• -The basketball gods released furious anger once again, and the recipient was Jimmy Butler. He tore his meniscus and Yahoo’s Shams Charania reported he’ll have surgery and miss 4-to-6 weeks, which means at the earliest he’ll show up rusty for the championship week. To his credit, Butler has been telling people he’ll be back for the NBA playoffs, which is good for the Wolves, but not so good for your fantasy squad. Keep him if you have an open IL spot but otherwise Jimmy G. Buckets is looking like a drop candidate.

    -As if the Markelle Fultz situation wasn’t weird enough, Kawhi Leonard was medically cleared to play (through the pain) but apparently is choosing to not to. Pop was quoted as saying he’d be surprised if Kawhi returned this season. This follows earlier rumors that Kawhi’s camp had beef with the way the Spurs were handling his injury situation. Is the Klaw still hurting, as has been reported, or is there something more? Is he just playing it safe for his next Super-Max contract?

    Whatever it is, the scuttlebutt is that Pop is digging into his Phil Jackson bag o’ psychological ploys to challenge Kawhi to return. I have no idea if he will, but I’d put at least 60/40 odds that he won’t. I’m sure we’ll hear something, but owners banking on having him for the playoffs just got gut-punched; I’m sure many a Kawhi owner is sitting on a sunk season but if you’re still battling for the playoffs, keep fighting and you probably have an IL spot you can use to avoid deep-sixing your opportunity cost. And if you don’t, start planning your contingencies.

    *If you missed it last week, click here for ROS & H2H playoff scheduling.

    Week 20 Schedule

    5 games: SAC
    4 games: ATL, BRK, CHA, DAL, DET, IND, LAC, MEM, MIL, OKC, ORL, PHI, PHX, TOT, WAS
    3 games: BOS, CHI, CLE, DEN, GSW, HOU, LAL, MIA, MIN, NOR, NYK, POR, UTA
    2 games: SAS

    In weeklies, all Spurs should obviously be benched, while Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere should be added where available.

    For My Streamers

    Monday has 10 games: Lakers at Hawks, Grizzlies at Celtics, Bulls at Nets, Warriors at Nets, Pistons at Raptors, Suns at Pelicans, Magic at Thunder, Pacers at Mavs, Rockets at Jazz, and Wolves at Kings.

    Tuesday has 6: Bulls at Hornets, Nets at Cavs, Sixers at Heat, Wizards at Bucks, Kings at Blazers, and Clippers at Nuggets.

    Wednesday has 9: Bucks at Pistons, Raptors at Magic, Pacers at Hawks, Hornets at Celtics, Warriors at Wizards, Suns at Grizz, Thunder at Mavs, Pels at Spurs, and Rockets at Clippers.

    Thursday has 4: Lakers at Heat, Sixers at Cavs, Nets at Kings, and Wolves at Blazers.

    Friday has 10: Pistons at Magic, Hornets at Sixers, Warriors at Hawks, Raptors at Wizards, Mavs at Bulls, Nuggets at Grizzlies, Pacers at Bucks, Thunder at Suns, Wolves at Jazz, and Knicks at Clippers.

    Saturday has 7: Grizz at Magic, Nuggs at Cavs, Pistons at Heat, Celtics at Rockets, Lakers at Spurs, Thunder at Blazers, and Jazz at Kings.

    Sunday also has 7: Suns at Hawks, Hornets at Raptors, Pacers at Wizards, Pels at Mavs, Sixers at Bucks, Nets at Clippers, and Knicks at Kings.

    Back-to-Backs

    Mon/Tues: BKN, CHI, SAC
    Tues/Weds: CHA, LAC, MIL, WAS (all play on Thursday, too, giving them 3 games in 4 nights)
    Weds/Thurs: none
    Thurs/Fri: MIN, PHI
    Fri/Sat: DEN, DET, OKC, ORL, UTA
    Sat/Sun: SAC
    Sun/Mon (of Week 21): IND, MIL, PHO

    Bracketology: On Fantasy Tanking

    The sweetest taboo in fantasy is tanking; intentionally losing cats to reach a preferable playoff seeding. The typical cases are either to avoid a powerhouse/surging team or to catch a slumping team. It’s rarely discussed in full or even broached.

    The most practiced example is the avoid being bracketed against a No. 1 juggernaut and tanking your way from fourth (or fifth) to sixth to duck that second-round matchup against No. 1.  The flipside of that is when a top-2 team experiences a catastrophic injury late and has lost several weeks in a row. In this case, the play is to lose cats to ensure a second-round matchup against the floundering former powerhouse. A lesser version is rejiggering seedings within the middle of the pack (No. 3-6) based on injury or scheduling advantages.

