• We finally saw a trickle of injured guys getting back – Will Barton, Gary Harris, Taurean Prince, Elf Payton, Bobby Portis – when Clint Capela, Lonzo Ball, then Anthony Davis and Spencer Dinwiddie went down for considerable stretches (not to mention Deandre Ayton’s ankle and Danilo Gallinari’s back) while Wendell Carter Jr. and Victor Oladipo are out for the season.

    With Enes Kanter* getting DNPed and Marc Gasol on the biggest of trading blocks, I would hitch them britches tight; I have a feeling things are going to get nuts before the February 7 trade deadline (aside from Melo already getting traded to, and cut by, the Bulls).

    *Full disclosure: I dropped him in one league where I’m trying to jump a few spots in the rankings to make a realistic play for a bye week. It might come back to bite me in the ass but catching a bunch of donuts won’t help me make that move. You know who I grabbed for my streaming spot? Mitchell #&*$^@! Robinson. What. You can laugh if you want cuz I got my philosophy.*

    And of course, there’s the same anecdote I give all the time – I won a league last season with my No. 1 & 2 picks (Steph and Boogie) out. I hit a sweet spot, Ro-Co was a beast and my opponent had several minor, but impactful, injuries. You never know with the great random – that’s why it’s the great random. Embrace it; it’s one of the components of life itself.

    *Since Ben did a Gershwin riff at the end, you get bonus rhapsody. Too easy, I swear, if any of y’all get a movie or series produced holler at me for the soundtrack (not score, although I could do that too, but not to anybody’s liking).

    Week 16 Schedule

    This week’s schedule is highly variable with six teams paying 1 or 2 games and nine teams playing 4, and all the days except Saturday should be open for most of you. That makes Week 16 an ideal one for streaming to avoid losing ground and/or gaining an extra stat or two in H2H.

    1 Game: POR
    2 Games: CLE, MIN, PHO, SAC, TOR
    3 Games: CHI, DAL, DET, GSW, HOU, LAL, MIA, MIL, NOR, OKC, ORL, PHI, SAS, UTA, WAS
    4 Games: ATL, BKN, BOS, CHA, DEN, IND, LAC, MEM, NYK

    Monday has 5 games: Knicks at Hornets, Warriors at Pacers, Nets at Celtics, Nuggs at Grizz and Hawks at Clips.

    Tuesday has 7: Wiz at Cavs, Bucks at Pistons, Thunder at Magic, Bulls at Nets, Pels at Rockets, Suns at Spurs and Sixers at Lakers.

    Wednesday has 8: Hornets at Celtics, Bulls at Heat, Mavs at Knicks, Pacers at Wizards, Grizz at Wolves, Nuggs at Pels, Hawks at Kings and Jazz at Blazers.

    Thursday has 6: Mavs at Pistons, Pacers at Magic, Bucks at Raps, Nets at Spurs, Embiid at Boogie and Lakers at Clips.

    Friday has 5: Grizz at Hornets, Celtics at Knicks, Thunder at Heat, Hawks at Jazz and Rockets at Nuggs.

    Saturday has 12: Clips at Pistons, Bulls at Hornets, Nets at Magic, Bucks at Wiz, Mavs at Cavs, Pacers at Heat, Pels at Spurs, Lakers at Dubs, Nuggs at Wolves, Hawks at Suns, Rockets at Jazz and Sixers at Kings.

    Sunday has 3: Grizz at Knicks, Thunder at Celts and Clips at Raps.

    For My Streamers

    *Except for Saturday’s 12 games, all the other days have 8 games or fewer so I’ll just bold the stacked day- Saturday.

    ATL: 4- M, W, F, Sa
    BRK: 4- M, Tu, Th, Sa
    BOS: 4- M, W, F, Su
    CHA: 4- M, W, F, Sa
    CHI: 3- Tu, W, Sa
    CLE: 2- Tu, Sa
    DAL: 3- W, Th, Sa
    DEN: 4- M, W, F, Sa
    DET: 3- Tu, Th, Sa
    GSW: 3- M, Th, Sa
    HOU: 3- Tu, F, Sa
    IND: 4- M, W, Th, Sa
    LAC: 4- M, Th, Sa, Su
    LAL: 3- Tu, Th, Sa
    MEM: 4- M, W, F, Su
    MIA: 3- W, F, Sa
    MIL: 3- Tu, Th, Sa
    MIN: 2- W, Sa
    NOR: 3- Tu, W, Sa
    NYK: 4- M, W, F, Su
    OKC: 3- Tu, F, Su
    ORL: 3- Tu, Th, Sa
    PHI: 3- Tu, Th, Sa
    PHO: 2- Tu, Sa
    POR: 1- W
    SAC: 2- W, Sa
    SAS: 3- Tu, Th, Sa
    TOR: 2- Th, Su
    UTA: 3- W, F, Sa
    WAS: 3-  Tu, W, S

