• We’re in the thick of pickup season. The holidays are coming and that always puts a little extra urgency in people who don’t want to be alone for the winter festivities. No one wants to be the black sheep who makes their immediate and extended families wonder why they haven’t found that certain someone they could settle down with. All the various aunts, uncles, and cousins will judge silently that you’re too choosy, or you’re too wrapped up in your job, or that you just really need to do something about that mole or else no one will be able to get past it on a first date.

    Then they’ll see friends start to settle down and that makes them a bit jealous and wonder why they were able to find people before you. I mean, the buddy who still thinks that wrestling is real and still that Slim Jims are one of the four major food groups was able to find the Miss Elizabeth to his Macho Man. Every pot has a cover, except for you apparently, and even though it’s getting colder out, you’re starting to boil over.

    Media doesn’t help matters much either. Love Actually is always playing on TV and that makes people feel it in their fingers like their true love is out there waiting to be found before Christmas and all they need are a few posters and a sharpie to let that someone know how they feel. There are endless commercials about getting the right gift for the loved ones in your life. Your music service of choice squeezes in a holiday track or two just to hammer it in your ears – the same crap that your eyes have already been overloaded with.

    It’s enough to make you want to curl up into a ball and hide, but life doesn’t stop and you can either try to accept this time of year as a point of reflection and try to change, or you can continue to fall back into the same patterns you always have and the next holiday season will feel the same as this one.

    In the meantime, Juancho Hernangomez is currently the fantasy basketball flavor of the week. He had a couple of huge games this past week, his minutes have spiked, and the Nuggets still need someone to fill the Will Barton role while he remains out for the next few weeks. This all makes for someone who would be an ideal add for your roster.

    Then again, E’Twaun Moore has also been hot and will continue to have a strong role while Elfrid Payton is shelved again for the next six weeks. Moore is having the best season of his career on a high scoring Pelicans team. His minutes are into the 30s and completely secure. He too makes for an ideal add to your roster.

    So this begs the question, this being pickup season. How do you know if that someone is THE one?

    You’re making fantasy basketball pickups because you don’t want to lose. You don’t want the mockery from your league. You’re doing it because you know that your team is imperfect and you’re actively trying to fix it. You’re also seeing other owners scoop up players that have given them a boost and you’re tired of being left behind on your waivers.

    You know there’s a pickup out there for you, but how do you know they’re the right ones for your team? Have they put together a couple of hot games, or have they had a full season of consistency? Did an injury open an opportunity for more minutes, or do they simply need to make up for your draft shortcomings? And then finally, who do you drop to make this pickup happen?

    The reality is that everyone thinks that they’re a pickup artist, but your smooth moves might not work all the time. But to try and get it right a little more frequently, it helps to really think about all the steps you’re taking and microanalyze making pickups. This is fantasy basketball after all and not a club so it’s a good thing to overthink and not be super creepy about it.  This way you’ll be way more prepared the next time you make eyes with the next hot thing that they won’t want to roll their eyes the next time you even think about asking Danny Green if it hurt when he fell from heaven.

    We always get a bunch of questions that are typically should I drop Player A for Player B. We don’t mind helping, that’s what we’re here for. But I’ll lay out my approach to waiver matchmaking because I prefer teaching a man how to fish and all that.

    When looking for that fine fantasy thang, I tend to start by looking at roster trends. Why? Because there is wisdom in crowds. And if you’re interested in someone the first thing you’re going to do is start talking about it with your friends and maybe even check out social media profiles. If you’re looking for that ideal basketball mate and so many other people vouch for them, then they have to be pretty good, right? So, if there are a bunch of adds on a player’s ownership, then there has to be some good rationale for that to happen.

    But I don’t stop there, I have to check stats too to make sure that it’s not just the crowds that I’m following. Did the player have a couple of good games against lousy teams, or is this the sign of more great games to come? It’s typically pretty easy to grab someone quickly when an injury happens, but when you’re trying to find someone who is simply playing better, then you have to dig just a little bit more.

    The other important aspect of that I tend to look at a two-week sample of games rather than just one. That way there’s more of a look against a variety of teams in different situations and then you can evaluate whether or not whether a player is really trending or just a flash in the pan.

