LeBron James has missed 12 games due to injury. Entering last night’s game, the Lakers had four wins and seven losses without their king. After an overtime ordeal in Oklahoma City, the Lakers made it five wins and seven losses, thanks in part to the play of Kyle Kuzma.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
32 8 4 3 0 4 7/12 11/20 3/3

The seven threeecolas tied a career-high. Without LeBron on the floor, Kuzma has been the offensive leader, sporting a usage rate above 30. He’s averaged 34.2 minutes, 21 points, 7 boards, and 2.9 dimes. He’s jacked up 18.4 shots per game, with 7.2 being from downtown. Now, the efficiency hasn’t been good (41% from the field and 24% from downtown) and he provides little in the D cats. As a result, he’s not the best fantasy asset, which sucks because this is a fantasy website. Just let me enjoy a Lakers victory on the road in OKC with Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuz leading the way.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Back in 2008, iHeartRadio and SiriusXM changed the landscape of radio. Listeners could customize their listening experience, had access to out-of-market stations, and were given a cornucopia of options (podcasts, news, sports, and channels for specific genres). Options equal versatility which enhances a product. That concept isn’t just for the radio world, though, as it has become the defining characteristic of the modern day, positionless basketball that has taken root. Last night, Josh Hart was a perfect example:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
14 12 6 5 0 2 1/5 5/13 3/3

Hart played a team-high 44 minutes. At 6′ 5″ and 215 pounds, Hart can play the 1, 2, or 3. He’s strong enough to handle himself down on the block, but possesses the agility to guard on the perimeter. He does get burned from time to time, but more often than not plays sound fundamental defense. Hart can shoot from beyond the arc or finish strong at the rim. He’s a willing passer and is able to rack up steals. Now, since LeBron James went down with an injury, Hart has been given an opportunity and has not disappointed. He’s been a top 50 player and has averaged 34.6 minutes, 12.4 points, 1.8 threeecolas, 6.8 boards, 2.1 dimes, 2.1 steals, and 0.6 blocks. The only bugaboo has been the 38% shooting from the field. When LeBron does return, Hart will likely shift back to the bench and lose 7-9 minutes of run per game. With that said, because of his versatility, he will still contribute across the board and provide top 125-ish numbers.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

There was a lot of crying going on yesterday. And it started at precisely 12:00:01 am, as cries of joy echoed for the start of the new year. At the same time, there were countless cries of disappointment, as guys (too many to be honest) tried to kiss their NYE dates and got denied. There were cries of the sexual passion variety, and cries to the Porcelain God. Cries of pain for trying to get back into shape, and cries of elation from the millions of couch potato football fans. But, the biggest Kawhi came from Toronto, as Kawhi Leonard did this to the Utah Jazz:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
45 6 1 0 0 2 0/3 16/22 13/17

A career-high! Over the past six games, he’s averaged 31.3 points, 1.2 threeecolas, 7.5 boards, 1.8 dimes, 1.2 steals, and been the #15 player in fantasy. He’s had a usage rate of 33.5! I was so wrong about Kawhi in the offseason, as I had my doubts about his health and mental motiviation. Well, I just want to scurry to the corner and sit on the stool with a dunce cap and Kawhi. The only blemish has been the decrease in blocks. Currently, he’s averaging 0.5 per game. The last four seasons, Kawhi has averaged 1, 0.7, 1, and 0.8 blocks per game. I think that number ends higher, but even if it doesn’t, I won’t shed a tear for his owners, as (outside of injury) he will still likely be a top 10 player for fantasy.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

If you remember Young Joc, you lived through the downfall of hip-hop. OK, no one can really pinpoint when Rap music really started to go downhill, but there was a time when Young Joc captivated the minds and ears of 13-year-old children everywhere. Similarly, last night Jamal Murray captivated the minds of NBA fans by going 9-46-6-8-0-1-5 on 16-of-24 shooting and 5-of-6 FTs. It’s been a bit of a down year for Jamal, but he had 31 on Friday and 77 points in two games is going to help your team a lot, especially with 13 three-pointers. He’s been kind of a disappointment on the year, but could end up having a solid season.

