• Happy Hanukkah everyone! Along with Mr. Besbris, as your resident Jewish Hoop-Ball correspondent it would behoove me to bestow upon you eight gifts for eight days like I would my own kids lest they think that I don’t love them enough to shower them with gifts and attention. But as much as I love all my readers, I can’t devote eight consecutive days to a Facepalm column.

    I can, however, provide you with a listicle of eight in keeping with the holiday theme. As any fortunate Jewish kid will tell you, getting eight days of gifts is fantastic. However, not all gifts are created equal. Growing up, I got one main gift and seven other not-so-main gifts. The remaining seven gifts we’re usually little assorted things that sometimes didn’t always feel like gifts. One time my parents got me pencils. Not any special kind of pencils, just regular yellow #2 pencils. I did need some new pencils for school, but even at a young age, I didn’t feel that taking those things out of wrapping paper was actually enjoyable.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m very appreciative for what I’ve been given during the holidays. But we are human after all and we always play favorites and value certain things we receive greater than we do others.

    So back to the listicle. This list of eight have been my fantasy “gifts” for the season thus far. Some aren’t even gifts. They’re nuisances or things that make me irrationally angry as usual. Regardless, these eight players have all played the central roles on my fantasy life this season and in the spirit of the holidays, I share them with you all how they have made me feel this time of year.

    Without further ado, let’s light this basketball Menorah for this edition of the The Facepalm Eight.

    1. Kevin Durant

    KD is the big gift that I had been eyeing all year long and is without question the most central player in two leagues of mine – and isn’t even on my team in one of them. Durant is the centerpiece of my big money keeper league and has been for some time. With Durant I’ve been to the playoffs in each of the past three seasons in this league and narrowly missed a title last year. He’s back again to during Durant things and even more so with the Warriors completely banged up. He’s been the rock of my team and allows me to build out the rest of my team as I please given how valuable he is across the board.

    The reason Durant isn’t on two of my teams is because I traded him away in the other league. I was reluctant to do so. But at the end of the day, I made a decision and have to own it. That decision though came with nearly endless frustration and then exacerbated by decisions by the commissioners of the league that nearly resulted in me leaving the league altogether. To that end, Kevin Durant provides me with a valuable reminder. Fantasy basketball isn’t just about the players you surround yourself with, but the people from your league that you surround yourself with as well.

    1. Nikola Mirotic

    Nikola Mirotic got punched in the face by Bobby Portis last year and almost gave my big money league a black eye as a result. I dropped him hastily, Mirotic got himself traded and wound up in the ideal spot to become a breakout star. That spot was on someone else’s fantasy team. And the Pelicans.

    But knowing just how well Mirotic played after Boogie got hurt in New Orleans, I couldn’t wait to draft him in leagues this year. Part of this was me trying to recapture something that got away and not allowing that to happen again. But of all the players I felt so heavily invested in, Mirotic was the guy I had to have. I now own him in three of my five leagues and would have had him in a 4th only to be draft sniped. Needless to say, I watch the Pelicans on League Pass with glee and thoroughly enjoy my gift of Saint Niko running up the score each time out.

    1. Montrezl Harrell

    Sometimes you just have a hunch about someone or something. It flies completely under the radar, but you know you have to have it. Not only do you have to have it, but you are probably the most excited about this particular thing more than anything else. Your big ticket gift, the one you know is going to be great. But when a little gift blows away your expectations, then it makes it all the more worthwhile.

    I placed a massive bet on Montrezl Harrell and it’s paid off big time. Everyone has their “steal” player that they believe in and he was mine. I own him in three of my five leagues as well and couldn’t be happier about it. If I have a third kid I may name him or her Montrezl. Feels like a gender neutral name. In any case Trez is my own personal breakout star and one of my most cherished gifts this season.

    1. Jonas Valanciunas

    Jonas Valanciunas is the sweatshirt of my fantasy leagues. Getting a sweatshirt isn’t an exciting gift. You just kind of look at it and go, ok thanks, shrug and move on. But what ends up happening is that you start wearing that sweatshirt over and over again. You beat it up pretty good. Every time you think it’s time to move on and get a new sweatshirt, you realize just how dependable that sweatshirt has been for you ever since you got it. That sweatshirt became a gift that you didn’t think much of at first, but then realize that you might not be able to function without it after a while.

