Following back-to-back years of Top 40 production, Terry Rozier has disappointed so far this season, mainly due to some rookie-level percentages (in fact, his worst percentages since his rookie season as it stands). But he’s just a hot shooting streak away from producing as owners have become accustomed to, and on Friday he helped the Hornets edge the Wizards 117-116. Rozier scored 25 points on 8-of-21 shooting, 2-of-5 from deep, with 5 boards, 8 assists, 2 steals and a season-low zero turnovers. Charlotte has been paying the doctor’s new vacation home so far this season, and Rozier’s percentages should benefit whenever (if ever) LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward return. For the time being, the assists are up along with his usage rate, and he’s a great buy target, especially for those punting the FG% category.

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Buy Low. Sell High. 

It’s a simple concept, projected every week of every season in fantasy sports. And for good reason. It’s the foundational strategy to get the most out of in-season trades and improve your roster. The only problem is that it’s all based on general consensus of which players are performing below ADP and should improve, and who’s overplaying their hand and is due for regression. There’s always variable opinions on what the best moves are in the buy low / sell market. But, for the most part, there’s agreement of what players fit in that box on any given week.

So – if for nothing else other than a matter of practice – let’s think outside the box for a moment, using as an example the biggest sell high candidate of the moment. 

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The big Fin Lauri Markkanen put up a big stat line, hit a big shot and led the Jazz to a big win Friday night over the Suns. He scored a career-high 38 points on a silly 15-of-18 from the floor, 2-of-3 from deep and 6-of-8 at the line, and added 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a giveaway to the line. 

So far this season Markkanen has delivered late 2nd / early third-round value, which isn’t too  surprising. The skills were evident, it was just a matter of the fit and program in what was supposed to be a tanking Jazz team. And so far he’s fit like a glove worn by a big white dude in Utah. 

His counting stats aren’t too far from this 2019-20 breakout sophomore season, before things got stormy in the Windy City. The major difference is his ability to get shots inside, and being surrounded by willing and able passers helps, too. Markkanen is shooting 65.6% on 2-point shots with nearly 10 attempts a game, numbers comparable only to Nikola Jokic. The other improvement in the stat line is nearly 2.5 assists per game – again a result of playing in an offense that complements his skill set. 

Most of his career high points were actually easy buckets while taking advantage of a string of blown defensive plays. However, the difficulty level was high on this Kobe/Dirk vintage turnaround jumper:

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Did you know about 75% of hops grown in America come from the Yakima Valley? Of course you didn’t. Unless you’re reading from the Pacific Northwest, you probably don’t even know where the heck Yakima is. Which means you also don’t know about this hilarious billboard declaring it the Palm Springs of Washington (funny because Yakima is kind of a craphole). But, if you’re paying attention to your NBA rookie origin stories, you’d know that MarJon Beauchamp is the first and only NBA 1st round draft pick to come out of this quasi-desert rose of a geographical location.

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Much to the disappointment of pundits chomping at the bit to argue whether the Lakers play better without LeBron, L.A. lost again Friday night, 120-114 to the Kings, because De’Aaron Fox maneuvered about the roost like the sly creature he is, feasting on chicken defenders and dropping bags of leftover bones through the net left and right. Fox finished with 32 points (13-19 FG, 2-5 3pt, 4-5 FT), 7 boards and 12 assists. He’s averaging about 25-5-6 with a steal and just under 3 turnovers to start the season. His 3-point shooting (36%) has been slightly better than years past, as well as from the line (86%), but it’s inside the arch he’s been lethal, converting 63% of 2-point shots. Also, mark the “Clutch” checkbox next to Fox’s name on the stat sheet, as he led the Kings to victory with 10 fourth-quarter points on 5-of-7 shooting and three rebounds, four assists and a crucial steal.

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“Houston, we have a problem” … is the headline I had to fight off for days when contemplating an article on the early returns (or lack thereof) from No. 3 pick Jabari Smith Jr. And that’s just wrong. Literally. The astronauts of Apollo 13 actually said to mission control, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” While we’re at it: Forrest Gump said, “Life was like a box of chocolates;” Marie Antoinette wanted them to eat a pastry, not cake; Manfred Mann was “Revved up like a deuce;” the cornfield winds whispered “If you build it, he will come;” and Darth Vader’s famous line is, “No, I am your father” (either way, its hilarious to say into a fan). Thanks to my Master’s degree in Web Searchography, I know those formations of false collective memories are called the Mandela Effect. What does this have to do with Smith? I have no idea, but it was a fun way to cut through some writer’s block.

