During draft season, I joked with the other Razz writers that, according to my extremely unscientific research, 100% of LA guys were in on LaMelo Ball. The echo chamber and hype bubble were too well-constructed for this not to be the case (also I didn’t really do much research and threw out evidence that didn’t support my theory. I’m Mister Hooper, not Doctor.) LaVar’s greatest creation was not the trio of ballers he sired (or those ugly shoes), but the machine he constructed to discuss them ad infinitum. Put off the Ball family brashness, I was lukewarm on LaMelo when drafting and missed out on an extremely fun and productive rookie year. The hype will be hot again next season, I assume, especially if the Hornets show some fight against one of the beasts of the East, so I’ll probably miss him next year too. But perhaps there’s a backdoor to one of these Balls. While little bro is taking up all the shine, Lonzo Ball has taken another step forward, especially as a shot maker. The vision and passing has always been legit (even my hater-ass was quick to concede that after watching him at Summer League) but the stroke has been sanded down and his 3-point percentage now creeps towards 40%. Still shy of 24-years-old, he’s putting it together.

Last night, playing in the aptly named Ball Arena in Denver, Lonzo consistently got where he wanted to go on the floor and then dimed up his teammates once he cracked the Denver defense open. The highlight package below isn’t spectacular, but if you want to watch a dude move to the exact spots  where he’s most dangerous, then I have the clip for you.

Lonzo Ball

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
16 12 12 4 2 4 6/14 0/0 4

It was another busy Wednesday in professional hoops. Here’s what else stood out:

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Pat Connaughton benefited from the absence of Donte DiVincenzo, playing 26 minutes off the bench. He hit four of his 11 threes to score 14 points, while also hauling in eight rebounds. It was Connaughton’s third straight double-digit scoring game, and he’s dropped in 11 threes in that stretch. However, he’s as streaky as they come as he finished with single-digit point totals and only three triples over his previous seven outings. If you’re desperate for threes you can stream him and hope he gets hot from deep, and he provides solid rebounding for his position as well (five percent owned in Yahoo!).

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Coming out of the RazzJam I was heavily leveraged with Hawks. It wasn’t exactly intentional–how far can one deviate from an idea that never was?–but it wasn’t a mistake either. The headline in Atlanta coming into 2020-21 read: We want to score so much that it’s crowded now! And after six games, yes, the buckets are indeed plentiful. Atlanta is currently home to the second-most efficient offense in basketball, scoring 114.9 points per 100 possessions. For reference, 113.7 was last year’s league-leading mark set by the Mavs. This year’s Bucks, Madone, are scoring 117.9 per 100 possessions!

So the Hawks score and I drafted a lot of them. Picking up Trae Young and John Collins in the first three rounds set off the trap of me having to watch a ton of Hawks games this season. Committing to the bit, I also added shares of Danilo Gallinari, Onyeka Okongwu, and Kris Dunn over the course of the 25-round marathon. I had been eying box scores over the first three games of the season before lowering myself into a vat of Hawks games this last week, consuming every second of the double-dip with the Nets and single shot of the Cavaliers. I woke up on Sunday with lightly ruffled feathers.

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The Memphis Grizzlies are young and on the upswing.  Last year they surprised all when they missed the 8th seed by just one win.  With a complete 15 man roster and an intact, custom-built young core, the Memphis Grizzlies are Grit-N-Grind 2.0 and rearing to go.

The Big 3 of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke bring above-the-rim intensity and classic Memphis two-way play back to the culture of the young Grizzlies.  These young cubs are hungry, motivated, and complement each other.  Rugged, yet up-tempo, I project this team to improve from the 34 wins last year to 40-42 this season. 

Expect increased roles for Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton, and the new incoming draftees. With all the young Memphis core under contract, and no significant contributer allowed to walk, and, this team will have continuity going forward.

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There was a time when Channing Tatum was an international sensation, as he starred in blockbusters such as Step Up, G. I. Joe, 21 Jump Street, White House Down, and the Lego Movie. Ok, maybe some hyperbole but 43 movies are 43 movies. Don’t forget about the TV shows, video games, music videos, Saturday Night Live, and MTV Awards. Times started getting lean around 2014, though. The Google queries declined. The downloading of pics ceased. But then his phone began beeping incessantly in 2017, as he set up notifications whenever anyone Googled his name. He was back! Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what never leaves? The Stocktonator. Life was good again. Unfortunately, the queries all consisted of, “Is Jayson Tatum related to Channing Tatum?” Whatever, he took whatever he could get. Jayson Tatum was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He was a sensation his rookie year, to the point where some were saying that they wouldn’t trade him for Anthony Davis. Crazy. Anyways, the sophomore slump came and so did Channing’s pain, as his phone stopped buzzing. But here we are in 2019, as Channing’s phone has been off the hook, as his brother-from-another- mother has been balling out this season. Last night, he…..

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
19 11 2 2 2 4 4/6 7/14 1/2

His rookie year, Tatum ended as the 63rd player for fantasy. The following year, he finished as the 59th player. So far this season, he’s the 33rd player. Over the past six games, Tatum has been a top 10 player!!! The points, tres, boards, dimes, and steals have all increased. The shooting efficiency has declined, which sucks because the volume has increased, but that’s been the only blemish. The usage rate is 28 on the season, but it’s ticked up to over 32 at times. People are going to be Googling Tatum’s name for a long, long time. That makes Channing very happy.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, all hands are on deck for Christmas. The neighbors adorn the houses with electric bling, the empty lots are filled with trees standing in Terracotta formation, and we all become tolerant of elevator music. It’s a happy time indeed. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know how you can always be happy? By using the Stocktonator. In fact, one could say that it’s a jubilant time with voices singing Jingle Bells and hands literally jingling bells. Guess who was jubilant and jingled something last night in the NBA?

