• I’ve been obsessed with the new Watchmen series.

    I’ve read the original comic series, saw the 2009 movie, and am now left slack-jawed watching this story move in a whole new and spellbinding direction on HBO. The story takes place in an alternative version of America which isn’t all that alternative to our current and oftentimes challenging reality. The show wrestles with themes around race, law enforcement, relationships, family, trauma, what it really means to be a “hero” and the concept of achieving and living in a utopia. It’s magnificent television whether you’re versed in the origin story of the Watchmen comics and movie, or if you want to enjoy it as a standalone series.

    The show takes on the trope of being a superhero and having to put on a mask to hide one’s identity to achieve that level of status. After all, if one resorts to wearing a mask, what is that person trying to conceal and who are they really protecting? Is it everyone else that they are trying to help, or themselves?

    In a sense, we all wear costumes and masks. Who we are at home is different from the people we are at work and the people we are online. I freely admit to doing this. My wife and children know me best. They see me without my mask, without guards, open and vulnerable. My work colleagues will see a personality that is focused on getting the job done. My work and the people I am surrounded by are a means to an end. Callous as that may be, that person strives to be great at his work but can also be brash, stubborn and isolated from who I am as a husband and father. Those two people live in two alternate worlds and are often forced to balance each other.

    Who I am at Hoop-Ball is another mask. It’s a different kind of disguise. Here I am trying to cultivate a freewheeling and loose persona that comes with analyzing basketball statistics. To me, I want to try to win at fantasy basketball while still wearing the mask of a sarcastic class clown. This is a different outlet for me and I enjoy doing it. I relish being with the company of other basketball mask wearers here and throughout the nexus of our connected world.

    But the mask that seems to have been drawn on the league this year is that of Rorschach. Rorschach, the Watchmen “superhero,” is inspired by the inkblot test that was used prevalently in psychology to identify and diagnose mental illness. He is considered the protagonist of the Watchmen series but he is anything but that. His narration of events allows you to see the world as he does. Just as you see the inkblot in black and white, Rorschach sees the world that way as well. Dark, absolute, and uncompromising.

    We’ve now watched just over a quarter of the NBA season and think about what we have heard throughout. In no particular order:

    The NBA’s ratings are down. There’s an oversaturation of the product. The players have too much control in determining superteams. There remains a huge gap in the haves and have nots. The franchise in New York, the biggest media market, is a broken disaster. The Warriors dynasty is finished. Two of the game’s biggest stars are hurt. A rookie prodigy has yet to take the court. Load management. Regular season disinterest from players and fans. Tanking. Injuries galore. Overdependence on analytics resulting in endless 3-pointers.

    I’m sure there are others I’m not thinking of but you get the gist of it. We’ve been inundated with the notion that the basketball society that we depend on is irrevocably broken.

    All of this flies in the face of what we’re experiencing on the fantasy side. There’s more interest, more versions of games to play, greater and better analysis. It’s one man’s opinion that fantasy basketball is in as good of a place as it has ever been and the dichotomy with the news of the league itself is in stark contract. Inkblots and all that.

    The league is now having its moment with Newton’s 3rd Law. If we’re having serious discussions by serious league-minded people about a mid-season tournament and shortening the season altogether, then it’s clear that both the actions and reactions around the league are very significant.

    What that means for us is that our games are going to have to adapt to whatever becomes of the NBA’s next series reboot. We fantasy players already live with our masks, in our alternate timelines. It will be up to us to determine how to adapt once those masks no longer work for us.

    Depending on how the future of the league shakes out, the easiest solution is just to adopt a shorter season. But other iterations could be that we do multiple seasons within a season. Or several tournament style games that bracket up to a single winner. That could mean multiple drafts or auctions. That could also destroy the need for trades.

    No matter what happens, we will adapt. Our new alternative reality will wind up being not that much different from the actual one. We’ll continue to protect and cultivate a world that we love and have thrown ourselves into. Even if that means bracing for an inevitable and dramatic change in everything we know about the NBA.

    Tick tock. Tick tock.

    THE KAWHI LEONARD MEMORIAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK WHO HAS A PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST ME

    There’s probably no worse feeling in fantasy sports when your 1st round pick just doesn’t work out. It’s a gutting feeling. All the work and prep that goes into a season, all but vanquished because the random draw of draft position forced a narrow window of players you could have selected to carry your team, and that player just wasn’t up to the task.

    Sure, there are other players that you probably picked that exceeded their expectations beyond the top pick, but 1st round picks should be surefire bets to help you win. Even the ones that don’t play up to expectations should do enough to keep you afloat. Except when they don’t.

