Hey y’all. We’re back again, like we never left, with another Saturday Special. Today we’re kicking it off with none other than the Tall Baller From the G himself, Dirk Nowitzki. He had a nice little vintage performance, as he led the Mavericks to a win over the Thunder, going for 19/5/4/2 on 7-for-10 shooting with four threes. Dirk’s no longer a fantasy stud, but it’s nice to be able to show love to one of the greats when they deserve it. Dirk might get sporadic rest days as the season goes on, but he’ll generally be given free reign to do as he pleases while the Mavericks happily tank for a pick. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

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The Celtics’ impressive 16-game winning streak is now over. Is it a coincidence that 16 is half of 32, which is the number of games that the ’71 Lakers won in a row? I do not believe in coincidences, until I do. Which makes this iteration of the Celtics half the team of that glorious Lakers squad. All kidding aside, it was an impressive run. The team stepped up when they lost Gordon Hayward, Brad Stevens is now a legitimate Presidential candidate, Kyrie is…..well, Kyrie, and the defense has been the league’s best, by a big margin according to defensive efficiency. I tried everything in the book to jinx the streak. Voodoo dolls, shrines, sacrificing of virgins, and rubbing my scrotum with four-leaf clovers. All to no avail. I had to harken back to the past. All the way back to the ancient days of the early 1990’s. It was during that time, the secret was unlocked by the Leprechaun movies. You see, in the original, the leprechaun is defeated when the well it falls into is blown up. Explosion. Fire. In the third movie, the lepechaun is defeated via flamethrower. Heat was needed and Heat we got Wednesday night, as the Miami Heat took down the Boston Leprechauns 104-98. Who led the way? None other than Goran Dragic, aka the Dragon, who was spewing fire from all over the court: 27 points, five boards, four dimes, and one liberation. He shot 8-of-17 from the field and 2-of-4 from downtown. Waiters Island was booming, as Dion Waiters scored 26 points, grabbed two boards, and dished out six dimes. He shot 11-of-24 from the field and 4-of-10 from downtown. How do you beat the Celtics? Shoot 49.4% from the field, which was 4% higher than their season average. Translation: bring the Heat.

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So, Lonzo Ball put up a very impressive stat line that night with his 19/12/13 triple-double. And, as you’ve likely heard, he was five days younger than LeBron James was when he’d set the record for youngest triple-double. And if you watched ESPN’s highlight package for this game, you were treated to six Lonzo plays focusing on his accomplishment followed by one Giannis Antetokounmpo put-back dunk and a brief mention that, oh yeah, the Bucks actually won the game. Now, I’m quite the Lonzo apologist, and I spent far too much of the last year studying his game because of how much it impresses me… but ENOUGH WITH THE TRIPLE-DOUBLE MANIA! I’ve previously mentioned my disdain for how much these stat lines get overrated simply because an arbitrary number was reached in three categories. If we had 18 fingers and had decided on a base-18 number system thousands of years ago, a triple double would really be something, but is 10/10/10 a worthy threshold for what should be considered a noteworthy game? The thing that really bothers me is that, these day, even a “near-triple-double” will often get more attention than a more valuable stat line, even if it’s only like 11/8/9 (a Rajon Rondo Special). For example, Giannis went 33/15/3 that same night. Is that more valuable? It depends on whether you’re talking about value to the player’s actual NBA team or to our fantasy teams. When it comes down to who was more effective in the actual game, there are plenty of stats that try to figure that out. A simple one is plus/minus where Lonzo was +10 and Giannis was +13. That depends on who’s on the court with you, though. There’s John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating. Basketball Reference has a game score, as well. I guess we nerds will continue to try to whittle down a player’s performance into one number, for whatever it’s worth.

