February 3, 2021, 1:49 pm
Omne Trium Perfectum is the Latin phrase that states ‘everything that comes in threes is perfect.’
Human beings have long processed things in threes. It’s in our nature after all. The very understanding of our existence derives from our condition as physical, mental, and spiritual beings. We live on the third planet of our solar system in a world composed of the earth, the waters and the heavens where we measure our time in past, present, and future. The country we live is best known by its three-letter acronym, where three branches of government preside over its citizens who live by the creed “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” bestowed by its founders on the very day it was born.
Three represents the smallest number we need in order to process patterns. That’s why we believe in the superstitions that the 3rd time’s the charm and famous deaths come in threes. The Rule of Three is a literary technique that has existed for ages and tells us that characters and stories are likely to be more powerful when they come in threes. It’s why we read about bears and porridge, big bad wolves, blind mice, and the swashbucklers brought to life by Dumas. We watch our most popular movies in trilogies, we laugh at Stooges and hockey’s Hanson Brothers, and know what to expect when a blonde, brunette, and a redhead walk into a bar.
And of course, it couldn’t get more obvious in sports. Three strikes and you’re out, hat tricks, triple plays, trifectas, triangle offense, three-peats, Gold, Silver & Bronze, 3-pointers, and of course, how we neatly tie this bow together, Big Threes.
You see the Nets weren’t content with just Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Big Twos don’t often win NBA titles. LeBron James and Anthony Davis were the most recent exceptions but they’ve been spending plenty of time thinking about who that third guy could be to make a run at a repeat.
As much as I could clamor for a healthy Caris LeVert and fro-tastic Jarret Allen, rather than wait and see if the season would be kind to Brooklyn, they pounced when James Harden all but had it in Houston. NBA history favors the Rule of Three and Sean Marks has precisely a three-year window to make a championship a reality for what has historically been a third-rate NBA franchise. The opportunity to follow this open window toward both a very real and subliminal pattern doesn’t happen very often in this league.
Magic, Kareem, Worthy. Bird, McHale, Parish. Isiah, Dumars, Laimbeer. Jordan, Pippen, Grant (then Rodman of course). Duncan, Parker, Ginobili. Garnett, Pierce, Allen. LeBron, Wade, Bosh. LeBron again, Kyrie, Love. Steph, Durant, and Klay.
The last 40 years of NBA history has shown that the most likely path through greatness is through the Rule of Three. Durant, Kyrie, and Harden are today’s litmus test to see if that rule holds.
The flaws of this methodology are evident. You play team basketball with five players, not three, and all five need to make contributions on a court at a given time. All three will need to sacrifice for the greater good. Despite what we’ve seen early on, not all games will be a track meet, and only one of the three can take the final shot. Or they could decide to pass that honor on to their teammate with three names, which didn’t work out all that well against Washington.
This is all fine for the sake of basketball storytelling but for fantasy purposes it changes very little. All three of the new Big Three will continue to play major minutes and hold their per-game values. We’ve seen that happen before with other Big Threes so why would that change now? If you are fortunate enough to have any of these players on your rosters then use them as your muses to evaluate your teams in threes as well.
Popcorn (PTS, REB, AST), Cash-Counters (3PT, STL, BLK), Percentages and TOs (FGP, FTP, TO). Remember that all categories contribute equally and balance is needed to be an optimal fantasy team that requires different adaptations during the draft, regular, and postseason.
I’m already completely drawn into this team regardless. KD, Kyrie and the Beard are all galactic basketball talents that are wrapped in their enigmatic personalities. Watching Durant and his nightly masterpiece theater is both a miracle after his injury and a fright each time he hits the floor. Kyrie’s mind is prodigious on the court with a ball in his hands and for all of his good faith gestures, it can get the best of him when he’s off of it. Harden has remained simultaneously unguardable and unselfish, but how will we view his legacy as the technical third-wheel on this team?
It’s going to be a season unlike any other watching to see if this group can achieve what those other trios have accomplished. They stand to be one of the most dissected teams in NBA history with the potential to bring a championship to a city that hasn’t seen one in nearly 50 years and has basketball woven into its culture like no other place on Earth. They are a trio of mesmerizing offense, horrifying defense, and a polarizing force for fans and media alike.
Perhaps they are a perfect three after all.
THE KAWHI LEONARD MEMORIAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK WHO HAS A PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST ME
As draft season was winding down, I entered into a couple of last-minute leagues because of course I did. You don’t slam your fingers onto keyboards thousands of times over for this here website without having degenerate fantasy tendencies. My dumb brain figured there’s absolutely no such thing as being in too many drafts and leagues so once folks said they wanted to squeeze in yet another one before the season tipped off, I went after it like an addict searching for one last hit.
I felt like I was ready to go in all my other leagues. Did all my prep work, drafted who I wanted to and believed I had a contender in each one of them. So for these last two, I wanted to change things up. I decided to draft purely for who I wanted to root for over the course of the season.
