• I hate this time of year.

    No, really. I’m serious. Boiling hatred. Winter is the deadbeat asshole son of the Mother Earth’s four seasons. The moment the calendar turns to December I want to throw myself into volcano because at least it’ll be warm when I plummet to my death. Once Thanksgiving is done, I become an unbearable pain in the ass because the cynic in me comes out in full force. The endless parade of holiday paraphernalia and the looming arctic air just beat me into submission each and every year.

    Days are colder and darker. The thought of snow makes me want to empty every can of hair spray into the sky. I can’t step out of my house without being inundated with non-stop holiday themed crappola. And that music, oh that goddamn music! How come the #MeToo movement hasn’t put a stop of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” once and for all?

    I have to deal with all the family drama that comes from being in the same room at the same time as all of them just to try to have a meal. I have to buy things, so many things, because the TV and Internet told me that a bunch of shit that people do not need is on sale and material possessions will make the people in my life happy. That means having to fight with people over parking spots and human space at a crowded mall near me. Even the nice things come with strings attached. Even as I donate to various causes, each one that I neglect fills me with the guilt of an endless Sarah McLachlan song and an image of a frowning dog. Prioritizing which causes to give to makes my heart sink about how screwed up the world can be.

    See, I told you so. Happy holidays Hoop-Ballers!

    But things aren’t all bad. I have a healthy and happy family, friends, and the joy of basketball this time of year. But at this point in the year, I tend to let the negative aspects of this period of time in the Gregorian calendar outweigh the good things in my life. That’s probably an unhealthy approach to things, but since I’m really only that way one month out of the year, I’ll make up for it in the other 11.

    And so it goes for fantasy basketball as well. You can’t let the negative outweigh the positive. Fantasy basketball is great and you sometimes need to remind yourself of that even as the season drags on and things feel like they are falling apart around you. The season may not always be going your way, sure, but you’re still playing a fun game with your buddies and that counts for something. Just like with the holidays, you just need to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of letting all the random irritants get the best of you.

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    So with all of that said, here is a quick guide to managing all the various nuisances that come with the holidays as it relates to your fantasy teams. Hopefully you’ll see the parallels here and that will make the stress of dealing with the holidays a little better. When the holidays are happening around you, there will likely be plenty of not-so-subtle reminders for you to think about your teams to shut the world out around you just a little bit longer.

    Your Overbearing Family – This one needs no explanation. Your league is like a surrogate family. There’s the commissioner, the parent who can never get his kids to do everything all at the same time. There’s the cantankerous uncle who believes he’s smarter than everyone else and has to critique every transaction and his opinion about lopsided trades is the only one that matters. There’s the pest of a younger brother who sends trade offer after trade offer just because he’s looking for some attention. Then there’s your cousin who lives abroad. You typically never hear from her and people are concerned that she’s gone for good, but she’ll pop her head in at the most random of times just as you have begun to think she’s abandoned her roster for good.

    Remember that your league is likely full of these characters and knowing who you’re dealing with will make trades and winning that much better for you. Someone way smarter than I am wrote an entire book about war which says that you should know your enemy as well as you know yourself. Except your enemies are probably your friends and family so don’t go into battle with a blowtorch, just a premium subscription to Hoop-Ball (HOLIDAY PLUG ALERT!) and a really good internet connection.

    Holiday Music – God it just drones on and on and on. Doesn’t matter where you go, it’s playing in the background and you hear it so often that you will randomly get a song that you know you can’t stand stuck in your head and you start to sing it and hate yourself just a little bit more than you did before. Holiday music is like an STD you know will flare up once a year, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

    We all have that player that winds up on our teams that annoys the crap out of us. Yet, they keep finding their ways onto our teams by just existing and playing in the background. We wish we could rid ourselves of them for good, but they always manage to find their way back. For me my Holiday Music player is Wes Matthews. I can’t stand owning him. He’s good for scoring and 3s and that’s about it. He’s typically hurt and missing chunks of time. He remains on my roster because of consistency and apathy. And then every so often I’ll end up singing his praises when he goes off for a big night. Then I feel like I’ll be dreaming of a Wes Matthews just like the one I used to…GODDAMMIT IT HAPPENED AGAIN MAKE IT STOP!

