“You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.” (Michael Phelps)

 

Trees don’t grow to the sky, but James Harden has made me rethink that statement. The last two weeks, he’s averaging 34.9 points, 5.3 3pts, 10.9 assists, and 2.0 steals, an unreal line and the number one spot in fantasy.

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A capella music is singing without instrumental accompaniment. According to choraldirectormag.com, here’s what’s needed to create an a capella group: soloist, great bass, original music, time together, and momentum. That basically describes the Houston Rockets. Let’s break it down. Mike D’Antoni doesn’t micromanage possessions like some coaches. Things flow naturally. Soloist. James Harden. Great bass, the voice that’s low and powerful. Clint Capela fills that role by battling down low and doing the dirty work on the glass. Original music. Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less” offense from the Phoenix days combined with the analytics of Daryl Morey equals “Game the Math.” Time together. Self explanatory. Momentum. The Rockets offense in a nutshell. Yesterday’s game against the Indiana Pacers was a microcosm of the synergy they’ve displayed all season enroute to an 11-3 record, with six victories in a row. Harden led the way with 26 points, five boards, 15 dimes, and two steals. Capela provided the base with 20 points, 17 boards, one dime, and one block. Eric Gordon filled his gunner role by hoisting up 11 downtowners. He finished with 21 points, one board, four dimes, two steals, and one block. If this was college, you’d think he was trying to get laid. Trevor Ariza scored 15 points, grabbed five boards, dished out a dime, and pilfered two. He’s Mr. Versatility. Can hit the high, low, and middle notes. Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker provide toughness while still being an offensive threat. It’s going to be interesting when Chris Paul returns to the fray.

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A new era has dawned in Milwaukee. The Eric Bledsoe era! Hopefully, this malcontent doesn’t foul up Giannis’ MVP caliber season. Only time will tell, but from the looks of last night, he seems to be fitting in nicely. One game is a small sample size obviously, but they topped the Spurs in San Antonio which is a good sign. Any way there was an eight game slate of games on the night so let’s jump right in to the action.

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This is a crazy time of year. Halloween just ended and now we prepare for Thanksgiving, which basically means that Christmas is almost here, which signifies the end of the year, but also means new beginnings. Whew….So much. Too much. Last night, though, everything was straightforward, as it was simply a Jrue Holiday. 34 points, five boards, and 11 dimes in 42 minutes. While the calendar year is littered with holidays (Thanks Hallmark), each one occurs once a year. That’s how we should look at Jrue’s year. We know that there will be big games littered throughout the year. Just don’t expect them to occur on a daily basis. Through 12 games, Jrue has a 19% usage rate. Anthony Davis has a 28% usage rate, while DeMarcus Cousins a 33% rate. His numbers are down across the board, except in boards. Ha! The Universe is awesome.

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Part of fantasy basketball is forming a team using the predictable stats in a way that maximizes your roto points or head-to-head category wins. Another part is getting the less predictable stats right more often than your competition, whether that means you’re benefiting from an increase in value or avoiding a decrease.

It’s early, but I thought I’d take a look at what the biggest differences are in this season’s stats versus last season’s by using the ESPN Player Rater averages (per-game).

Aaron Gordon. This season’s highest leaper.

First, a quick detour while I’m talking player rater. Here’s something it teaches us that we should keep in mind. Many people think of rankings as linear. Like, the best player is the same amount better than the 5th player as the 5th player is better than the 9th player. Not so, and we see the difference especially among the top few players when we look at their overall rating. Like with most data sets, there are outliers. That’s these fantasy stars. The top five players with their per-game ratings in each of the past two seasons:

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DEFCON is an alert state used by the United States Armed Forces. DEFCON 5 – All good. DEFCON 4 – Maybe I should put the donut down. DEFCON 3 – Oh shit, things getting serious up in here. DEFCON 2 – WTF?! DEFCON 1 – Annhilation is imminent. Entering the 2017-18 season, the Cavaliers were at DEFCON 5. They were coming off a trip to the NBA Finals. LeBron James was still on the team so a trip back seemed like a good possibility. Then, Kyrie Irving was traded to the Celtics in August. DEFCON 4. A move that made donut stuffers think about calories and carbs, but nothing to bring a person to actually throw one into the trash. Through the first seven games to open the season, the Cavs went 3-4. LeBron was putting up 24/7/8/1/1 and shooting 58% from the field in 37 minutes per game. Ru roh. DEFCON 3. Shit was getting serious. Like William Wallace, LeBron stepped up and led his troops into battle. He upped his minutes per to 40 and averaged a ridonkulous 39 points, seven boards, 10 dimes, one and a half blocks, and two steals in the first three games of November. Record? 1-2. WTF?! The Cavs were on the verge of DEFCON 1, but then….Kevin Love found a way. 32 points, 16 boards, three dimes, two steals, and one block in 35 minutes. He shot 9-of-14 from the field and 14-of-16 from the charity stripe. With how terrible the Cavs defense is, Love is going to be needed to step up and help carry the load with LeBron. Can he hold up, though? He missed 22 games due to injury last season. As we all know, Love often leads to heartache.

