Those of you who have been with me for the last four years know of my love for Nikola Jokic. I was rooting for him from the moment he entered the league because I had been watching him from his days playing for Mega Basket in the Adriatic League and his steady rise to superstardom has been a pleasure to behold. Centers were pretty dominant earlier in basketball but the super teams during the last decade in Miami (Lebron, Wade, Bosh) and Golden State pushed the sport toward small-ball lineups, evident by the fact that Shaq was the last center to win the MVP award in 2000. Jokic looks like the only center from his generation that can be as effective in his team’s play and a candidate to win that award again for centers. But I’m personally in love with his passing and court awareness.

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I told you that we won’t stop. We keep going, and going, and going like the Energizer bunny. Here is the next iteration of projections/rankings. If you missed previous editions, here you go:

Top 10
Top 25
Top 50

Before I begin…

THESE RANKINGS MUST BE UTILIZED IN THE CONTEXT OF YOUR LEAGUE SETTINGS, TEAM ROSTER CONSTRUCTION, AVERAGE DRAFT POSITION, AND PERSONAL PHILOSOPHIES.

I shouldn’t even name them rankings, as they are simply projections, but the people want rankings so here they are. As for my process, I went to each team and tried to figure out their rotations with minutes distributions as best I could. Then I went to each player and projected the per minute stats for each player. So, yes, there is subjectivity in the process. I’m also still refining my process and trying to get better with each iteration. With all the players in the overall pool, I then took the z-score for each category and added up those numbers to produce an overall value number. For free throw and field goal percentage, I weighted them for volume.

So, where a player lands in the rankings doesn’t mean that I would draft said player there. It simply gives a macro view of a player’s overall value.

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After news came out that Kyrie Irving had completely shut himself out to teammates and coaches during one of his infamous mood swings on the team’s trip to China, it was worth questioning whether or not this experiment would work out. He clearly had chemistry issues towards the end of his run in Cleveland and in his brief stop in Beantown.

After the point guard’s effort against the powerhouse Houston Rockets, though, it’s tough to deny that he does a tremendous job of leading the team once he’s on the court. Maybe it makes sense that Kevin Durant, when asked if he’d try to intervene during these mood swings, said he’d rather just let him be and watch him do his thing. Though the Nets suffered some heartbreaking losses early on, as Kyrie stole the stat-sheet show, he played a much more mature game this time around and led a nice team win.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT  FG   FT  
22 4 10 0 1 6 5-8 7-18 3-4

His numbers took a slight hit, but as the current No. 1 player in fantasy, this line isn’t a disappointing one. Unlike the other games, Kyrie had some help along the way.

Here are some of the other significant performances from around the rest of the NBA last night:

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After an animal or person dies, the joints of the body stiffen. Did you know that death is the number one killer in this country? If you know what movie that’s from, then we are kindred spirits. Anyways, this stiffened state of the body is called rigor mortis, and lasts around three days. Last night, the Chicago Bulls were dealt a fatality by the New York Knicks, 105-98. A big reason why was due to the play of Bobby Portis, who put up a line of:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
28 11 2 0 2 0 4/4 10/14 4/5

Portis did this in 30 minutes off the bench and is responsible for the Bulls experiencing Rigor Portis. Good thing the effects last only three days because they play the Cavs in two days (a game they should win while deceased) and then the following game isn’t until Friday. Now, we often hear about the revenge narrative in sports. It’s mainly cockamamie, but if there’s one sport where it could be feasible, it’s basketball. Portis was drafted by the Bulls with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. After four years with the team, he was traded to the Washington Wizards, then signed with the Knicks over the summer. So…..REVENGE! Ha! I kid, I kid. From a fantasy perspective, Portis can provide points, boards, and tres, but the minutes and production will be inconsistent.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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There have been 59 players in the history of the NBA who have scored 50 points in a game more than once. Laughably, Wilt Chamberlain produced a 50-burger 118 times. For perspective, Michael Jordan is second on the all-time list, and he was “only” able to do it 31 times. Only nine players have accomplished the feat at least 10 times. What I’m trying to say is that scoring fifty points in a game is freaking hard and few are able to do it. You know who knew, though? The Stocktonator, as it had Kyrie as the #3 player last night. Entering last night’s game, Kyrie Irving had accomplished the feat two times.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
50 8 7 0 1 0 7/14 17/33 9/10

Make that three now. When a player drops a 50-burger, the world is truly his. Look, it’s an auto intro in my daily recaps. Now, since the world is Kyrie’s, if he says the world is flat, then the world is flat. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the 50-burger was dropped on the corner of FLATbush Avenue and Atlantic Ave inside the Barclays Center? Me thinks not. But then I remembered something about history, in that it is written by the victors. Despite Kyrie’s heroics, the Nets fell to the Timberwolves in OT, 127-126. You round Earthers live to fight another day.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I’m fascinated by the 2019-20 Pacers. They lost their two best wing-defenders (Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic), two veteran point guards (Darren Collison and Corey Joseph), and two other wing scorers (Tyreke Evans and Wesley Mathews), and Zach Lowe thinks they’re in trouble. He’s probably right, but I don’t care. I’m in on these new-look Pacers. As long as they don’t wear those hideous Hickory jerseys too often, they should be a lot more fun to watch this season. I like that they, and other teams are getting weird and starting two big men. I like that they seem to be counting on TJ Warren as an integral piece after the Suns gave him away for nothing. Victor Oladipo will eventually return. This team has three TJ’s, two Holiday’s, and the almighty Dougie McBuckets. Myles Turner is ascending and yet he or Sabonis could get traded? Maybe the on-court product turns out to be less thrilling than I expect and this team falls flat on its face. Either way, the the storylines are here.

My best guess at a starting lineup sans Oladipo: Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, TJ Warren, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner.

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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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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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If you remember Young Joc, you lived through the downfall of hip-hop. OK, no one can really pinpoint when Rap music really started to go downhill, but there was a time when Young Joc captivated the minds and ears of 13-year-old children everywhere. Similarly, last night Jamal Murray captivated the minds of NBA fans by going 9-46-6-8-0-1-5 on 16-of-24 shooting and 5-of-6 FTs. It’s been a bit of a down year for Jamal, but he had 31 on Friday and 77 points in two games is going to help your team a lot, especially with 13 three-pointers. He’s been kind of a disappointment on the year, but could end up having a solid season.

Here’s what else went down in the NBA last night:

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Oh Washington. Like the great Linkin Park song, you tried so hard and got so far (not that far), but in the end it doesn’t even matter.  The John Wall/Bradley Beal combo looks so good on paper, but they never really got the complementary pieces to make it work. Ownership tried to cobble together something resembling a good team, but they could only get second rate players, afterthoughts, and Dwight Howard. I feel for teams like them. You know they’re not going to win a championship, but they’re still pretty good. The timing was all wrong. A bunch of players who were great at certain times in their lives, just couldn’t all be great at once. Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, John Wall was out for the Wizards and Bradley Beal went 4-40-11-15-0-1-8 on 17-of-33 shooting and 2-of-2 FTs in a mind-boggling 54 minutes of triple-overtime glory. He could be headed to the Lakers or elsewhere, and no one on Washington is really safe from being traded, so for now, Wizards fans are just going to have to enjoy what they have. Pretty much what they’ve been doing for their team’s entire existence… Hopefully, you had some players on the Suns or the Wizards.

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