• Welcome back to the Hoop Ball Huddle.

    It’s been quite a while since I put one out there and it has made me feel a bit Jusuf Nurkic and excited to be back. I’ve been busy with real-life stuff, while juggling the work here at HB. That said, the All-Star break has been a nice breather for me. Similar to our beloved NBA players, I’m back refreshed, rested and ready to get back into the thick of things.

    A couple of things, though. First, I’m changing the format of the Hoop Ball Huddle. It started off as a mailbox kind of weekly article where I answer some pressing questions. It was rocking at the start but struggled to keep the momentum going – zigzagging down the path of OG Anunoby’s highly volatile 2019-20. Most of you wanted answers quickly and posting them on social media or in the forums got you those quick fixes. So moving forward, I will be converting the Huddle to what it should be, me providing strategy and sharing tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over the years. While it won’t be as league-sweeping as Bruski’s newsletter (which is FREE and you should subscribe to, btw), the Huddle will be my own little corner where I can talk shop and hopefully, share some insightful thoughts. It’s about getting back to my fantasy-writing roots, why I started this journey and a chance to work on a craft I’ve really come to enjoy improving, like Andre Drummond’s free-throw shooting. Secondly, the article won’t be coming out on a fixed schedule as it did before.

    Anyway, without further ado, let’s get it on!

    We’re going to get into some H2H strategy for this one.

    For many leagues out there, the fantasy playoffs are a few weeks away. This means that for some teams, the ones on top, it’s time to slowly adjust your team’s build to veer towards a 5-4 (for 9-cat leagues) dominant set-up. You might also want to load up on players from teams with good playoff schedules. While a lot of you, especially those who have followed HB for a while now, have drafted their teams in preparation for such a build, not all the players on your roster are optimized for this. Over the course of the season, you’ve had to drop, trade, add and stash guys just to keep up with the myriad of injuries that have swept through the upper tiers of fantasy studs.

    If you’ve locked up a good seed, now is the time to make that winning trade. Most fantasy league trade deadlines are nearing, so it’s make or break for a lot of teams. Take advantage of other teams’ adversity and send out offers for stashable players. Like Luke Kennard, who many teams may not have the luxury of holding onto over the next couple of weeks, for example. He’s going to have a large role for the Pistons in the tail-end of the season, but his knees have not been too quick to cooperate thus far. That said, he’s been making progress but is still “a ways away.”

    On the flip side, desperate teams, those of you who are chasing for a slot in the playoffs. There’s one piece of advice I’d give, and I’ve been giving it for years. You need “warm bodies.” This is not the time to hold onto those Lauri Markkanens, Clint Capelas or even Kyrie Irvings. Trade ’em quick. Even if it means you’re getting far less than their healthy-value, go for it. Focus on players who have strong a lot of games leading up to the playoffs. If you do have an IR slot, fine, keep ’em. However, if you don’t, push may come to shove that a drop may be the only good move to make. Those earl-to-mid-round guys won’t do you any good during the playoff weeks if you don’t get there.

    Note: You don’t need to trade just your injured guys. Go for an optimal number of games. Trade for players within the same value tier but have more games.

    Here are some examples of trades/offers I’ve seen in my leagues:

    Christian Wood traded for Danilo Gallinari.  – Wood has nice upside, but Detroit’s upcoming schedule is piss-poor. The Thunder, on the other hand, have more games.

    I was offered Kelly Oubre Jr. for my Shai Gilgeous-Alexander by a team that’s in 12th place (top-8 make advance to playoffs). While Oubre might be the better play in the actual fantasy playoffs with the Suns having a 3-4-4 spread over weeks 22-24. They only play three and two games in weeks 20 and 21, respectively. SGA and the Thunder play four and three games, for weeks 20 and 21, respectively. The thing is, I’m in 9th and am also scampering for a berth. Those two extra games SGA will give me might make or break my playoff aspirations. So, I politely but painfully declined the fair offer.

    One long-time HoopBaller is being offered Nikola Jokic and DeMar DeRozan for his Luka Doncic and Caris LeVert. Considering he’s working on a shooting efficiency build, you can imagine how tempting it must be. He has not pulled the trigger because Luka and LeVert have the better scheds heading into the playoffs and he’s fighting for one of those available berths.

    Target players from the following teams: BKN, BOS, CHI, UTA as top options (8 games in weeks 20 and 21).

    Secondary, targets should come from CHA, DAL, DEN, HOU, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOP, NYK, OKC, ORL, POR, SAS, WAS as they all have seven games combined in weeks 20 and 21.

    Those abovementioned teams apply to streaming as well. When you’re talking about value at the end of or outside the top-150, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Maximize the punch your team gets out of its moves and optimize the number of games you get.

