• I’m out for basketball blood. If you’re reading this and have taken the time to dive head first into the Hoop-Ball Draft Guide and B150, then I bet you are too. Good. That’s the way it should be. Now I know what you might be thinking and you’re right. It’s fantasy basketball season and you’re supposed to have fun. You know what’s even more fun? Embarrassing your friends and leaguemates then posting about it on Instagram like they just got dunked on in a video that went viral through House of Highlights. That’s fun. Strutting and Wooing after every win like you’re goddamn Ric Flair holding big golden belt, that’s fun. Using your league trophy as an ottoman and ice bucket for your beverage of choice, that’s fun. So ask yourself what you want. Do you want to just enjoy a nice steak dinner, or do you want a comped suite, front row tickets to the fight and your meals served to you by models all on someone else’s dime? That’s the difference between playing and dominating.

    I’m out for basketball blood. This season, making the playoffs isn’t enough. There are no participation trophies here. I won’t rest on the results of last season, especially when the basketball Gods decided to injure all of my players simultaneously in late March. Or some opponent of mine got a fluke performance from a scrub pickup. These are the breaks of the game they say. To hell with breaks. I do not and I will not accept that. One of these days I will control any and all aspects of luck like the maniacal team owner I am and why can’t it be this season?

    I’m out for basketball blood. I want someone, anyone, to take the Warriors out for good. I don’t want Joel Embiid posting on social media unless he’s added a fresh soul to his collection. I want the league’s first player and GM LeBron James to mercilessly turn his new band of misfits into a purple death machine. I want the Knicks relegated to the G-League. I want the Brow and the Greek Freak to cost a million dollars in DFS and still hit value. I want Russ sneering and Carmelo sulking. I want each game to be a full-throttle mission to run the other team out of the gym and leave them gasping for air. I want players to stop being so chummy and stare daggers at each other after every 3-pointer. If we’re going to be ruthlessly obsessed with winning here, then I expect the players on our squads to do the exact same.

    I’m out for basketball blood. I’m ready for the games to begin. I’m going to treat this season as though my house was broken into and my dog was murdered. There will be fantasy revenge, damn the consequences.

    Panda, queue my music!

    God that feels good. Now I’m ready for the Association. Welcome back to fantasy hoops and remember, we’re always going to aim high here at Hoop-Ball headquarters. If you do that and still fall, then there will be a seat at this internet fantasy basketball bar waiting for you. The Fantasy Facepalm is officially back.

    PLAYER OF THE SEASON WHO HAS A PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST ME

    There are likely to be a number of candidates who may very well make me want to race to the bottom of a bottle of Jack, but right now the preseason favorite is Kevin Durant who was at the epicenter of my dynasty teams last year. This year, he became too expensive to hold in my friends auction league and I traded him in the 24-teamer because my depth was terrible. And because I was beaten into submission. No really, I couldn’t take it anymore and turned off my notifications. Here’s a list of all the offers I got for KD in that league during the offseason:

    KD for Kristaps Porzingis and a 2019 1st round pick

    KD for Rudy Gobert, Trevor Ariza and the 18th overall rookie pick

    KD for Rudy Gobert, Eric Bledsoe and a 2019 1st round pick

    KD for Rudy Gobert, Eric Bledsoe, Trevor Ariza and a 2019 1st round pick

    KD for Rudy Gobert, Eric Bledsoe, Eric Gordon and a 2019 1st round pick

    KD, Gorgui Dieng and a 2019 2nd round pick for Rudy Gobert, Eric Bledsoe, Eric Gordon, and Domantas Sabonis* (This is part one of a future Facepalm story)

    KD for Klay Thompson, Trevor Ariza, Bobby Portis, and Jordan Clarkson

    KD for Joel Embiid, Klay Thompson, Elfrid Payton, and Bobby Portis** (This is part two of that future Facepalm story)

    KD for Enes Kanter, Robert Covington, Skal Labissiere, and the 11th overall rookie pick

    KD for Victor Oladipo and Robert Covington

    KD for Clint Capela, Markieff Morris, the 11th and 18th overall rookie picks

    KD and Justin Holiday for Evan Fournier, Larry Nance Jr., and Mitchell Robinson

    KD for Emmanuel Mudiay, Marcus Smart, Zach Collins, a 2019 and 2020 1st round pick

    Are you exhausted yet? Imagine how I felt.