Here’s what else went down in the NBA last night:

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The Division of the Up and Comers
The Atlantic Division consists of up-and-coming teams, with the Toronto Raptors at the top of the league in wins, yet they are still learning how to incorporate Kawhi Leonard into their mix.  The Sixers are also integrating a new player in Jimmy Butler.  Boston struggled with offensive effectiveness early on, but they have started to figure things out, including an overtime thriller on Christmas against the 76ers.   The Nets have done well, winning nine of their last 10 games, a streak of success not seen in Brooklyn in many a day.  The Knicks, though, are going in the opposite direction, as they have lost nine of their last 10, but are still considered in the up and coming conversation because they have a stable of young players gaining valuable experience while their Latvian superstar, Kristaps Porzingis, mends.

Many feel the NBA season really doesn’t start until Christmas, as teams have now played about a third of the season with the strengths and weaknesses of each being exposed.  In addition, players are available as trade targets and teams that look to be lottery participants will begin to look toward the future and acquire draft assets. 

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Luke Kornet played four years at Vanderbilt University, where he averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals, and 2 blocks on 47% shooting from the field and 32% from beyond the arc his senior year. No wonder he went undrafted in the 2017 NBA draft. But he’s the left-handed pitcher of basketball, in that he’s 7′ 1″, 250 pounds, and can shoot from outside. The New York Knicks took a chance and signed him to a two-way contract in 2017. Kornet spent most of his rookie year down in the G League, but still managed to play 20 games with the big club and exhibited the ability to shoot the threeecola and block shots. To begin this season, Kornet played a total of 12 minutes in the first 29 games, but Coach Fizdale inserted him into the lineup for game 30 against the Hornets and Kornet scored 13 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, blocked 3 shots, stole 2 passes, and shot 3-for-5 from downtown in 24 minutes. Although he continued to get playing time in the next five games, Kornet never received more than 14 minutes in any game. Then, last night happened.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
23 3 5 0 1 1 7/11 8/17 0

Kornet received the start and played 34 minutes. The start may have been matchup based, as he would have more success defending Brook Lopez on the perimeter and the Bucks defensive philosophy allows teams to beat them from downtown (MIL is dead last in number of opponent three-pointers attempted per game). With that said, Coach Fizdale said that he wanted to change up the lineup to get more shooting on the floor so that Emmanuel Mudiay and Kevin Knox would have more space to operate. In addition, Kornet does protect the rim better than Enes Kanter, which isn’t saying much, but it is what it is. I never understood why the Knicks continued rolling out Kanter, especially since he’s an UFA after this season. Play the young kids and “Try for Zion.” Having a center rotation of Kornet and Mitchell Robinson would make the most sense, as it would be a offense/defense combination, but Coach Fizdale has shown that he will change up the rotation in a heartbeat. With that said, Kornet is worth a pick up, as the reward for threeecolas and blocks far outweighs the risk of…..free.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I was a sucker for all the James Bond movies growing up. There was always action, women, lots of cool toys, and more action. What most confused me early on, but later fascinated me, was the overtness of the Bond character. At his core, he was a spy after all, and a spy is defined as “a person who secretly…” I don’t need to continue the definition. Could a ninja ever be famous? Wouldn’t that go against the fundamental premise of being a ninja? With all that said, Bond took the spy game to the next level. Everyone knew he was a spy, and he knew that everyone knew, yet he did his spy thing while everyone else played along. Translation: Bond was a freaking boss. Which is exactly what Harden, James Harden is.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
41 6 7 2 1 6 5/16 15/35 6/7

That’s seven straight games scoring 30+ points, with two games over 40 and one 50-burger in there. The overtness that Harden exhibits is just as bold as Bond. Defenders know his moves, yet still get played. Now, with Chris Paul out for an extended period of time, the usage rate spikes to the mid-40s. The comparable analogy would be Bond walking into a casino with both hands flashing the bird, acquiring the information that he came for, and of course bringing the D for the girl.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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As a grizzled fantasy veteran like many of you, I have most players’ typical stat sets from the last few years stuck in my head. It takes a long time for me to change my opinion, regardless of how hot or cold someone gets for a few weeks or so. I generally go with logic and think “small sample size — regression is coming”. But I wasn’t always so boring. It wasn’t always this way…

Flashback to the year 2000…

(Okay, sorry. I’ll try to stay focused. Stupid gifs of everything in history at the click of a button.)

