When we moved from California to Wisconsin last October, we knew it would be hard. Catching the tail end of fall was the final gasp of good air before the dual jaws of winter and the pandemic clamped down on us. From there, we just had to ride it out. Hiding indoors, online, and in the NBA calendar was all there was to do. As the days got darker — in every sense — we were subjected, over and over again, to the Milwaukee mantra: Summers make winters worth it. Having no experience to draw on, we had to take these hearty midwesterners at their word. 

They were right. 

Ice thawed and snow melted. Patches of terra firma sprouted and then turned green. The Bucks exercised Miami demons in Game 1 of the Playoffs and squeaked past the Nets by the margin of a single shoe size. The Hawks were feisty but underseasoned, and then there was the block and the steal and the alley-oop over Phoenix. “Bucks in six” was the song of the summer. Flowers for The Good Land. 

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The ridiculous and predictably bad “condensed” NBA schedule has finally reared its ugly head. The injuries are rolling in faster than me when they say there’s free cake in the break room, and fantasy teams everywhere are hurting. Hopefully you have multiple IL spots. I have two in the league I run usually, but we upped it to three midseason.

If your commissioner didn’t have such foresight, RIP. But there’s good news: You don’t have to hurt anymore.

When players go out, that means other players step up to fill the void. So who should we be grabbing for the week? Who is going to win us our fantasy playoff matches?

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Beef Stew is running away with the starting 5 job in Detroit as the season winds down. Casey has been resting his vets in Plumlee and Ellington and as a result, Stewart has been feasting. 8 blocks in his last four games alone, to go with an average of 14.25 boards in those four outings. He’s going to make a huge difference in fantasy playoffs for those who foresaw the downfall of Plumlee.

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The fantasy hoops world is one of diversity, danger, and drip. Some parts of the world are in constant drought with bricks raining down from the heavens. In others, there are only waterfalls that splash to the rhythm of a metronome. Tucked on the highest peak in the most remote part of the world lies a pantheon of extraordinary magnitude: The Nikola Pantheon. Nikola Jokic has been sitting on its iron throne for much of the season, as he has been the numero uno player in fantasy hoops. Nikola Vucevic has been valiantly trying to unseat Jokic. While he’s been a tier below Jokic for much of the season, there have been moments when the guardians of the Nikola Pantheon have discussed making it a timeshare. Last night, Vucevic went for 32 points, 17 boards, five dimes, and one block while shooting 14-for-29 from the field and 4-of-7 from downtown. Jokic went for 27 points, eight boards, 11 dimes, one steal, and one block in only 27 minutes. What a Jokic! Vucevic is the number 11 player for fantasy and has been narrowing the gap somewhat, but the divide is still a massive one. The iron throne on the Nikola Pantheon is no joke as it will be inhabited by Jokic for the foreseeable future.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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In high school, I went out with a girl who was two years younger than me. Things were amazing but then I got accepted to a school on the opposite coast. There was sadness at the inevitable end of the relationship but we made the most of it for those six months. We spent as much time together as we could and tried to cherish every moment. As the summer came to an end and it was almost time to go, the crescendo of emotion and activity was heightened, until the last hurrah knocked on the door and said it’s time. Jusuf Nurkic is close to returning back to action for the Trail Blazers. Enes Kanter knows his time is almost near. As I did with my high school sweetheart, so did Kanter do last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
19 19 6 0 1 0 0 6/8 7/8

In 40 minutes of action. Sooooo close to his eighth 20/20 game of his career and second this season. He grabbed 10 offensive boards, the fourth time in his career he’s accomplished the feat. On the season, Kanter is a top 75 player. As a starter, he’s averaged 29.7 minutes per game. In 12 games off the bench, he’s at 18.7 minutes. When Nurkic returns to action, it may take some time for him to get ramped up, but once that happens, Kanter will be playing sub-20 minutes again.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Is Morant a physical marvel? Ja.

Can Morant dunk on anyone? Ja.

Does Morant jump higher than a flea? Ja.

Can Morant score with the best of them? Ja.

Is Morant about the sharing and caring life? Ja.

Does he get his 211 on? Ja.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
35 5 10 1 0 4 2/3 11/18 11/14

Is Morant consistent? Naw.

Is he great for fantasy? Naw.

Does he get his Mutombo on? Naw.

Ja has scored 35 and 44 points on the season. He’s dished out at least 10 dimes in seven games. He’s messed around once this season. With that said, there have been plenty of duds on the season. He’s scored fewer than 20 points 15 times. As a result, he’s just outside the top 100 on the season. Once he gets more consistent and provides more tres and steals, Ja will rule the fantasy streets.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Boban Marjanovic! Not just a cameo but a start! He finished with 12 rebounds but shot just 3-for-11 from the field for seven points. This was just a spot start for the Joel Embiid matchup. You can safely leave Boban on the wire.
Jalen Brunson has been one of the steadiest backup PGs in the league. He wasn’t exceptional on Thursday, but he was effective with 11 points on just five shots, with five boards, a pair of treys, and a steal. Over the past 14 days, Brunson (28 percent owned in Yahoo!) has been a top-100 player. He can get you points while actually helping your percentages, with some threes and assists kicked in as well.

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Yep, I’m going to subject you all to my friends and family league yet again. We’re at the midway point of our regular season after today, so I wanted to go back and see where my predictions from the preseason were right and wrong, and which fantasy players are performing better or worse than their average draft position (ADP).

What I hope you can take from this is how to better formulate your strategy in your own leagues, and what seems to work best for people in a relatively average league. Our league is listed as a “silver” league on Yahoo!, which isn’t really scientific but indicates our team levels combined are slightly below the average of “gold.” We have two platinum, one gold, four silver, and five bronze managers. It’s a top-heavy league, which is the case in most scenarios as the people who run the league seem to be far more invested.

Anyways, the below records and rankings are based on if the scores stay the same as they are at the writing of this article. Those are subject to change, but not by much.

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Apologies for last week’s DNP. I had a bit of a breakdown after digging out of almost a foot of snow and decided it was time to take matters into my own hands by driving to Punxsutawney to strong-arm a groundhog into making it stop. When I woke up in my bed the next morning with a driveway buried in snow and not a single groundhog pelt to be found, I understood that I had failed. Resigned and bitter, I’ve come to understand that violence against large marmots is not the solution to my winter problems. Endurance is the only way.

Keeping this lesson in mind, this week’s Hangin’ looks at three shooters who have disappointed thus far. Must they also be endured or is more dramatic action required?

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