As many of you reading this realize, this is a terrible idea. If you want to win in fantasy basketball you need to set your fandom aside and pick players based on how you project that they will perform, not how much you want to watch them on your television. Again, this was the end of draft season and I wanted to allow room for my id to run free, convincing myself that since these were my last drafts that I should have fun doing them and just pick the guys I would enjoy watching most. I know who was right at the top of my list.
SO DAMN YOU LUKA DONCIC!!! The two teams I have you on are the two that are doing the worst. I believed that you are still young and have time to iron out your defense and shooting but nooooooooooo, you’ve decided that you don’t need to make those gains. You’re just fine the way you are. Well guess what dumpling, we already have the Greek Freak so we don’t need another eye candy stats guy who can’t throw the ball in the ocean from beyond 15 feet. Start fixing your percentages or your doughy pre-pubescent face is going to become a dart board with the quickness. That way I can show you what working on your accuracy really looks like.
YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT YOU FELT LIKE DESTROYING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS.
Round 1 – Nikola Jokic
Round 2 – Kawhi Leonard
Round 3 – Nikola Vucevic
Round 4 – Fred VanVleet
Round 5 – Myles Turner
Round 6 – Malcolm Brogdon
Round 7 – Jerami Grant
Round 8 – Mikal Bridges
Round 9 – Mike Conley
Round 10 – Richaun Holmes
Round 11 – Terry Rozier
Round 12 – Chris Boucher
Round 13 – Tyrese Haliburton
In a bizarre year where James Harden gets moved to a superteam, Anthony Davis coasts through the regular season, Karl-Anthony Towns can’t stay healthy, Trae, Giannis, and Luka’s flaws are all on display for everyone to see, and Steph can’t carry his merry band of misfits, that Nikola Jokic, #1 overall fantasy player, looks like it isn’t just a first month of the season thing. This might actually be one of those bizarre buy-high windows for The Joker.
The Pacers are a delightful surprise even after losing TJ Warren and Caris LeVert for a lengthy period of time. But we’ve been burned by Brogdon before and 4.0 BPG seems very difficult for even Turner to sustain. If someone in your league is ready to throw in the towel on Towns or Devin Booker, those two could make for nice bait.
This might be a temporary placement for Chris Boucher but you can’t ignore what he did through most of January. The problem is that Nurse is screwing with him and believes he isn’t matchup-proof. You’re going to have to time it just right for the appropriate buy low, sell high opportunities.
YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT IT’S ONLY AFTER WE’VE LOST EVERYTHING THAT WE’RE FREE TO DO ANYTHING IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS.
Round 1 – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Round 2 – Devin Booker
Round 3 – Russell Westbrook
Round 4 – Pascal Siakam
Round 5 – Jusuf Nurkic
Round 6 – Robert Covington
Round 7 – Kelly Oubre Jr.
Round 8 – Ricky Rubio
Round 9 – Davis Bertans
Round 10 – Draymond Green
Round 11 – Bojan Bogdanovic
Round 12 – Danilo Gallinari
Round 13 – Marvin Bagley
I want to believe that Booker is a very clear buy low guy but there isn’t anything to suggest that he’s going to become that elite sniper that we all perceive him to be. He’s shooting 34% from deep this year which is right in line with his career 35% mark. He’s definitely got a hot streak in him soon, but at this point there’s no chance he delivers value from where you drafted him.
Pascal Siakam giving up on usage and defense along with being disciplined by his own team were not things that I had on my 2020-2021 bingo card. He too could be pried from desperate competitors by waving Toronto’s future uncertainty at them.
If you want to look at the bright side, there’s no way RoCo can maintain a 30% FGP for a whole season. But then again, he’s actually been somehow way worse than that over his last two weeks. The defense is still there so there’s a whole lot of room for improvement.
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 (rock), feeling a little bit 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.
Delon Wright – It seems inevitable that Derrick Rose is gone and Dwane Casey trusts Wright to handle the backcourt while Killian Hayes remains a work in progress. We’ve always been enamored with Wright’s fantasy game and caught glimpses of his ceiling when he’s been unleashed back when the same player and coach were paired in Toronto. Seems like we’re headed toward another one of those situations in Detroit.
Luguentz Dort – I’m seeing him dropped in a lot of leagues but I’m still in a pretty firm hold position. We expected his shooting to yo-yo so why are we throwing in the towel when he’s shown what he can do when his shots are falling? His defense has taken a bit of a hit, but then a six-steal game pops up from out of nowhere. All I know is that Dort’s role is secure and he’ll be given an opportunity to iron out his inconsistency. There aren’t a lot of guys who have four cash counter per game potential that should be thrown into the trash.
