March 12, 2018, 8:14 pm
It’s fantasy playoff time and if you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Well done on placing in the top half of your league. You have a chance to make some cash and that’s what this game is all about. Everyday life, jobs, and what feels like an eternal winter can make you feel like you’re stuck in a headlock, but at least the fantasy basketball Gods have provided you with some reward for your perseverance.
But don’t pat yourself on the back quite yet Barry Horowitz. You still have work to do over these next two, three and possibly four weeks. If you start thinking that you’re just happy to be here, you could get hit with someone else’s finishing move from out of nowhere and will be down for a 3-count before you know what hit you.
So check schedules, analyze stats, do everything in your power in stack the deck in your favor these finals weeks. And for the love of God Shammgod, try to identify and claim any potential member of the Hoop-Ball Playoff Jobber Hall of Fame.
For those unfamiliar with wrestling parlance, a Jobber is a wrestler who exists to make the other superstar wrestlers look great. So to fans and viewers, Jobbers are not good wrestlers and lose regularly to the more popular wrestlers. They’re mostly interchangeable parts, and very few ever get to see the limelight. Think of them as a team 10-day contracts taking on the Golden State Warriors.
Now every so often a Jobber gets one over on a superstar and these basketball misfits and outcasts can also surprise everyone and slay a giant and it’s a huge shock when they do. Often enough, it happens in March, when the fantasy games matter most. These guys were never on anyone’s radar to begin with and likely got thrust into a bigger role because of an injury or being on a crappy team or a combination of both. These players have their moment in the sun, and then retreat back into the darkness once the fantasy playoffs are all wrapped up. So this list is a group of ragtag players who would otherwise have minimal impact on the game, but saved their greatest NBA moments for a stretch in the fantasy playoffs that was likely a factor in someone winning or losing a championship. Everyone has a ‘where did this guy come from and where the hell are they now’ story this time of the fantasy year and these are the cream of this induction season’s crop.
This is a non-exhaustive list of players who have excelled when it mattered most in the past few seasons of playing fantasy basketball. I’m sure I could think of more with additional time and research, but this group comes to mind pretty quickly for me as I’m sure they do for many of you. I cobbled them together as a starting five for their official induction into the HBPJHoF.
PG – Ish Smith
Our first inductee, Ishmael Smith was barely hanging on to his NBA existence. He bounced around from team to team for much of his career, seven in total until February of 2015. Around that time, Sixers guard Troy Wroten had been having a career year for a Sixers team in the midst of their Process, which was until he tore his ACL in late January. Then the team dealt away Michael Carter-Williams, who many believed was the team’s point guard of the future, leaving them with a vacancy at the position.
Enter Ish Smith. In a battle with Isaiah Canaan for starting point guard duties, Smith won out. By the time his job was firmly secured, he went on to put up an 11-game stretch from mid-March through early-April where he had 16.2 ppg, 6.6, apg, 4.0 rpg, and 1.7 spg. The percentages were a little lousy and the turnovers plentiful, but where else were you finding that kind of point guard production on the wire this late in the season? The Sixers may have been a running joke at that point, but if you were fortunate enough to claim Smith before he got hot, then your fantasy team was a deadly serious threat in the playoffs.
SG – Alexey Shved
I hope history remembers the 2014-2015 Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher Knicks as the truly hysterical abyss of dysfunction this team was. To call this team a raging dumpster fire is an insult to dumpster fires. If every animal at the Bronx Zoo got out of their cages and somehow found their way onto midcourt at the Garden to have a poop flinging competition, I bet you’d have a hard time debating who was running the more competent organization between them and James Dolan’s inherited basketball team.
That season, Jackson sent Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith from the outhouse to the penthouse when he traded them to Cleveland to play alongside LeBron. In mid-February, Carmelo Anthony needed knee surgery and would go on to miss the rest of the year. And quietly, the team traded MSG fan favorite Pablo Prigoini for a shooting guard nobody ever heard of named Alexey Shved.
Almost by default Shved became the Knicks starting shooting guard given all the injuries and comedic despair the Knicks were dealing with. Shved entered the starting lineup and went on a vicious tear. For eight games beginning on March 9th, Shved would damn near average 20-5-5. He chipped in 2.5 3s and 1.4 spg as well. It was an absurd run that was cut short by an injury, but if you rostered him before he went down and said, ‘what the hell,’ your reward for doing so was a trip to your league’s finals.
