The In-Season Tournament did stick the landing

Plus: An update on A Fine Fantasy Football League

Welcome back to A Farewell to Takes, our quick trip around the NBA and WNBA. Podcast wise, I went to Boston to sit down with Kristaps Porzingis for Episode 191 of The Old Man and the Three, and Tim Legler is on today’s episode of The Old Man and the Three Things. Drops later today, so keep an eye out on our socials.

In this week’s A Farewell to Takes we’re giving you:

  • Steve Jones Jr. of The Dunker Spot on the In-Season Tournament and if it did, in fact, stick the landing

  • Nekias Duncan of The Dunker Spot shares Volume 7 of his series, Screen Time

  • Tommy shares what he’s been watching

  • Jason Gallagher gives you an update on A Fine Fantasy Football League

  • Tommy on the BTTALW (Best Thing Tommy Ate Last Week)

Thanks, as always, for reading! —JJ

The IST stuck the landing

It is safe to say that the In-Season Tournament did, in fact, stick the landing. I could point to the irony of “this doesn’t matter” turning into an endless amount of Zion discourse after the Pelicans lost to to the Lakers in the Semi-Finals but that is no fun. The Los Angeles Lakers were crowned as the first winners of the NBA Cup, and LeBron James was named the first ever In-Season Tournament MVP. History was made by a historic franchise and a historically great player —and that was with Anthony Davis having 41 points, 20 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks on 16 of 24 shooting.

In my eyes, the fact that LeBron and the Lakers were the first to win is important but the fact that they faced the Pacers in the Finals was just as important. Proof of concept that the tournament is important, but also wide open. Keep in mind, both of these teams are the #5 seeds in their respective conferences at the moment and you likely feel better about them going forward than you did a month ago. The Pacers were able to defeat both the Celtics and the Bucks on their way to the Finals. The Lakers did not lose a game and showed a defensive gear that should serve them well moving forward while also delivering an ode to Marshawn Lynch with their offensive gameplan in the Finals.

The Pacers fell short in the Finals, but the fact that they made the Finals was just as important. Before the 36% shooting in the Finals, they defeated Giannis, Damian Lillard and the Bucks in the Semis delivering a moment where Tyrese Haliburton checked his watch to make sure he knew what time it was. A kind reminder that the Pacers and the Bucks face off again on Wednesday and while the stakes were different last week, you can safely swap revenge and enjoy basketball.

The IST served as a tremendous early season bridge for the league and now we continue the regular season. The length felt perfect, just enough to draw you in, not too much to overstay its welcome. The biggest key is whatever thoughts you may have had about it going in have been replaced with what the original edition produced. You’ll always have the visual of LeBron raising the first cup. —Steve

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Screen Time, Vol. 7: Duop Reath

Offenses have never been more lethal than they are in this era. With primary ball-handlers becoming larger, the collective shooting range expanding and teams leaning further into the importance of spacing, it’s becoming even more difficult to keep the ball out of the basket.

With the game expanding, screening has become even more important. A well-placed off-ball pick can free a movement shooter for a triple or a catch-and-drive. On-ball screens can make shifty ball-handlers even harder to deal with in pick-and-roll and open the door for dump-offs, lobs and fruitful catch-and-shoot opportunities.

Screeners come in all sizes these days, ranging from the burly centers to mismatch-causing smalls. I can’t overstate how important guard-screening has become, especially late in games.

This season, I want to keep tabs on who is — and isn’t — getting the job done as screeners. Every week, I’ll be highlighting a handful of the most powerful or shameful screen-setters in the league.

Let’s get into volume six. All stats are from December 4th onward, unless otherwise noted.

Screener of the Week: Blazers big man Duop Reath

It was a lighter week in the NBA due to In-Season Tournament things — and what a glorious, colorful time it was! But with the lighter slate, I'm afforded some room to go even further off the beaten path and have some fun. There may be no more niche fun in the league than watching Duop Reath set screens right now.

This is one energetic big, which already raises the brow for me. He bounces between possessions, flowing from handoff hub, to screener, to release valve depending on who the ball-handler is — and how they're guarded. He doubles as a willing shooter from deep; as of this writing, Reath is one of 15 centers — or 17, if you're counting Lauri Markkanen and Julius Randle like does — taking at least four per game, and he's doing so with the lowest minute load (15.1) of the bunch. His 34% clip is sub elite, but it's high enough (combined with the volume & comfort he takes them with) to where teams will need to start paying attention to.

Combine that with a growing feel for how and when to flip screen angles, and you get the two-game stretch he had last week against the Mavericks and Warriors.

Per Second Spectrum, the Blazers generated 1.04 points per possession (PPP) on trips featuring a ball screen set by Reath — a "fine" number that feels better when factoring in how woeful the Blazers' offense has been this year. Reath did a quality job of laying the lumber, generating contact on over 65% of his screens while opponents found themselves wiped out on over seven percent (7.3) of them — the 4th highest clip of the week among 46 players to set at least 30 picks.

