When I was a preteen, I remember a super rare baseball card of Cal Ripken’s brother, Billy Ripken. The normal card had him holding a baseball bat without anything worth noting on the card. But there were a few prints of an original that showed where the goofball Billy decided to scribble a curse word that was gold to 12-year-old baseball card collectors. There were only a few copies of this card and I was lucky enough to find one in a fresh pack. It was so rare, that I managed to sell it to a classmate for $50, which I then wasted on more baseball cards. Sometimes an amazingly rare thing happens and you just have to enjoy the moment. Marcin Gortat managed to turn back the clock and post this out-of-nowhere gem on the Suns.

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
8/10 2/2 NA 18 13 1 0 1 2

Now, this was unexpected. Gortat has been a complete nonfactor this season, but managed a gem of a game. I wouldn’t expect a repeat any time soon, but it’s nice to be able to talk about the Polish Hammer once again.

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This season of 50-point games and JaVale McGee relevance is already about 25% complete. How are your teams looking? We should have a pretty good picture of what we can expect from our lineups and most players, so where can we go from here? Let’s get creative. I’ve been talking about how the practice of ignoring categories that aren’t affecting us can give us an advantage (even if we weren’t trying to punt categories), as it presents a market tilted in our favor. Shaking up the values of players and customizing them to our teams is a great way to make some effective trades. Trades that are more likely to get accepted, because they can more easily be win/win deals. Today, I’m going to give a variety of lists of multi-category “punts” to help identify targets that often go undervalued, in addition to those that complement punting teams best.

I’ve gone on and on about how most categories get overlooked. That’s something that can give savvy managers an advantage. The masses, if they aren’t looking closely at player raters and rankings, may essentially be “punting” the ignored categories like steals, for example. As I often mention, I truly think most fantasy managers subconsciously weigh points, rebounds, and assists more heavily than the other stats. It’s understandable, as that’s how most media outlets report stats, but it’s ridiculous to do so in fantasy, as all categories are created equal.

So, first up, here’s a list of some startable players with the biggest jumps in 9-cat per-game value (per Basketball Monster through 11/25) when we ignore Points, Rebounds, and Assists. These 6-category rankings should give us the players that are most undervalued, especially by casual fantasy players. Think of them as the thinking-man’s fantasy all-stars, fittingly led by it’s perpetual mascot.

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Last night was interesting because we had some surprise performances and inefficient scoring. One performance stood out, though. Both in statistics and in how he just took over the game. Remember on opening night when everyone was freaking out about Jayson Tatum? Kyrie Irving was being called washed up and there were a lot of reactionaries out there saying that this was now Tatum’s team. That take proved to be dumb. Watching Irving and Kawhi Leonard battle in an overtime affair was a pleasure to watch. Last night’s game became a classic and will help build anticipation for a potential showdown in the playoffs.

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
18/26 4/6 3/6 43 2 11 3 1 3

Irving has been electric this season and was the sixth-ranked player in fantasy heading into last night’s game. He ended with a double-double (43 points and 11 assists). Add in three 3’s and three steals and you have an incredibly dynamic performance. The icing on the cake was the super efficiency on high volume. Boston is his team and they go as he does. For fantasy teams that roster Kyrie, your team goes as far as he can lead you, which is looking pretty far.

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Tonight was clearly defined by the insane performances by some of the leagues best big men. Crazy points, boards, and stocks were being earned all night long. Joel Embiid beat up on Charlotte’s inferior front line, driving to the bucket, getting insane put-back dunks, and swatting shots into oblivion. One of the best examples of his diverse skillset showed him bring the ball up across half court and then orchestrate a perfect give-and-go that led to an Embiid statement dunk. To top things off, he showed his range by hitting the tying 3-point shot near the end of regulation. He’s just ridiculous.

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
11/18 19/22 1/2 42 18 4 0 4 3

This was an MVP performance from the big man. He must have been shaken by that Sabonis dunk last night, as he came out and crushed. How many other big men can hit 19/22 free throws in practice, let alone in a tightly contested game? The boards were huge, as were the blocks. He’s really starting to heat up, so ride him if you got him.