    Many fantasy experts would advise against it and for the general public, I would, too. But I’ve done all three aforementioned permutations, and though the sample size is limited (due to “The Rules”), it’s worked more often than not. For those times it’s worked, I usually haven’t won the ‘ship, but second and third place also pay, and I’m trying to get paid in full (the drum break is one of the most sampled in old-school hip-hop, blissfully used in this one along with the truly more evident sample).

    The Rules: The reason my sample size is so limited is not only due to the obvious risk; there are rules.

    Rule 1- You have to actually do the math. If there’s a mathematical possibility of me missing the playoffs completely, I won’t do it. If there’s a mathematical probability I could fall to a more undesirable seeding, I won’t do it.  If the top six are statistically established, with No. 3-6 very close, I’ll try it if an opportunity arises.

    Rule 2- If I’m going to do it, I’m not going to half-ass it (like sitting dudes on Sunday to win turnovers). I’ll literally project all the stats for the week for me and my opponent and plan out which players I’ll play to ensure my 3-6 or 2-7 loss.

    Rule 3- If you’re the nervous type, don’t try this. You’ll just aggravate yourself which will put you at a psychological disadvantage during the most crucial part of the season.

    FWIW, none of my current teams fit the parameters to employ tanking so far. It might be a possibility in one, but I’ll have to wait until Week 21 to see if the conditions are met.

    The Moral: Tanking isn’t for everyone or every situation. It’s only for experienced owners in specific, probabilistic circumstances. That said, it is a very risky strategy that can pay off if you’re willing to do the work and follow the rules.

    Working The Wire

    Point Guards

    Tomas Satoransky is sitting on an awesome top-40 value over the last month and is still owned in barely a quarter of all leagues. If he’s available in your standard league and you need help at point guard and you still won’t pick him up, what can I say?

    D.J. Augustin got 10.5 points, 2.5 threes and 3.3 assists over his last four. That’s not great, but useable for deeper leagues. The Magic play four times.

    In two post ASB games, J.J. Barea racked up 14.5 points, 2.0 threes and 9.0 assists. He’s a risk for injuries and random DNPs but he’s starting, and the Mavs have four games.

    Dare I say Trey Burke? In the two games after the break he scored 26 points in each and averaged 2.0 treys, 7.0 assists and 1.0 steals. He did that on 53.7 percent from the field which obviously won’t last, but he’s carved out a significant role off the bench as the designated chucker next to Frank Ntilikina. The Knickerbockers buckle their belts three times.

    With Tyreke Evans (ribs) out of commission (and expected to get an MRI on Sunday) Andrew Harrison is a nice add for as long as Evans is out. Memphis plays four games this week and next.

    Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier both played well off the bench in back-to-back games but the Leprechauns only have three games. They’re still options for deep leagues.

    Shooting Guards

    Justin Holiday caught a pair of DNPs and The Demolition Man, David Nwaba, started and racked up a career-high 21 points, three threes (haha), nine boards, a steal and a block in 33 minutes before fouling out. He followed that up with 14 points and another nine boards in 34 minutes. The playing time is key, and while he’s not a shooter or passer, he’ll attack the rim, dunk a lot and grab rebounds from the 2-spot. If that helps, the Bulls run three times this week.

    37-year-old Jamal Crawford will do his damndest to make up for Jimmy Butler’s lost production. At this stage in his career, he’s a high-volume streak shooter but his off-the-bounce game still has value for a team desperate for floor spacing. Outside of his bad efficiency, the additional downside is that the Wolves have one of the worst ROS schedules including three games next week and just two in Week 21.

    Tyler Johnson played really well in two games since the break, but with Wade, Goran Dragic,Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington all being in the rotation, I want to see him do it again seeing as Miami only has three games.

    Small Forwards

    Aaron Gordon and Voochi Mane both returned pushing The Croat that shall not be named to the bench. Despite that, he still got 14 points, 1.0 threes, 3.0 boards, 2.0 assists and 2.5 steals in 26 minutes over those two games. The Magic play four times next week.

    Wesley Johnson is a high-risk/high-reward guy for defensive stats who’ll probably start as long as Danilo Gallinari (bruised hand) is out. The Clippers sail four times.

    Lance Stephenson kept up his top-80 value last week and with Darren Collison (knee) expected to miss four more games, Born Ready should be good to go for Indiana’s four games this week.

    Power Forwards

    JaMychal Green is averaging 11.0 points, 9.5 boards, 0.5 steals and 0.5 blocks over the last four games, which is standard league stuff. Additionally, for the Grizz, Marc Gasol caught a DNP (rest) on Saturday and if he continues getting days off, it opens up more time for guys like Deyonta Davis and Jarell Martin. It’s a situation that bears watching. The bears go four times for two consecutive weeks.

    Dwight Powell put up a dud in his first game of the ASB yet managed to pull in standard league value on the week. The Mavs have four games.