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The NBA on Friday Night rolled back the clock two nights too early (the end of daylight savings is Sunday 2 a.m.), harkening the days where big men ruled the professional basketball roost. There were myriad starting backcourts taking the night off with injuries and “injuries” (the league loves it when teams rest their stars on Friday night!), leading to a slew of point-forward play and 7-footers trying out for the 3-point contest.

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Back in the day when I used to go to malls just to hang out (ah, those were the days), a must stop every time was Sharper Image. It was like the in-flight magazines, but in person! All sorts of shiny, new, modernized gadgets and gizmos, tech-driven household items I otherwise wouldn’t care about, random game, sporting and, especially, golf novelties and, of course, a few minutes in the latest and greatest massage chair. It was a blissful time of next-level window shopping between stops at Sam Goody, Sbarro, Zumies, and more. Sharper Image was great because it was all eye candy without any inclination that I’d actually be buying something. Aside from the fact I couldn’t afford anything in there as a teenager, I also didn’t need it, as cool and flashy as it was. 

And that’s Shaedon Sharpe in his rookie season for fantasy basketball. 

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Son had a nice moment of self-reflection on the latest podcast, recognizing how he – and we all – tend to get easily sucked into preseason storylines that make us overhype or dismiss certain players without questioning the herd mentality around said player. 

Case in point: Myles Turner, who was discussed more for his potential to be traded than for his promising fantasy game. After sitting out a couple games and taking one to ease back to form, Turner put up 27 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks and 2 assists while shooting 3-4 from three, 7-14 from the field and 10-10 from the line as the Pacers beat the Wizards 127-117. The trade talk will eventually reemerge, but in the meantime, Turner owners may get to feast on a steady diet of blocks with quality numbers across the board. It’s worth remembering he’s just 26, when big guys usually enter their prime. If that age and experience turns into consistency for Turner, there’s Top 15 value to be had here. 

More notes from a busy Friday night in the Association:

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Jaden Ivey was impressive enough in his sophomore season at Purdue that myriad draft writeups questioned whether he deserved the No. 1 spot. He ended as the 5th to Detroit, which was perfect, not only because his family has a history there, but it’s also pretty easy to compare his game to one of Detroit’s finest: the Dodge Viper. His performance is highlighted by explosive speed; his game can be a lot to handle and, if steered with a lack of direction, a harsh spin out is possible.

So far, Ivey shareholders are feeling pretty good. In four games he’s averaging 16 points, 5.5 ast., 4.3 boards and 1.5 steals in 31 minutes of play while shooting 43% from deep.

However, I’m pumping the breaks on Ivey and holding up the caution sign.

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Since I first pitched Son with the idea of writing a rookie column for the season, I’ve had the inclination to do a fantasy basketball mashup to the tune of “Creature Report! Creature Report!…” from The Octonauts. After more thought, I’ve decided to spare you wonderful Razzball readers from that  … but I can’t promise it won’t happen eventually … and just get down to business (although anyone with young kids and a Netflix account has it stuck in your head just from a single mention).

The first matter of business is the untracked statistic of nastiness. We all know it when we see it on the court. But the Association just hasn’t evolved enough to be in a place it can define “The Nasty” in hashmark form. It’s a combo of skill, confidence + “Things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.” This is fantasy sports, where the box score is the Holy Grail. However, there’s still something to be said about recognizing a player whose nastiness is trending up. Of the crop of 2022-23 NBA first-timers, the early favorite for NROTY (Nastiest Rookie of the Year) is Bennedict Mathurin.

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The Portland Trail Blazers missed the playoffs last season for the first time since Damian Lillard’s rookie year, and finished with their worst record (27-55) since the fall of the Jail Blazers era.  After GM Neil Olshey was fired midseason for being a total a-hole fostering a toxic work environment, his successor, Joe Cronin, called in the tanks and began reshaping the roster to meet the needs of first year head coach Chauncey Billlups. The Blazers were stripped down to a G League team for the final two months, losing 21 of their last 23 games – who out there had Drew Eubanks power them to a league title?

Some fans said “Tanks For Nothing!” for the lost season that saw a beloved borderline all-star player traded for role players and financial flexibility; the lottery balls left them at No. 7; and Lillard’s Primetime clock ticked through another year. But now Dame is back, the hype machine is rolling – “Not sure how good they’ll be, but they’ll be fun to watch!” – and Portland looks primed to return to its normal status as playoff team but not a contender. 

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