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CHOO CHOO! The Fantasy Basketball Hype Train is a season-long fantasy basketball feature where I can just have fun and write about the players me, you, and everyone else already wants to talk about. Are you ready for a ride on the fantasy basketball hype train?

There's no kind of hype like 76ers hype, and there's no kind of 76ers hype like Joel Embiid hype. Yes, as a Redditor pointed out, he has not only played just 31 games in 3 years, but he's played on a minutes restriction on all 31 of those games. But boy have they been a 31 games. Since he finally made his preseason debut on Wednesday night, we'll hop onboard a packed hype train to Embiid station.

On the return trip, we'll head through Boston to take a slightly more empty hype train whose inhabitants are still quite passionate. Let's get this column on track!

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15 Minutes in Heaven: Joel Embiid's 2017 Preseason Debut

Every time Joel Embiid gets hurt and doesn't play for a long stretch we start to tell ourselves: he's not worth the trouble. He's a wasted pick for your fantasy team. The injuries are inevitable. He might not even last another two years in the league if he keeps breaking down. This dude is the next Greg Oden.

Then we see him play again, and forget all those doubts.

22 points. 7 rebounds. 3 assists. 1 block. 4 of 9 from the field. 14 of 18 (!) from the free throw line. Only 1 turnover. Just 15 minutes on the court.

Minutes restrictions be damned, this man doesn't need minutes to be a difference maker. I can't worry about injuries and losing leagues. If I have this guy healthy on my team I'm winning my damned league. So how early are YOU drafting the guy? Your level of risk tolerance is a personal decision. I'm sure plenty of you conservative owners still aren't touching him with a ten foot pole. But if I'm drafting in the first part of the draft and already sitting on a guy like Westbrook or Harden who fits a build where you punt TO or FG%... I'm rolling the dice on absolute victory in the late 2nd / early 3rd (depending on league size).

Hype Diagnosis: Runaway hype train, tearing down the tracks!

 

Get Smart: The New and Improved Marcus Smart

If I had a nickel for every story I've read about a guy who's "reinvented his body" or "gotten to his ideal weight" or "changed his diet," I'd have a lot of nickels, and it would be a pain to know what to do with them all. Who uses nickels anymore? Anyway, you hear a lot of chatter like this in the preseason, and usually it doesn't mean anything. But every once in awhile, it does mean something, and I'm still foolish enough to try to guess when it does.

Marcus Smart looks like a different player. He looks like a different person, in fact. He shed about 25 pounds over the offseason and has looked much more explosive on the floor. He's also switched up his notoriously inconsistent shot mechanics (something he did last offseason, too). The preseason results so far speak for themselves.

Smart has been even more active than normal with his rebounding and steals -- averaging 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals per 36 minutes, compared to the 4.6 and 1.9 he averaged in the regular season last year. He's also been knocking down shots, shooting .571 from the field including an otherworldly .583 from three, to average 20.5 points and 3.5 treys per 36. Now he's not going to hit all his threes like that. He's had hot streaks in the past that have all rudely stopped and turned into epic cold stretches where he couldn't hit a shot. But it has the hint of promise.

Maybe this time the shot changes have worked. Maybe, as a 23 year old, his decision making has improved, too -- perhaps he'll chuck fewer ill-advised shots this year. Just a little bit of improvement would make a huge difference with Smart's game. We're not asking Smart to turn into Stephen Curry. Just someone who doesn't take dumb shots and doesn't go on epic 0-12 runs from three. If he can improve his FG% from last year's .360 to just over .400, that would bring a huge boost in value in that category along with related boosts in points and treys. Combine that with the promise of even more hustle on the boards, his usual contributions as a passer, and the ability to average over 2 steals a game, and you've got yourself a breakout fantasy star.

Hype Diagnosis: My writing has dropped ten pounds in the offseason and I've revamped by typing technique. I'm ready for a breakout season as a fantasy basketball prognosticator. I hope the results stick through the regular season alongside my dude Marcus Smart.

 

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