    Since his return home, Larry Nance has alternated near double-doubles with complete duds with his value largely kept afloat on defensive stats. Through those four games he’s averaged 9.8 points, 6.8 boards, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks on 53.3 percent from the field with 0.5 turnovers.  That’s sneaky good in 9-cat, and though the Cavs only play three times next week, their playoff schedule is sweet.

    Weekly Marquese Chriss Watch: Meh.

    Centers

    An injured John Henson might have been dropped but he’s back and will have every opportunity to produce the same top-110 value he had over the last month. The Bucks run four times this week.

    With Tyson Chandler (neck) out, Alex Len has been playing well, getting two straight double-doubles after the break, with 1.5 blocks and on 75 percent from the field. The bad news is that Chandler isn’t expected to be out that long, and Len shot 11.1 percent on free throws. Since the break, he’s been the No. 1 weighted drag on free throw percentage. The Suns go four times but temper your expectations.

    From two weeks ago: “Montrezl Harrell continues to kiss standard-league value and is a player you can use for a low-end boost in field goal percentage, points and blocks…” Double Ditto.

    16-team leagues and deeper should keep an eye on Ivica Zubac. He hasn’t played much all season but will get more tic as the Lakers flounder. He had 19 and 11 before the break, scored 14 points after the break and dropped a dud on Saturday. He’s not quite an add yet but I’m paying attention.

    Random Observations

    -They kind of tried at the All-Star game and actually had a semi-competitive game that was close ‘til the end. It only took 100 stacks and a lil pride. How ‘bout that? And I thought it was gonna take a miracle.

    -After last week’s article, a reader reached out and suggested that stats from all activities held during All-Star Weekend, including the Rising Stars game, 3-point challenge and Dunk Contest should be included in weekly totals. At first, I thought it rather silly, but after a little thought, I eventually settled on why not? It’s even more random but would help some owners by giving rookies and second year guys a slightly higher weight. I’m down.

    -Bill Simmons was in throwback form for this piece on M.J./Bron.

    -Zach Lowe reported that the NBA is seriously considering a play-in tournament for the last two playoff spots in each conference. The league is the best at hopping on any bandwagon and trying any novel or gimmicky approach to open up new revenue streams.

    -The Singularity, I mean MIT Sloan conference, is upon us: check out new analytics that use AI to determine how to attack defenses, whether to double team and who to draft.

    -Yahoo came up with a new, gimmicky rating system. I’m Diamond Level. Gee, thanks. Do I get a free diamond? A free entry next season? A free gyro? If not, color me unimpressed.

    -Kudos to the designers and developers of the updated Hoop-Ball site. Me likey, and there’s much more to come!

    -On trades: If you’re still trying to swing a deal, you’ve got less than a week; don’t be that guy that offers a 4-for-3 this late in the season. The fight or flight instinct is often mentioned, but some animals will just freeze if you also remain still- you can especially see this in rabbits and other animals of prey- “If I don’t move, you can’t see me.” Don’t freeze an opposing owner (you’ll have offers sitting there for weeks at a time if you allow it). If you move too aggressively, the flight activates, and you’re quickly denied with no counter-offer, or if you’re me, you’ll fight and offer an even more laughable trade in return. Engage in the back-and-forth; it’s best to finesse and it’ll increase your odds. Try to get value without confusing him/her by introducing too many variables or trying to hit a homerun. KISS.

     

    Tryna make these moves,
    Chef

    I be here, I mean hurr.

    Follow @Hoop-Ball Fantasy for up-to-the-minute fantasy updates.

Fantasy News

  • Yuta Watanabe
    PG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Yuta Watanabe's minutes declined, but he showed some improvement in several key statistics in his second NBA season.

    Watanabe averaged 11.6 mpg in 15 games for a shorthanded Grizzlies team down the stretch in 2018-19, but he slipped to 6.2 mpg in 16 games for a more competitive outfit this year. He did shoot .375 from deep, a vast improvement over last season's .125 mark, and his steals and blocks remained the same despite losing almost half of his playing time. Watanabe finished as a top-470 player in fantasy and there's no reason to track his game, despite the modest steps forward.

  • Jarrod Uthoff
    SF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Jarrod Uthoff was a top-490 fantasy player in 2019-20, playing in only four contests.

    Uthoff was on a 10-day deal with the Grizzlies so this isn't surprising. He's been around the NBA for a few years now but this was his first appearance at the top level since a 2017 stint with the Mavs. The fantasy appeal here is non-existent.

  • Gary Harris
    SG, Denver Nuggets

    Chris Haynes is reporting that Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr. and Torrey Craig did not travel to Disney World with the rest of the Nuggets.

    A number of healthy players have chosen to head to Orlando on their own time rather than go with their teams' traveling parties, but any absences are sure to generate speculation. Hopefully this is a case of the former, as Harris and Craig are critical to Denver's perimeter defense, while Mike Malone was talking Porter up as a potential member of the playoff rotation thanks to his rebounding, offensive touch and energy. This trio of Nuggets will be subject to quarantine whenever they do arrive in Orlando, assuming they're all still planning on making the trip at some point.