Lonzo Ball – Perhaps Zo has to be tethered to the right system. He finished last season piling up big stats on an up-tempo and hot shooting offense that featured Jrue Holiday and JJ Redick. Holiday is gone and Redick barely plays. Stick him in say, Portland, where he can take some pressure off Dame and set up guys like Gary Trent and a returning CJ McCollum and you might see those nights where he’s once again flirting with triple doubles and racking up steals. Regardless of where he plays, you don’t just throw in the towel on a guy with proven stat stuffing ability.
Immanuel Quickley – Quickley is clearly the best option in the Knicks backcourt, has been lighting it up and is a promising part of their future. But then again, Thibs. IQ’s inefficiency and the demands on defense may keep him from fully taking over the role no matter how surprising the rook has been and how many minutes Thibs typically likes to play his starters. As long as the Knicks are fighting for a playoff spot, which seemed laughable in November, Thibs is going to lean on his vets to get him there. Those FTs are delightful though and that alone could make him a hold.
Davis Bertans – Call it a lost season for both Bertans and the Wizards. There are going to be moves coming and even when Bertans is fully healthy, he’ll likely be minutes capped for Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura. Few can get hotter faster so it’s understandable if you are worried about getting burned.
Brandon Clarke – We gushed about the stat set and what he could do with more burn. We got our wish and the lesson as always is be careful what you wish for. The percentages are hideous and the Grizzlies frontcourt is once again about to become crowded with the return of JJJ and the emergence of Xavier Tillman. It could give Clarke a chance to regain what made him a fantasy darling in a limited role but it could also send him to waivers.
Ricky Rubio – Rubio has hit the JJ Barea portion of his career where he’s become an oddball assists streamer. His shooting, which was always at best a liability, is somehow catastrophic. What’s worse is that his defense has also begun to vanish and isn’t as much of a source of steals as he used to be. He was never a fit in Minnesota and could end up as a backup for a team that needs a vet for their bench, which would then be the final nail in his fantasy coffin.
Duncan Robinson – D-Rob is shooting over 40% from deep. That’s normally really good. The issue is that in his breakout season last year, he shot 45% from deep. Unfortunately, that’s where he needs to be to offset the other limitations of his fantasy game. The Heat are a mess, and that was to be expected after their Bubble run, but Robinson going from elite to merely very good is an issue that they couldn’t afford on an offense that depends on maximizing efficiency on every possession.
Aaron Gordon – When are we going to learn? (Note: I also swear I wrote this before he was hitting the shelf with an ankle injury)
ONE OF THOSE RANDOMLY TRENDING TWITTER TOPICS – LET’S REMEMBER A FANTASY GUY
New section! Gotta keep adding to my game here lest I end up like any of these guys…
I tried to perform a thought exercise a while back when we were nearly about to get our #FREEGORGUI moment. It got me to think, who are 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.
We’ll start this one off with a guy that I believe should be on an NBA roster right now and that’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. RHJ is a former top-100 player who was the defensive lynchpin of the Nets’ surprising run back to respectability. He was averaging nearly two stocks a game and his percentages were fairly respectable and improving. The hope was that he could further develop from a distance and add more to his offensive repertoire.
Unfortunately for RHJ the injury bug bit him, he just couldn’t piece together a jumper and the Nets, in their pursuit of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, deemed that he was not part of the team’s long term plans. This of course is rather ironic since the team is now the defensive equivalent of an overflowing toilet. Last season, he was signed and summarily buried on a deep Toronto team and now he’s not on a team altogether despite only being 26 and a former 1st round pick. We figured that there might always be room for a guy who has a pretty good ability to guard multiple positions inside and out, but what do I know. I’m just a Nets homer here.
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 don’t play a lot of high stakes DFS and avoid multi-entry tournaments. With so many games throughout the season, I’ll typically play a few bucks at a time on 50/50s and the occasional single-entry tournament. To me that’s a way to steer clear of the sharks because I am definitely a minnow and I prefer to be eaten on my own schedule. When people can put in 20-50 of the same lineups in the same contest, that to me is a recipe for trouble.
So imagine my surprise when I enter a small stakes 100-entry 50/50 on a 7-game NBA night and there are 49 entries with the exact same lineup. Half the damn contest. How is that even possible? It’s one thing when there are only two or three games going on, but seven? I’m not sure how the daily apps don’t have a tool or algorithm that can snuff that out because 49 entries with the exact same lineup on a 7-game slate seems way too improbable for it to have been a coincidence. Regardless, I finished in the top half that night so no amount of trying to rip a whopping $2 50/50 was stopping me from winning that night.
Shoutout to our good buddy Alex Rikleen who caught the really rough end of the stick in a H2H matchup against yours truly. Alex went into Sunday with a 5-4 lead against me, but that day Immanuel Quickley proved to be a savvy streamer, Luka went off on the Bulls, and De’Aaron went De’ynamite on the Pelicans to secure an 8-1 rout for yours truly. Sadly, that’s my only highlight in this league. Both of us have gotten the snot beaten out of us in this league since then.
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.
Hope you all find your Three in life HoopBallers. Keep on keepin on.