    Black Friday and Holiday Sales – It’s buy-low season everyone! There are sales galore! We’re almost a third of the way into the fantasy basketball year and like most retailers who desperately need a good Q4 to make their numbers, fantasy owners are looking at their inventory AND TOTALLY FREAKING OUT!

    Now not all sales are good. There are some places that will jack up the regular price of their goods and services just to make it look like the sale price is better. It’s a pretty common practice to make it look like holiday sales are the best over the course of the year. So fantasy players, make sure you have your buyer beware hat on. If someone is trying to sell you a strong performance, make sure you back check what the player has done in the past before buying at what you believe to be a sale price.

    Gift Giving – Giving gifts to people is usually broken down into two categories, naughty and nice. If you’re giving a gift to someone who is naughty, make sure it’s a beatdown in the standings. Give the gift of a little extra smack talk when it’s 8-1 in your favor. Gloat just a little bit more when you’ve given the gift of a Bloody Sunday when a Kevin Durant or James Harden goes for 50 on a Sunday night.

    Now, we don’t typically do charity in fantasy basketball, but if you’re being nice you’re probably doing it accidentally. I was nice to my leaguemates last year when I dropped Nikola Mirotic after the Bobby Portis punching incident. All the news about the punch led me to believe that Mirotic was done in Chicago and his value wouldn’t recover. I was right about him being done in Chicago, but hoo boy was I wrong about his value. So that was pretty nice of me. Far better than receiving a lump of coal.

    House Lighting – There are plenty of people who light their houses up for the holidays and the good majority of them are just a mashup of colorful crap. But there are some exceptions to this rule and there are houses who go all out, but do so with a plan with a clear color scheme and detail. When done right they can be gorgeous even if sometimes blinding.

    Thing is, every house on the block can’t have a perfect set of lights that cover every angle of the house. That would drive the neighbors bananas and probably jack up electric bills. But you can have a couple houses go all out and some of the other houses have nice decorations without going overboard to give it all a warm look and feel around the holidays.

    So too are most fantasy teams. You can’t just collect a team of stars because that’s incredibly difficult and you’ll likely alienate the rest of your friends and wind up with no league. Every roster is going to have a star or two, but the keys are the complementary pieces that go with those stars to make the whole team look and feel that much better.

    I’m sure you can think of plenty of other holiday comparables to fantasy hoops. Again, let the holidays and the dreadful winter be a reminder to you that there’s always a reason to step back and appreciate the joys of fantasy basketball.

    PLAYER OF THE WEEK WHO HAS A PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST ME

    There are always plenty of players who let me down over the course of the season, but since I try to stress patience to my readers, it would behoove me to follow my own advice. So, I try to wait and wait, and wait some more for the players I invested in and showed nothing but love and affection for to finally just love me back. Just a little bit. Because that’s all my teams are looking for, just a little love. I don’t need grand gestures, just a little love in return and we’re all good. And sometimes we can find love in the strangest of places, even when things are falling apart all around us. Like in Cleveland.

    SO DAMN YOU LARRY NANCE JR!! You have no Kevin Love there, no more LeBron, no more J.R. Smith, no other young players worth a crap. This should be your time to shine. You have all the defense metrics in your arsenal already, all you need is the offense to go along with it. But noooooooo, that’s not good enough for you. You have to let a known bum like Tristan Thompson steal all the rebounds. You have to let another known bum in Jordan Clarkson take every ill-advised shot known to man.

    Oh, but Cleveland won a couple of games against some good opponents with that combination you say? So you went from 9th circle of hell to the 8th. Who cares. You’re still in hell. If you wanted to get yourself out of MY hell, then start taking control on the offensive end, Mr. Nance, lest you be brandished with horrible looking uniforms for the rest of your life.

    YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT THEIR STRENGTH AND SPEED ARE STILL BASED IN A WORLD THAT IS BUILT ON RULES AND BECAUSE OF THAT THEY WILL NEVER BE AS STRONG OR AS FAST AS YOU CAN BE IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS

    Round 1 – Kevin Durant
    Round 2 – Jimmy Butler
    Round 3 – Clint Capela
    Round 4 – Otto Porter Jr.
    Round 5 – Eric Bledsoe
    Round 6 – Nikola Mirotic
    Round 7 – Julius Randle
    Round 8 – Spencer Dinwiddie
    Round 9 – Reggie Jackson
    Round 10 – Jaren Jackson Jr.
    Round 11 – Jeremy Lamb
    Round 12 – Montrezl Harrell
    Round 13 – Noah Vonleh

    The hell? How did you get on this list Otto Porter? Amazing what can happen when the Wizards can put aside their differences and a butthurt Dwight Howard. I should permanently etch a rendering of Montrezl Harrell’s name in the round 12 spot in stone surrounded by the biggest Sharpie I can find.

    YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT YOU HATE THIS PLACE, THIS ZOO, THIS PRISON, THIS REALITY, WHATEVER YOU CALL IT, YOU CAN’T STAND IT ANY LONGER IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS

    Round 1 – Nikola Jokic
    Round 2 – Victor Oladipo
    Round 3 – Donovan Mitchell
    Round 4 – LaMarcus Aldridge
    Round 5 – Gary Harris
    Round 6 – Hassan Whiteside
    Round 7 – De’Aaron Fox
    Round 8 – Andrew Wiggins
    Round 9 – Willie Cauley-Stein
    Round 10 – Evan Fournier
    Round 11 – Jonathan Isaac
    Round 12 – Brook Lopez
    Round 13 – Danny Green

    We need to hold an intervention for Donovan Mitchell. Donovan, it’s ok, we all love you. This is a safe place for you. But we want you to know that you’ve changed and we’re concerned about you and who you are becoming. I feel like Willie Cauley-Stein is in the middle of an identity crisis. He’s this big 7-footer who desperately wants to be someone like Jeff Green for some bizarre reason. I wonder if he’s just privately telling Marvin Bagley Jr., ‘see, this will be you in four years.’

    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 and feeling strongly about (rock), or feeling a little bit flimsy or unsure of (paper) or will just be cutting altogether like a Reggae artist trying to build a career off of the surname of the far more successful Shabba (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.

    ROCKS

    Cody Zeller – My wife and I used to belong to a small gym in New York City and to try to break up the monotony, we would assign the various regulars nicknames. There were Mighty Mouse, the Meathead Twins, and a girl we would call PLOD, short for Permanent Look Of Disgust. PLOD went to the gym at the same time, wore the same type of outfit, and was on the treadmill for 30 minutes every night and wore a scowl on her face the entire time. There was never a single deviation from her routine. PLOD was going to plod her way to her fitness goals.

    We have plodders in fantasy hoops as well and this season, Cody Zeller is PLOD royalty. Almost no deviation from routine, and you probably wear a scowl for owning him, but Zeller, just week in and week out, is delivering top-100 value. It’s not exciting, it’s not flashy, it’s just dependable. Just like the many characters that come in and out of your life, there’s something comforting in having someone show up and deliver and perform as you are accustomed to.

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – This is probably just the Nets homer in me, but I think the move to the starting lineup is going to push RHJ back to his top-100 self. It’s taken him some time to get over his injury and Kenny Atkinson and his need to start Jared Dudley have hindered his value. But if Russell and Dinwiddie (and LeVert) are the engines for the Nets, and Jarrett Allen is the sleek new body, then RHJ is their heart and they need him to beat even more if they’re going to start to push for wins.

    Fred VanVleet – It’s tough when your team is already supporting six top-100 players, but Van Vleet remains someone who can find his way on a loaded Raps team. So much of what has been holding him back has been his shooting, and he’s finally put together more respectable shooting weeks. His role isn’t going to change much, but his value on better shooting can only go up.

    PAPER

    Dennis Smith Jr. – He has to stick in dynasty leagues, but you standard leaguers are probably at your wit’s end. It’s tough to let go of a guy who we all know can explode on any given night, but Luka has sucked the force out of Smith for most of this season.

    Richaun Holmes – You know him. We love him. And if you have a free roster spot, perhaps just hang on just a little bit longer. He’s inching closer to top-150 value with his minutes stabilizing. He just need some things to break his way to finally unleash what we all know he is capable of and now that he’s firmly in the Suns rotation, that could happen at any moment.

