The SouthLEAST Division

Here we are at the quarter turn, as teams have played approximately 25% of their games.

We know enough to be able to make some pretty cogent observations. Try this one on: this division is the worst in the NBA. Last year, the Heat won the division with 44 wins, while the Wizards had 43. Most thought it would be those two teams battling again, but alas, the Hornets and Magic currently sit atop the divisional heap. Any of these teams will be hard pressed to win 44 this year, although since they have to play each other four times each, somebody might get close. We could easily see a sub-.500 Division champion. What has been evident is that there are four coaches who are doing a notable job with inadequate star power, while one coach has been doing an inadequate job with notable star power.

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This season of 50-point games and JaVale McGee relevance is already about 25% complete. How are your teams looking? We should have a pretty good picture of what we can expect from our lineups and most players, so where can we go from here? Let’s get creative. I’ve been talking about how the practice of ignoring categories that aren’t affecting us can give us an advantage (even if we weren’t trying to punt categories), as it presents a market tilted in our favor. Shaking up the values of players and customizing them to our teams is a great way to make some effective trades. Trades that are more likely to get accepted, because they can more easily be win/win deals. Today, I’m going to give a variety of lists of multi-category “punts” to help identify targets that often go undervalued, in addition to those that complement punting teams best.

I’ve gone on and on about how most categories get overlooked. That’s something that can give savvy managers an advantage. The masses, if they aren’t looking closely at player raters and rankings, may essentially be “punting” the ignored categories like steals, for example. As I often mention, I truly think most fantasy managers subconsciously weigh points, rebounds, and assists more heavily than the other stats. It’s understandable, as that’s how most media outlets report stats, but it’s ridiculous to do so in fantasy, as all categories are created equal.

So, first up, here’s a list of some startable players with the biggest jumps in 9-cat per-game value (per Basketball Monster through 11/25) when we ignore Points, Rebounds, and Assists. These 6-category rankings should give us the players that are most undervalued, especially by casual fantasy players. Think of them as the thinking-man’s fantasy all-stars, fittingly led by it’s perpetual mascot.

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Allonzo Trier seemed destined for greatness from an early age. Dubbed a hoops prodigy at the tender age of 13 years old, Trier was featured on the cover of New York Times Magazine in 2009. He utilized the childhood workouts of Pete Maravich found on the internet, travelled and starred in the A.A.U. circuit, and even had his own line of clothing with the signature: “When the lights come on, it’s time to perform.” Throughout middle school, he and his mother moved to four different cities (Seattle, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa) all for basketball. In high school, he was a McDonald’s All-American, a five-star recruit, and the Washington Post wrote that he “may be the purest high school basketball scorer in the county and the most devoted to his craft.” At the University of Arizona, he was the Most Outstanding Player of the the Pac-12 Tournament and Second-team All-Pac-12 in 2017. The following season he earned First-team All-Pac-12 honors. Unfortunately, he tested twice for PEDs, which Trier said was medication given to him due to a car crash. As a result, he was ruled ineligibile and declared for the 2018 NBA draft. Then one team did not believe. Then two. Then three. Then thirty? Like a bad nightmare that was set on loop, the 30 teams passed over him again. Undrafted. There were no believers in Trier, but on July 3, 2018, the New York Knicks signed him to a two-way contract. After balling out in the preseason, coach David Fizdale conveyed that he was indeed a believer in Trier, and declared that he would spend most of the time in the NBA, rather than the G-League. Fizdale kept his word and Trier received close to 21 minutes per game….and Iso Zo was born. Or better yet, Trier was Carmelo Anthony reincarnate. There were inconsistencies and plenty of bricks early on, but Trier eventually shed his Melo mask and….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
24 10 7 0 0 1 1/2 7/11 9/12

Played 31 minutes off the bench. Trier had his Iso moments, but more often than not, he was initiating offense via pick-and-roll action and dishing out dimes. He’s explosive and finishes strong when he attacks the rim, but he always looks smooth and composed with the ball, and never seems to rush anything. He’s averaging only 1.8 turnovers per game and is shooting 49% from the field, 45% from downtown, and 82% from the charity stripe. I’m a believer in Trier.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I recently met a conspiracy theorist. He seemed so proud and satisfied that he had the inside scoop on so many topics (“You know what’s going on in Cuba, don’t you?”), while the rest of us only know what the government wants us to know. Well, I went down a rabbit hole to which he directed me just for kicks. Wow, there are a lot of crazies out there trying to obtain knowledge that no one else has, regardless of how insane it is. Shout out to Kyrie.