SF – Terrence Williams
As a Nets fan, I’m used to this time of year being about the team playing for the future and developing their young talent. Every year there’s someone who the team truly believes in that will be part of the team’s core for years to come. It’s the only way to deal with the morbidity of both the pre and post-Jason Kidd years. With the 11th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Terrence Williams became the next in line for that designation.
Facing yet another season in 2010 where they were hoping the ping-pong balls would bounce their way, the Nets decided to turn their athletic rookie prize Williams loose for over 30 minutes a game. He played like a man possessed for 21 games late that season, averaging nearly 15.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 5.0 apg, on somewhat respectable 44.4 percent shooting which included a massive triple-double on April 9th, 2010. That was enough to provide your fantasy team some real hope and enough to provide the Nets another season of false hope that they found a player who could do these kinds of things for years to come.
PF – Anthony Randolph
The NBA is littered with players who have had such incredible promise, shown flashes of brilliance and then vanished only to be forgotten about until someone decides to induct them in a fictitious Hall-of-Fame. The Warriors drafted Anthony Randolph the year prior to drafting Stephen Curry. In some weird alien-inhabited a parallel universe, they might be talking about how Randolph became the perfect five for the current world-beating Golden State Warriors and how JaVale McGee is off making boneheaded plays for a semi-pro team in Estonia.
But the Warriors gave up on Randolph after two seasons and sent him to the Knicks in a deal which netted them David Lee and you can see the history write itself from there. The Knicks would then send Randolph to another terrible team in the Wolves in the hopes that they could find some minutes for the young power forward. The Wolves did just that for Randolph in March of 2011 behind Kevin Love and, oddly enough, Darko Milicic. He saw about 22 minutes per game off the bench, enough for Randolph to put up nearly 13/6/1/1/1 per game on 50 percent shooting. Perhaps Randolph finally found his niche, but there was no perhaps about it for your fantasy team if you were paying attention to the baby Wolves’ changing rotation.
C – Nikola Pekovic
Nikola Pekovic was Anthony Randolph’s teammate, but didn’t experience his breakout until Randolph left to sign with the Nuggets for the 2012-2013 season. That year, most fantasy leaguers had no idea who Big Pek was beyond this enormous, scary mob boss looking big man from Montenegro. But Pek was ready for his moment in the sun, putting up career numbers and finding his way into lineups across the country.
Unfortunately the story for Pekovic that season and throughout his career was that he couldn’t escape the injury bug and was in and out of the Wolves lineup. That year he played in over 60 games and averaged 16.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg on 52 percent shooting. But it was March of 2013 that he was healthy enough to turn on the afterburners for a 12-game stretch of 18.8 ppg and 9.1 rpg on 57 percent shooting. Big Pek was someone you found just hanging out on wires and if you grabbed him and held on for dear life, this scary mob boss looking big man made you the Don of your fantasy league.
So congratulations Jobber Hall of Famers on your enshrinement to this very website. Your achievement will now last forever through a very carefully worded Google search. If you didn’t make it into the HBPJHoF this year, then there’s always another chance next year. Keep an eye out this year for potential candidates like Nemanja Bjelica, Luke Kornet, or Tyler Dorsey and maybe one day they’ll have Hall of Fame inductions and you’ll look back fondly at how they helped you raise your fantasy banner.
Player of the Week Who Has a Personal Vendetta Against Me
I can’t gripe too much when I just officially knocked the defending champion out of the playoffs and clinched the regular season title in one my leagues. But those who know me well enough know that griping is kinda my thing, so I’m going to find something to piss and moan about.
Namely that the team I just eliminated made a massive trade with me that netted me the one and only Chris Paul. And I thought I fleeced the dude for him. The deal was Chris Paul, Thaddeus Young and Derrick Favors for Enes Kanter, a 1st round rookie pick, and the subject of my rant, Tobias Harris.
Now there are salaries involved and all that so it’s not as simple as the names themselves. But one of those names, meaning Mr. Harris, had been a fairly non-descript fantasy player for years. A year in and year out he’s been top-75 player. Solid, dependable, Tobias Harris. But I wasn’t going anywhere with just solid and dependable when I could land a CP3 and make a run at a championship.
But along the way he got traded to the Clippers and Harris found the extra gear that’s been missing in his career to this point. Sure, I could say hindsight and I still got CP3 and a regular season title, but DAMN YOU TOBIAS HARRIS! Where was this offensive machine when you were just another roster spot on my team?! How dare you unleash this monster after I trade you away!
Adventures in DFS
I’ve mentioned in past Facepalms that I am a degenerate. Gambling and sports betting is in my blood. No really, my Grandfather once co-owned a racehorse and taught me how to shoot craps. My Dad allowed me to review his weekly NFL picks against the spreads at an early age and got me involved in filling out March Madness brackets back when Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, and Greg Anthony were all Rebels for Tark the Shark.
So in my life I’ve had plenty of gambling ups and downs and one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in gambling despite having two generations preach it to me is not to make impulsive bets out of frustration. I know to live by the gambling adage, if you’ve dug yourself a hole, stop digging. And if you find yourself down to your last few chips, don’t throw them all down just to try to make a quick double up.
After starting the NBA DFS season up a couple hundred dollars by the time January rolled around, I fast forwarded a couple of months to find myself down a couple hundred dollars by the time March rolled around. I saw that I only had about $50 left in my account and saw that the Pelicans were playing the Clippers and against everything I’ve ever been taught and know, I just said “F*** It.” So I put all $50 I had remaining down on a series of 50/50s and GPPs.
Lo and behold, it worked! I came out of the night up $200 on the back of another Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday monster. I pulled a sneaky pick of Jakob Poeltl out of my rear end and if I had the stones to have played Yogi Ferrell over Milos Teodosic then I could have made even more. Coulda woulda shoulda, I guess, I’m just happy I came out of that night in the green.
I don’t advise that you do what I did, because that’s not how I was raised to properly gamble and things could have easily gotten ugly. Then I would need to stop writing about adventures in DFS and we wouldn’t want that now would we?
Guys I Like This Week
Here are some top-100 or so players I like this week. This is me making sure these players decide to start taking their summer vacations early.
Eric Gordon – The Rockets have four, two against the Clips and Pels, Harden is a bit banged up and even without those factors at play, Gordon has been starting to find his stride again.
Kyle Anderson – I reserve the right to change this if Kawhi Leonard does return, but Anderson has been hot and gets some great home matchups when the Spurs need Ws.
Jonas Valanciunas – JV looks like he’s finally putting together that big season everyone has been expecting of him, and this week he gets four with two against teams who are terrible against opposing centers.
Steven Adams – Carmelo Anthony has done a disappearing act and with the Thunder getting some soft teams in the Clips, Kings, and Hawks, they’ll need Adams to be big this week.
Dario Saric – Only three games, but two against the Knicks and Nets where D stands for Deficiency. Saric has been quietly heating up as well.
Guys I Will Avoid This Week
Here are some top-100 or so players I don’t like this week. This is me ensuring these players play great basketball and then take up a second sport consisting of using their feet and my ass for a pickup soccer game.
T.J. Warren – The Suns get the Cavs and Warriors, which makes for a severe risk of blowout. With the Suns DOA, there’s less reason for them to give Warren minutes.
Blake Griffin – It might be hard to sit Griffin, but out of his three road games this week he’s playing the Jazz and Blazers who have been two of the toughest defenses in the league all season.
Jeff Teague – The Wolves have three not-great matchups and would it shock you at all if Thibs let Derrick Rose start to eat away at Teague’s minutes?
Mario Hezonja – Super Mario could see more time with Aaron Gordon injured again, but don’t rush to start him so quickly. Three against the Bucks, Spurs, and Celtics doesn’t make for a must start week.
George Hill – The Cavs are dinged up so it this may not be valid, but with two on the schedule against the tanking Bulls and Suns, the Cavs could opt to rest some of their veteran players.
BONUS: Draymond Green has what should be delightful fantasy matchups against the Lakers, Suns, and Kings. But the Warriors may go into rest mode considering Steph Curry’s recent injury. Draymond also has 15 techincal fouls on the season. I know you’re not sitting him, but play very close attention to the news this week and hope he doesn’t do anything stupid on the court and pick up his 16th for a 1-game suspension.
In the big 24-team dynasty league, I was up 6-3 on Saturday then on Sunday the Bulls started messing around with Justin Holiday again, Wesley Matthews hit the shelf, and Kevin Durant felt the need to heave up everything that hit his hands. Final week of the regular season ended with me down 4-5.
I’m still in the postseason, but not exactly moving in with momentum. I went from the 4th in the standings to 6th in a matter of weeks and went from having championship aspirations among a league of sharks to hoping I haven’t turned into the chum overnight.
As always, if you have a good Bloody Sunday story, let me know on twitter @JoshMillman.