In 2016, Daryl Morey hired Mike D’Antoni as head coach. It was a match made in heaven, as Morey believed that three-pointers, layups, and free throws were the most efficient shots to take. D’Antoni? Did someone say three-pointers? Three-coooooola. The Rockets improved from 41-41 in 2015 to 55-27 with D’Antonio at the helm. They blitzed the league with 115.3 points per game, just 0.6 fewer than the vaunted Golden State Warriors. They hoisted up an absurd 40.3 three-pointers a game and made a league-high 14.4. Then the playoffs happened. After disposing of the Oklahoma City Thunder, D’Antoni and Morey were bested by Greg Popovich. Pop did not figure out the magic formula to shut down the Rockets O. What he did do was disrupt the rhythm and force the Rockets to do what they were most uncomfortable doing: shoot the midrange. Pop would use Kawhi Leonard to chase James Harden all over the court and plant Pau Gasol in the middle of the lane. The other three players would be paparrazi and follow their subjects wherever they went. As a result, three-pointers, layups, and free throws were defended. Everything in the midrange was conceded. Result? Spurs 4. Rockets 2. There was only one option to pursue. Better Call Paul, as in

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Off the court, Russell Westbrook is a goofy, fun-loving guy. He jokes around and dons himself with whimsical articles of clothing. Get him to the arena, though, and he transforms into a raging, psychopathic maniac. He dunks like Thor whomping his hammer downwards. The millions of people affected by Colonialism and Imperialism have a voice when he Euro-steps. Barreling down the court on a fast break, there is no game of chicken. Only mincemeat. So, it’s no surprise that he messed around last night.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 34 13 14 1 1 7 2/9 12/25 8/9

I agree that the triple-dub is an overrated stat, but it is what it is. After last night’s performance, Russ now has 86 for his career. 1 more gets him to 87. 187. Damn, the Universe is too good. Anyways, Russ got off to a slow start this season, as he kind of did the Kobe. You know? Where he chills out the first couple of quarters and tries to let his teammates do their thing. With the Thunder 11-12 on the season, Russ has hit the switch to make the ass drop and will be freakin brothers everyway like MJ. Every day will be a good day the rest of the way. At least for fantasy owners.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I try not to use the same player twice as the lede for this post. You’d think with over 300 players in the NBA, that wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, teams do not play every day and most of the players are not worthy. Sure, I could write up Nik Stauskas and how he didn’t score, rebound, assist, steal, or block in eight minutes of run. I could go into detail how he turned the ball over twice and picked up a personal foul, but even Momma Stauskas would be like, “I had to pause the curling match for this crap?” So, as much as I try not to use the same player for the lede, sometimes a performance is just too good. Last Wednesday, Devin Booker was The Razzballer after he dropped 33 points on the hapless Bulls. That was nothing compared to what he did to the Philadelphia 76ers:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 46 8 1 2 1 3 5/8 17/32 7/8

Booker started the game shooting 1-for-8. So, according to my handy dandy desktop abacus, he shot .666 the rest of the way. Ahhhh, the Devil lives!

The Wells Fargo Center used to be located at 3601 Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19148. You can now just input 46 Booker St, Philadelphia, PA 00100 into your GPS from now on.

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Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I’m only falling apart
And there’s nothing I can do
A Joel eclipse of the heart
Good morning/afternoon/night sports fans. Welcome back to another special edition of the Saturday Daily Notes presented by Razzball. We had a bit of a rivalry game (I guess?) between the Pistons and the 76ers last night, with Andre Drummond and Joel Embiid jawing at each other over social media then battling it out on the court. Drummond had a great game going for 14/11/6/5/1 on 4-for-8 FG and 6-for-8 FT and only one turnover, but Embiid had 25/10/0/1 with six turnovers on 7-for-21 FG and 11-for-12 FT along with the all-important win. It was a battle between two of the game’s best centers and hopefully a matchup we’ll be seeing many times going forward. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

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For the first few weeks of the season, I try not to focus on the standings. I look, of course, but I do so knowing that there have been outlier games, whose impacts are more pronounced due to the small sample size. Also, most teams have a player or two that’s missed the majority of the games and they might also have been starting a replacement player that’s not going to keep it up much longer. However, we’re now about a quarter of the way through the NBA season. The data is relatively predictable. You should know which categories you need to focus on in order to gain points and which ones to ignore, either because you’re stuck at the bottom or entrenched at the top of a category (or if you always win or lose the category by a ton in head-to-head).