    Dario Saric – He’s been a top-125 player since being shipped to Minnesota, which is fine and good, but not what you drafted him for. There’s only been one real stinker in his six games, which is good. The bad is that he’s yet to see minutes in the 30s and remains an at best 3rd or 4th option like he was in Philly. I am this close to throwing in the towel in a 10-teamer.

    SCISSORS

    Andrew Wiggins – It’s enough. The notion that he’s going to change who he is now that Jimmy Butler is gone is fallacy. He was never a top-100 player to begin with that won’t change with or without Butler. I’m no longer interested to see if he can recover from hitting rock bottom, and neither should you.

    Darren Collison & Tyreke Evans – With Victor Oladipo out we figured to get a bump in production from these two, but that never came. They simply can’t replicate their magic from last season and gains from Domantas Sabonis and a return from Dipo will keep their usage down. These DBOMs are unlikely to detonate.

    Terry Rozier – Either Kyrie Irving is going to be injured or he’s not. That’s the only way Rozier hits value. Right now, Irving is just fine and the Celtics remain a deep and talented team. The only thing that’s truly Scary about Terry is his unsightly 36% shooting.

    ADVENTURES IN DFS

    I know this is a basketball site, but I need to shift gears into football if I may. That cool Panda?

    Cool.

    I want you to know how cruel this industry is. It’s horrible. It’s torture I wouldn’t inflict on my own worst enemies. I’m going to share with you my Sunday football routine.

    I usually enter whatever NFL contests I feel like on Tuesday when the new games are open. I typically play a handful of games, but I almost never stray from this combination of games. 3-4 50/50 cash games, 2-3 single entry GPPs, and 1 entry into the Sunday Million. I also have a friends league that I do at $10 per week. I always create my lineups on Tuesday then alter them Sunday mornings once the dust has settled and all the injuries and inactives are sorted out.

    This Sunday, I had a lineup that included Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, Cameron Brate, and Zach Ertz. I am sharing this with you because each of those players were amongst the first to score touchdowns that day. I also needed to get my kid out of the house to grab some groceries shortly after kickoff. With the four-year-old in tow, I was walking down the refrigerated aisle of milks and cheeses when I decided to check my FanDuel scores around 1:45. The very top of my live scoring page said: $30.99 Entries, $1,499 Winnings.

    I of course shriek with glee in front of any number of poor shlubs and old farts who just want to pick up a dozen eggs without seeing a pair of Dad jeans attempt to Orange Justice in front of his kid out of pure delight. But as I mentioned to you, DFS is not fun. It is anguish. Pure misery.

    I spent the rest of the day draining my battery as I watched $1,499 go to $1,299, then to $499, then to $299, then $209, then $149, then $109, then $49, then finally, once all the late afternoon games were over and there was nothing but carnage left, a whopping $13.35 on my $30.99 investment. I had already planned on using that nearly $1500 for a future trip to Vegas in addition to curing cancer, but FanDuel won’t allow me and the rest of humanity to have nice things. Sorry, I know you’re here for hoops, but my basketball DFS week was pretty tame and wouldn’t you rather hear about me taking the beating of my life over the course of about six hours?

    BLOODY SUNDAY

    Let’s see, we went 7-2 in a 12-team H2H, 7-2 in the 24-team dynasty leaguer without a single game from Dipo, 6-3 in the 10-team dynasty, 5-4 in the Hoop-Ball staff league, and 5-4 in the 10-team H2H.

    Breathe, Josh breathe.

    GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH

    Oh sweet God that feels soooooo good. Now put your clothes back on and do it again this week Nancy!

    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.

    Enjoy the rest of the week fellow Hoop-Ballers!

Fantasy News

  • Jimmy Butler
    SG, Miami Heat

    Jimmy Butler led the Heat to victory over Detroit with 20 points (6-for-13 FGs, 8-for-11 FTs), 13 assists, three rebounds and two steals in 39 minutes on Tuesday.

    Butler is up to 17th/12th (8-cat/9-cat) in per-game ranks now. His 2.7 steals should drop a bit, but he's looking like he'll provide another top-20 season.

