• 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

  • Frank Ntilikina - G - New York Knicks

    Frank Ntilikina scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting with four 3-pointers as the Knicks lost to the Hornets on Sunday.

    He outplayed starter Emmanuel Mudiay, who scored six points with three rebounds and four assists on 3-of-9 shooting. The Knicks’ point guard situation is a mess and minutes change frequently, so neither of them are worth owning in fantasy.

  • Noah Vonleh - F - New York Knicks

    Noah Vonleh did not play well against the Hornets on Sunday with only three points on 1-of-5 shooting, but he did contribute 10 rebounds and a career-high nine assists.

    Vonleh has seen consistent minutes as the starting power forward for the Knicks and his value currently sits right outside the top-100. He is a must-own in deep leagues and will provide solid late-middle round value this season. However, head coach David Fizdale's rotations can change at any moment, which means Vonleh's minutes can change so keep an eye on the Knicks' rotation from game-to-game.

  • Kyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors

    Kyle Lowry fell to a new low with his 0-for-5 shooting night on Sunday against the Bucks.

    This is the first time in Lowry's career that he's been held under 10 points for five straight games. To call this a slump would be unfair. Luckily as a point guard, Lowry does more than just score and has been returning top-120 value over his last four games despite shooting under 15 percent during that stretch. Lowry finished tonight's game with zero points, five boards, seven assists and a block in 34 minutes.

    Source: Chris Black on Twitter

  • Trevor Ariza - F - Phoenix Suns

    The Lakers are one of the teams making a run at Trevor Ariza, they're currently in discussions to swing a three-team deal.

    Ariza might struggle as a fantasy asset in Los Angeles given how many swingmen they have. If you own Ariza you're hoping that he finds his way back to the Rockets. The Suns are hoping to get a young guard and a draft pick in any deal for Ariza and the Lakers seem to be searching for a suitor willing to take on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Mitchell Robinson - C - New York Knicks

    It was reported that Mitchell Robinson suffered a shoulder injury on Suday before halftime of the Knicks game.

    Robinson has played his regular allotment of minutes in the second half and hasn't looked hurt at all. Maybe we'll learn more on this after the game.

    Source: Stefan Bondy on Twitter

  • Enes Kanter - C - New York Knicks

    Enes Kanter did not play well on Sunday with six points and four rebounds on 3-of-6 shooting in 18 minutes in a loss to the Hornets.

    He is the best player to own on the Knicks roster right now at top-70 value, but people were hoping for more from Kanter and David Fizdale's rotations are crushing those hopes. He will have inconsistent performances due to varying minutes, but he will still provide middle-round value as long as he is typically seeing minutes in the 20's.

  • Kevin Knox - F - New York Knicks

    Kevin Knox saw 41 minutes on Sunday and put up 26 points and 15 rebounds on 10-of-25 shooting in a loss to the Hornets.

    He made four 3-pointers and added on steal to the box score as well. This is one of his best games of the season, but he is still not worth owning in fantasy due to the possibility that head coach David Fizdale could play him low minutes next game. The rotations are inconsistent for the Knicks and makes owning any player a difficult task. Mario Hezonja was awful in this game with zero points on 0-of-3 shooting in five minutes. Look to see if Fizdale starts Knox over Hezonja going forward.

  • Jeremy Lamb - G - Charlotte Hornets

    Jeremy Lamb scored 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting in 28 minutes as the Hornets beat the Knicks on Sunday.

    Lamb continues to play well and is cruising to top-50 value on the season. He appeared a bit shaky to start the season, but his buy-low window quickly closed and he started returning early-middle round value. Credit to owners who bought low on him or remained patient after his rocky start as his solid play is definitely paying off.

  • Cody Zeller - F/C - Charlotte Hornets

    Cody Zeller had an all-around good game on Sunday with 12 points, seven rebounds and four defensive stats on 5-of-5 shooting as the Hornets beat the Knicks.

    The four defensive stats were three steals and one block, and he was also able to add two assists as well as shoot a perfect 2-of-2 from the line. Marvin Williams added 13 points and five rebounds on 4-of-9 shooting. Both of these guys will have to be on top of their games for the Hornets to stay competitive in the East. Zeller is the preferred option to own in fantasy as of right now.

  • Kemba Walker - G - Charlotte Hornets

    Kemba Walker scored 25 points with six rebounds, six assists and four steals as the Hornets beat the Knicks 119-107 on Sunday.

    He shot 8-of-20 from the field and added four 3-pointers to his solid stat line. He is a very safe top-20 play as the Hornets are still competitive in a lopsided Eastern Conference and have no reason to trade him yet. As long as he is on the Hornets he will be playing above his ADP and was worth the pick for fantasy owners.