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Oh yes. Kemba was top shelf last night. 5-47-6-5-0-0-1. Took a lot of shots, no pun intended. 27 was the final tally, but he was hitting them (17 FGM). Kemba has been just a tiny bit of a letdown to start the year, but this game puts him right back on track. It wasn’t enough to beat the powerhouse Chicago Bulls though, as they fell 123-120 and dropped to 5-9 on the season. Man, the East is not good…The Knicks might make the playoffs! There were a lot of games last night, so I’ll try to touch on the most important/interesting stat lines. Anywho, here’s what went down on Friday in the NBA:

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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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UPDATED: 10/9/2017

Man, you guys don’t even know. There’s been a mob outside my house every night for the past two weeks carrying tiki torches and screaming, “We want the Top 200 with stats!” Or at least I think that’s what they were saying. Anyways, big shout out to Rudy who waved his magic wand and created the beautiful looking spreadsheet below. It even sorts. Here is Rudy in his lab:

Image result for it's alive

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One of my all-time favorite movies is Rounders. Matt Damon and Ed Norton talking all smooth and playing poker in cool-looking clubs with John Malkovich spouting repeatable lines in… sort of a Russian accent. Plus, there’s a great Counting Crows song during the credits that I’ve never been able to find anywhere. Anyway, Damon’s Mike McD is the relatively good boy, while Norton’s Worm is the slimier friend.

After Worm gets them beat up with all their cash stolen for having been caught cheating, the gloves come off in an overdue shouting match between the old friends.

Mike McDermott: What the F*** were you thinking?

Worm: I was trying to give us an edge… …I don’t think like that.

Mike McD: No, you don’t THINK!

Worm: No, I don’t think like YOU! You always think you can beat the game straight up. That’s not me. I told you, I’m always gonna look for that edge. Always.

As much as Mike is the better role model, if you’re picking from the two gambling addicts, in fantasy basketball you want to be like Worm. Even if you tried, you can’t cheat in most leagues, but you want to be the one thinking differently, finding your edge. Last week, I mentioned ways to make your league more engaging. From here on out, I’ll give you ways to get an edge in your league by using the numbers to your advantage. These next two weeks leading up to the season, we’ll talk drafting.

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Let me start by saying this: do not go into a draft planning on building a punt FT (or punt anything for that matter) team. Never. Don’t. You aren’t being smarter than everybody else. You’re playing yourself. Unless you’re a late draft pick in a 36-team league, it’s probably not gonna work for you.

Also, never decide to build a punt FT team just because a punt FT guy falls a bit. I made this mistake last year and took Drummond in one of my leagues, after having Davis and Porzingis already on my roster. My thought process was, “I can definitely make some trades to make this work.” I did get Gobert, which helped, but throwing away a category to get better at stats your fantasy team already generates is, not only inefficient, it’s frustrating.

On top of this, do not draft guys when building a punt FT team just because they’re bad at free throws. I can not stress this enough. The point of drafting is to build a team that can win as many categories for you as possible, not to see how bad you can lose one. It’s comical how often people (myself included) try to see how bad they can get their FT percentage, thinking that they’re outplaying everyone else. You guys think this article is for you, it’s actually for me. I’m just trying to hold myself accountable when I’m drafting.

So when do you build a punt FT team? The simple answer is: when it helps you. What I’m hoping this article does is give you some scenarios when building a punt FT team makes sense. If you’re stubborn and are gonna go ahead and build one anyway, I’ll also give some advice on how to round out your team.

Wait, I forgot the most important piece of information you’ll see in this article. How the hell are there NBA players shooting less than 50% from the FT line? Seriously. I can’t wrap my head around it. That’s like an illiterate writer. That’s like a runner that can’t walk. That’s like the restaurant I used to work at who’s name was Burger’s etc. and stopped selling burgers. So many confused customers, just like there must be so many confused NBA fans.

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Whew. 100 down. 100 to go. It’s been a helluva ride, but we almost there. This is where things get really interesting, as it’s a group where some starters still reside, but is mostly populated with bench players. Do you go with a specialist or someone that contributes across the board? Decisions decisions.

Yes! I’m freaking pumped now. Go do your thing right now! I’m going to finish this post then run like Forrest Gump.

If you missed them, here are the links for:

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