The defending NBA Champion Toronto Raptors (that has such a nice ring to it) return to defend their title with all the key pieces intact, except for the devastating loss of Danny Green. They’ll miss his defense, dead-eye shooting, and the occasional spectacular block. Outside of Green, there’s really no one else that the Raptors will miss as they ramp up for yet another successful year. Well, I suppose they miss JVal, Caboclo, and Wright, but those guys were dealt mid-season so they don’t really count for the the purpose of this exercise. Anyone else I forgot to mention?

Ok fine, I guess it’s about time I face reality and accept the fact that Kawhi is forever gone, taking his talents to La La Land. The Raps had a brilliant year and a historic playoffs run, but they will have to temper expectations this year. Kyle Lowry just turned 33 and one has to wonder how much gas he’s got left in the tank. Pascal Siakam is their young star, who leads a team full of hungry young guns and a few vets who can still contribute. Expect to Raps to be a playoff team, but I’m afraid the glory days are a thing of the past. Winter has come and gone, and so has the King of the North.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I thought I’d send out a reminder for those of you in keeper leagues. This probably applies more to roto players than head-to-headers, since those in roto leagues aren’t scraping and clawing for every last game they can get with their limited moves. I’m talking about stashing some of next year’s potential breakouts. Yeah, just about everyone worth taking next year is on a roster already… just about. In my keeper league, I once grabbed this Draymond Green character in the last few weeks of the season, since he’d been on a hot streak. He ended up finishing as a top-30 player the following season. Nearly the exact same story for C.J. McCollum the next year. And if I’d have been on my game at the end of last season, I’d have grabbed Cedi Osman, preventing me from having to waste an early draft pick on him this season (we keep a lot of players). There’s a ton of unknown between now and next October’s fantasy drafts (gloriously entertaining unknown, by the way), but we can make some educated guesses at this point. Do you have some players you know you’re not keeping next season that also aren’t making a difference on your team? Replace ’em with lottery tickets, and maybe one or two will pay off. They could at least give you some extra trade value.Some keeper and dynasty leagues don’t have a trade deadline, so I’ll be including some players here that might be near-universally owned in addition to those who have a good shot at being free agents in your league. Speaking of free agents, that’s how we’re going to unearth some of our targets. The other aspect I’ll look at are rookies and second-year players that could be in line for a bump in playing time and usage. And there will be some nice overlap in who we find from each strategy, I’m sure.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

When I used to drink back in high school, it’d be a lot of 40 ounces of Olde English 800. Too many 40’s of OE. Way too many 40’s of OE. I was/am a stupid, stupid man. But they were so cheap and it was nice to just have to carry around one bottle. I had repressed all those memories until I saw Kemba’s line last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
40 10 7 0 1 4 6/6 14/20 6/7

In 40 minutes! And that was without Cody Zeller (knee), who helps Kemba post positive numbers when he’s on the court. Anyways, the matchup last night against the Rockets was a great one, as Houston is the 6th-worst at defending the pick-and-roll, a play that Kemba is a master at running. With that said, he has been hot recently regardless, as he’s been a top 25 player over the past seven games. The usage rate is above 30 and he’s been jacking up 20 shots per game. Kemba does contribute across the board, even chipping in 0.4 blocks. Yo, Blake Griffin. You seeing this? It all comes down to the shooting efficiency for Kemba. During his current heater, he’s converting 46% of his shots from the field. There were stretches during the season when he was sub-40%. Hopefully he continues his hot streak for the duration of the fantasy playoffs and entices you to seek out a bottle of Olde English.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I usually highlight a player for the lede, but today, it’s all about the playoffs for many of you. You’ve scratched and clawed for 21 weeks. If you heeded my advice, you also likely sacrificed a few virgins as well. Anyways, don’t get complacent now. Utilize all your moves for the week. Send out the scouts and project your opponent. Where is he/she weak? How does your squad match up? Games played, minutes, and opportunities are truly king now. It’s win this week or go home. I wish everyone good fortune and let’s bring home some chips for the Razzball family!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming. Here’s what I saw in yesterday’s action:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Ok, last night’s game between the Lakers and Pelicans didn’t have the drama and importance of Jordan’s classic flu game. In fact, if you watched the nationally televised game featuring a sick LeBron James facing up against Anthony Davis and leading his team to victory, it might be tough to tell James was even sick. He played with greatness and did everything that was needed to win. Now he has another Jordan-themed event he can check off his list.

LeBron James

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
8/20 6/9 0/4 22 12 14 2 0 2

LeBron had his version of the flu game. It wasn’t efficient, but he managed a triple-double and led the Lakers to victory. The old man is ranked #15 in standard cat leagues and helps fantasy GMs even more if you’re punting FT percentage.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Kevin Durant is a polarizing player, due to his off-the-court decisions and shenanigans. There was the decision back in 2016 to join the Golden State Warriors that put many into a tizzy. I was fine with his decision, but I understand why people had issues with it. After being Mr. Nice Guy in OKC, Durant took on a blase, laissez-faire attitude. Some appreciated the rawness, while others wanted a more calculated, LeBron-esque persona. There was the burner account incident. Lame, but I kind of get it, as it’s tough for any celebrity to truly speak their mind. KD just be messing around. What can’t be questioned, though, is his production on the court. Over the past four years, Durant has finished as the 3rd, 1st, 2nd, and 5th player for fantasy according to Basketball Monster. Currently, he’s 3rd as he’s posting 27.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.5 threeecolas. He’s shooting 54% from the field and 91% from the line. So good. Anyways, last night he truly messed around:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
33 11 10 1 2 4 2/4 10/24 11/13

That was his 11th career triple-dub. A surprisingly low number, but he wasn’t always the most willing passer early in his career. With Steph Curry expected to miss a few more games, KD should continue messing around. Shoot, even when Curry returns, KD should continue messing around because that’s what he does.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I’m old enough to remember when # was something located at the bottom right of the phone dial pad. Geez, I’m old. I’m also old enough to remember when Stan was a person’s name. Now? It has a definition in the dictionary: an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity. Shoutout to Eminem. That’s what you call influence. Anyways, Khloe Kardashian must be a Tristan, right? How about you? No?

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
19 16 4 0 1 3 0 9/12 1/3

How about now? Damn Tristan! He played 34 minutes and produced his third double-dub of the season. We all thought Larry Nance Jr. would be the man at center for the Cavaliers, yet he only played 14 minutes last night and has failed to reach the 20 minute mark in each of the past four games. If you need boards, Tristan is your guy. Just don’t expect much else and the free throw shooting is craptastic. I figured there wouldn’t be many other instances to stan for Tristan this season, and I’m an equal opportunity writer, so enjoy being a Tristan for a day.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I enjoy playing poker. Am I good at it? After 30 minutes, I’m still looking for the sucker. Anyways, a common scenario I often see play out is this. Player, which is sometimes me, pushes all the chips into the middle of the table and says, “All you can eat, baby!” Either the chip stack get bigger or said player takes the walk of shame to the ATM. That’s what I thought about the Raptors offseason. They are either making it to the Finals or taking that rebuilding walk of shame. Respect.

Please, blog, may I have some more?