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I love music. Fortunately, my young daughter does, too. We started her early on all sorts of stuff, but she eventually started requesting almost exclusively “girl songs.” So, I started combing through my CDs and mp3s for our daily drive to school, finding a decent amount of great female singers, mainly from the 90s. She really took to some (Gwen Stefani, Shania Twain), but not as much to others that I’d hoped she would (The Cranberries, Veruca Salt). We added in some more current stuff that she loves (Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor), and we have a great time. Now, I know there’s a good chance this isn’t resonating with you as much as it would if I said I’d kept trying to slip in more funk (she likes “Car Wash” and “Jungle Boogie”, at least), rock (Down on the Corner is popular with her, but there are only a few songs by Disturbed that are appropriate for four year-olds!), and rap (“Tricky” was a favorite for a while, fortunately), but stick with me, please. Because, I found something very enlightening when I introduced the very, very 90s classic, “Stay”, by Lisa Loeb. Was it that we only hear what we want to? That we won’t live forever? No, it’s this powerful line:

“You said you caught me ’cause you want me, and one day you’ll let me go. You try to give away a keeper, or keep me ’cause you know you’re just so scared to lose.”

It’s like a record scratch every time I hear that line. YOU TRY TO GIVE AWAY A KEEPER??? She was brilliantly pointing out that YOU DON’T JUST GIVE AWAY A KEEPER! But at the same time, you don’t keep a player only because you’re scared to lose! Such wisdom. For decades, I swear I didn’t know that lovely song was about fantasy basketball keeper leagues.

Lisa Loeb. Fantasy Oracle.

While we’re still quite a few games away from a large enough sample of current season stats to really trust them, let’s talk keeper/dynasty strategy (dynasty being a league in which you keep a large amount of your team for next season). I thought I’d share some tips and have some fun looking back at what we thought of past rookies so that we don’t get overly excited about these 19 year-olds that we’re currently trusting to save our teams.

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Image result for arvydas sabonis domantas sabonis

Domantas Sabonis had a tough rookie season. He averaged 5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1 assist, 0.5 steals, and 0.4 blocks in 20.1 minutes per game. The NBA was a lot different than playing the Santa Claras and Pepperdines night in and night out. He needed a break, so he called up pops after the season ended. “Tetis, let’s take a trip somewhere this summer. You good for Fourth of July weekend?” Arvydas replied, “Taip, good idea. It’s been a long time since we went to Gotland. I’ll make the arrangements.” After spending five days lounging at the beach and drinking quarts of beer, Arvydas decided that he wanted to check out some of the old castles littered around the country. “Domantas, you want to join me?” “No thanks,” was the reply. “I just want to relax on the beach.” So off Arvydas went to visit Lojsta Castle, where he wandered aimlessly until he saw a tent with a woman sitting inside. “Come in, come in” she said. Intrigued, Arvydas sat down and marveled at how the tent was able to accomodate his massive frame. “What would you give to be able to play in the NBA again?” she asked. As a man that never got flustered, Arvydas looked her straight in the eyes and replied, “My soul.” On July 6, 2017, Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo were traded to Indiana for Paul George. Is it a coincidence that Bill Walton once said that “he had the skills of Larry Bird?” I think not. Last night, Arvydas…I mean Domantas scored 12 points, grabbed 16 boards, and dished out five dimes in 25 minutes. If the game wasn’t such a blowout, he would’ve put up more numbers. Sabonis has grabbed at least 10 boards in each of the past five games and scored in double-digits in four. He’s also had two games with at least five assists. Remember that stat line from his rookie year? Well, so far, granted in a super small sample size of six games, he’s averaging 13 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 25.8 minutes. Arvydas lives! Now, Myles Turner should be returning soon so Sabonis should cede minutes. But, but, but….he’s likely sewed up the backup center spot and could play alongside Myles at times to give the Pacers an interesting frontcourt combo. What if Arvydas and Domantas really did switch bodies?

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Everyone has their favorite game when they were a child. You know, back in the good old days when we didn’t have iPads or on-demand. I had a palm-pilot once, but not until I was in 8th grade. We used to go outside and play ball or play those random games that ended in you ripping your school pants and getting yelled at by Mom. We used to play capture the flag, red light-green light, red-rover. I always liked hide and seek. High pressure to find a safe and secure hiding spot in under a minute. Usually having home-field advantage was essential, because no one knows your laundry room better than you. That shady closet in your basement that leads to nowhere? Ya, you’re the only one brave enough to step foot. There was no better feeling than hearing your friends give up on finding you and then deciding whether to give up your place or wait for them to leave, so you can use it again down the road. This may not bring back memories for all of you, but I’m getting goosebumps just wishing I was 7 years old again. 

 

There’s a player hiding on your waiver wire that not only will make you feel old but will also likely get hurt jumping off the monkey bars. Tyreke Evans and his brittle bones is once again fantasy relevant. Some people may even wonder where Evans now plays. Is he back in Sacramento, is he supporting the Boogie & Brow in New Orleans? Boogie & Brow… my next restaurant idea name. Constant blues music and southern comfort food, but the catch is, only people with unibrows are allowed to enter.

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What’s up Razzballers? I have the pleasure of taking over the Saturday Daily Notes going forward. A little about myself: I’m 22, I’m Canadian, I like long walks on the beach, I cannot feel pain, and I’ve defeated a man of every race in formal combat. A medical doctor and two priests have written and signed a document confirming that I have no soul. But you didn’t come here to read about me, you came to read about sports! So let’s get into it. Here’s what I saw yesterday in fantasy basketball:

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