Whaddup Razzball nation! Welcome back to another edition of Any Given Saturday! Last night, the Thunder walked into Cleveland and embarrassed the Cavs, dropping a whopping 148 points. It was a team effort, but Russell Westbrook was especially impressive, dropping a double dimebag and going for 23/9/20/2 on 9-for-17 FG (1-for-1 3P, 4-for-5 FT) and five TOs. Russ’s efficiency is trending up nicely after being abysmal to start the season. All of a sudden, the Thunder look like an incredibly scary team. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

What’s up Razzballers? We had a doozy of a game last night in Toronto between the Raptors and the Warriors. I don’t typically like to give the lede to players on the losing team, but this was the best game in a night of great games, and DeMar DeRozan was the star of the show. He was a big reason the Raptors were even competitive as he went for 42/5/3 on 17-for-31 FG (0-for-4 3P, 8-for-10 FT) and two TOs. This was in a game the Raptors lost by just two after being down 81 to 54 (!) at halftime. The end was a big clusterfrick too. No other Raptor  played more than 30 minutes, as the almost-comeback was mostly led by DeMar and the bench since Kyle Lowry was out with injury. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Kris Dunn- 4-32-2-9-4-0-4. Four steals last night and is second in the league in steals per game behind Paul George. If it wasn’t for his poor FT%, he’d be a top 40 player in fantasy. That being said, the Bulls have been way ahead of schedule, especially since Mirotic has returned. I doubt they’ll make any noise in the East this year, but they have some young pieces in place to do so in the near future.  Zach LaVine’s imminent return may put a damper on Dunn’s numbers, but you have to think he’ll maintain a decent role through the end of the season.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hoops last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Gary Harris sounds like the name of your mailman. And much like your mailman, he delivers without anyone really noticing. Gary Harris is a top fifty player, but for some reason you never see his name in the fantasy headlines, until now. Gary deserves our love. Gary deserves our respect. Gary deserves a nickname. I want to see your Gary Harris nickname suggestions in the comments. I will throw a few out there and see if any stick (we cannot use The Mailman, obviously): Gary Harris Buehler’s Day Off, Gary Harris Wheel, Gary Sexual Harrisment, Gary Harrison (the long lost Harrison triplet), Gary Harristanbul Not Constantinople…

At this point you are probably asking yourself, “Self, has Brent even told us why Gary Harris is the lead of this recap? And I better take a second shower since I had to poop right after my first one.”

Yeah, I hate that too! Anyway, here’s the slash:  3/36/4/3/2/0 on 14-of-17 shooting and 5-for-5 from the line.

Besides Gary “TBD” Harris, here is what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Remember Carlos Boozer? He of the lead feet on defense, yelling “HEY!” every time he missed a shot in hopes of getting a foul call? At least that’s my recollection of him during his Bulls years. He actually did play decent enough team defense to not hurt the team much while putting up 15 and 10 many nights with his no-jump fade-away rainbows. Anyway, sometime around the end of his Bulls tenure, I remember finding out that this old man on the decline was younger than me. So, I guess I couldn’t really call these NBA players that were considering retirement “old” any longer. Over the years, I’ve even embraced these guys and found that veteran players can be fantasy steals because of our ageist tendencies. And if you play in a dynasty league, they come even cheaper, of course.

Of course it’s fun to pick, trade for, and add young players right before they break out. We all want upside. But I think a lot of us don’t realize that older, boring players do have upside because of their depressed draft values. Let’s see how the NBA’s advanced age players are doing on the ESPN Player Rater compared to their Average Draft Position. I do this to hopefully show that you can win with old reliable dudes, even if they’re on the decline. You can even take this information to help you figure out who to target in trades for young, upsidey players.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

In all walks of life, we yearn for predictability. How long will the commute take? Is it going to rain tomorrow? Will the Big One occur tomorrow (I live in Cali)? What if we could predict the stats for every player on a nightly basis? That would be a good thing, right? Ever do a fantasy draft in NBA 2K or Madden against the computer? How about a fantasy basketball mock draft against the AI? What if your significant other did the exact same routine under the sheets every single time? Life would get boring and mundane. Imagine a world with no surprises. Imagine a world with no highs and lows. Just a living flat line. Fantasy sports would become an efficient market with everyone valuing players the same. I bring all this up because Victor Oladipo‘s career has been anything but predictable. Selected by the Orlando Magic with the second overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, greatness was expected. And why not? At 6’ 4″ 210 pounds with a 42″ vertical jump, Oladipo had the physcial tools. Judging from his production at Indiana University, he also had the skills. But then life happened. After three seasons in Orlando, the team traded him to Oklahoma City. After one season in OKC, he was shipped off to Indiana for Paul George. Maybe he wasn’t ready. Maybe he didn’t gel with his teammates. There are so many factors to consider, but one thing is certain: He’s found a home with the Pacers. Oladipo is scoring almost eight more points than last year on four more shot attempts, the shooting percentage has increased substantially (from both the suburbs and downtown), the rebounds are up, assists are up, steals are up, and blocks are up. I guess I could’ve just said every statistical category has improved, but I like the dramatic effect of spelling everything out. He’s the 14th overall player right now!!! Anyways, yesterday against the Nuggets, Oladipo played 45 minutes in an OT game and went:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 47 7 6 2 1 4 6/12 15/28 11/13

Oladipo Ho! Oladipo Ho! Oladipo Ho!

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Zach Randolph had a night against Demarcus Cousins and the Pels on Friday, going 5-35-13-2-1-0-3. His numbers are almost identical to last year, but he had the 3-ball going last night and he led the Kings to victory against New Orleans. I don’t think much comes of this, but it was nice to see the wily old vet have a renaissance and show that he’s still got it.

Before we dive on in, I’d just like to apologize for the brevity. I am doing this write-up from my Kindle Fire with no keyboard, and it is brutal. Please cut me some slack as I get my laptop situation fixed. Anyway, here’s what else I saw on Friday in the NBA:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?