    SO DAMN YOU NIKOLA JOKIC! I didn’t waste a top-8 pick on you to be a surly top-50 malcontent. I didn’t invest the future of my team so you could take those earnings to your local buffet. I expected you to happily carry this Nuggets team on your back, not as a burden that wins in spite of you. So ditch the early season malaise and extra mayonnaise and get back to being more aggressive with your shots on offense because my fantasy season depends on it!

    YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT NONE OF YOU SEEM TO UNDERSTAND. I’M NOT LOCKED IN HERE WITH YOU. YOU’RE LOCKED IN HERE WITH ME IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS.

    Round 1 – Anthony Davis

    Round 2 – Luka Doncic

    Round 3 – Chris Paul

    Round 4 – LaMarcus Aldridge

    Round 5 – C.J. McCollum

    Round 6 – Hassan Whiteside

    Round 7 – Jonathan Isaac

    Round 8 – Jarrett Allen

    Round 9 – Montrezl Harrell

    Round 10 – T.J. Warren

    Round 11 – Fred VanVleet

    Round 12 – Evan Fournier

    Round 13 –  Spencer Dinwiddie

    We should all age as gracefully as LMA. I want him knocking down 19-footers for top-25 value in a cardigan and walking stick. It got dicey for Big Jay early in the season with DeAndre Jordan stealing his minutes and starting role, but the Nets’ development fairy dust continues to pay dividends. People are deservedly giving credit to Spencer Dinwiddie for the Nets’ run sans-Kyrie, but it’s been the steady progress of Jarrett Allen’s game on both ends of the floor that’s been just as valuable. I know FVV screams sell-high, but it’s not as if he’s losing minutes anytime soon and his value on steals alone is absurd. Beyond what we hope is a minor knee injury, hold tight and hope Lowry doesn’t eat too much into his usage.

    YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT YOU’RE TIRED OF EARTH, THESE PEOPLE, YOU ARE TIRED OF BEING CAUGHT IN THE TANGLE OF THEIR LIVES IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS.

    Round 1 – Kawhi Leonard

    Round 2 – Russell Westbrook

    Round 3 – Myles Turner

    Round 4 – Kyle Lowry

    Round 5 – Mitchell Robinson

    Round 6 – Blake Griffin

    Round 7 – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

    Round 8 – Lonzo Ball

    Round 9 – Gary Harris

    Round 10 – Justise Winslow

    Round 11 – Enes Kanter

    Round 12 – Taurean Prince

    Round 13 – Kyle Kuzma

    If we’re also going to tolerate the load management, then it would be lovely for Kawhi to at least get back to being far less careless and inefficient with the basketball. Perhaps that comes with the territory for his now-massive usage rates, but he’s been close to this level of usage before and those issues haven’t manifested previously. Now that Fizdale is gone, the hope is MitchRob will in turn go a month with 2nd round value with someone who might actually care to, you know, coach. Speaking of, Russell Westbrook to the Knicks is a certainty, right? I mean, that’s the only logical conclusion to the chucking mess that we are witnessing.

    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 (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

    Markelle Fultz – It’s hard to believe that Markelle Fultz has been an under-the-radar story this season. Over two years’ worth of trials and tribulations for the former #1 overall pick only to come out on the other side smelling like roses should warrant more attention. But here is Fultz just plugging away and using his athleticism to get to the basket more often. He can leave the chucking to his aggravating teammate Aaron Gordon. The Magic got Fultz back to basics and that has made him one of the most consistent fantasy players this season. The Magic essentially solved their starting point guard problems for free.

    Davis Bertans – There’s value in simply being one of the best shooters in the league. Guys like Joe Harris and Bojan Bogdanovic can tell you that. There’s also value in being on the court enough that it can raise the counters up enough to hide potential deficiencies. Aaron Gordon and Taurean Prince can tell you that. Being able to combine the skill with the opportunity together is the hard part. With the bodies piling up in DC, take a look at the numbers and ask yourself why Bertans can’t continue his Danilo Gallinari act over the course of a full season. I think he can.

    Duncan Robinson – I have a hold on Robinson, whose stats remind me of another top-100 mainstay, J.J. Redick, on fewer field goal attempts. The percentages are there for a high volume 3-point shooter and he’ll pick up some steals as well. Justise Winslow refuses to stay healthy and Robinson is locked into a starting role alongside Jimmy Buckets. With the Heat playing as well as they are, there’s no reason to change that.