Today, we’ll look at the ESPN Player Rater. Tony RP’s Player Rater updates will give you a picture of who’s most valuable by position. I thought I’d go by category to see who’s doing what for us. Here are the top 20 players by category plus the bottom 20 for relevant ones, skipping players that have hardly played. So, it’s just the per-game stat leaders you may be familiar with, except that the percentage categories are weighted by volume. Turnovers are from BasketballMonster, since ESPN doesn’t include them.

So, how is this useful? Obviously, you want players that score well overall on the Player Rater. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be surprised to see some of your players pop up on these lists. Also, keeping in mind which categories you need help in, this can help you find some trade targets. Or, if you’re out of it in points or FG%, maybe ship off a guy that’s in the top 20 that’s not doing much else for you. If you’re in the middle of the pack in FT% and you see that you have one of the worst offenders there, maybe you can ditch him and gain points (just keep in mind what you might be losing in other categories from him). A lot can be gained by learning what’s actually happening compared to what we assume is happening based on previous years or projections.

Next week, I’ll get back into multi-category rankings for those that are ignoring categories, whether intentionally or as a matter of the hand you’ve been dealt. Think punt FG% & TOs, or for FT% punters: 3PTM+AST+ST+PTS+TO rankings, which are what you want to complement your FT% anchors with. That’s when you can really find trade value, since all players now have a new value to your specific team.

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In the Batman movies, Commissioner Gordon is portrayed as a subservient, damsel in distress character. “Oh no! There’s trouble in Gotham. Let me run up to the rooftop to signal the Batman so that he can take care of everything.” I kid. Commissioner Gordon was old and needed the youth, strength, and resources that Batman could provide. But, before he became a useless POS, Jim Gordon served in the US Marine Corps and was a Special Forces veteran who could kick some serious ass. That’s where we are at with Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic. He’s only 22 years old and 6′ 9″ 220 pounds. He can dribble, shoot, rebound, block, pass, jump like a flea, and run like a gazelle. He’s basically the new and improved version of Blake Griffin. Sad to see the Matrix slowly phasing out Blake for Aaron. Anyways, last night the NBA’s Commissioner Gordon put up the first 40-burger of his career:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 40 15 4 4 1 1 6/12 13/23 8/11

He led his team to a 121-108 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team led by Russell Westbrook, aka Beastbrook but I prefer to call him the Hulk. Off the court, Westbrook seems like a funny, charismatic guy. On the court, SMASH….SMASH….SMASH! Dude plays with reckless abandon, which results in an abundance of turnovers, but he will dunk on your grill at every opportunity. And keep coming. And coming. And coming. He truly leaves everything on the court, which is why I’d always want the Hulk on my side, because I know he’d always have my back. As for last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 37 11 5 5 0 7 7/10 11/23 8/12
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Urbandictionary.com is one of my favorite sites to visit on the internet. When I want the full essense of a word, I go there. It’s like when I travel to another city. If I truly want to get a feel for the new place, I’ve got to go where the streets are not lined with Louis Vuitton stores and people are hovering their selfie sticks in the air. Anyone remember this scene from Boomerang? Ha! Still cracks me up. Anyways, dictionary.com defines booker as: (n) booking agent. Boring. Now, let’s see what the urban site has to say. Booker: 1) In pro wrestling, basically he’s the one running the show. 2) All around awesome person with unhuman skills a very badass person. 3) A half of a blunt removed of its inerts and replaced with “trees”, smoked half way, and saved. 4) An offensive term for a US county sheriff. 5) A type of masturbation that involves…No! Why?! 6) A term used for denying previous sexual intercourse with another person. 7) A person that can run faster than the wind. I was familiar with three of those definitions. How about you? If you knew 5, then I don’t know what to say. Good times? So, I titled this piece as “Devin is a Booker.” He’s not a booking agent. He’s not a professional wrestler, but he does run the show. He seems like an all around awesome person. He does exhibit unhuman skills on the basketball court and he is a badass person. He is not a blunt, but he does catch on fire like one. He ain’t no 5-0, but he did score over 50 once. I’ll skip over 5. He’s probably turning down ladies left and right. He does run pretty fast. And, his last name is Booker, so he’s undeniably a Booker. With all that said, he made pops very proud last night as he went:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
33 9 4 1 1 3 5/9 10/23 8/10