…You’d find me in my dorm room, navigating my way through my first fantasy basketball season, loving our super-fast ethernet connection (no more AOL dial-up like at home!). Putting off homework by manually adding up my team’s stats on Yahoo each night in the pre-StatTracker days. It was an 8-cat Roto league (still my game of choice), so I didn’t need to get too crafty with weekly games played, matching up against specific teams, or checking NBA opponents. I’d been a big NBA fan, but I’d lost touch somewhat since my Bulls had disbanded in 1998. So, my main strategy was simple: Look at stats for the last month, and pick up whoever the best available guys were (I remember a guy I’d never heard of, Bo Outlaw, providing some sneaky stats for weeks and months at a time). Give them a couple of games to see if they’d keep it up, and if not, swap ’em for the next hot thing. Could it be so simple? Well, I ended up winning that league that season. And most seasons after that. You may not have found my friends in my league adding up their teams’ stats at 4 a.m., I guess.

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I remember watching Reggie Miller at UCLA and being mezmerized. Man, oh man could he shoot. Chants of Reggie! Reggie! Reggie! would reverberate throughout Pauley Pavilion. Then, he got drafted by the Indiana Pacers and the same chant was sung. One of the greatest shooters I’ve ever witnessed. He was a career 39% shooter from downtown. At the zenith, he attempted 6.6 while making 2.8 threeecolas per game. Back then, those were amazing numbers. The game certainly has changed, as Steph Curry leads the league with 11 threeecolas attempted with 5.1 makes per game. What hasn’t changed, though, is the Reggie! Reggie! Reggie! chant, only this time it’s for Reggie Bullock.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
33 3 1 1 0 0 7/12 12/21 2/2

Played 43 minutes in an overtime game. Bullock missed five games due to an ankle injury earlier this month. Since returning three games ago, he’s scored 15, 24, and 33 points and shot 4-for-10, 5-for-7, and 7-for-12 from downtown. Did the Pistons go all Steve Austin on him or something? Bullock is a 40% shooter from downtown, but this most recent heater of 55% is something else. He’s been a top 30 player for fantasy over the three-game stretch without contributing much in any other category! Now, the efficiency is obviously going to come in, unless the Pistons truly did turn Bullock into the modern day, six million dollar man. With that said, he’s been getting a ton of open looks because defenses have to sag down on Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond down low. There will be adjustments, so the volume of threeecolas will come back down. On the season, Bullock is averaging 5.6 attempts per game. Until then, enjoy the ride and chant at the top of your lungs, Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Remember when Emmanuel Mudiay was the #7 overall pick by Denver? He never seemed to live up to his potential or draft position. He ended up in NY and, for fantasy teams, was a complete afterthought. Well, looks like we were wrong because he has been playing great lately. I am skeptical about Mudiay’s overall production and his ability to continue, but for now, enjoy the ride because he’s playing like a totally new player. He’ll probably fall victim to the notorious Knicks rotation, but you have to like the production recently and, if you could use points, assists, and surprisingly solid percentages, you could do worse. He’s a definite sell high if you can find someone who is buying in. Just point to this game and see what a GM might give you in exchange.

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
14/21 5/6 1/4 34 3 8 1 0 3

Wow! Mudiay had been hovering close to the top 100 over the last month, on the strength of nice scoring, assists, and FT%, but this was his coming out game. The 34 points were a career-high. More importantly, he showed confidence and swagger and seemed to know he was the man. He nearly hit the game winner, which we all thought was going in. He could be a contender for Most Improved Player if he keeps it rolling.

Please, blog, may I have some more?