    KD for Nikola Vucevic, Terry Rozier, Kent Bazemore, and Isaiah Thomas

    KD for Marc Gasol, Terry Rozier, Bobby Portis, and Avery Bradley

    KD for Elfrid Payton, Terry Rozier, Bobby Portis, and Ish Smith

    KD and Gorgui Dieng for Clint Capela, Larry Nance Jr. and Spencer Dinwiddie

    KD for Clint Capela, Evan Fournier, and Spencer Dinwiddie

    KD for Victor Oladipo and Terry Rozier

    KD for Victor Oladipo and Klay Thompson

    Trade mercifully accepted.

    And you’ll have to trust me on this, but I deleted another 20 or so unsolicited offers, but each one made me hate KD just a little bit more. So DAMN YOU KEVIN DURANT for being so good it makes everyone else send every offer under the sun while clogging my inbox, messages and quite possibly my arteries.

    ADVENTURES IN DFS

    I’m not doing preseason DFS because that’s just sadistic, but I have a FanDuel, DraftKings, and DRAFT accounts ready to roll into the regular season ready to overflow multiple toilets with loose change. A friend of mine is also back in for a head-to-head league where it’s double or nothing whether or not he shows up in face and body paint to a sporting event of my choice. So chances are there’s going to be a LOT more bitching and moaning in this space every Tuesday. That said, who’s ready to take out a second mortgage with me?!

    CAREER LEAGUE UPDATE

    When you have kids and you’re stuck in a predictable routine of sitting silently in their rooms at bedtime because they’re afraid of the dark, you tend to thinking about your life the same way Ellis Boyd Redding narrates it. In prison, a man will do almost anything to keep his mind occupied.

    So I wondered, is there a way to create a fantasy league that involved both current and past NBA players and would our benevolent overload Aaron Bruski be amenable to having such content occupy his beloved website? The answer was, if I could spell out all the details and planned structure of the league, Panda would pass it along to Besbris and Bru to look through.

    It took a bunch of tinkering, multiple edits of a league constitution, and a hysterically bonkers mock draft that somehow included Bronny James and Canon Curry, but lo and behold, a league was born.

    The Hoop-Ball Career League features 12-teams in an 8-cat roto format where each team is allowed to draft a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 10 retired NBA players out of a total of 20 players. Final rosters get narrowed down to 18 players that includes 6 guards, 6 forwards, 3 centers and 3 more flex positions. Stats are accumulated over the course of the season and at the end of the NBA regular season, the team with the best combination of retired and active players wins.

    Oh and it gets better. It’s a dynasty format. Teams can’t just hoard retired players year in and year out there’s a maximum of 6 retired player keepers allowed. Teams can also trade players in-season to each add additional retired players to try and win or take on younger players with promising careers in an attempt to rebuild. We used Basketball Reference to determine all player positional eligibility and official NBA stats. No ABA or International stats included.

    An official draft was held over the HB Slack channel and I’ll be posting the results and analysis in an upcoming column. In the meantime, I’ll be posting updates on the league and its comings and goings in this very space.

    GUYS I LIKE THIS SEASON (SLEEPERS, BREAKOUTS, AND BUSTS EDITION)

    Everyone does Sleepers, Breakouts, and Busts and frankly, I’m jealous. That juicy juicy content makes for some of the more popular reads during draft season so I’m going to do some of my own. Here are some professional basketball players I like to do the sleeping, breaking, and busting this season.

    Sleepers

    By sleepers I mean players that are going drafted late, undrafted, or unloved, even in the B150. I only consider players who are really going under the radar. Or else why bother calling them sleepers? Jarrett Allen for example, isn’t a sleeper. That train left the station a long time ago.

    Willy Hernangomez – New coach, new system, no Dwight. Willy has flashed when he’s been on the court, is trying to expand his range, and now the only major obstacle to bigger minutes and the possible starting job is the legendary Cody Zeller. Sign me up.

    Jeremy Lin – Oh sure, this will be Trae Young’s team at some point, but I don’t know how much patience there will be if Young’s percentages and confidence plummets while regularly throwing the basketball into the stands. Lin is due for some better luck with health even with managed minutes in the 20-25 mpg range.

    Jae Crowder – Remember him? The guy who hung around the top-50 for two seasons in Boston? The, wait, he’s really only 28-year old guy who struggled after getting traded twice and never felt settled on either team. He’s going to be the Jazz 6th man and should improve his shooting now that he’s had time to get adjusted to Quin Snyder’s system.

    Al-Farouq Aminu – Starting job. Check. Cash counters. Check. Team in flux, but wants to remain competitive. Check. Desperate need for his minutes after losing depth in the offseason. Check. If he can get his shooting to just below average instead of hide-your-eyes ugly, then you’ve got a possible top-75 asset at zero draft cost.

