• 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

  • Kevin Durant - F - Golden State Warriors

    Kevin Durant scored 30 points on 13-of-22 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists and five turnovers in the Warriors' 113-93 loss to the Raptors on Wednesday.

    The offense tilted toward Durant's isolation game and the team played less defense than it should have, two issues that are tough to correlate but not surprising when it happens. Steph Curry hit just 3-of-12 shots for 10 points and a lower-end line, and Klay Thompson missed all five of his 3-pointers and finished with 14 points in the blowout loss.

  • Draymond Green - F - Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green hit just 1-of-5 shots for two points but was otherwise solid with five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and three blocks over 25 minutes in Wednesday's home loss to the Raptors.

    Green is right on track for preseason expectations the rest of the way as far as we're concerned, so there might be a little room to buy low before that's readily apparent.

  • Kyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors

    Kyle Lowry scored 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting (including two threes) with five rebounds, 12 assists and three steals in Wednesday's blowout win over the Warriors.

    That's two in a row for Lowry and with Kawhi Leonard (hip) out he has been forced to hit the gas pedal, though that shouldn't be construed to suggest he can't be productive with Leonard on the floor. Serge Ibaka added 20 & 12 with a steal and two blocks, and Pascal Siakam added 13 points with three rebounds, three assists, one trey, two steals and one block in the win. Jonas Valanciunas' (thumb) potential absence will feed them even more minutes and touches.

  • Fred VanVleet - G - Toronto Raptors

    Fred VanVleet started for injured Kawhi Leonard (hip) and scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting with two threes, three boards, two assists and three steals over 28 minutes in Wednesday's win over the Warriors.

    VanVleet is worth owning while Leonard is out and it won't hurt that Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) could miss some time and ease the frontcourt portion of the logjam.

  • Nemanja Bjelica - F - Sacramento Kings

    Nemanja Bjelica scored 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting (including four threes) with five rebounds, three assists and two blocks over 29 minutes in the Kings' 141-130 win over the Wolves on Wednesday.

    The score pumped up the entire box score but Bjelica is still sitting on top 75-100 value (9/8 cat) on the season and that's a guy that probably shouldn't have been dropped in too many leagues. He was, though, so hopefully you got in on the post-hype production.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein - C - Sacramento Kings

    Willie Cauley-Stein scored 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-of-9 FTs) with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks in Wednesday's win over the Wolves.

    Cauley-Stein was intentionally fouled late in the fourth quarter after airballing a free throw and this isn't just a one-game thing. He has hit just 47.8 percent from the line this season and it's keeping him stuck in the late rounds for fantasy value. This probably gets on scouting reports and he'll have to prove he can make it or he's going to get an even bigger weight on his value, as well as less minutes.

  • Marvin Bagley III - F - Sacramento Kings

    Marvin Bagley scored 17 points on 4-of-5 shooting (9-of-10 FTs) with 10 rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes off the bench on Wednesday against the Wolves.

    Bagley did not have a steal or block and he's not likely to hit that well from the free throw line. He struggled on defense, as well, but he's going to be getting anywhere from 22-30 mpg on most nights. He's well outside the top-150 in 24 mpg so far this season.

  • Yogi Ferrell - G - Sacramento Kings

    Yogi Ferrell scored 17 points off the bench in Wednesday's win over the Wolves, hitting 5-of-6 shots (including four threes) with two rebounds, six assists and one steal in 16 minutes.

    Ferrell looked great in this one and he adds a component to the fast break that the Kings really do need. He's not in the clear when it comes to Frank Mason, even if Dave Joerger said after the game that Ferrell is going to get a 10-game stretch in this role. If you're in a deep league where 14-18 mpg with the right guy can play, give him a look for the aforementioned stretch.

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic - G - Sacramento Kings

    Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 20 points off the bench in Wednesday's win over the Wolves, hitting 9-of-15 shots (including two threes) with five rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes.

    Bogdanovic is bringing late-mid round value back when on the floor this season and he can climb up and over the top-75 hump with just a few more upticks. Aside from some lower-grade injury risk, he's going to be as consistent as it gets.

  • Robert Covington - F - Minnesota Timberwolves

    Robert Covington (knee) scored 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting (1-of-2 3PTs, 4-of-5 FTs) with six rebounds and no steals or blocks in Wednesday's loss to the Kings.

    Covington's goose eggs on defense in a game with no defense being played stood out and he didn't look like he was at full strength. One has to hope that these aren't Thibs minutes and it'll be something we all monitor going forward.