Sleepers. Breakouts. Busts. Bargains. Overrated. Underrated. That’s about all we think about in the weeks (months, for many of us) leading up to the fantasy NBA season. Even if your methods are sound, you’re not going to be right about all of them. Of course, that’s mainly due to injuries that directly affected the number of games played or indirectly affected a player’s role. But despite that, I thought it would be fun to review the season’s biggest overachievers and underachievers. Pat yourself on the back for good ones. Know that we feel your pain caused by the bad ones.

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A few years back, there was this popular book series that was also one of the first click-baitey lists I remember seeing online. It was called “Eat This, Not That!”. Or, as it might as well have been called: “Feel Guilty Every Time You Have A Deep-Fried Onion Appetizer.” They’d present two relatively similar items at a restaurant, one with roughly half the calories and a fraction of the saturated fat. That one was usually smaller, and shockingly, not deep-fried. I remember grumpily learning that some of the absolute worst things you could eat were also some of my favorites, of course. That would be these beauties:

The Triumvirate: The Awesome Blossom, The Bloomin’ Onion, and The Cactus Blossom. No thanks! I won’t be substituting grilled salmon and fresh vegetables! I LIKE having my entire recommended weekly allowance of calories BEFORE my entrée arrives!

So, this week, I thought I’d take from that and from another idea I’ve always liked: Comparing nameless stat-lines. So, let’s do a Roster This, Not That! How’s this going to give us an advantage? What I’m going for here is, unsurprisingly, picking two players with relatively similar stat sets. One will generally be a player that your typical fantasy manager will value close to his draft price, and the other will be an overachiever, and possibly an under-the-radar one at that. Then, if you think that player might not be properly valued in your league, you should try to acquire him, as he could come cheap. If you have the player he’s being compared to, you could even see if you could make the swap and upgrade somewhere else at the same time. Now, if the other manager is up on their current player rankings, you may not get a deal, but, even so, they could be skeptical that the surprising player can keep it up. I’ve admitted before that I’m reluctant to change my perception of a player quickly. I pretty much value players where they were drafted for a little too long, since I’m resistant to believe the small sample size is more predictive than the career body of work. Which is right? That’s part of the fun, of course. So, here are a handful of comparisons I came up with (see if you can guess a few). It’s less about these specific players than the overall concept. Make sure you’re not just sticking with the big names. When it comes to fantasy, you’ve got to think of these players as a set of numbers.

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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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Jeremy Lamb was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets. A few days before the start of the regular season, Lamb was traded in a package for James Harden to Oklahoma City. Sacrificial Lamb? In three years with the Thunder, Lamb never averaged more than 19 minutes per game and was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in 2015. The first two years in Charlotte didn’t seem much different, as he averaged 18 minutes per game in each season. Then, in 2017 Lamb received close to 25 minutes per game and averaged over double-digits for the first time in his career, but during the 2017 NBA draft, the Hornets selected Malik Monk with the 11th overall pick. Sacrificial Lamb? Signs were pointing to Monk taking the starting shooting guard duties away from Lamb, as he seemed to have a higher upside. Well…..

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
31 6 3 2 0 0 3/3 11/18 6/7

Lamb played a team-high 49 minutes in a double-overtime game. For the season, he’s averaging 14.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.4 threeecolas per game. He’s shooting 43% from the field and 34% from downtown. Don’t expect many assists or blocks. Just solid top 60 production. No sacrificial Lamb this time because he’s baaaaaaaaad.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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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.

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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:

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I used to play a lot of fighting video games. Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat, and the like. I think I aged out around the time they were up to Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Super Street Fighter 2 Championship of Everything Ever Edition Turbo. But I know they kept going, adding more characters, merging games. And that’s sort of what I wanted to do this week. I’ve written a decent amount about stuff like category specialists, how scarce the stats in each category are, how volume skews percentage stats, and just how detrimental the percentage and turnover performances of your players can be. Well, today, we’re going to witness a 2018 battle royale of sorts. Using Basketball Monster, I took the standard deviation value of each individual’s statistical performance in each category, and ranked them. Other sites have slightly different values due mostly to alternate assumptions and weights. There are some writers out there who have explained fantasy basketball standard deviation values in depth and in ways that are much more exciting than those in my old college statistics books. So, if you’re really curious, you can find out more with a little searching. I’ll just say that, in general, a standard deviation score of 2 means that the performance is roughly better than almost 98% of the rest of the league. A score of 3 is about where you’d expect the best performance in the league to be, as it’s usually around the 99.9th percentile. Same thing for negative values, just reversed. So, if you see a value exceeding 3, and I’ve shared some of those insane standard deviation scores from the last few decades in previous posts, it’s super-valuable (turbo edition 64?). Some categories don’t have anyone reaching 2 or -2, meaning the numbers are more bunched up together. But some have some extreme outliers. That’s what we’re looking for today.