    I have just described my relationship with Jonas Valanciunas in a nutshell. In the leagues that I own him, they are two center leagues where I think that if I move on from him, I don’t know what the hell I’ll do without him. Even on bad days, he’s a dependable player, and I’m just going to have to keep wearing that Jonas Valanciunas sweatshirt until it’s completely worn out.

    1. Caris LeVert & Spencer Dinwiddie

    The Nets are a sad vice of mine. They are a gift that I continually get excited about only to let me down in the end. Yet I keep coming back to them and thinking that things will be different this year.

    Caris LeVert was a revelation this season. Teammates, coaches, and media were raving about him in the offseason. I of course, have heard this story before. Thinking that some things never change, I stayed away from LeVert in leagues. But knowing that I couldn’t fully keep my vices in check, I targeted Spencer Dinwiddie as my Nets player to own. This of course has been a colossal mistake, even with LeVert going down because Nets fans are doomed to ultimate suffering. There’s still time for things to turn around Dinwiddie and possibly LeVert. But I’ve gotten these gifts before and I’m just used to disappointment from them.

    As an aside, I just ordered a pair of the Nets City Edition shorts, the ones with Biggie’s Coogi design on them. It’ll be a miracle if the stitching on them doesn’t unravel in a matter of weeks.

    1. Jaren Jackson Jr.

    Some gifts are the ones you don’t get. Actually, this particular gift isn’t a gift at all. It’s a gift that someone else got that makes you jealous and makes you wish that was the gift you asked for in the first place.

    Triple-J is going to be a damn monster in this league. He’s already a top-50 player 22 games into his young career and the ceiling could be that of a future first-round pick. The defensive chops are already there and he has the capacity to be an elite scorer as well. There’s nothing but upside to Jackson Jr. And yet, I missed out on him in two leagues. In one of my leagues, I refused to pull the trigger on a deal which would have sent away Rudy Gobert for Mike Conley and the #4 rookie draft pick. That #4 overall pick would become Jaren Jackson Jr.

    In another 10-teamer that I do, Jackson was left sitting on waivers early on in the season. This being a daily H2H, I grabbed him in a matchup earlier this season thinking that he was starting to heat up. He had a lousy game against the Sixers a few weeks ago and that was it, he failed the one-game audition. The lesson, as always, is that I am an idiot. My idiocy will forever be the gift that keeps on giving.

    1. Bogdan Bogdanovic

    Every so often there’s a gift that you need to wait on a little bit. Like perhaps you got tickets to a game, but the game isn’t until March. So getting the gift right away isn’t fun. But as each day passes when the gift gets closer, the anticipation builds and so does the hope that the gift will fulfill its promise.

    We begged and pleaded for you to grab Bogdan Bogdanovic while he was hurt and we hope you did. I certainly did and have been thrilled to reap the benefits. The young Kings are playing fast and a healthy Bogdanovic is going to be crucial as to whether or not the Kings can sustain the gains they’ve made so far this season. There’s going to be so many fantasy goodies between Bogdan, Fox, and Hield to go around and while it may have taken a bit to unwrap this gift, the payoff has been worth it.

    1. Blake Griffin

    Finally there’s the gift that you know you don’t want at all. Then someone else gets it and it gets thrown in your face repeatedly. What’s worse is that, the gift you thought would be crappy and overrated doesn’t seem to be that bad overall but you couldn’t get past your biases about it and now your friends are enjoying their gift at your expense.

    I don’t care at all for Blake Griffin the basketball player. I thought he was all hype because of his dunking. He’s historically been one of the most overrated fantasy players around. He walks around in games looking like fake tough guy and it drives me insane. But the reality is, he’s having a great season and it’s looking like he’s warded off a potential decline. While his shooting won’t be the same as it was during his peak Clipper seasons, he’s improved his range from deep and is making the FG% more palatable. And that, that annoys me because I don’t own him. I even shy away from him in DFS and those are the games he tends to explode in.

    It just wouldn’t be a Facepalm without me complaining about something, now would it?