I realized, though, that I can relate. At least when it comes to fantasy basketball. There’s certainly a draw to uncovering a conspiracy and being part of only a small group of people that feels wiser than everyone else. Or, more relatably, being the only person to know a secret. This is how I felt the first time I manipulated a fantasy bball player rater. I was finally confident enough in my Excel skills to subtract categorical columns for punt rankings. I had decided to go all-in on a punt free throw percentage 8-category Roto dynasty team. Removing the FT% category dramatically changes the value of many players. I realized that I could trade players for much more than they were worth to me while acquiring players for much less than they were worth to me. Obviously, the downside was taking last place in a category. But since I was near the bottom in FT% anyway, I only lost maybe 2 points there while gaining something like 7 or 8 total points combined in other categories. The problem in a league like that is that I would’ve needed to get first in nearly every other category to win it all. I peaked at second place.

Yeah, yeah, you’re aware of the simplest of punt strategies. I know. But, aside from overrating rookies in dynasty drafts, this is really what I’m most passionate about: the concept of ignoring categories that aren’t going to help or hurt you.

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Consistency has been a hallmark for the career of LeBron James. Year in and year out, you could Sharpie him in for 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Within that consistency bubble, though, are different shades of LeBron. There’s “Deferential” LeBron, who props up his teammates and lets them shine. There’s “We’ve Lost How Many Games?” LeBron, who could probably stop a flower from blooming. There’s “Playoff” LeBron, but the shade of LeBron that I want to discuss is “You Forgetting About Me” LeBron, which is my favorite because he announces it with the force of Thor’s hammer screaming to the ground. It all started two games ago against the Portland Trail Blazers. Entering that game, LeBron was averaging 26.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. Yawn, but then he exploded for 44/10/3. Last night….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
51 8 3 2 1 2 6/8 19/31 7/10

….A fifty-burger usually brings out the cops, but not for LeBron. It’s just another shade. Beep. Boop. Bop. The Stocktonator knows all the different shades, as it had LeBron as the #1 player yesterday. For the season, LeBron is the #4 player according to Basketball Monster. Long live the King!

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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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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Kevin Durant is a polarizing player, due to his off-the-court decisions and shenanigans. There was the decision back in 2016 to join the Golden State Warriors that put many into a tizzy. I was fine with his decision, but I understand why people had issues with it. After being Mr. Nice Guy in OKC, Durant took on a blase, laissez-faire attitude. Some appreciated the rawness, while others wanted a more calculated, LeBron-esque persona. There was the burner account incident. Lame, but I kind of get it, as it’s tough for any celebrity to truly speak their mind. KD just be messing around. What can’t be questioned, though, is his production on the court. Over the past four years, Durant has finished as the 3rd, 1st, 2nd, and 5th player for fantasy according to Basketball Monster. Currently, he’s 3rd as he’s posting 27.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.5 threeecolas. He’s shooting 54% from the field and 91% from the line. So good. Anyways, last night he truly messed around:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
33 11 10 1 2 4 2/4 10/24 11/13

That was his 11th career triple-dub. A surprisingly low number, but he wasn’t always the most willing passer early in his career. With Steph Curry expected to miss a few more games, KD should continue messing around. Shoot, even when Curry returns, KD should continue messing around because that’s what he does.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Volcanoes are fascinating objects. They tower into the sky and blot out the horizon. Inside, there is magma that is being pushed up from the Earth’s core that is searching for ways to lather the surface. Now that I think about, they are the Earth’s pimples. Ewww. They are no laughing matter, though, because when they do erupt, the lava flows create a path of destruction and the smoke and plume can erase the sun and prohibit planes from flying. Yet, they can also be vehicles of creation, as many of the Earth’s island masses are formed as a result of the lava flows from volcanoes. Like I said, fascinating. Which brings me to Hassan Whiteside, one of the NBA’s most fascinating players. He’s 7′ 0″, 265 pounds, so he does blot out the horizon on the court for many and pummels the rim with a ferocity unmatched by many. Yet, he’s quick and nimble on his feet to hunt down rebounds and chase blocks. Inside, though, is a swirling mass of unknown, as he can disappear on the offensive end at times. But volcanoes eventually erupt, and that’s exactly what happened with Mt. Whiteside last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
29 20 2 0 9 1 0/1 10/18 9/11

For the season, Whiteside is the 38th player according to Basketball Monster. You’re getting elite rebound and block numbers with above average field goal percentage.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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After years of being a superstar-dominated team, Miami now has a plethora of good players with potential. Bucking the trend of Go Big or Rebuild, maestro Pat Riley and his protege head coach Eric Spoelstra seem perfectly content running it back with what they have; a good but not great squad that can be willed to elite status with leadership, coaching, and some luck. Being underrated like the Garfield Halloween Special can be a good thing. The lack of big name talent leaves Miami as the forgotten team. In a wide-open East anything can happen and, while Miami is not expected to crack the top 4, they have as good a chance as any to grab one of the remaining playoff spots and potentially advance in the playoffs. Also, keep in mind that Riley is very much in the hunt for Minnesota Timberwolves Jimmy Butler. Adding Butler to the equation would catapult Miami into the upper echelons of the East.

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