    The last part is roster management. You need to think about who you should drop. The shallower the league, the harder it is to let go. But you need to really decide if you’re just fishing for depth at a perceived position of need or if the player you’re trying to grab is going to help you in the categories you’re looking for.

    In this case, I try to think about short term gain against potential long term loses. Do I think that I’ll potentially be wistful about the one I let get away because I was so busy trying to chase anything that walks? I don’t ever want to look back at what could have been and try to look at various projections and news to see if there’s any shot I might regret letting go of someone I took the time to draft.

    The truth is, there’s more to pickups than meets the eye. Sure, some players might look attractive, but you’re going to want to feel them out a bit before making a commitment. This approach may take some time, but you can let your other league owners be more impulsive. It could wind up biting them just as quickly as it helps them. But you know you’re going to want to play the field to make your team better this holiday season, because if you don’t you might already be thinking about what to do better for next year.


    There was one hot pick that crushed me in DFS this week (more on that in a bit) and I’m pretty enraged about that. There was also a pickup that I had that let me down in a spot where I needed him to come through. That also sent me into a blind rage. No, I want to focus on someone that’s been perpetually driving me bonkers. A player that’s been like a nagging pain in my rear end that refuses to stop, go away, and do something else other than drive me bananas.

    SO DAMN YOU TAUREAN PRINCE! Don’t you realize we have reputations to uphold here? We know your potential so why in the blue hell does it always take you half a season to realize it. We didn’t invest so much in you to build brick houses. No, we did it because you’re a burgeoning rare talent on a young team who can do it all. So start getting back to being the young fantasy Prince we know you can be and not the damn court jester.


    Round 1 – LeBron James

    Round 2 – Joel Embiid

    Round 3 – Klay Thompson

    Round 4 – Eric Bledsoe

    Round 5 – Nikola Vucevic

    Round 6 – Robert Covington

    Round 7 – Jeff Teague

    Round 8 – D’Angelo Russell

    Round 9 – Jonathan Isaac

    Round 10 – Jaren Jackson Jr.

    Round 11 – T.J. Warren

    Round 12 – Montrezl Harrell

    Round 13 – Pascal Siakam

    Lord Robert is a guy we always get questions about whether or not he should be cut after he has a lousy string of games. I’m in leagues where he’s been dropped with regularity over the past few seasons. Then of course he gets traded and a new set of questions arises about his new fit and how he’ll do in Minnesota. And how does RoCo acclimate himself with the Wolves? By accumulating 22 cash counters in three games. Good Lord.


    Round 1 – Steph Curry

    Round 2 – Andre Drummond

    Round 3 – Kyle Lowry

    Round 4 – Draymond Green

    Round 5 – Zach LaVine

    Round 6 – Jonas Valanciunas

    Round 7 – Lonzo Ball

    Round 8 – Willie Cauley-Stein

    Round 9 – Darren Collison

    Round 10 – Josh Jackson

    Round 11 – Eric Gordon

    Round 12 – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

    Round 13 – P.J. Tucker

    You figured going into the week that Steph and Draymond having a five-game week would offset the pain and misery of Andre Drummond having the bizarre one-game week. You thought very wrong. Honestly, if this team dropped picks 8 – 13 on this team I would hardly fault them. That is if they hadn’t done so already.


    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 point guard desperately trying to rehab an ACL injury (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.


    D’Angelo Russell – Even before Caris LeVert got injured, the two most valuable Nets had been Jarrett Allen, to no one’s surprise, and D’Angelo Russell, to many one’s surprise. Russell has quietly put up a top-75 season on a career best shooting percentage from deep, improvement in his steal rate, and a decrease in his turnovers. The Nets will need to lean on him even more without LeVert, but the signs are there that his game has matured enough to handle it.

    Juan Hernangomez – Juancho has been red hot and looks like he may have Denver’s 3 position locked up until Will Barton returns. That’s still a few weeks away from happening and even once he returns, Barton will need some time to get adjusted. If you can get a top-100 player for the next 3-4 weeks you take it and run, then look again for the next player to fill your roster.

    Jonathan Isaac – To those of you who hung on for dear life, on behalf of all of us, you’re welcome.


    James Ennis III – It’s mid-November and the Rockets are rolling with a seven-man rotation. It’s odd, but it’s been working. Without Carmelo Anthony there to kick around anymore, if you’re part of that seven-man Rockets rotation, you’re going to have value. Ennis III is currently a member of that club. That is until someone else takes Morey’s four 1st round picks.