Keep an eye on the young man, and keep an eye on the surprisingly-fun Blazers.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Your most productive on-ball screener this week, minimum of 25 picks (we cut it in half this week) set? Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis (34 picks, 1.59 PPP) who made his presence felt in his return. He flirted with a contact rate of 60 (58.8) last week, which is nice, but his value lies in his dual-threat nature. You never know when Porzingis will roll or pop, or just how far out he'll go if he chooses the latter. The Celtics continue to blitz teams on offense — a 119.2 offensive rating -- when he's available.

  • In the Inverted Division, quick hat tips to Buddy Hield again (12 picks, 1.75 PPP, keep slippin', brother), Dante Exum (14 picks, 1.63 PPP, having a fun, steady season in Dallas), Kyle Lowry (18 picks, most set by a guard this week), and Gary Harris (10 picks, 1.3 PPP, played a pretty nice role in Paolo's 42-point game vs Cleveland).


The Playoffs are set

What a mediocre fantasy football season at OM3 headquarters. We've had renowned experts, world class athletes, incredible talk show hosts, and me, Jason Gallagher, the person whose sole purpose in this league is to update you all on where we stand. So let's get it.

First Class

The jockeying for the top seeds has been a fascinating thing to watch. Taylor Rooks has spent the most weeks at the one spot with Pablo Torre being her most promising challenger. That is until Alex Caruso heaved up a few wins like he heaved up a 3-pointer to send it into OT against The Bucks. But eventually Taylor reclaimed the top spot with Alex fighting for his life to stay as a top 2 seed (which secures a first round bye) by pulling off a measly 87-74 win over Sean Evans. Embarrassing by all parties. If I sound salty, well ...

Business Select

It's me. Hi. I’m the one who was consistently top 4 in the league despite my point total being worse than several people below me in the rankings. And yet, I finished tied with #2 seed Alex Caruso, and if Sean Evans wouldn't have blown an extremely easy win last week, I would've had the first round bye. Looks like things got a little too... hot... for him? (Sorry). Nevertheless, Sean has clinched a playoff spot too.

Pablo Torre had an awesome start to the season, but eventually came crashing down. Poised to be a top two seed, it's actually baffling what happened to his season. I'm really hoping Pablo … finds out (sorry, again).

And finally, the last person to secure a playoff bid is the Cleveland Cavaliers very own chosen one, Georges Niang. Georges was steady but if I'm honest, most people want to play Georges in the playoffs. It’s just facts.

Exit Rows

Tommy Alter, Cam Johnson, and Mina Kimes just missed the cut. But this was the most fun group to watch because the highs were high but the lows were low. None of them felt like a real threat to the top two groups. Tons of competence, but some brutal injury luck. I hope someone who reads this feels bad for them. I don't. But I hope someone does.

Basic Economy

That feels too nice to describe this group. Mikal Bridges was awful. And the worst part is I think he was really trying? Some reporter needs to ask him what happened. Build some trust back into our media institutions with the hard questions.

On the flip side, PFT Commenter was likely passed out in a bar in Bucktown for 6 months and forgot he was in the league. Respect.

Airplane Bathroom

And then there's Chris Long. I know his record isn't technically the worst - but he came in hot by shit talking pre-draft, naming his team "Beat Tommy" and then punting on the season. If you shoot shots, you gotta back it up. From what I could tell, his wifi service wasn’t working during the draft so he immediately bailed on the season. Laaaaame.

And that's it. That's the season. We have a hell of a playoffs coming in the next few weeks. Stay tuned. Or bail like Chris Long. It's whatever. —Jason

What Tommy has been watching

The whole world seemed to figure out this week what we've been saying for years: Tyrese is a superstar. Caitlin Cooper, who readers of this letter knows is the best, owns both the Tyrese and the Indy beat. She hopped on with BBall Breakdown to talk through what's been particularly special about this MVP level season so far, particularly his insane ability to have the ball in his hands all game and not turn it over. Bball Breakdown is a great resource in general. Coach Nick is is really gifted at explaining technical details, and the editing and shot selections of their videos are easy to watch and learn from. There's been a ton of good stuff written and produced about Tyrese, much of which Caitlin has had her hands in, and this breakdown is no different. —Tommy

Best Thing Tommy Ate Last Week: Brisket Sandwich at Arthur Bryant’s

I was in KC this weekend to watch the Chiefs game, and the biggest challenge/debate when you get here is not whether to have barbeque, but which place. You'll find different arguments and recs for new school joints, hybrid spots, etc. But if you want good, old fashioned, consistently amazing pulled pork, brisket, burnt ends, go to Arthur Bryant’s and don't look back. —Tommy

Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque | Instagram | 1727 Brooklyn Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri 64127

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