Fellow Washington Wizards fans, we need to talk.
After last night’s total existential implosion against the LA Clippers? After giving up a 35-point half-time lead? After those cataclysmic endgame events?
Turn off your notifications. Put your phones on silent. Because Bradley Beal’s commercial chatter is poised to reach decibel levels somewhere between a 767 jet engine and a 1976 Who concert.
I skip denial, go straight to acceptance, and try to show how to handle impending grief for my children. My children are worried. They see the Beal swag in my garage.
But I am creating a learning moment about handling impending breakups with dignity. This present Woj Bomb Vigil? Just like that dark night in eighth grade when I first got dumped.
Reliable sources had warned me: don’t pick up the phone, Cregan. She will do it over the phone.
And I could have saved a few more days as an official boyfriend. I could have screened incoming calls with this exotic device called an “answering machine”. I could have cooked up a fake fever and hid at home for the weekend.
But sometimes… you have to take your medicine.
Because Ardath White and Bradley Beal gave me many opportunities to make it work. They were patient. I did not deliver. Both deserve new situations with a championship upside down… far from the Friend Zone.
And hey. At least in fantasy… I learned to love playing in the field.
Because my empathy factor makes it impossible to sit around complaining about fantasy production being lost to a historic pandemic. I prefer to focus on finding new ways to win. And that means hitting the wire with unabashed enthusiasm…and a revised methodology.
The most important fundamental change is in my perspective. I recycled it to focus on the short term. Instead of investing bandwidth in projecting ROS valuation for feed players – a near impossibility at present – I invest my energy in anticipating who will make the next unexpected opportunity.
These days? I keep it fast. Ruthless. Belichickian. I tricked my decades-old fantasy brain into processing everything like it was the fantasy playoffs. There is no tomorrow. Take the production that is right in front of you. Then let go and move on.
A single stat personifies this mindset. And that metric is just a few clicks away: PR7.
Player Evaluator 7. Our week-long overview of aggregate production. Historically, I’ve avoided PR7. It’s a small sample. Two to four games maximum.
But now? Fantasy hoops are not chess. They’re not even ladies. It’s Whack-a-Mole. The production appears and we jump. The strategy is to anticipate where new production might suddenly appear.
Let’s use last night’s game list as a working example. PR7 emphasizes who is coming. Here is the list of players I was following last night. (I’m using today’s PR7, to keep you posted.)
Saddiq Bey, SF, Pistons 7.51
Kevon Looney, PF/C, Warriors 6.71
Jarred Vanderbilt, PF, Timberwolves 6.17
Carmelo Anthony, SF/PF, Lakers 6.16
Amir Coffey, SG, Clippers 3.67
PJ Washington, PF/C, Hornets 5.47
Nemanja Bjelica, FP, Warriors 5.18
Cory Joseph, PG, Pistons 4.51
Keldon Johnson, SF/PF, Spurs 4.39
Luke Kennard, SG, Clippers 4.03
Otto Porter Jr., SF, Warriors 3.49
Bismack Biyombo, C, Suns 3.29
Deni Avdija, SF, wizards 3.19
Malik Monk, SG, Lakers 3.18
Nassir Little, SF/PF, Trail Blazers 2.76
Kessler Edwards, SF, nets 2.49
Day’Ron Sharpe, C, Nets 2.44
Robert Covington, PF/SF, Trail Blazers 2.02
Dorian Finney-Smith, Mavericks 1.89
Kenyon Martin Jr., SF, Rockets 1.49
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Pelicans 1.45
Garrison Mathews, SG/SF, Rockets 1.44
Jose Alvarado, PG, Pelicans 0.93
Isaiah Hartenstein, PF/C, Mowers 0.65
Jonathan Kuminga, SF/PF, Warriors 0.30
To make said list, I rely on several statistics. But PR7 is the best place to start. Because it’s a snapshot of who’s warming up. But I don’t rank prospects in order of PR7 rating. I bend into other dynamics. True shooting percentage is just one of the few that I keep in constant play.