    Fred VanVleet – Kyle Lowry isn’t getting any younger and DeRozan’s departure means even more opportunity for FVV and Delon Wright to soak up minutes alongside Lowry. New Raps coach Nick Nurse may still keep his bench plenty busy the same way Dwane Casey did while he fiddles around with optimal lineups.

    Breakouts

    This one is self-explanatory. These are the players who are going be the players to make that leap to exceed their draft positions and expectations to carry you to a title.

    Nikola Mirotic – He was everything you wanted him to be once he got traded to New Orleans. Now sit back and enjoy the fireworks of a full season of Niko and the Pelicans playing looser than the clothing on Bourbon Street.

    Kris Dunn – Dunn was a breakout LAST season and yet, didn’t reach his peak and injuries cut his season short. He’s being drafted roughly where he finished last season and with better health and the fact that he’s entering his third year as a pro, there’s a real chance he breaks out two seasons in a row.

    Buddy Hield – Everything has the potential to go wrong in Sacramento, but when Buddy was finally allowed to be a mainstay in the rotation, he thrived. He’s far and away the best shooter they have and has improved his defensive game as well. He probably won’t make it to 30 mpg because Joerger, but if by chance he does then that ceiling will keep getting pushed up.

    D’Angelo Russell – I get the criticism and know the flaws in his game. But D-Loading is 22 and had a very promising start to his Nets tenure derailed by a knee injury. He was averaging nearly a 20/5/5 on a respectable 46% shooting before the injury. Now he’s playing for a potential extension. The talent is there, the opportunity is there, it’s a matter if he can put it all together.

    Dario Saric – The Sixers want to get Markelle Fultz playing alongside Ben Simmons and it might cost Saric his starting job. But not to worry, last season Saric was under 30 mpg and still put up a top-100 season. If he’s asked to be the focal point of the second unit while maintaining or increasing his burn, then there could still be room for growth. After losing Wilson Chandler to injury already, the Sixers need Saric more than they realize. And he might hold onto the starting job anyway. Sorry, J.J. Redick.

    Busts

    If I’m going to predict a bust then you damn well better believe I’m going for a ‘big tree fall hard’ scorching nuclear hot take bust prediction, not just the inevitable and obvious age decline.

    Russell Westbrook – It may be insane to shade Mr. Triple Double given what he’s done the past two seasons, but both the 3-pointers and the percentages are scary and that’s before we get to his knee. He’s managed 80-plus games the last 3 seasons playing on hyperdrive. He’s turning 30. As a fan of the league, I hope Russ can keep it going. As a realist and fantasy owner, I’m petrified to draft him.

    Otto Porter Jr. – It’s not his game that’s the problem. It’s Dwight frickin Howard. Last year Nic Batum fell off the map with D12 in Charlotte. The year prior Paul Millsap went from a regular top-20 player to top-50 in a contract year. Remember the Terrence Jones hype train in Houston? That train was derailed each season. Bottom line, a third round pick for OPJ represents his ceiling and as a habit, things can hit the floor when Dwight and his cornball self is around.

    Nikola Vucevic – He’s been such an outstanding fantasy center for years now, but this is a rebuilding Magic team, he’s a pending free agent, and Mo Bamba needs time on the court. Once the season starts slipping away, it seems like an if and not when Vuc gets shipped off for some desperately needed backcourt help in the Magic Kingdom.

    Jayson Tatum – He’s going to be an MVP candidate one day, but this is a deep and veteran Celtics team he’s surrounded by. Gordon Hayward will automatically eat at his minutes, so will Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. Aron Baynes & Marcus Smart aren’t leaving the floor because of their defense. There are just too many mouths to feed for Tatum to see significant growth in his game to return a profit at the cost of a 4th or 5th rounder.

    Jarrett Allen – WHAAAAAAAAA? Look, I’m a Nets fan. I LOVE Allen. The hype has gotten out of control. He’s still a big work in progress defensively and the Nets brought in Ed Davis and Kenneth Faried to fix the Nets rebounding issues. The Nets were dead last in allowing fantasy points to opposing Centers and if that happens again, I question how much leash Allen will have with an already low ceiling on his minutes.

    BLOODY SUNDAY

    Again, I’m gunning for titles this year. But I know I’m going to get my ass knocked down a few times this season and chances are it’s going to be on the very last day of weekly head-to-heads. When it does, you can be ready for me to complain about it here.

    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.

    Happy drafting everyone. Go out there and lay waste to your league.

Fantasy News

  • Hamidou Diallo - G - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Hamidou Diallo puts his stamp on the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest by beating Dennis Smith Jr., John Collins, and Miles Bridges.