Boban’s gotta be in there somewhere, right?

I present to you the most and least valuable individual category performances of the year (per-game through 12/4, with some small sample players removed).

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Buffalo Wild Wings has a chart for the spiciness of the sauces in their menu: smilin’, sizzlin’, and screamin’. An Indonesian restaurant I saw on the internet had a chart of spiciness on the wall: 1 pepper, 2 peppers, 3 peppers, 4 peppers, and 5 peppers. The greatest spiciness chart, though, comes from my Korean brethren:

  1. Don’t worry
  2. I’m OK
  3. So So
  4. Hot
  5. Too hot
  6. Oh my god
  7. F**k

Last night, Steph Curry was at 8.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
42 9 7 1 0 2 9/14 11/20 11/12

Played 34 minutes last night. After missing 11 games due to injury, Curry has played 34, 29, and 37 minutes in the three games since. With the nine threeecolas, that brings his total for the season to 80, which places him second in the league behind James Harden’s 83. Curry has played five fewer games!!! It’s only been 15 games, but Curry is the #2 player for fantasy om a per-game basis. The 30.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.1 steals per game are ridiculous. The 93% from the free throw line on 4.8 attempts is fantastic. The 51% from the field when he attempts 10.4 threeecola attempts a game is ludicrous. But the most laughable stat for Curry is the 5.3 threeecolas he makes per game. That’s almost more than the rebounds and assists per game. Harden is second with 4.2. Third place? Lauri Markkanen with 3.5. Way past F**k, right?

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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We are recuperating from the Thanksgiving holiday, but no rest for the weary, as preparations are beginning in earnest for Christmas. Then, it’s a quick turnaround for New Year’s followed by Groundhog Day. What? You don’t bow down to Punxsutawney Phil? You heathen. Valentine’s Day is next with Chinese New Year right after that. I married Chinese to hedge against the possibility that they rule the world in my lifetime. You don’t need to take it that far, but you may want to start celebrating that particular holiday. Just in case. St. Patrick’s Day, Good Friday, Easter, Patriot’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day….I think you get the point. The holidays keep coming and going, which is exactly what Jrue Holiday does on the basketball court, as he played 42 minutes last night.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
32 4 14 4 1 1 4/8 12/23 4/6

On the season, Holiday is averaging over 36 minutes per game. Since the holiday seasons are usually about giving, it’s only appropriate that he’s third in the NBA in assists (9 per game). The turnovers are a little high (3.7) and the free throw percentage is a little low (75%), but he’s providing 20.6 points, 1.4 threeecolas, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks, which is good for the #27 player in fantasy. This Holiday always be working and providing.

Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what else doesn’t take holidays off? The Stocktonator, which is probably why it had Holiday so high last night.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Cue the epic guitar solo! Hayward’s owners can lay their weary heads to rest. Don’t you cry no more! Last night Gordon Hayward went 4-30-9-8-2-0-2 on 8-of-16 shooting and a perfect 10-of-10 from the stripe in 30 minutes off the bench. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of the return of Hayward to his old self. It has been pretty miserable owning him this year, but this could be a turning point for him. He’s still getting his confidence/sea-legs back and was  averaging only 10.3 points coming into this one. This was on the heels of a back-to-back as well which means Brad Stevens is confident enough in Hayward’s health to give him big minutes. Many owners used a 4th/5th round pick on him, so if he can return to any semblance of the player he was in Utah, his owners will be happy.

There were seven games on the slate last night in the NBA so let’s dive on in to the Daily Notes!

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