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So, we’re three weeks into another joyous fantasy basketball season. The hot waiver pick-ups are gone or have fizzled out. Hope you got the ones with lasting value. Pretty soon, the sample sizes will be large enough to know that what we’re seeing is more or less legit. For now, there’s still a lot of regressing to the mean yet to come. Hot and slow starts will mostly fade away, and the players will be themselves over the long haul. Not everyone, as plenty of players take significant leaps or stumbles for the entire season, whether it has to do with a change of scenery, personnel, and/or usage. It can be tough to figure out whose rebounds and steals changes, for example, will stick. However, we can trust with a good amount of confidence that most players shooting percentages will end up relatively close to their previous numbers. And, this early in the season, when, say, Serge Ibaka goes 15-for-17 and then 8-for-8, percentages can be way out of line and skew value if you’re looking at rankings in a trade scenario.

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Watching Chris Paul can be so fun. When he’s not catching spit followed by hooks from fellow old man Rondo, CP3 is hustling, using his old man tricks to take down young teams that dare challenge him. He’ll drive the lane, fake passes, shoot from 8 feet behind the line. He doesn’t care. Trying to keep the ship afloat without Harden is his responsibility and he’s gonna do it. Like the old curmudgeon in your neighborhood that refuses to offer candy to trick-or-treating kids, this grumpy old man will shoo you off his lawn and do what he wants.

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
13/27 1/1 5/12 32 7 11 2 2 2

We got classic, but still grumpy CP3 tonight! Paul had a sensational game, carrying the Rockets on his back and beating an up-and-coming Brooklyn team. It always amazes me how he gets so many rebounds for someone who looks to be 5’11 tops. Ride him while Harden is out, but if he keeps playing 37 minutes, expect some rest games soon.

Here’s what else happened last night:

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I’m not one to boast or present fluff pieces, so when I provide a recommendation, EF Hutton is in the house. Now, a good buddy of mine told me to come check out a new restaurant he opened up. No joke. Indubitubly the best place in town. Was it the food? It was aiight. Then what? You know when people rave about the ambiance of an establishment? Well, you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve gone to The Place. As you walk from the parking lot towards the building, there are hundreds of cameras and sensors that scan your body and connect with your literal and virtual mind. This process takes about 5 seconds, so that by the time you reach the curb, The Place knows what you’re craving and digitally alters the environment to fit each individual customer. In my case, the golden arches appeared. Chicken nuggets? French fries? Sausage McMuffin with egg? Negative. The Place knew I was in search of a cheap shooting guard for my DFS lineups. Supersize it The Place asked? Indubitably. A machine printed out a small piece of paper, like the ones you see inside a fortune cookie. On it was written: Rodney McGruder.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
20 8 6 0 1 2 3/7 7/12 3/3

Mind blown.

McGruder is 27 years old and has been in the league for three years. He’s played a total of 97 games, and the 20 points scored were a career high. Last night, he did get the start and played 34 minutes. Now, Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow did not play due to injury, but McGruder has the trust of coach Spoelstra and will play when there are injuries on the wing.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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John Wall went from hero to zero back to hero in Washington this season. Nobody will argue that John Wall is the most talented player on the Wizards, but when he went down with a knee injury and the team started playing its best basketball of the season, people started questioning Wall’s value to the team. His selfish play was viewed as holding the team back in the day-and-age of the Hoosier method of at least three passes before a shot. The team’s hot streak wore off, however, and everyone started clamoring for Wall’s return. Now the Wizards are battling for a playoff spot and John Wall stepped up for one of his best games of the season: 4/29/7/13/3/3. I mean, wow, nice game and nice timing. Anyone still playing in fantasy who has John Wall is as excited about the timing of this as the city of Washington D.C.

Anyway, here is what else I saw last night as teams battle for the last playoff spot and just plain old last place:

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What’s up Razzballers!? Considering this is either the final or semifinal playoff week for most leagues, I want to say I’m proud of anyone reading this. Even if you’re in the consolation bracket (or in a roto league), it was a fun season and I love all of you. You know who else loves you? Otto Porter, if you have him on your team (if you’re against him this week then he hates you deeply). He had a pretty forgettable game on Thursday, but made up for it in a big way on Saturday going for 26/11/2/1/2 on 10-for-15 FG (6-for-10 3P) and zero TOs. This line was cleaner than Tony Montana’s! Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?