    PAPER

    Kris Dunn – I don’t trust the Bulls backcourt. Or the Bulls altogether. But we aren’t that far removed from Kris Dunn being a breakout player on this very team. We’re also not that far from him being a malcontent that could be moved at any second. For now, Dunn is a starter once again and is leading the NBA in Steal Rate. Listen, if Tony Allen could make an entire career and get onto fantasy rosters by being an elite thief, then Dunn should probably be on teams as well.

    Jakob Poeltl – Fortunately, Poeltl’s stay in Pop’s doghouse was much shorter this season than it was last season. Pop may be a stubborn old coot at times, but I don’t doubt that he’s listening when someone points out that the team has a +5.5 Net Rating when Big Jak is on the floor as opposed to -9.1 when he’s off. The Spurs have been atrocious all season defensively so it would stand to reason to play the guy who is one of the league’s best at contested shots on a per-36 basis just a little bit more often.

    Marc Gasol – Speaking of defense, Gasol is pretty good there as well. It’s unfortunate that is all we have to hang our hats on given the career he’s had. But there’s room for a guy like Gasol who can still turn away shots, grab some rebounds and knock down an occasional 3-pointer. Even if he is a square peg on this team and the scoring and usage has disappeared, Gasol is smart enough to know how to be effective and avoid turnovers. His non-Embiid numbers say he’s starting to figure that out.

    SCISSORS

    Carmelo Anthony – Congrats on your Honorary Lifetime Achievement Western Conference Player of the Week Award. I’m sure your 35-year old body will be able to keep churning that out week after week at over 30 minutes a night after not being in the league for an entire year.

    R.J. Barrett – Dear God they’re going to break this kid, aren’t they? Welcome to Knicks’ developmental plans where they surround Barrett with glut of me-first power forwards and once he does touch the ball, allow him to dribble endlessly into contested shots. And that’s before we get to the utterly disastrous free throw shooting. If you were so daring to bet on regression, I get it. There’s just nothing in the history of the Knicks to suggest that change is coming, at least for this season.

    Eric Paschall – With the very notable exceptions of Steph and Klay, the Warriors are getting healthy again. That’s starting to put the squeeze on Paschall, who had a nice run when the Warriors’ various body parts weren’t functioning. Even still, he was only there for scoring and rebounding and was practically invisible on the defensive side. There will likely be more opportunity when the tanking continues later in the season but for now his services are no longer needed.

    ADVENTURES IN DFS

    I’m not going to lie Hoop-Ballers, DFS has been a real struggle this year. I am admittedly lousy at DFS, but I’ve had some nice occasional wins so I keep coming back for more. The problem is that I’m noticing a pretty big glaring issue that might not even have anything to do with me and the lineups I set but more about the industry as a whole.

    Because of the rash of injuries that happened early this season, everyone was in on the same chalk for most of the past couple of months. It felt like everyone was in on the same value picks that I was and it was a matter of hitting on the right Doncic, Giannis or Harden to make your night. Again, I will freely admit that I simply just may not be good at this and that’s fair. But when you’re in a cash game and out of 100 people in a 50/50 you notice that 40-50 people have the exact same 4 lineup combinations it takes out the variability. Because you have nearly half a cash game playing three-quarters of the same lineups as everyone else, it became a matter of hitting on a single player to get right in order to win.

    Between Coach and Apotria and a few other DFS personalities that I trust for insight, it seems like there’s been a coincidental consolidation of advice around the same players. That’s not a knock on those guys, they are outstanding, and there’s a reason that smart people are gravitating towards the same players when we’re looking at a numbers game. They hustle, they know what they’re talking about and almost every piece of advice they provide has been sound. I’m sure much of that is happenstance because the injuries made value choices glaringly obvious. But it forced me to stop playing cash games for slates that were under six games because it became apparent that everyone else is getting the same intel. I wonder if I’m just that bad or if other people have been experiencing this as well.

    BLOODY SUNDAY

    There’s nothing like taking a 5-4 lead into a Sunday knowing the pendulum could swing either way. It’s even more fun when your Fred VanVleet exits early with a knee injury and Anthony Davis goes ham on a helpless Wolves team. Goodbye 5-4 lead, hello 2-7 beating. Between that and losing all of my fantasy football playoff matchups, I may as well have spent my Sunday figuring out which concrete slab in my house would be most receptive to receiving my frontal cortex.

    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.

    Keep trying to stay above it all Hoop-Ballers. Still lots of time in the season left to get it right!