  • Alex Len
    C, Atlanta Hawks

    Despite being demoted to a reserve role on Tuessday, Alex Len rose to the occasion and delivered 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, adding seven rebounds, one assist, one 3-pointer and one block.

    There's nothing like someone taking your starting job to snap you out of your stupor of mediocrity. That's what happened to him tonight. Damian Jones drew the start but was unimpressive with eight points (4-of-5 shooting), three rebounds, two assists and one block. Expect this frontcourt shuffle to be an occasional occurrence, making it hard to trust either big man. Look elsewhere for your needs if you value stability.

  • Jabari Parker
    PF, Atlanta Hawks

    Jabari Parker chipped in 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting, nine rebounds, one trey and four assists in Tuesday's win over the Nuggets.

    Parker has been playing well as a fill-in starter for John Collins (suspension). But as a placeholder, consider selling high on him in 2-3 weeks before Collins' return.

  • Trevor Ariza
    SF, Sacramento Kings

    Trevor Ariza will not return to Tuesday's game against the Blazers due to a sore right groin.

    Ariza's night ends with two steals and one rebound in four minutes. He's been getting solid minutes, but his fantasy game just isn't what it was a few years back. Ariza can be left alone in standard leagues.

    Source: James Ham on Twitter

  • Trae Young
    PG, Atlanta Hawks

    Trae Young was more than a handful as the Hawks upset the Nuggets 125-121 on Tuesday, recording 42 points on 13-of-21 shooting (eight 3s), four rebounds, 11 assists and one block.

    Young was a beast, plain and simple. He's currently a top-25 player in 9-cat but is flashing the upside worthy of top-15 or even top-10 value. Trae is proving that he's worth all the pre-draft hype.

  • Kendrick Nunn
    PG, Miami Heat

    Kendrick Nunn had his best game of the month in a victory over the Pistons on Tuesday, going for 20 points (6-for-16 FGs, 4-for-5 FTs), three rebounds, five assists, two assists and four 3-pointers in 37 minutes.

    That should put Nunn owners at ease a bit as he hadn't had more than 11 points in his previous four games. He may never have a stretch close to the one that began his career unless Jimmy Butler misses time again, but he's locked into his starting role and should be worth starting in standard leagues for the foreseeable future.

  • Bam Adebayo
    C, Miami Heat

    Bam Adebayo put up a very efficient double-double with 18 points (8-of-9 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), 14 rebounds and two assists in 28 minutes in a 117-108 home win over the Pistons on Tuesday.

    Adebayo hasn't quite hit the level that eager drafters had hoped, but he's not far off. Though the defensive stats were missing in this one, he's averaging 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks for the season. Adebayo is also in line for some better results from the free throw line, so he could easily crack the top-50 before too long.

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Zach LaVine led all Bulls starters on Tuesday with 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting with two rebounds, five assists, three triples and one steal in 31 minutes.

    LaVine rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter but stayed in the game, so stay tuned for updates before his next game in case it swells up overnight. Lauri Makkanen was quiet with 13 points (4-of-10 shooting), eight rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block.

  • Bruce Brown
    SG, Detroit Pistons

    Bruce Brown Jr. (right knee contusion) handed out 11 assists on Tuesday while also providing three points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes.

    This game had some garbage time and plenty of missing Pistons, so it's hard to get a read on what's sustainable. With Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose sitting out tonight, Brown was able to handle the ball more than usual and showed off his point guard skills. Another player that benefitted from these circumstances was Christian Wood who went for 16 points, three boards, two steals, two blocks and a three in 26 minutes. Wood can produce well when given the minutes, but this is just the third time he's exceeded 20 minutes with the Pistons and Griffin's return is likely to make that even rarer.

  • Wendell Carter Jr.
    C, Chicago Bulls

    Wendell Carter Jr. recorded a 17-point, 12-rebound double-double for the Bulls and nothing else in Tuesday's 120-102 win over the Knicks.

    WCJ's lack of blocks tonight was a downer but the takeaway tonight is that the big man was healthy enough to put in 35 minutes in this game. The stats will follow. For now, we're just happy to see Carter stay healthy and on the floor.