I don’t particularly believe in second chances. It is usually hard for me to forget the disappointment and give someone another shot. But boy, I’m glad I gave one to Jahlil Okafor last week, despite the letdown from the previous season. He has been on fire since getting the starting job with 21.2/0/11/0.4/0.4/2.6/2 on 74.6%/63.2% shooting and is therefore ranked 17th during that span. The most encouraging stat is the blocks and he has looked rejuvenated and more mobile than ever, surfacing as a feel-good story this season. Anthony Davis’ return will hurt him (I will talk about his potential trade probably next week when the dust has settled a bit and we have a clearer picture) but until that happens….JAH RULE !!

Apart from the obvious success of Okafor, the other big man from last week’s article, Mitchell Robinson, is providing blocks (2.8) and steals (1.2) and has been a top 50 player. Despite Fitzdale’s comments about finding more minutes for him, he is only averaging 16.9, so watch out if he can increase those closer to 25. Finally, Rajon Rondo has been doing Rondoian things (I claim this word as mine) with 5.7 rebounds and 11.7 assists and will continue to provide standard league value until Lonzo Ball returns. On the contrary, the Lakers’ Sell candidate from last week, which was Kyle Kuzma, got hurt and the impeding return of LeBron James won’t do him any favors.

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While perusing the standings the other day, I was surprised to see we’re already past the half-way mark of the NBA season. And for those in head-to-head leagues, that means we’re almost 2/3rds of the way through the fantasy regular season! It’s time to take stock of our team(s) and see where injuries, pick-ups, and dropped busts have left us situated. For example, half my starters this week on one team have been free agent pickups. I have some idea of my team’s strengths and weaknesses, but it’s a vastly different group than what I started with. Once we identify our short-comings, it’s as simple as grabbing a couple centers for a pair of guards to make up ground in boards and blocks, right? Maybe. But there are constraints that might make it more complicated than that. You may be losing stats you need by doing that and you may not be able to fit two extra centers into your lineup, anyway.

This week I’d like to bring up a concept many of you are probably familiar with, but often goes forgotten: Out-of-position stats. What if you’re low in rebounds, but you don’t have room to add/start a center? Well, you could trade a traditional point guard (assuming you were set with PG stats) for Dejounte Murray (9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, and yes, by the way, I’m choosing an alternate universe in which he’s healthy for this hypothetical situation). Considering trading for or picking up players that get atypical stats for their position can make a ton of sense for a lot of reasons. Maybe you lost a big assist guy like John Wall or your dominant rebounder in Clint Capela. Maybe you’ve got another out-of-position stats guy that hurts you because of what he lacks (Dejounte’s assists and three-pointers, for example). Also, when you have out-of-position stats, like say Nikola Mirotic’s 3s, you can afford to have additional atypical players that others in your league might devalue, like Elfrid Payton, a guard that doesn’t hit many threes. Get creative and check out some of the players I’ve listed below.

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It still blows my mind that a bunch of 0’s and 1’s, when typed into a computer in sequences, can allow us to write blurbs, watch porn, uh, I mean stream documentaries on global warming, and berate each other on Twitter. I’m still amazed that we can fly. When I talk on a phone, it astonishes me that voices are transmitted via wires or invisible signals in the air to anywhere in the world. But, none of that compares to what Anthony Davis does on the basketball court, especially last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
34 26 4 1 3 1 2/6 12/25 8/10

Who does that? This is A. D.’s seventh year in the league and he is moon walking, earth slithering, asteroid stomping, and universe hopping over all the competition. He has no weaknesses and is the perfect fantasy asset. There’s a reason why he was selected #1. There’s a reason he’s been the #1 player over the last week, the last month, the last two months…..for the whole freaking season. Now, we all know about the injury risk, but there’s also his playoff schedule, as he only plays 9 games (3 games each playoff week). Do you sell him, do you buy him? It’s a perplexing situation, but not as much as trying to make sense of the fantasy lines A. D. produces on a nightly basis.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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When I first started writing these recaps, Grey imparted into my tiny brain the wisdom of not writing about the same player in the lede. It wasn’t a hard and fast rule, but it made sense and I’ve tried to adhere to it as much as possible. But, but, but….Yes, I’m studdering mother [email protected]#!er. Sometimes a player is so good, so brilliant, so dominant that he moon walks over all the competition and I’m forced to do it. Let’s call it the James Harden fast rule.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
43 10 13 2 0 9 6/12 8/19 21/27

That’s four straight games with at least 40 points. According to Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen), Harden joined Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as the only players over the last 30 years to score 400 points in 10 games. According to Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA), Harden was the first person in NBA history to score at least 40 points on eight field goal makes. He now has four trip-dubs on the season and 39 for his career. He’s been the #1 player for fantasy over the past seven games. All that is nice and dandy, but do you know what the craziest stat is? With both Chris Paul and Eric Gordon off the court, Harden has a 51.8 usage rate, an increase of 10.3%!!! The Harden Fast Rule is that when Paul and Gordon are off the court, James is gonna eat.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Jeremy Lamb was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets. A few days before the start of the regular season, Lamb was traded in a package for James Harden to Oklahoma City. Sacrificial Lamb? In three years with the Thunder, Lamb never averaged more than 19 minutes per game and was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in 2015. The first two years in Charlotte didn’t seem much different, as he averaged 18 minutes per game in each season. Then, in 2017 Lamb received close to 25 minutes per game and averaged over double-digits for the first time in his career, but during the 2017 NBA draft, the Hornets selected Malik Monk with the 11th overall pick. Sacrificial Lamb? Signs were pointing to Monk taking the starting shooting guard duties away from Lamb, as he seemed to have a higher upside. Well…..