Minutes. Or to be precise: consistent minutes.
Consistent minutes are key to spotting rotopyrite. Fancy Fool’s Gold. Is a player bubbling on PR7 because they had an extended wait time during a blowout?
Last night’s Warriors-Mavericks box score provides a prime example of pyrite conditions. Golden State blew the gates and won by 38. There was plenty of game time to be had in that second half.
Watch out for Kuminga’s 22 points, 4 3s and 5 assists. Fancy side? Kuminga has a lot going for him in the long run. Many. But Golden State is gearing up for a long playoff streak. It’s hard to imagine Kuminga getting consistent minutes.
But Looney intrigues me. And he scored zero points in 22 minutes. But Looney’s fantastical potential is tied to a different key dynamic… Starter Cosplay.
Looney temporarily recreates Draymond Green. He replaces an injured key starter and tries to fake Green’s production.
I love Starter Cosplay for its relative simplicity. A starter fails. A bench player intervenes. Not a committee. Single player. Suddenly getting all of said starter’s minutes…and a lot of his touches. And it’s unclear how much time Green could miss in the stretch. Golden State is going to want him fresh for the playoffs. Looney might therefore get an extended cosplay opportunity.
And sometimes, like with Looney, the cosplayer has some young assets. Looney may not have hit Green’s atypical assist totals, but he brings other skills to the table.
This brings us to our next dynamic… rebounds.
Looney adds a trait that is becoming increasingly important in today’s NBA: elite rebounding. Double-doubles cost a penny a dozen. Now they are harder to find.
If you’re in a points league you might be thinking “why do I care how Looney bounces? I just need my raw points, Cregan! No wonder Ardath White t dumped!”
Number one: it’s wicked. Second, some stats secretly point to consistent fantasy production. An elite rebounder will get their numbers regardless of their performance in other areas because rebounding is a high volume, low variance stat.
And here’s a bit of the good stuff under the radar: Significantly, a high bounce average is better for fantasy prediction than a high score average. Because rebounding is a prime stat, players who hustle end up endearing themselves to coaches. Coaches who will reward said hustler with more playing time.
Rebounders don’t need possession to produce. Making them less dependent on another key dynamic… Utilization rate.
If a fantasy player doesn’t bring it on the glass or on defense? Hit the tires on his possession rate…and see if he climbs.
Let’s look at a player who got some breakout minutes last night but turned it into a franchise-changing win. Amir Coffey got 37 minutes and delivered: 29 points, 5 rebounds, 3 3, 2 steals and one block.
Coffey checks a lot of my boxes. Considering all of the Clippers’ injury issues, Coffey is getting consistent minutes. It replaces a starter. He’s a good rebounder for a winger.
But Coffey is inconsistent. It lays an egg approximately every three games. But the eggs arrive more and more spaced out. He gets more trust from his team. He takes the ball in hand more regularly. The more touches a player like Coffey receives, the better he becomes.
You see all of this playing out in Coffey’s growing utilization rate. Over the past week, he has recorded several points above his season average. The Clippers have several players that intrigue me: Hartenstein, Kennard, Mann and Coffey all have solid near-term fantasy potential.
But thanks to increasing usage, I just added Coffey to this league. And then for the same reason, Little. But to wrap up today’s announcements, I chose Bey, because of our endgame dynamic… The process.
If a team has thrown the wrecking ball of their season and embarked on a rebuild, the upside-down youngsters will have an extended opportunity. Their coaches will absorb the occasional disaster of a game.
Bey is one of the first beneficiaries of this dynamic. His performance should not be judged match by match. It’s sometimes too terrifying. Watch young players like Bey week after week.
This is why PR7 is invaluable right now. It adds just enough perspective to this relative chaos of the list. This draws some players into deeper consideration. And allows us to differentiate a hot game from a tangible short-term potential.