    PLAYER OF THE WEEK WHO HAS A PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST ME

    There are plenty of players that I’m sure you don’t like and refuse to draft and always wind up playing that player at some point in the season. I’m sure inevitably, that player will have a great week against you. It makes matters worse when that player’s real team ends up beating your favorite team at the same time. It’s a double-double of basketball aggravation. And it really makes your blood boil when that player and his team are supposed to be falling apart, but aren’t giving you the satisfaction of watching the traffic accident happen in real time.

    SO DAMN YOU JOHN WALL. You overrated baby. Stop whining about your teammates and start looking in the mirror you third-rate Chris Paul. It’s bad enough that you were able to stop being a self-destructive mess to beat the Nets, but did you also need to do that on the weeks you were playing my teams? What do you care, selfish as always John Wall. The only thing you’ve ever made better around you in DC is people’s appreciation of Gilbert Arenas. Sure, he was an asshole, but at least he was a fun-to-watch asshole who didn’t also ruin fantasy weeks for me.

    YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT YOU WILL HAVE YOUR VENGEANCE IN THIS LIFE OR THE NEXT IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS

    Round 1 – Anthony Davis

    Round 2 – Bradley Beal

    Round 3 – Rudy Gobert

    Round 4 – Mike Conley

    Round 5 – Robert Covington

    Round 6 – Myles Turner

    Round 7 – Nikola Mirotic

    Round 8 – Kyle Kuzma

    Round 9 – Darren Collison

    Round 10 – Domantas Sabonis

    Round 11 – Malcolm Brogdon

    Round 12 – Danilo Gallinari

    Round 13 – Jeremy Lamb

    Everytime Mike Conley is next up on the board in a draft my only reaction is always “Nope.” Convinced this is going to be the year that he finally falls off a cliff, Conley instead convinces everyone that I am an idiot. Holy crap Pacers and old people sightings!

    YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT YOU’RE FINDING YOURSELF ALONE, RIDING IN THE GREEN FIELDS WITH THE SUN ON YOUR FACE TO NOT BE TROUBLED BECAUSE YOU ARE IN ELYSIUM AND YOU’RE ALREADY DEAD IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS

    Round 1 – Nikola Jokic

    Round 2 – Paul George

    Round 3 – Devin Booker

    Round 4 – Jamal Murray

    Round 5 – Aaron Gordon

    Round 6 – Jarrett Allen

    Round 7 – Jonas Valanciunas

    Round 8 – Brandon Ingram

    Round 9 – Dario Saric

    Round 10 – Buddy Hield

    Round 11 – Colin Sexton

    Round 12 – Taj Gibson

    Round 13 – Joe Harris

    ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS

    I’ll be looking at some mid to late-tier players who I’ll be keeping an eye on throughout the season on a week to week basis. Based on how their past few and upcoming few games go, I’ll decide whether or not I will be confidently holding and feeling strongly about (rock), or feeling a little bit flimsy or unsure of (paper) or will just be cutting altogether like a Reggae artist trying to build a career off of the surname of the far more successful Shabba (scissors, obviously). These are the players we either drafted or picked up who can make or break our seasons and will be dissected most when we try to make moves to the top of the standings. Here are some more players in my thought process.

    ROCKS

    The New Sacto Big Three – Did you scoop up Bogdan like we begged you too early on? Because what you witnessed his past three games was the ceiling of a future top-50 player. Did you believe that Joerger would finally learn the error of his ways and play his guys for more than 30 minutes? An up-tempo Kings team featuring Fox, Hield, and Bogdan have been a joy to own and it’s only going to continue.

    Mike Muscala – I’m a full-on buy for Muscala who seems to be locked in as the four in Philly post-Butler trade. He’s a big man who can shoot from deep, is excellent at the stripe and is seeing his minutes stabilize in the high 20s. If the short term gains he’s made in boards and blocks are a harbinger of things to come then he could be a steal for you the rest of the way.

    Lou Williams – The Clippers crowded backcourt has taken a toll on Sweet Lou, but I’m hanging onto him. He didn’t really get going until December last season and I just happened to check the calendar for this year. He’s a streaky shooter, but when he’s on he’s lights out. When heat check Lou is back, you don’t want to miss out.

