I love cars and have fixed up a few rice burners in my day. So, when I used to have cable and spent time channel surfing, I’d stop on a NASCAR race and indulge from time to time. Not my thing. Round and round and round and round they go. Look at the clock. Three more hours to go. The most interesting times would be when the pace car would come out. Without fail, I’d get up and sit on the edge of my seat and pray that whoever was driving would just punch it and channel their inner Fast & Furious. It’s going to happen one of these days. That’s how I feel about this Pacers team. The team has been one of the slowest paced teams in the league. Not since 1985 has the team played at a +100 possessions per game pace. Last season, they finished 23rd. I need someone to press the NOS button and let his baby go! Then we could all scream Oladipo Ho! and Myles wouldn’t have to walk 500 miles. I know what you’re thinking: This site is free?

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Every fantasy basketball season there are players who come out of nowhere and decide fantasy championships. Donovan Mitchell and Tyreke Evans were those guys last year. Both were overlooked for two totally different reasons, as Mitchell was a rookie and Evans had struggled with injuries over his brief career. But both got an opportunity due to injuries on their respective teams and proceeded to go nuts. So let’s take a look at five guys who are available late in drafts and have the talent to be fantasy basketball difference makers:

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October is upon us and that is a wonderful thing. The leaves turn beauteous colors while the weather provides crisp breezes. Both adults and kids get to dress up. Kids to beg for huge bags of candy. Adults to fantasize and act silly. There is even a holiday when some folks get to stay home from work to celebrate the “discovery” of America by Christopher Columbus! But the real greatness of October lies in the fact that it is the month where our sports converge together like women for the 70% off sale at Nordstroms. College football, which if you haven’t heard, is its own religion in the South, and the NFL are into their second month. The guys in the US and Canada start wielding sticks and slapping pucks around, as the NHL season begins. Our national pastime breaks into its glorious playoff season. But for fantasy hoopheads, the most important thing that happens is the NBA season kicks off in earnest.

It is almost here. We have just a few days until October 16, and there are mock drafts, real drafts, online drafts, auction drafts, snake drafts, and dynasty drafts scheduled over the next two weeks in every hamlet in this fair country.

On September 28th, we saw Gordon Hayward in the Boston Green to kick off the preseason. Each team will play five games that don’t count in preparation for those that do. What then to watch for to help you  hoodwink all your buddies and have the best draft imaginable?

I will look Division by Division to give you some keys to watch that might provide some guidance.

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Fantasy basketball can be very different from other fantasy sports, in that there is not one proven draft strategy. The “Running Back-Running Back” fantasy football strategy is timeless, along with the standard mantra of “Wait on Tight End, Kicker, and Defense,” to which “Wait on Quarterback” is being added more frequently. In fantasy basketball, the position is not as important as the player.

The best players in basketball play all different positions, so targeting specific positions early in drafts is not a reliable strategy. Some people plan to “punt” categories, which means they intentionally draft players who do not excel in a certain category (free-throw percentage is a popular one), but that is a strategy that presents itself out of desperation as the draft progresses. The lack of a specific, proven strategy is why you will hear a lot of experts tell you that the best fantasy basketball draft strategy is no strategy. But I disagree.

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After a long hiatus, the preseason is finally upon us. Now come the discussion, speculation and, most importantly, the projections. Our very own SON has released his Top 100 H2H Rankings with more on the way. I am preparing the Top 155 Roto Projections just like last year, which should be ready to go by next week. In order to conquer the fantasy basketball maze, we must continue to learn, especially from our mistakes. That will be the focus of this article, as I highlight the players that greatly under or overperformed their preseason projections and focus on which statistical category had the most impact.

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Can’t believe it, but another fantasy season is in the books. I hope you enjoyed it and can celebrate some success. I’ll keep the talk short this week and get to the players we have to thank for our wins and those we have to blame for our losses. Obviously, players have hot streaks, so some of the most valuable players were valuable for, like, a month or maybe half a season. However, I’m going to compare season-long results to average draft position and highlight a few players that performed dramatically differently than expected.

I thought about using total season stats, but the differences there often are so heavily influenced by injuries that I don’t think it’s a good way to judge how well a player played. So, I’ll just be looking at per-game stats for 8-cat and 9-cat. Players that exceeded their draft position the most (“most” being subjective, since someone that was drafted 10th and finished 3rd could be considered more or less of a value than someone that was drafted 120th and finished 60th, for example). Then, those that finished most below their ADP. You get it. Sort of a breakouts and busts with 20/20 hindsight. I used the Yahoo ADPs (should be a mix of 8 and 9-cat leagues) and the Basketball Monster Player Rankings.