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
31 4 2 1 2 2 2/8 10/19 9/9

Jaren Jackson Jr. was unbelievable. The 31 points were a season-high and he jingled the stat box to make sure there was a little something something in each box. He was in foul trouble….again….What else is new? But at least he was able to navigate around it. Now, before you take off your clothes and run around jingling your parts, know that Jonas Valanciunas and Brandon Clarke were both unable to play. Coach Jenkins had no choice but to leave him out there. With that said, this is the ceiling that JJJ can access. He’s young, but it’s only a matter of time before he contributes these kind of lines on a consistent basis. Don’t expect that to happen this season, so expect the inconsistencies, but mental masturbate over what the future entails.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The 2019-20 Grizzlies are going to be a lot of fun to watch. Ja Morant is going to be dunking on fools and buzzing screaming lefty passes by defenders’ ears. Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to keep bombing from deep and blocking everything in sight at the rim. Brandon Clarke is the perfect pick and roll lob partner for Morant, as he’ll have plenty of opportunities to sky above ten feet and throw down feathery Morant passes. Kyle Anderson is going to keep cheekily breaking down defenses with his awkward, dawdling euro-step game and random bursts of quickness. The Grizzlies are also going to be bad this season, but that’s okay. A great League Pass team doesn’t always rack up the W’s, take last year’s Sacramento Kings for example. The Kings were a fast-paced ball of fun even though they ultimately wound up missing out on the playoffs—expect the same from this year’s Grizz.

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Losing one of the best players in the NBA hurts, especially when he was considered the face of the franchise. Anthony Davis will surely be missed, as will Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton. Three of their five starters are now wearing new jerseys, Davis in LA and Randle and Payton in New York. After a massive trade with Los Angeles, the future in New Orleans is bright, but enough with the old, time for a new era of New Orleans basketball. This team is infused with youth, and it will more likely than not lead to some excellent fantasy production.

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The Hawks won 29 games last year, but were a much tougher opponent in the second half. 29-53 is 12 games under .500, but the Hawks were only three games under .500 over the last 41. That was due to the young’uns getting better as the season progressed. The Hawks brain trust is optimistic the growth spurt continues, as they have added even more youth to the mix.

De’Andre Hunter’s Final Four heroics moved him up the draft board, and the Hawks paid a ransom to acquire him, but leadership has earned the benefit of the doubt. Their picks, combined with the teaching style of coach Lloyd Pierce and his staff, have drawn visible dividends, but will the expected leaps turn into hops? Not paying Dewayne Dedmon, when they could afford to, may hurt more than they realize.

Most projections have the Hawks winning 30-ish games. That may be conservative, but I expect a minor flirtation with .500 and another round of ping pong balls, as youth continues to mature.

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Cedi Osman was selected with the 31st overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves back in 2015. His draft rights were immediately traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Osman was stashed away in Europe for two years. When he finally made it over to the States, the playing time was inconsistent but he did show that he could play in the league and had two games in which he logged 39 minutes. Osman showed the ability to contribute across the board, so it wasn’t a surprise when he performed well to begin this season: 32.4 minutes, 13.1 points, 5.3 boards, 3.6 dimes, and 1 steal were his averages in the month of October. While he shot 42% from downtown on 4.7 attempts, the overall field goal percentage was only 38%, something that would plague him as the season progressed. In addition, the peripheral stats all decreased, which resulted in many jumping off the Osman ship. But then something happened. Maybe something clicked, as he’s still only 23 years old and this is only his second season in the NBA. Or maybe it’s small sample size, but whatever the case may be, last night Cedi was freaking Osman!

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
26 5 7 2 1 3 4/8 10/16 2/8

Well, everything but the free throw shooting, but he was instrumental in leading the Cavs to a 116-113 victory over the Wizards. For much of the season, Osman had been a top 200 player for fantasy, but over the three games prior to last night, he’d been top 30, averaging 37.1 minutes, 23.7 points, 3.7 threeecolas, 6.7 boards, 2.7 dimes, and 1.3 steals. He’d been shooting 52% from the field and had a usage rate of 23. Now, the efficiency will likely come down, but there’s also a chance that he’s more comfortable and has improved. Regardless, the Cavs straight stink so Osman is going to get tons of run. Cedi has been Osman. Hopefully, he continues to be.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Look ahead—Trade Deadline Edition

Now we are just past the halfway mark of the season and into the annual fun that masquerades as the trade deadline.

Teams are either hoping to find the one additional piece to move them into championship contention, ensure that playoff slot which has eluded the home fans for several seasons, or offload some contracts to save a few bucks and better the future.

The interesting thing is figuring out who the sellers and buyers are. More intriguing for us fantasy hoop heads is how it affects/changes/improves/negates the numbers of current players and what kind of new opportunities can now be found for players in new situations.

We will take a look at the Eastern Conference first – identify some trade targets and discuss what that might mean.  Then we will do the same with the West.

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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:

Please, blog, may I have some more?