    PAPER

    Derrick White – The Spurs need something, anything to turn their season around. White was supposed to be the favorite to replace Dejounte Murray, but he crashed hard after returning from his own injury. It’s starting to look like the second time’s the charm and could be the catalyst the Spurs have been looking for all along.

    Jakob Poeltl – I repeat, the Spurs need something, anything to turn their season around. I gushed about Poeltl in the preseason only for Big Jak to find himself firmly in Pop’s doghouse. He doesn’t need a lot of time to produce value, but he does need some time. He looks like he’s starting to get it just a little bit more.

    Stanley Johnson – Some players breakout sooner than others. Some players take their sweet time to have that career season. Johnson took his sweet time, but that time may be now. He’s starting to figure it out from deep and has been a spark for the second unit on a surging Pistons team. He’s been a top-100 player over his past two weeks making me think better late than never.

    SCISSORS

    Dario Saric – Yeah I’m done. Nowhere near being a top-150 player since coming to Minnesota and it’s only gotten worse. Thibs gonna Thibs yet again.

    All of Cleveland (again) – People keep thinking they can mine through turds and find a diamond, but all you end up doing is smelling like shit. Now you have even more turds to mine with the addition of Alec Burks. If this is your fetish to live out the Jurassic Park dinosaur poop mining scene, then happy hunting.

    Bam Adebayo – Some of his big popcorn lines over the past couple of weeks disguise the fact that he shot poorly in those games. Add to it that his minutes are yo-yoing again and you get a guy that I simply can’t trust. If last week was peak Bam, then we can do better.

    ADVENTURES IN DFS

    I do a head-to-head Friends league with an old college friend of mine. It’s a way for us to keep in touch and just heckle each other from opposite coasts. And we rip each other mercilessly. If either of us has a bad score, we never hear the end of it. We put in lineups everyday throughout the whole season save for any days where we might be travelling or simply can’t because of an issue. If you have a long-distance friend who you know is a big hoops head like yourself, you really should give a head-to-head league a chance if you like making your friends feel like utter crap after loses.

    This was one of those weeks where my friend was pulling wins out of his ass and driving me a little more bananas than usual. He won three of four contests by a combined 3.7 points. Seriously he won three by the difference of a free throw, a rebound and an assist. He’s now up on me 23-21 on the season as a result. I’d be more upset, but I destroyed him last season and he’s forced to play this season on a double or nothing basis. I need to figure out what other form of embarrassment I can foist on him if he loses a second consecutive season. I’m open to suggestions.

    CAREER LEAGUE UPDATE

    I don’t have one this week.

    But…

    As a holiday gift to you all, my Facepalm on 12/18 will be chock full of Career League goodness. An update on standings, players, and full analysis. Don’t say I never did anything nice for you people.

    BLOODY SUNDAY

    My huge week last week has given way to an absolute beating in the Hoop-Ball staff league. My fellow Thursday night co-host Souriyo absolutely crushed my hopes and spirits with a 7-2 mauling. And this was done without the services of Steph Curry no less. That’s inexcusable.

    In addition, DeAndre Jordan has 23 goddamn rebounds on Sunday night to snatch a category from me in my H2H 10-teamer, leading to a 6-3 defeat. My team has been slowly falling apart in that one as Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, and Enes Kanter have struggled a bit while Dario Saric has turned into a colossal waste of space. We have Boogie Cousins sitting in our IR spot and please Boogie, come back to us soon!

    Anytime you’ve got a good Bloody Sunday story. Reach out to me on Twitter @JoshMillman and I’ll happily, and not so happily, commiserate with you.

    Enjoy the rest of the week fellow Hoop-Ballers!

Fantasy News

  • Damian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard had his best game this series in Monday's 117-119 Game 4 loss to the Warriors with 28 points and 12 assists to go with four rebounds and four 3-pointers.

    Lillard went 11-for-24 from the field and hit a signature logo 3-pointer, but in the end he couldn't convert on his layup or his 3-pointer in OT to keep the Blazers' season alive. He's been playing through a rib injury which explains why he's been a bit off on offense. Tonight he brought it all in an attempt to survive, but it just wasn't enough against the juggernaut Warriors.

  • CJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers

    C.J. McCollum scored 26 points on 10-of-22 shooting with two rebounds, seven assists, a steal, two blocks and five 3-pointers in Monday's Game 4 against the Warriors.