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
31 6 3 2 0 0 3/3 11/18 6/7

Lamb played a team-high 49 minutes in a double-overtime game. For the season, he’s averaging 14.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.4 threeecolas per game. He’s shooting 43% from the field and 34% from downtown. Don’t expect many assists or blocks. Just solid top 60 production. No sacrificial Lamb this time because he’s baaaaaaaaad.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I’m going to keep it pretty simple this week. I’d like to check in on category leaders to help figure out who the best specialists might be this season. There’s a lot of value sitting out in the free agent pool just waiting for you to stream it. Adding and rotating through these category specialists applies in roto leagues when you notice individual categories in which you stand to gain a few points. But, this information will probably help the most in head-to-head leagues where you should be swapping out at least a couple players each week (assuming you can) to customize and maximize your stats in a way that nets you the most category wins against your opponent.

“So… you’re just pasting an NBA stat leaders’ page?” Nope. I’m only going to feature players rostered in less than 50% of Yahoo leagues. Italicized players are owned in less than 25%. For shooting percentages, I’m using Basketball Monster’s values that are weighted for volume. Next week, I’ll do sorta the opposite and list the punt specialists (value rankings with each individual category removed), as well as the rankings according to some other helpful stat combinations. I’ll leave out the flukey or injured players to save you some time here, as well.

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This week we take a look at the Northwest Division, which boasts some exciting teams to watch, some great individual offensive talents, and one seriously unresolved soap opera situation. This division is filled with teams that keep coming at you; hardworking, team-oriented outfits that don’t stop until the whole tree is on the ground. In other words, what the Timberwolves want to be.

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I often reminisce about the 2011 Oklahoma City Thunder squad: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and…..Cole Aldrich. I kid, I kid. Serge Ibaka aka I-block-a…aka Air Congo….aka Serge Protector was a freaking animal, blocking over 3.7 shots a game and grabbing 7.5 rebounds. Man, that team. One of the greatest video game teams of all time? Anyways, Ibaka was raw from an offensive stand point, but was a maven on the glass and defensive end of the floor. If he could hone his offensive game, we were looking at the next superstar. The athleticism was that profound. Well, he did ascertain an offensive game and extended his range out to beyond the arc. Unfortunately, the rebounds went down and the block numbers cratered to the 1.3 mark set last season. He lost a lot of that dog, as he preferred to just chill on the perimeter and shoot jumpers all night. Well, it looks like Bow Wow made a visit because, so far, Ibaka is grabbing more rebounds (over 7 for the first time since 2014) and the blocks have ticked back up. We will never see the 3.7 level again, but any increase is a good increase. We are not here to talk about the blocks and boards, though. We are here to talk about the scoring Serge Ibaka exhibited last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
34 10 2 2 0 1 1/1 15/17 3/3

A career-high!!! And he wasn’t just camped out outside. He was running in transition and making hard cuts to the basket in the half court. Ferocious dunk after ferocious dunk. Now, he may not start every game, as Jonas Valanciunas will likely go up against bruisers, but he should consistently get around 28 minutes regardless, as Coach Nurse does like play small-ball with Ibaka at the 5. I think a huge change for Ibaka this season is the fewer attempts from downtown. It’s allowed him to shoot a higher percentage from the field and gets him more involved for rebounds, as he’s not just spectating on the perimeter. Don’t ever expect any assists from him, but points, rebounds, and blocks with good percentages are on the menu. Ibaka is currently the #36 player according to Basketball Monster.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Watching Chris Paul can be so fun. When he’s not catching spit followed by hooks from fellow old man Rondo, CP3 is hustling, using his old man tricks to take down young teams that dare challenge him. He’ll drive the lane, fake passes, shoot from 8 feet behind the line. He doesn’t care. Trying to keep the ship afloat without Harden is his responsibility and he’s gonna do it. Like the old curmudgeon in your neighborhood that refuses to offer candy to trick-or-treating kids, this grumpy old man will shoo you off his lawn and do what he wants.

FG FT 3PT Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks TO
13/27 1/1 5/12 32 7 11 2 2 2

We got classic, but still grumpy CP3 tonight! Paul had a sensational game, carrying the Rockets on his back and beating an up-and-coming Brooklyn team. It always amazes me how he gets so many rebounds for someone who looks to be 5’11 tops. Ride him while Harden is out, but if he keeps playing 37 minutes, expect some rest games soon.

Here’s what else happened last night:

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Life is often murky and gray, as in the lines between good/bad, right/wrong are often blurred. But when confronted with danger, there are only two responses: fight or flight. Well, we see this playing out before our eyes in Minnesota right now, as Jimmy Butler is, coincidentally, fighting for his right to flight. The other guys? They definitely are not fighting. How can no one step up to him? “At one point, Butler found himself guarding Towns in the post. After Towns received the entry pass, Butler yelled, “He can’t do {expletive} against me!” Towns ended up passing the ball out, sources said.” That’s the sign of someone who can lead a team to the promised land?

Please, blog, may I have some more?