    It’s truly crunch time folks! Values are values, but on certain levels, they’re getting blurred vs. number of games, now more than ever. Quality vs. quantity debate is a long and arduous one to undertake but in the end, to keep it simple, do the rough math. A top-75 player’s four games is probably worth more than a top-50 player’s three and definitely two games.

Fantasy News

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Pacers GM Chad Buchanan declined to interview for the Bulls' top basketball operations position.

    Buchanan said he and his family are happy in Indianapolis and he is not interested in leaving. The Bulls are clearly moving fast with building their new front office after the announcement that GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson are expected to move to different roles in the organization. A change in the front office and coaching staff could only be positive for fantasy purposes as the Bulls rank 29th in offensive rating this season. Hopefully a change would bring a more fantasy-friendly system with an emphasis on developing the younger talent on the roster.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The NBA and ESPN are working together to televise a H-O-R-S-E competition with several high-profile players.

    Woj reported that the details of this competition are still being finalized, but it sounds like players will shoot in isolation, most likely in their home gyms. This would be a much needed source of entertainment for everyone who loves the NBA and, with bragging rights on the line, we would likely see some stellar performances from the NBA's best players.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Lauri Markkanen
    PF, Chicago Bulls

    According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Lauri Markkanen had been unhappy with the direction of the Bulls organization even before the league went on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Markkanen was so displeased, in fact, that he went on to state that if the situation were to remain unchanged, he'd prefer to be elsewhere. The Bulls power forward was a fantasy mess in 2019-20 and some of that could be attributed to the coach and some of it, to his injuries. Still, his statements put the team in a rough spot. considering Markkanen has been widely regarded as a core piece of their future plans. The Bulls are already shaking things up though, making moves towards freshening things up in the front office. The Markkanen-Bulls relationship is a must-watch storyline, especially given his potential in fantasy hoops.

    Source: Chicago Sun-Times.

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Speaking on ESPN on Friday, Brian Windhorst said that there has been increasing pessimism about the NBA season resuming.

    Windhorst noted that the league has begun to discuss the financial ramifications of shutting the league down, and we've seen reports about the league looking for players to take paycuts as a result of the season's uncertain future. The fact that the CBA in China was set to resume and then delayed again is an ominous sign with NBA markets nowhere near the apex of COVID-19.

    Source: ESPN

  • Kobe Bryant
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will be inducted into the 2020 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Formal announcements will be made on Saturday, but it appears to be a done deal. The three aforementioned players helped define and then redefine the sport during their primes, making the 2020 class one of the most star-studded since Michael Jordan was inducted. Bryant, especially, who was often compared to his "Airness" will be a bittersweet entrant as the NBA and the world is still dealing with his sudden passing.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Bulls have begun their search for a top executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions.

    Interviews will begin next week, with Toronto GM Bobby Webster and Denver GM Arturas Karnisovas on Chicago's wish list. Ownership will have discussions with current GM Gar Forman about his place in the organization moving forward, whlie VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson is expected to move to an advisory role with the franchise. The Bulls have been lost in the wilderness for some time now, and it's mildly surprising that it's taken them this long to hunt for someone to take the power out of GarPax's collective hands.

    Source: ESPN

  • Michael Porter Jr.
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Michael Porter Jr. said that his right ankle is now properly healed.

    Porter missed six games with a right ankle injury, and though he was able to play in nine of Denver's last 10 games (the absence was a DNP-CD) before the hiatus, he admitted that his ankle was still bothering him and he was playing through pain. MPJ flashed tremendous potential when given the appropriate minutes but it's going to be hard for him to hold fantasy value outside of deeper formats when the Nuggets are fully healthy — he topped 15 minutes just three times in those nine games. The silver lining of the league's suspension is that hurt and injured players are getting the chance to heal up, Porter included.

    Source: Denver Post

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Kemba Walker has been rehabbing his left knee while in quarantine, and says that it's "doing well."

    Walker actually played in the Celtics' last three games before the season was shut down but has missed a total of eight games this season (plus one in preseason) due to left knee soreness. It's clearly a chronic issue at this point, and fantasy GMs just have to hope that this lengthy layoff will help Walker get back to full strength if and when the season resumes.

    Source: MassLive.com

  • Meyers Leonard
    C, Miami Heat

    Meyers Leonard is still rehabbing his sprained left ankle and estimates that his recovery is at about 90%.

    Leonard shed his walking boot at the end of February but it's been slow going, as he's still not recovered despite getting hurt on February 3. The NBA hiatus might've saved Leonard's season, but even when healthy there won't be any fantasy appeal here despite some strong runs earlier in the campaign.

    Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter

  • Nikola Jokic
    C, Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have announced that the person who tested positive for COVID-19 is now symptom-free.

    The team never said who tested positive, only that it was a member of the organization. The Nuggets have completed their 14-day quarantine, so hopefully all involved are able to remain healthy moving forward.

    Source: Mark Medina on Twitter