    David Nwaba – If the Cavs had any semblance of smart basketball people around them, they’d decide to completely switch gears and just grind things to a halt. Slow the game down to an excruciating level and just be absolute pains on defense. If they were smart, they’d realize they have a couple of guys who can help them do that. One is Larry Nance Jr. The other is David Nwaba. His minutes are trending up, but I don’t trust the Cavs to make the right use of him.

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – The Lakers have been playing better of late, but could still use some defensive help. Fortunately, they have a guy on their team who can. KCP has always had a good steal rate and with Rondo out has a clear path to more minutes. When he’s had time, KCP has been a regular visitor to the top-100. He now has time again.


    Markieff Morris – Keep an eye on Dwight Howard’s injury, but if he’s fine, just get rid of Morris. When D12 has played, Kieff has been invisible. Like not even in the top-250 invisible. And we know that Morris isn’t exactly a model locker room citizen when there are signs of dysfunction on a team. The Wizards are so full of bickering and apathy that they’re making their neighbors in Congress jealous.

    Brandon Ingram – One of the biggest questions entering the season for the Lakers was how their young players would co-exist with LeBron. Ingram was going to shift to the four with the Lakers going smaller. The results been near-identical pe- game stats for Ingram compared to last season. In case you’re too lazy to look up his statistics last season, I’ll summarize them for you. They’re not worthy of a top-150 player.

    Quinn Cook – Yes, the Warriors will be cautious with Steph Curry and sure, the five-game week helped Cook’s overall value, but on a per-game basis he was outside the top-100. Steve Kerr even started Andre Iguodala at point guard. It’s been a miserable stretch for the Dubs and even if there’s another week or two before Curry gets back, there are probably better options available to you.


    In case anyone need a reminder as to just how nearly impossible it is to win a GPP, I give you my lineup from Saturday night.

    I saw that Kawhi Leonard was out and that Fred VanVleet was going to get the start so in he went as my first value choice. OG Anunoby was joining Leonard in street clothes so this was going to be a night Pascal Siakam was likely going to stay on the floor and do really well even if the game gets ugly. Now for the studs. Joker against the Pelicans in a shootout? Sign me up. A heat check Paul George against the Suns awful defense. Stone Cold says give me a ‘hell yeah.’ Then finally, Kemba coming off a dud against a team he’s lit up twice already this season. We all know how that went. Add in a Jrue Holiday who’s been hitting value with ease sans Elfrid Payton and I felt golden.

    I made a nice chunk of change back with that lineup and dominated the cash games I was in. But I also do the single entry GPPs and this was just a reminder that if you make one mistake in your lineup, you won’t sniff the top. My final two spots in my lineup came down to a choice between reserve Bulls guards Antonio Blakeney and Shaq Harrison who figured to get a ton of time without Zach LaVine playing.

    The other was the decision that probably cost me, I kid you not, hundreds of dollars. I went with James Ennis III to see if he could put up back-to-back strong games against a soft D Kings team instead of (I’m sure you’re sensing a theme with this player) Juancho Hernangomez. The difference was 20 points. Those 20 points would have taken me from 340 to 360 and a difference of $20 in the $2 GPP, to $600 in the same pool. Just typing this out makes me want to scream at a kitten. One goddamn lousy decision.

    I guessed wrong and it cost me. And to make me feel even worse, if I got the decision right, I still wouldn’t have come close to winning the whole thing. The moral of the story is that despite this nightly degradation, I keep coming back to this version of fantasy basketball Saw movies.


    So close again to nailing all five of my leagues. I finished 5-4 or better in four out of five, but in the 5th, I lost 4-5. In another case of the Knicks giveth then promptly taketh away, David Fizdale finally realized that he has Enes Kanter on his team and he’s quite good. So much so that he went for 21 and 19 on Sunday. Yay. But at the same time he also had four turnovers in the one category that could get flipped against me. Boo. I swear the week I finally win in all five of my leagues will be the day I run through my neighborhood in nothing but my finest eveningwear while screaming like a wild drunken banshee.

    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.

    Have a very happy Thanksgiving Hoop-Ballers.May you be thankful for stuffing your face with food and your minds fantasy basketball brilliance!

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