Fantasy News

  • Enes Kanter
    C, Boston Celtics

    Enes Kanter (right hip contusion) will not play against the Magic on Friday.

    Kanter, along with Jayson Tatum, limped off the court on Wednesday and did not return to the game. It seems like Kanter's injury was a bit more serious and he was seen limping as he left the stadium. Kanter had been clinging onto 12-team value by a thread, but take this a sign to move on from him and add any hot, low-end big man, such as Ivica Zubac, Jerami Grant or teammate Daniel Theis, who should produce top solid top-100 value as the lone viable center on the roster.

    Source: Boston Celtics on Twitter

  • Jayson Tatum
    SF, Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum (right groin strain) has avoided major injury and is being listed as questionable for Friday's game against the Magic.

    Tatum injured his groin on Wednesday and did not return to the game. As with any soft tissue injury, short return-to-play timetables can be a relief, but they can also place a player in position to reaggravate the original strain. Check back in before game time on Friday, but we wouldn't be surprised to see the Celtics hold their star forward out at least one game.

    Source: Boston Celtics on Twitter

  • Jaylen Brown
    SG, Boston Celtics

    Jaylen Brown (right ankle sprain) is being listed as questionable for Friday's game versus the Magic.

    Just as expected, Brown's absence won't be a long one. He's picked up a few injuries to his ankle and thumb since returning from an illness, so 2020 hasn't gotten off to a great start for Brown. With the Celtics nearing full health, don't expect the same statlines he was putting up about a month ago, but Brown's proven that his early-career statistical inadequacy is a thing of the past. Of course, he's still no dynamo, but he should be able to cruise as a top-60 or so asset moving forward. Check back in before game time tomorrow.

    Source: Boston Celtics on Twitter

  • Cameron Johnson
    SF, Phoenix Suns

    Cameron Johnson (right quad contusion) is considered uncertain for Friday's game against the Grizzlies.

    Johnson is only a 3-point specialist at this moment in time but could find himself in a more significant role if the Suns decide to be sellers at the trade deadline. Keep an eye on the situation in the coming weeks.

    Source: Gina Mizell on Twitter

  • Aron Baynes
    C, Phoenix Suns

    Aron Baynes (left hip soreness) is being listed as uncertain for Friday's game against the Spurs.

    Coach Monty Williams added that he is hopeful to have the big man back. The Suns' experiment of trying Deandre Ayton at PF next to Baynes didn't pan out as hoped, and the big man has returned to being a role player off the bench when healthy. While the team isn't actively shopping Baynes, he is a name that will be floating around for teams looking to acquire size.

    Source: Gina Mizell on Twitter

  • Tim Frazier
    PG, Detroit Pistons

    Tim Frazier (illness) is expected to play against the Grizzlies on Friday.

    With Reggie Jackson re-entering the guard rotation, Frazier's minimal role will take an even bigger hit. He is not on the fantasy radar.

    Source: Keoth Langlois on Twitter

  • Bruce Brown
    SG, Detroit Pistons

    Bruce Brown Jr. is expected to return to the lineup for Friday's game against the Grizzlies.

    Brown missed Wednesday's game with the illness, which coincided with Reggie Jackson returning to the lineup. Jackson went off for 22 points in limited minutes, and the roles and usage od the Pistons backcourt is something to monitor closely moving forward.

    Source: Keith Langlois on Twitter

  • Andre Drummond
    C, Detroit Pistons

    Andre Drummond (lip) is expected to play against the Grizzlies on Friday after missing Wednesday's game.

    Drummond will wind up missing one game after losing a tooth on Monday, and he should resume his usual dominance in the paint in this one. Drummond is a top-10/5 player in 9/8 cat leagues on the season, but that drops to top-50/30 over the past month as his name has been swirling in trade rumors. A change of scenery may be the recipe to get Drummond over the recent slump.

    Source: Keith Langlois on Twitter

  • Ivica Zubac
    C, Los Angeles Clippers

    Marc Stein of The New York Times is reporting that the Clippers are exploring the trade market to add a dependable big man and wing depth to the team.

    The Clippers could use another big man to pair with Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell, as well as another wing defender to play behind their superstar forwards. The Clippers are set with their core and will be doing their due diligence to round out the kinks of the roster before the stretch run.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • DeAndre' Bembry
    SF, Atlanta Hawks

    DeAndre' Bembry (personal) will miss Friday's game against the Thunder as he deals with the passing of his aunt.

    Our prayers go out to Bembry and his family. De'Andre Hunter could see a few extra minutes in his absence.

    Source: Jameelah J on Twitter