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I’m going to take a break from numbers this week. A break from Trey Burke, Quinn Cook, and Denzel Valentine impacting fantasy playoff teams infinitely more than Steph Curry, Demarcus Cousins, and Kawhi Leonard. A break from dealing with players on tanking teams sitting indefinitely every time someone steps on their toe, or from players on playoff teams resting without notice. Heck, a break from the NCAA tournament that only has one projected lottery pick left to watch.

This is probably going to most interest dynasty and keeper league players, but those already itching to rank and project players for next season will find this intriguing, too. Today, I’m going to look at who this summer’s free agents are. That period from the draft (draft lottery only 47 days away!) through the first week of free agency is probably my favorite on the NBA calendar, since about a third of the league seems to change teams. So many new dynamics to consider for so many teams. The impact on fantasy is huge, too. I’m definitely no insider with information to help predict who’s going where, but I do find it helpful to know whose value is likely to remain the same and whose has a wide range of outcomes. The latter are often good targets if you need to get risky to improve your keeper/dynasty team over the summer. Do you have a Terry Rozier type that would gain a ton of value if he moved on to a starting role? Is he free to do so? Also, remember to think of which teammates might be affected by these players should they change teams. For example, are the players blocking Mario Hezojna’s path to more minutes likely to get out of his way? Then again, might LeBron, PG13, and CP3 all be coming to your player’s team to squash his usage? Here are the most fantasy relevant free agents. Wow, this summer could be a big one.

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The Marvel Universe has been on quite a heater lately, culminating in the recently released Black Panther movie. With that said, an underappreciated and rarely talked about character is The Juggernaut. Possesses superhuman strength and durability, is virtually unstoppable once in motion, and immune to mental attacks when donning a helmet. He’s fought and taken on all comers. Sounds alot like LeBron James aka LeJuggernaut. Possesses superhuman strength? Check. Is durable? Has played 1130 career games and missed 111, with many of those due to “rest.” As this fivethirtyeight.com article stated, LeBron has “never missed a playoff game” even though he has the “sixth-most regular season minutes of all time.” He’s in the top 3 all time of games played per season as a percentage of the player’s teams’ total regular-season and playoff games. Among active players, “no one has gone to the free-throw line more than James.” I think that’s a resounding Check. Is unstoppable once in motion? Check. Immune to mental attacks? He had his moments early in his career when it seemed like LeBron was mentally fragile, but as time has gone on, he’s shown to be impervious to distractions both on and off the court. Check. Last night, LeJuggernaut messed around by rampaging through the Milwaukee Bucks.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 40 12 10 2 1 6 3/7 16/29 5/8

There are 12 games left in the regular season and the Cavs are currently the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. IND, WAS, and PHI are only one game back in the loss column. It’s winning time and LeJuggernaut has been unleashed for the stretch run. If you don’t believe me, take a look below:

PTS REB AST BLK STL
OCT 24.6 7.1 8.6 1.1 1.0
NOV 29.6 8.7 8.5 1.2 1.5
DEC 27.5 8.2 10.3 0.8 1.9
JAN 23.5 7.3 7.4 1.1 1.8
FEB 27 10.5 10.5 0.4 1.7
MAR 30 10.3 9.1 1.2 1.6

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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There are two points of a fantasy basketball season where seasons can be won and lost: the first is at the draft and the second is when there are about twenty games left in the season. The draft is obvious. That is when you set the foundation of your team. The second point is a little more subtle.

For those owners in head-to-head leagues, this second point is important because you are setting your team up (hopefully) for the playoffs. You want players who have a lot of games and are on teams who will not be resting them during the critical time. The subtle part is directed more at owners in roto leagues. There are still enough games left to make moves in categories you can climb in or maintain your lead in categories you are ahead in.

The waiver wire is your tool to win the league at this point. Young players are finally putting it together and playing well and injuries are opening up time for bench guys who have played well when given minutes. The Golden State Warriors, and their massive amount of injuries to star players, is a team to focus on in order to find one or two players who can help you with that late season charge.

Quinn Cook is the player I want to focus on in this recap, and if you need threes, points, assists, steals, I will pause for a moment so you can go and pick him up. While we are waiting for those owners to get back can we just talk about how dumb they are for not picking up Cook yet and having him active for this game against the lowly Suns? Wait, wait, quiet, they’re coming back…

Welcome back, we were just waiting quietly for you. I hope you were able to add him. Cook is a 2-way player, no, that is not sexual. It means that he is one of two players each team can send back and forth to the G-League during the season. Cook has dominated G-League play for most of the year and now, because of injuries to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant, Cook is getting 40 minutes per game and putting up more than decent fantasy point guard stats. Last night Quinn Cook went for: 5/28/4/4/2/0 with only 2 turnovers in 40 minutes. This was on 11-17 shooting, including 5-7 from three. Pick him up.

Here is what else I saw on a busy St. Patrick’s Day:

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