    McCollum has been the Blazers' most consistent threat on offense in this series, but he was unable to convert on some tough shots late in OT to keep the Blazers' season alive. He's improved upon last postseason, but this year ended the same as the Blazers were swept.

  • Meyers Leonard - F/C - Trail Blazers

    Meyers Leonard had a career-high 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting with 12 rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block and five 3-pointers in Monday’s Game 4 loss to the Warriors.

    Leonard had 25 points in the first half thanks to his 5-for-6 shooting from deep and both of those numbers already set new career-highs. Thanks to his hot hand, the Warriors had to respect him out on the 3-point line which freed up space for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to operate on the perimeter.

  • Al-Farouq Aminu - F - Trail Blazers

    Al-Farouq Aminu scored zero points on 0-of-2 shooting with a rebound and a block in Monday's Game 4.

    Aminu stunk it up again, but the Blazers didn't get much help from their bench either. Rodney Hood (40 minutes, seven points on 3-of-11 shooting with two rebounds, two assists, two steals and a 3-pointer) and Evan Turner (six points on 3-of-4 shooting with two rebounds and a steal) didn't do much, showing that coach Stotts didn't have many options to choose from.

  • Stephen Curry - G - Golden State Warriors

    Stephen Curry led the Warriors to a 119-117 OT Game 4 on Monday with 37 points on 11-of-25 shooting with 13 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal and seven 3-pointers.

    Curry put on an off-ball clinic tonight, running circles around the Blazers to get open even though he drew consistent triple-teams. Steve Kerr wanted to end this series tonight so Curry played the entire second half including OT and the move paid off. There shouldn’t be any more noise about Curry’s ability to perform in the playoffs as he destroyed the Blazers in every coverage they threw at him. It’ll be all eyes on Curry again in the Finals as they look to three-peat.

  • Draymond Green - F - Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green notched a 18-14-11 triple-double to go with three steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer in Monday’s Game 4 win over the Blazers.

    Green has proven over the past two games that he still has the ability to kick it into high gear. His defensive tenacity and anticipation might be the best in the league as he’s a one-man wrecking crew on that end of the floor. His only triple was a big one late in OT and his ability to ignite the Warriors on a big run thanks to his defense and passing were huge reasons why the Warriors swept the Blazers.

  • Jordan Bell - F - Golden State Warriors

    Jordan Bell started in Monday's Game 4 against the Blazers and scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting with two assists and a steal.

    Bell drew his first career playoff start after Damian Jones (DNP-CD) looked overwhelmed in his Game 3 start, but ceded the closing minutes to Kevon Looney (29 minutes, 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with 14 rebounds, a steal and a block) who played the best out of all the Warriors' centers. Looney's timing and offensive rebounding have been huge for Golden State and his ability to switch on to perimeter players has also been a huge reason as to why he sees the floor more than the other bigs.

  • Klay Thompson - G - Golden State Warriors

    Klay Thompson struggled in Monday's Game 4 win over the Blazers with 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting with six rebounds, two assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers.

    Thompson has been forced to put the ball on the floor more with the Warriors lacking playmakers and you can clearly see him out of his comfort zone. His defense was stifling tonight in crunch time as he perfectly contested both of Damian Lillard's shot attempts at the end of OT.

  • Alfonzo McKinnie - F - Golden State Warriors

    Alfonzo McKinnie started in Monday’s Game 4 win over the Blazers and scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting with two rebounds and a 3-pointer.

    McKinnie drew the start in place of Andre Iguodala (calf strain) and had the worst plus-minus out of all the starters but came up with some big offensive rebounds in OT. He can’t space the floor any better than Shaun Livingston (22 minutes, eight points on 4-of-4 shooting with a rebound, an assist, a steal and a block) who plays much better with the Warriors’ starters so the starting job is just in name.

  • Jordan Bell - F - Golden State Warriors

    Jordan Bell will start at center in Monday's Game 4 for the Warriors.

    Bell has played between 11 and 15 minutes in the three conference finals games, and he's unlikely to play too much more than that tonight. Look for Kevon Looney to continue to get more minutes than Bell tonight.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter