March 10, 2021, 7:53 pm
James Bond is the prototype. Handsome, smart, cunning, physically gifted, deadly, relentless and pretty good with gorgeous women. He is the perfect spy thriller hero. A debonair gentleman who can grace you with one hand while he uses the other to defuse a bomb that could wipe out a continent.
Ethan Hunt isn’t that far behind Bond in terms of the characteristics of a box office mainstay. The biggest difference is that he’s a calculating daredevil. No one in their right mind would take the kind of risks he does to save the world, but he does so with unmatched precision.
John Wick is walking death. If you’ve wronged him, your days are numbered. If he’s given a job, whether motivated by his work or his code, he will not stop until it’s done and there are a trail of bodies lying behind him.
These are just three of the many action heroes we’ve come to know and cheer for on the big screen over the years. They are brought to life by the best actors alive and scripts that allow them to showcase their talents and immerse the audience in a story and experience like none other that we hope ends with our heroes overcoming impossible odds.
There’s only one thing that we’re forgetting about these testosterone icons and bastions of badassery before they go off and save the world yet again. They have help along the way.
LeBron James is the closest thing we have to the perfect basketball superhero. He is already an icon and remains practically immortal on the basketball court. No matter how many times we think we’re going to write him off, he keeps coming back and looking better than ever.
Steph Curry is a wunderkind. Someone of his size should not be able to have his level of success in a league of giants, but here he is doing things that mortals scoff at but are second nature to him. Just when you think he’s gone crazy and there’s no way he can keep this up, there’s another 30-footer that has touched nothing but net.
Kevin Durant is the slim reaper. A prodigious virtuoso who can use every advantage of his frame to get to any spot he wants and end a defense instantly. We wrote him off after the most devastating injury one could get. Except he came back looking for vengeance and this time he brought a new mob of associates with him.
There’s only one thing that we’re forgetting about these dunking deities before they go off and try to win another championship. They have help along the way.
James Bond has Q. Ethan Hunt has Luther and Benji. John Wick has Winston. Batman has Alfred. Luke Skywalker has Yoda. Neo has Morpheus and on and on and on.
All of the heroes we’ve come to idolize on our screens have someone whispering in their ear. Someone who isn’t physically capable of being the hero but can help the hero see the bigger picture. Someone who helps them acquire the knowledge, wisdom or the complex engineering required for the gadgets they need to vanquish evil, get the girl, and live happily ever after. These heroes have a smart and sage team behind them pointing out how they can overcome their obstacles and how to move the story forward when the conflict feels too great.
In other words, there are no heroes without nerds.
This remains the case in the NBA as well, and very much for all of us here at HoopBall. We are nerds and we’re proud of that. We watch the tape and read into the stats and try to make sense out of the beauty and madness that makes this sport so wonderful. We play a game within a game. Nerds have competitive streaks even if we aren’t the ones that end up on a pack of NBA Top Shot. We want that competitive edge and we find it in the data that is generated from the sport we love.
None of this takes away from all of us being fans of LeBron, Steph, and KD and the hundreds and thousands of NBA players that have come before and will come after them.
The NBA you recognize today isn’t because nerds were running the fast break or pulling up from three. Instead there were nerds behind the scenes helping to shape the league and whisper sage advice in the ears of the stars.
David Stern and Adam Silver are nerds and have been responsible for managing the game over the past 40 years. The barrage of 3s you see and the tempo of the game are due to the nerdy Daryl Morey and a player/coach turned sage nerd in Mike D’Antoni. John Hollinger and Bob Myers are two executives that have risen to prominence through their use of those nerd terms, analytics and data. Bobby Marks is the bean counting money and salary cap nerd. Woj, Shams, Ramona and Zach Lowe are the reporter nerds snooping around for any nugget that may break Twitter. Nearly any content you see on the internet related to basketball can be traced back to the early day NBA nerds like Henry Abbott, Bill Simmons, Sean Forman and so many others.
None of these people have dunked a basketball but all of them have helped illuminate our heroes in ways that keep audiences clamoring for more.
So imagine my dismay when I see nonsense like this from Bleacher Report’s Master Tesfatsion while using examples that actually run counter to his very argument.
Nerds are ruining sports pic.twitter.com/fuwcNLsY2X
— Master (@MasterTes) February 25, 2021
Imagine my incredulity when the premier studio show of the league insists on continuing to pursue what can only be described as a holier than thou attitude toward analytics and the modern game and couples that with their disdain for players and fans who don’t kowtow to their largesse.
And finally, imagine the frustration that comes when the star players themselves rip on the nerds.
BOX SCORE FANS THE WORST!!!!! https://t.co/zTKoXaqJsU
— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) February 1, 2021
We nerds don’t want to take over. We want to enhance. We want to make things better. We want to see the game differently. Art is said to be in the eye of the beholder and that is what basketball is to us. Fantasy and combing through box scores for the meaning of what is happening on the court is our art and passion.
There may always be this rift between those of us who have been in the locker rooms versus those of us that haven’t, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The formula has been set for a while. The heroes will always be the heroes. They are the main attraction. Their abilities are why they make millions and we pay the price of admission. But they will always have us in their corner pulling for them and looking for that extra intellectual edge that can’t be made up from pure athleticism that may end up benefiting all of us in the long run. Our need to analyze isn’t a disrespect, it’s our need to understand.
The sooner the relationship between NBA stars, jocks and fans of pure athletics and the data analysts, fantasy diehards, or any other basketball nerd becomes complementary and not adversarial, the better. It shouldn’t take a spreadsheet to figure that out.
THE KAWHI LEONARD MEMORIAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK WHO HAS A PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST ME
HoopBallers, every year there is someone that I always think about drafting but never seem to pull the trigger on. There may not even be anything particularly special about that player. They could range from All-Star caliber to simply a random starter. They’re not some popular or deep sleeper, just someone who has an ADP that just feels right and you can see a scenario where they easily beat it.
You play out all the reasons in your head why you can get behind this player, his situation, injuries around him, new system or anything else like that. But when it comes time to draft, they never end up on your team. Call it bad luck, timing, or just not being willing to reach based on where you rank them, that player almost inevitably comes back to bite you in the end and you spend the entire season wishing they were on your team. That player becomes everything you expected them to be and you become the fantasy basketball Squidward meme, watching someone else enjoy their delightful stat game.
SO DAMN YOU NIKOLA VUCEVIC! Although I really shouldn’t blame Vooch so much, but I should add a secondary DAMN YOU ORLANDO MAGIC! Why do you have to be the mediocrity capital of the NBA? This is exactly the team that Orlando deserves. Nikola Vucevic is a bright shining star with absolutely nothing around him playing in a town with one massive attraction surrounded by inhospitable wasteland. There was nothing to suggest that Vooch would be anything other than a damn rock with increased usage on this boiling heap of a team and yet I wound up with no part of the big guy. One day my dumb internet fingers will catch up with sensible basketball instincts.
YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT YOU WILL RIDE ETERNAL, SHINY AND CHROME IF YOU DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS
Round 1 – James Harden
Round 2 – Joel Embiid
Round 3 – Chris Paul
Round 4 – Fred VanVleet
Round 5 – Brandon Ingram
Round 6 – Lonzo Ball
Round 7 – Clint Capela
Round 8 – Robert Covington
Round 9 – Julius Randle
Round 10 – Jarrett Allen
Round 11 – LaMelo Ball
Round 12 – Norman Powell
Round 13 – Tyrese Haliburton
This of course is LaVar Ball’s draft except even he couldn’t waste a roster space on LiAngelo. There was a very dumb tweet from Stephen A. that LaMelo was everything we thought Lonzo would be. Melo (if the OG is cool with it, so am I) has easily exceeded expectations as a rookie but Lonzo has been every bit as good if not better. The strides he’s made as a 3-point and free throw shooter are real.
John Collins could have made this list but we’ll throw Capela here since he was the better draft value. Regardless, a shakeup is coming in Atlanta and one of these two, if not both, are going to potentially be league winners.
We’re finally seeing what an unleashed Jarrett Allen looks like and as much as I would have loved to see it in a Nets uniform, I’m happy for him. The Cavs need more pieces before they really can call themselves a playoff team, but I can get behind a developing core of SexLand, Nance and Big Jay.
YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT HOPE IS A MISTAKE, IF YOU CAN’T FIX WHAT’S BROKEN YOU’LL GO INSANE IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS
Round 1 – Anthony Davis
Round 2 – Deandre Ayton
Round 3 – Russell Westbrook
Round 4 – De’Aaron Fox
Round 5 – Jaylen Brown
Round 6 – Ja Morant
Round 7 – Collin Sexton
Round 8 – Eric Bledsoe
Round 9 – LaMarcus Aldridge
Round 10 – Victor Oladipo
Round 11 – R.J. Barrett
Round 12 – Darius Bazley
Round 13 – Will Barton
De’Aaron Fox has turned into a full-on percentage killer and this wasn’t a development I was hoping for. Fox was never going to be a great 3-point shooter and now he’s taking as many of them per game as Khris Middleton. The free throws are Giannis-lite. With Walton likely to at least make it through the whole season, I’m not sure how this gets any better without making some fundamental changes to the Kings’ approach to their franchise player.
Jaylen Brown’s shooting has been all over the map and I wonder if his knee wasn’t bothering him more than being let on. Regression was probably due and the Celtics being terrible likely didn’t help. Might have a smidge of a buy-low window if there’s a team in your league that’s struggling.
I got into an argument with a Knicks fan about R.J. Barrett and it made me realize how all over the map his potential is. Knicks fans, however deluded they are, still believe he’s young, has already proven to be an excellent scorer and has untapped potential. But there are so many places in his game that you can classify as average at best that I’m not sure how all those come together for him to be more than just a volume scorer and blossom into what amounts to a DeRozan kind of All-Star.
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 rolling basis. Based on how their past few and upcoming few games go, I’ll decide whether or not I will be confidently holding (rock), feeling a little bit flimsy or unsure of (paper), or will just be cutting them 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.
Thaddeus Young – Dan Besbris has been driving the Thadditude bandwagon for a while and I’m gleefully hoping on board for one more ride. I think he’ll be fine once Markkanen returns and Otto Porter is probably the one who gets left behind. There’s still a way to find minutes for him in the mid-20s which is all he needs to keep this up.
Saddiq Bey – I was really intrigued by Bey as a draft prospect as another prototypical 3 & D wing and he hasn’t let me down. He should get progressively better at both and with Detroit clearing the decks for a rebuild, Bey will have all the minutes he can handle.
Derrick White – Derrick White has barely gotten his season off the ground because of injury and the Spurs COVID situation. It’s enough to make you forget just how excellent he was in the bubble and what a potential White and Murray backcourt can do when let loose. The Spurs are tied for the most remaining games in the league and if anyone gave up on White, grab him immediately for a fun second half run.
Russell Westbrook – I’m dedicating a full paper section to Russ because he is a massive elephant in the room when it comes to fantasy leagues.
First, let me just say if you’re in points leagues. Ignore this.
But if you’re in roto or H2H leagues then hear me out. You’re going to have to make a decision in the 2nd half of the season if the things Russ excels at are worth the areas that he’s terrible at. And that’s before you factor in whether or not you believe that the Wizards are going to be worth a crap and try to make a playoff run in the expanded field or if they’ll continue to load manage Russ and cap his games totals moving forward.