I’m not writing 300 words for a chump. We knew Booker could score, but he’s pulling down a board a game more than last year and dishing out almost a dime more as well. The defensive stats remain the same, but he’s still only 21 years old. If he can continue to harness the rest of his game, he could be a top 25 player. As it stands, top 40-50 player is a reasonable expectation.

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In the animal kingdom, lions hang with lions, while gazelles chill with gazelles. Makes sense, as one group likes to eat the other. In the human world, things are a bit more complicated. Humans come in different sizes, shapes, colors, and live in different environments and locations all throughout the world. With that said, a human is still a human. It’s cool to identify with another person or group that has similarities to you, as it brings a level of comfort and security. I get it. But most of the problems of this world arise when we focus on the differences to discriminate and differentiate. When I was younger, I’d often see kids referred to as “sellouts” if they didn’t hang out with kids of their own race. Seriously, who gives a shit? I’m not hanging out with someone just because they are Korean. If said person is cool, that’s all that f***ing matters. So, it is with tremendous angst that I must voice my displeasure for the cat community, which texted me all Sunday about Karl-Anthony Towns. Yes, cats and dogs are basically humans. They think KAT is one of theirs. He’s been meowing and purring for the past couple of years, but on Sunday, a transformation occurred. KAT was howling like a wolf. KAT was playing like the dog that he is. 32/12/2/0/1/1. 12-of-26 from the field, 2-of-6 from downtown, and 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. Ahh-woooooooooo! KAT is not a sellout. KAT is just a baller. A very, very, very good baller.

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Jusuf Nurkic had a huge afternoon in Brooklyn on Friday. He really took advantage of the Nets’ lack of viable big men. He came to Brooklyn to kick ass and chew bubblegum… and was all out of gum.  29-15-3-1-4-1. He’s got balls of steel! The Nets put up a good fight and it came down to the last shot, but they couldn’t top the Blazers.  This game was played at 12:00 Eastern time, so it could have been a factor in the Nets keeping it close or maybe the Nets are a little better than people think. Either way, they’re still 6-12 on the year, but they’re a very interesting team for low-end fantasy value. Anyway, here’s what else went down on Friday in fantasy hoops:

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The Celtics’ impressive 16-game winning streak is now over. Is it a coincidence that 16 is half of 32, which is the number of games that the ’71 Lakers won in a row? I do not believe in coincidences, until I do. Which makes this iteration of the Celtics half the team of that glorious Lakers squad. All kidding aside, it was an impressive run. The team stepped up when they lost Gordon Hayward, Brad Stevens is now a legitimate Presidential candidate, Kyrie is…..well, Kyrie, and the defense has been the league’s best, by a big margin according to defensive efficiency. I tried everything in the book to jinx the streak. Voodoo dolls, shrines, sacrificing of virgins, and rubbing my scrotum with four-leaf clovers. All to no avail. I had to harken back to the past. All the way back to the ancient days of the early 1990’s. It was during that time, the secret was unlocked by the Leprechaun movies. You see, in the original, the leprechaun is defeated when the well it falls into is blown up. Explosion. Fire. In the third movie, the lepechaun is defeated via flamethrower. Heat was needed and Heat we got Wednesday night, as the Miami Heat took down the Boston Leprechauns 104-98. Who led the way? None other than Goran Dragic, aka the Dragon, who was spewing fire from all over the court: 27 points, five boards, four dimes, and one liberation. He shot 8-of-17 from the field and 2-of-4 from downtown. Waiters Island was booming, as Dion Waiters scored 26 points, grabbed two boards, and dished out six dimes. He shot 11-of-24 from the field and 4-of-10 from downtown. How do you beat the Celtics? Shoot 49.4% from the field, which was 4% higher than their season average. Translation: bring the Heat.

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