA 00100 into your GPS from now on.

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I am back from a short hiatus with an up-to-date (or as close as I can get it) injury report to help you plan for the upcoming fantasy basketball week and to provide potential waiver wire replacements.

Here are the major injuries lingering around the NBA, some suggestions for which replacements to target, and whether you should Stash, Drop, Add, or use an I.R. spot (if your league allows it):

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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:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 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:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 37 11 5 5 0 7 7/10 11/23 8/12
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My spidey senses be tingling, mingling, and straight up singling. Injuries are among us and we must act… fast. Like BOOM! Fast Actin’ Tinactin on a fungus toenail preparing for battle. John Madden would be proud. Nothing gets Madden going more than some popcorn, turducken, Brett Favre, and toe fungus. Injuries have come and will come Ray, they most definitely will come, and when they do, you best be ready to hit the wire harder than Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. ALL PUNS INTENDED BABY!!!!

 

Let’s get to it.

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I used to live right down the street from MSG. At the old YMCA on W 34th & 9th Ave. So, even though I’m from LA, I can appreciate what’s going on with the Knicks right now and feel the energy. Entering last night’s game, they were sporting a 7-5 record. 2012 was the last season they started out with at least seven wins in the first 12 games. They’ve been so hot that the Sixth Burough of Porzingis is being constructed. How come Lin didn’t get a burough? Shit, he couldn’t even get a contract extension. Anyways, the big bad King of Akron was scheduled to come to town. And come he did. Or was it cum? The King trumpeted that the Knicks should have drafted Dennis Smith Jr. instead of Frank Ntilikina. Then, the King took his merry band of hoopsters and wreaked “havoc” on the subway. Causing the citizens of New York to respond with profanity-laced tirades on Twitter. The Knicks had their backs, though. They pushed the King. Shoved the King. Went face to face with the King. Were even beating the King and his merry band of hoopsters by 23 points at one point. Then….the King showed why he is the King. LeBron James scored 23 points, grabbed nine boards, dished out 12 dimes, and blocked three to lead the Cavs to a 104-101 comeback win. He would’ve messed around, but the stat crew changed one of his rebounds to a team rebound. Ha! I love it. And the Knicks responded with quotes like this. After the game, LeBron most definitely took his merry band of hoopsters and hit all the clubs in NYC. Because, for at least one night, he was the King of New York.

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Part of fantasy basketball is forming a team using the predictable stats in a way that maximizes your roto points or head-to-head category wins. Another part is getting the less predictable stats right more often than your competition, whether that means you’re benefiting from an increase in value or avoiding a decrease.

It’s early, but I thought I’d take a look at what the biggest differences are in this season’s stats versus last season’s by using the ESPN Player Rater averages (per-game).

Aaron Gordon. This season’s highest leaper.

First, a quick detour while I’m talking player rater. Here’s something it teaches us that we should keep in mind. Many people think of rankings as linear. Like, the best player is the same amount better than the 5th player as the 5th player is better than the 9th player. Not so, and we see the difference especially among the top few players when we look at their overall rating. Like with most data sets, there are outliers. That’s these fantasy stars. The top five players with their per-game ratings in each of the past two seasons:

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It’s the third installment of Buy/Sell and I’m already out of prologue ideas. That’s not good. And I’ve just burned the “I don’t have a prologue” prologue. Hmmm, to divert your attention let’s talk about some of the calls from last week. TJ McConnell has been more than serviceable, Lillard predictably started knocking down his shots (shutting down his buy low window in the process), and Moore and Crowder were blah. The controversial Murray pick confirmed his inconsistency scoring. Six, 26, 20, 24, three, nine, and four points in his last seven. I remain optimistic, but the dud against the Nets (one of the worst teams defending the PG spot) definitely hurt. Boogie and the Virgin continued dominating, but I stand by my advice to sell. The best call may end up being Henson who, with Monroe going to Phoenix, has a great opportunity to maintain his value for the rest of the season. With all that out of the way let’s look at our new candidates.

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