  • Shake Milton
    SG, Philadelphia Sixers

    Shake Milton has been starting at point guard in the Sixers' Orlando practices, with Ben Simmons working as a power forward.

    Simmons will still do a ton of playmaking, but the big news here is Milton's likely full-time promotion into the starting five. It shouldn't come as a surprise considering his outstanding play prior to the NBA shutdown. In 16 starts with the Sixers, Milton averaged 14.1 points, 2.2 3-pointers, 3.6 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals and was rolling along as a surprising standard-league asset. Feel free to upgrade Milton in any short-season fantasy games, though be aware that much of Milton's output came when the Sixers were missing important players. Simmons, Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson were all dinged up when Shake really broke out.

    Source: Keith Pompey on Twitter

  • Russell Westbrook
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Russell Westbrook has tested positive for COVID-19 and is quarantined.

    Westbrook had yet to join the Rockets in Orlando, though Mike D'Antoni has recently been optimistic that he can join the rest of the team shortly. Westbrook also said that he's feeling well, which is good news.

    Source: Russell Westbrook on Twitter

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker
    SG, New Orleans Pelicans

    Nickeil Alexander-Walker (right wrist fracture) will be able to play in the Pelicans' Orlando games.

    Whether or not he'll be in the rotation remains to be seen, but it's good to know that the rookie is healthy. Alexander-Walker generated plenty of hype with a strong Summer League but fell out of the rotation as the season progressed and ultimately ended up in the G League for a short stretch, which is where he suffered the injury. He might be a DFS target if the Pels rest a few regulars but we don't foresee him having a shot at serious fantasy value in the immediate future.

    Source: Christian Clark on Twitter

  • Bruno Caboclo
    SF, Houston Rockets

    Bruno Caboclo inadvertently broke quarantine and must now quarantine for another eight days in his hotel room before returning to team activities, per a report from ESPN.

    Caboclo is the first player who will have to undergo these steps — or at least the first that the public knows about. He's not a member of Houston's rotation, so this won't have a major effect on the basketball side of things, but it is a reminder of the protocols in place while the NBA tries to get going again. Hopefully it's enforced strictly.

    Source: Tim MacMahon on Twitter

  • Josh Jackson
    SF, Memphis Grizzlies

    After spending most of the year in the G-League, Josh Jackson averaged 10.4 points per game in 18 appearances off the bench for Memphis.

    Jackson's NBA struggles have been well documented and after two dismal seasons in Phoenix to start his career he landed with Memphis' G League affiliate to start the 2019-20 season. He made his debut for the big club in late January and appeared in the final 18 games of the season, averaging 10.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 19.8 minutes per game. It is worth mentioning that the majority of his production came in garbage time as he played over 20 minutes 11 times and only one of them came in a game that was decided by less than 10 points. Whether or not he can prove his worth as a former fourth overall pick remains to be seen but outside of deep-leagues he provides little-to-no fantasy value until further notice.

  • Brandon Clarke
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Brandon Clarke finished his rookie year averaging 12.0 points and 5.8 rebounds, landing him a 104/80 ranking in 8/9-cat leagues.

    While Ja Morant stole most of the headlines in Memphis, Clarke may have been the most surprising rookie for the squad. After an ADP in the tenth round, Clarke outperformed those expectations and nearly cracked the top-100 in both 8/9-cat, finishing the season ranked 104/80. His value was carried by his consistency and FG%, where he finished top-five in the NBA at 62.3%, the highest mark for any rookie with at least 300 FGA, ever. Before missing the the final two weeks of the season with hip and quad injuries, Clarke finished the season on a high note, averaging 13.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals on 60% shooting over his final 10 full games. He should sneak into the top-100 of drafts next season.

  • Jaren Jackson Jr.
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Jaren Jackson Jr. finished his second season ranked 65/66 in 8/9-cat leagues, averaging 16.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.

    After an impressive rookie campaign, expectations were high for Jackson, as he came into the year with an ADP just inside the top-40. Although he did not quite live up to those standards he did manage to improve on his overall rankings and jumped from top-90 to top-70. The long, 6'11" forward provides a combination of shooting and defense no other player in the league can. Jackson is the only player in the NBA to average over 2.5 3PM and 1.6 blocks per game on at least 46% shooting from the field. The substantial increase from 2.4 3PA last year to 6.3 this year, while shooting just under 40% from deep has made him an unique offensive threat. While his block numbers already have him in an elite category we would like to see the big man assert himself more often on the glass and increase his rebound stats from his 4.7 per game career average. The tools are there, we just hope JJJ can continue to improve and solidify himself as a superior fantasy option.

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