    Back-to-Backs

    Sun (of Week 15)/Mon: NYK
    Mon/Tues: BKN
    Tues/Weds: CHI, NOR, WAS
    Weds/Thurs: DAL, IND
    Thurs/Fri: none
    Fri/Sat: ATL, CHA, DEN, HOU, MIA, UTA
    Sat/Sun: LAC
    Sun/Mon (of Week 17): none

    3 games in 4 nights

    Mon/Tues/Thurs: BKN

    Weds/Thurs/Sat: DAL, IND

    Weds/Fri/Sat: ATL, CHA, DEN, MIA, UTA

    Thurs/Sat/Sun: LAC

    Tu/Thurs+: BKN, MIL, ORL, PHI, SAS

    Working the Wire

    Point Guards

    Marcus Smart – From last week: “The shooting will look really ugly when it corrects.” Smart shot 32% last week and landed outside the top-150. Ouch. He’ll be better eventually (hold in roto) but I understand if you’re streaming in H2H; why would you let it linger? Boston goes 4 times is why.

    Shabazz Napier was losing minutes until news broke that Spencer Dinwiddie tore ligaments in his thumb and is considering surgery. Shabazz played 28 minutes on Friday and scored 18 – he looks like a more-than-decent flier, at least until Dinwiddie gets back in 3-6 weeks.  His sub-40% FG shooting is the downside. The Nets play 4 games.

    D.J. Augustin
    was top-115 in 9-cat which is a tad better than the top-135 he has on the season. He’s a pretty safe low-end play or stream and that’s about it. Orlando plays 3 games.

    As the last point standing in Minny, Jerryd Bayless has been a top-80 play over his last three games, averaging 13.7 points, 3.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.3 steals on almost 33 minutes a game. This is his first extended run of the year so he’s feeling it but will fade when Rose and Teague get back. The Wolves only play twice.

    Trey Burke (illness) returned after missing four games and dropped 25 points, two 3s and five assists on Friday. He’s coming off the bench behind Frank Ntilikina, but Frankie ain’t ready and with Emmanuel Mudiay (shoulder) set to miss a few weeks, Burke makes sense as a low-end stream if you need some points. The Knicks fizz 4 times.

    T.J. McConnell was inside the top-100 last week as he got a little extra run with Jimmy Butler out. He’s still a decent stream for assists and steals even when Jimmy gets back. Philly goes 3 times.

    Jeremy Lin’s 13.3 points, 1.0 threes and 4.0 assists on decent efficiency ranked him outside the top-200 due to literally no defensive stats last week. That’s how the cookie crumbles in 9-cat. Atlanta goes 4 times for two weeks straight.

    Tyler Johnson continued to get his extra run but fell outside the top-150 and landed closer to the top-200 mark. He’ll oscillate between those two week-to-week unless he happens to get hot. Miami half-courts 3 times.

    Patrick Beverley sandwiched two great games with a bunch of meh. Clips sail 4 times.

    Shooting Guards

    It’s a typical situation, too many choices.

    Kevin Huerter didn’t do much in his first game back in 21 minutes and we’ll have to see if he can get back to his top-80 ways with Taurean Prince back to soak up usage. Atlanta has a pair of 4-gamers.

    Terrence Ross’ shot was off but he’s still putting up enough counting stats to be worth a stream – 14.3 points, 1.8 threes, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals in 29.2 minutes a game last week. Orlando has 3 games.

    Allonzo Trier has been shooting the ball extremely well over the last five (54.5/95.2) and that adds a lot of shine to his 14.6 points, 1.0 threes, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals which added up to top-70 value. We’ve seen this before from Trier but maybe Fiz is ready to run the young guys consistently for once. The Knicks go 4 times.

    Justin Holiday got 1.5 threes and 1.5 steals over his last four games with a top-130 ranking in 9-cat. Does that do it for you? Memphis goes 4 times this week.

    E’Twaun Moore was hot garbage even with extra opportunity. Yuk. The Pels play 3 times.

    Josh Okogie is still starting and pulled his value into the top-160 with 10.3 points, 1.0 threes and 1.5 stocks on a perfect 100% from the line in a reduced 26 minutes a game (and they were all over the place – 11, 25, 40, 28). Just 2 full moons this week sucks.

    Landry Shamet – 13.3 points, 2.3 threes, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals (on a crazy 53.8% from the field, 100% from the line) and Corey Brewer – 13.3 points, 1.0 threes, 2.7 steals and 0.7 blocks (an OC 2.0 turnovers) were both very useful (top-80) over their last three games but that’s gone whenever Jimmy Butler (limp wrist) is back. Philly has 3 games.