    Diallo arguably delivered one of the greatest performances in Slam Dunk Contest history by jumping over the seven-footer Shaquille O'Neal and throwing down a vicious elbow dunk. He left the crowd mesmerized and gave them a moment to remember in an otherwise lopsided contest. As incredible he might be tonight, fantasy owners shouldn't really give him a look unless they're in deep leagues.

  • Joe Harris - G/F - Brooklyn Nets

    Joe Harris was scorching hot during the entirety of Saturday's 3-point shootout as he bested Stephen Curry with 26 made three-point shots in the final round.

    Harris put an end to Curry's storybook ending of winning the 3-point contest in his hometown of Charlotte by besting him and Buddy Hield. It's no surprise that Harris was a dark-horse candidate entering the contest since he's been hot all season long from behind the arc, making 47 percent of his shots. In the past week, Harris has been rewarding his owners with top-20 value with averages of 22.7 points with 4.7 threes per game on 67.6% shooting. If you could sell high on him, now would be the perfect time.

  • Jayson Tatum - F - Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum clinched the Taco Bell All-Star Skills Challenge by draining a half-court shot to beat Trae Young in the finals of the competition.

    Tatum sealed the deal in this one and is responsible for one of the most exciting finishes in Skills Challenge history. For the past month, Tatum has been posting Top-40 value with 16.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 blocks and shooting 46 percent from the field. He's currently cruising as an early-middle round guy and should be even better once the Celtics find their footing.

  • Jayson Tatum - F - Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum clinched the All-Star Skills Challenge by draining a half-court a half-court shot to beat Trae Young in the finals of the competition.

    Tatum sealed the deal on this one and is responsible for one of the most exciting finishes in Skills Challenge history. For the past month, Tatum has been posting Top-40 value with 16.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 blocks and shooting 46 percent from the field. He's currently cruising as a early-middle round guy and should be even better once the Celtics find their footing.

  • Hasheem Thabeet - C - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Hasheem Thabeet worked out for the Rockets, Raptors and Pistons while the teams were in Charlotte for All-Star weekend.

    Thabeet was the second overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Grizzlies and was quickly one of the biggest busts in NBA history. He was the highest overall pick to be sent to the then D-League until Anthony Bennett secured the top spot. Thabeet is somehow still only 31 years old, and 7'2" centers can certainly provide value in today's NBA, but it's unlikely Thabeet finds his way back into the league. He's currently playing in the Japanese B-League.

    Source: Keith Pompey on Twitter

  • Dirk Nowitzki - F - Dallas Mavericks

    Dirk Nowitzki said he has not made any final decision on if this is his last season.

    "I haven't said this will be it," Nowitzki said, "I'm going to wait and see the last couple of weeks, how my body feels and if I continue to see improvement and I'm still having fun, we'll see." While Dirk has been treating this season as a retirement tour, there's still a chance we see him playing next season.

    Source: Brad Townsend on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - New Orleans Pelicans

    Anthony Davis (left shoulder contusion) said he is unsure if he will play in the All-Star game on Sunday.

    Davis said the plan is to play, but we will have to wait and see if he's feeling okay. He's certainly not worried about saving himself for the second-half of the season.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Kyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics

    Kyrie Irving (right knee strain) says he is healthy and plans to play in Sunday's All-Star game.

    Irving missed the Celtics' last two games but fantasy owners shouldn't expect him to miss any more with the current injury. Terry Rozier was a hot pickup when Irving initially went down but now goes back to being a handcuff. Irving has put up top-10 per-game value this year with no holes in his fantasy game but he has already missed 11 games. He has missed at least 10 games in seven of his eight NBA seasons so this is something fantasy owners should already be used to.

    Source: Gary Washburn on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - New Orleans Pelicans

    Anthony Davis said that the Celtics are on his list of preferred destinations.

    Moreover, Davis added "they were never not on my list," though he also confirmed that the initial reports of his list including the Knicks, Lakers, Clippers and Bucks were true. Initially it had been said that the Celtics are not a preferred landing spot, and Davis' dad would rather his son play elsewhere. It sounds like everything is on the table now that his push to end up on the Lakers has failed, as Davis also said "all 29 teams" (sorry New Orleans) are on his list. Get ready for more updates on AD's thoughts as the season rolls on.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Nikola Jokic - C - Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have agreed to extensions with president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and GM Arturas Karnisovas.

    The Nuggets haven't reached the playoffs in the last five seasons but will surely end that streak this year. Their abundance of talent and depth currently has them in second place in the Western Conference although Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas have all been injured for much of the season. Their draft choices and player development over the years has been a big catalyst for this as one could look at Nikola Jokic and the breakout seasons of Jamal Murray, Torrey Craig, Monte Morris and Malik Beasley, all of them having been with Denver since their first day in the NBA.

    Source: Denver Post