Russell Westbrook is currently outside the top-200 on a per game basis in 9-cat leagues. 8-cat leaguers catch a bit of a break; he’s in the top-100 but that clearly isn’t what you expected based on his draft spot. The problem isn’t just turnovers. He is a percentage anchor and it will not improve no matter what Washington does moving forward. His strengths and abilities will force you to have to evaluate your team and see if his presence is helping or hurting for a playoff run.
If you’re hurting for scoring, rebounding and assists and have a bunch of solid percentages around you, then by all means hang on and perhaps pay closer attention to schedule. But ask yourself, can you fill those categories by streaming them instead and not submarining FGP and FTP.
I get the mental hurdle it will take to cut 20/10/10 with a three and steal per game. But these are the decisions we need to make if winning leagues is the objective.
Steven Adams – I still want Funaki to be a thing because the NBA is more fun with Adams prominently involved, but he’s just a rebounds streamer and nothing else. You can’t even take advantage of the strong field goal percentage because Zion is so dominant as an interior presence and rim attacker that Adams has no involvement in the offense.
Rui Hachimura – The only reason to hang on to Rui is if you feel that the Wizards are going to nuke the roster but given that they finished the 1st half with some positive vibes I don’t see that happening. There’s still a significant amount of development that needs to happen here before he gets back to being a relevant standard league player.
Jeff Green/Bruce Brown – Both Green and Brown have stood out as two of the most colorful players to don the Nets black & white. They’ve been strong pickups for those who had them but their run on fantasy rosters is coming to an end. KD is expected back, the Nets play a very favorable remaining schedule and Blake Griffin just got added to this Crayola box of 16.
THE MAGIC JOHNSON FANTASY UPDATE
Straight from the 280-character mind of the legend himself, the one and only Earvin “Magic” Johnson will be providing a fantasy basketball update exclusively in this space before it hits Twitter. Take it away Magic!
“The Fantasy MVP of the first half is Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets. He has been averaging over 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists a game. That’s close to a triple-double over the full season for the Denver Big Man.”
Right you are Magic. Magic will keep joining us from time to time for his unique fantasy basketball insight.
ONE OF THOSE RANDOMLY TRENDING TWITTER TOPICS – LET’S REMEMBER A FANTASY GUY
As a reminder, this is a thought exercise about identifying some players that we absolutely gushed over for fantasy potential but never really panned out in the real league. You know who they are. They’re players that we stashed on our teams because we loved their stat set and per-minute metrics but never got the minutes we felt they deserved for one reason or another.
This one comes from my good buddy Dan when we talked about this topic on the pod and this ‘remember a guy’ is Terrence Jones, formerly of the Houston Rockets. Jones was supposed to be part of the Rockets’ future back when they first brought in James Harden. He had some per-36 numbers in his youth that made us gush with delight when it looked like he’d be handed the keys to the 4-spot to his lonesome. But injuries, defensive miscues, and a lack of patience from coach Kevin McHale meant that Jones would never really be able to fulfill that fantasy potential and so we were left with another case of what could have been.
Would love for the folks out there to think of people who we loved in fantasy leagues but never received the same from their careers. If you have ideas, you know where to find me (@JoshMillman) and I’ll write about your submissions.
ADVENTURES IN DFS
I cracked the screen of my phone when, on nearly successive nights, I put in some money with Steph Curry only for him to be a late scratch for a game in his former hometown of Charlotte only to follow that up with having a Kawhi-led lineup on the night his back flared up right before tipoff. I’ve had more late breaking nonsense happen to my DFS lineups this season than any other and almost none of it has been COVID related. It is once again March and I am just about tapped out of funds for the season.
I faced a pretty crucial week in two leagues where I had the opportunity to make up significant ground in one league and take over first in another. Solidly up 7-2 for much of the week I eked out 5-4 victories in both because of PJ Washington’s career game and Buddy Hield deciding that he is going to take up a second career as a baseball pitcher and only show up every 5th game. That game just happened to be on a Sunday night.
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.
Let’s keep nerding out together Hoop-Ballers. Enjoy the 2nd half.