    Random note on Corey Brewer. He’s one of the most unlikely players to score 50 points in recent history. Guess who was guarding him when he dropped his 50 bomb? James Harden.

    Bryn Forbes (top-220 last two weeks) has been worse than Marco Belinelli (top-90, but only top-120 last week) but the latter seems to be slowing a bit.

    The Spurs play 3 times this week.

    Avery Bradley scored at least 10 points for four straight games, the first time all season he’s done that. He also landed in the top-140 for the first time with 13.3 points, 2.3 threes, 3.0 assists and 0.8 steals in a massive 37.5 minutes a game. That increased run is directly correlated with Danilo Gallinari’s absence, though he’s playing over his head no matter what. Clippers go 4 times if you want to catch that lighting.

    Alec Burks (top-185) and Rodney Hood (top-175) play in Cleveland. Need I say more? The Cavs go 2 times.

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (outside the top-200) was bad and Josh Hart was worse (outside the top-250). A pox on their house. The Lakers go 3 times this week and next.

    Small Forwards

    Luol Deng played four games in a row, the first time all season he’s hahaha just kidding.

    Tyreke Evans has been pretty passive since losing Dipo but he’s getting the burn.  He won’t reach last year’s levels but he shouldn’t be that bad (not that good either). Pacers go 4 times for two weeks.

    Mikal Bridges shot it poorly (36.4%) last week but put up what’s becoming a pretty typical line for him – 1.2 threes, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks. Cash counters galore and not much else. Still good enough for top-90 in 9-cat though obviously short on the popcorn numbers.

    Josh Jackson was the with the popcorn stats, filling in for T.J. Warren with 14.6 points, 0.8 threes, 6.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks which only looks good in points formats or punt shooting builds ‘cause he shot 37.5% from the field and 67.7% from the stripe (top-230 in 9-cat).

    The Suns play just twice – womp.

    It didn’t take long for Jeff Green to get back to his low-end ways. He was top-120 last week, right about his season average. He’s still getting heavy run (30-plus minutes) and remains a low-upside option. The Wiz play 3 times.

    James Ennis was back to putting up nice 9-cat roto lines – his 9.5 points, 1.3 threes and over 2.5 stocks last week with great efficiency, good for top-80. That looks high but he has a chance to stay in the top-120-150 rest of season. The Rockets play 3 times.

    Derrick Jones Jr. landed I the top-170 last week with 11.0 points, 0.7 threes, 7.0 rebounds and a stock. He still got most of his vale from FG% (52.0) and low turnovers (0.7) so DJJ has a very heavy roto lean. He has 3 games.

    DeAndre’ Bembry was a top-110 play over his last three despite losing minutes with the return of Taurean Prince; the reduction in bad efficiency was primarily the reason. With Kevin Huerter (neck) now back, they’ll all have to figure it out. Atlanta plays 4 times this week.

    I hit Cedi Osman with the blah blah blah last week and the basketball gods sure threw that back in my face. Maybe it’ll work again: yada yada yada top-50ish last week, yada yada yada 2 games this week.

    Terrance Ferguson is on a bender and has finally managed to string some good games together, hitting double figures in 4 of the last 5 games and 6 out of the last 9. Over the 9 games he’s been a top-75 play shooting 52.5% from the field with 12.9 points, 3.2 threes and 0.9 steals in 31 minutes a game. The Thunder play 3 times this week and next for deep-leaguers needing 3s.

    Moe Harkless (knee) played five straight games (top-165)  but didn’t get much burn except for the last one, whether that’s due to his knee or Jake Layman’s hot stretch, or a combination of the two.

    For his part, Jake Layman (top-150 over his last four games) has started trading duds with gems and might be running out of luck.

    The Trail Blazers play just once so I’m not streaming either.

    Royce O’Neale was still inside the top-120 for the whole of last week but played reduced minutes over his last two so he’ll end up a deep-leaguer.

    Jae Crowder shot it marginally better (38.9%) last week but still ended up outside the top-175.  Utah goes 3 times, then twice the week after.

    Reggie Bullock was trash last week unless you were punting FG% as his 28.6% just killed you. He still got his two treys a game but that’s it. He also tweaked his ankle on Friday FWIW. Detroit has 3 games for two weeks.

    Darius Miller got 10 treys and 42 points over his last three in over 30 minutes a game because everybody is hurt in Nawlins. How long is that going to last? Pels go 3 times.

    Power Forwards

    Bobby Portis found his jumper and jumped into standard-league value with 15.8 points, 1.5 threes, 8.0 rebounds and 0.5 steals. That’s a Bobby Portis line if I ever saw one. That’s one player that won’t let the devil steal his joy. The Baby Bulls conspire 3 times this week.

    Luke Kornet (ankle) is hurt and is being dumped en masse. Be looking out for news that he’s returning to practice.

    P.J. Tucker stays rolling (top-35) and you roll with him (his 3.1 steals per game over the last two weeks leads the league). May he do it again. The Rockets run 3 times.

    Jabari Parker has been a top-90 play in 9-cat over the last two weeks in under 18 minutes a game, which is actually pretty incredible considering the holes in his fantasy game. The Bulls are shorthanded so why not (I wouldn’t drop anyone good, though, you know, like Mikal Bridges).  Chicago does it 3 times.

    Bam Adebayo was back to being useful last week – 9.7 points, 7.3 boards, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks (top-125). If only he could maintain in Miami (or some team agrees to take on Whiteside). The Heat go 3 times this week and next.

    JaMychal Green (knee) continues to struggle shooting the ball – 37.5% over the last two weeks- and fell outside the top-200 for the two-week period. The Grizz play 4 times but he might not if his knee keeps acting up.

    Ante Zizic was still playable last week but Larry Nance Jr. is back (and shouldn’t be waiving around) so we’ll see if he can somehow maintain. The Cavs show up 2 times.

    Davis Bertans – INJ.

    Centers

    Kenneth Faried is going, going gone (and the preferred remix/live version).  He’ll be good ‘til at least the ASB.

    Me and Jahlil Okafor went to the same high school (Whitney Young Magnet H.S., whoop, WHOOP) so I’m proud of Vegan Jah and the 19.8 points and 10.8 boards and an alien 2.8 blocks ranked No. 25 in 9-cat over his last four games. I also know that won’t last but congrats to those of you who got some last week. Pels have 3 games but there’s talk of the Brow returning. Randle shouldn’t be out for much longer, either.

    Richaun Holmes – INJ.

    Ivica Zubac was alright in his last two games but may have settled into about 20 minutes a game which caps his upside along with his stat-set. He had two games (top-50) in a row getting more run than both JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler and I don’t think that holds, but stranger things have happened. Lakers go 3 times for two more weeks before a 1-game week before ASB.

    Dragan Bender was surprising (to me at least) with 14.0 points, 1.3 threes, 7.0 boards and over a stock in almost 30 minutes over his last four games. He didn’t do nearly as well as a spot-start last season and maybe it’s just a matter of having some structure and competency around him for once. Playing Portland, Denver and Minny twice didn’t hurt. Phoenix only plays twice and Ayton and Holmes will be back at some point.

    Mitchell Robinson is back to doing what he does best – blocking shots and fouling out, although even when he’s not racking up fouls, Fiz is limiting his burn. BOOOOOOO. The Knickerbockers fasten their britches 4 times.

    Alex Len was not top-40 over his last three games (No. 193) but aside from the points, he had pretty much the same stats. 33.3% from the field is a killer. Atlanta has 4 games for the next two weeks.

    Mason Plumlee is still good for some low-end numbers but better for deep-leaguers. He goes 4 times.

    Ed Davis was exponentially more boss last week with 12.3 boards in an expanded 24 minutes a game. You get 4 doses of boss this week.

    Nerlens Noel hasn’t racked up many blocks since returning from injury but the steals are there. OKC runs 3 times for two weeks.

    Mo Bamba (illness) averaged 2.0 blocks over his last three (1.5 over the last two months) but his raw game won’t get out of deep-league territory unless Vooch gets a minutes reduction as Orlando continues to slide in the standings. The Magic have 3 games.

    Random Observations

    As I type, it’s minus-10 degrees F with the wind chill and I’m trying not to let this cold, cold world get me down.

    In N.Y. this past week, James Harden became the first player in history attempt at least 20 3s and 20 FTs in the same game. Meanwhile analytics guys everywhere creamed their pants.

    Also re: Harden, we’ve heard a lot of stats lately how the bearded one is the first player in X number of years since Wilt to do whatever. Harden is on the second longest streak ever- 5 games, which ended on Friday – of averaging 50+ points per game. Stilt is No. 1 at 116 games. Not. Even. Close.

    FWIW, Stan Van Gundy, who coached Miami under Pat Riley, thinks Goran Dragic will be back soon and eventually return to the starting lineup. You can imagine how that might affect Justice Winslow’s point forward production.

    Sticking with the Heat, this Dwyane Wade retirement tour/jersey exchange has taken a turn to the ridiculous. Wade swapped signed jerseys with retired former teammate Jason Williams. That was obviously planned as why else would White Chocolate just show up out the blue with a signed jersey? Like seemingly everything else these days – from politics to public/social media discourse – even pro-sports give the overt *wink* towards the kayfabe and absurd nature of pro wrastlin’.

    I’m tired of it all.

    Bring on the night,
    Chef

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