I started writing a movie plotline starring Damian Lillard in Canada as a male counterpoint to Stella in the Bahamas, but decided to spare you fine readers that pending trainwreck (and possible violation for racial insensitivity from the Razzball board of directors) and get right down to basketball. 

With Giannis taking the night off, Lillard was awesome in a blowout win over Toronto Wednesday, scoring 37 points (9-18 FG, 4-10 3PT, 15-16 FT) with 4 boards, 13 assists and 2 steals. The usage soared to 41.6 as he assumed the comfortable role of The Man.

As bad as Lillard has been to start the season (well, bad for him) he’s still ranked 28 in 9-cat, as he’s single handedly winning FT% for teams where he’s rostered. 

One thing about Dame is he’s a man of routine. So it’s easy to understand a slow start as he adapts to a new team (with a rookie coach) in a new city (not to mention his personal trials). So don’t expect him to be back-back just yet; but be ready to make an offer to any shaky owners after a couple ho hum upcoming games. I expect his post-Christmas numbers to be right back where they belong. 

Elsewhere on a (thankfully) subtle 8-game slate in the Association … 

Milwaukee Bucks 128, Toronto Raptors 112

Malik Beasley decided to ball out, hitting 8-of-11 from deep for 30 points – if only we could trust that. Sir Khris Middleton continued to ever-so-slowly push the return-to-form boulder up the ramp, notching 11-5-4 with 2 steals and a three in 20 minutes. The production has been decent, but it’s hard to know when the minutes fully return. Bobby Portis with 18 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks and 2 threes. He should be a solid nightly play as long as Jae Crowder remains out. 

After usage rates of 31.5, 36.4 and 38.1 the last three games for Pascal Siakam, it dove to 20.4 in this one, resulting in just 11-7-5. Maybe Coach connects this usage with a blowout loss and remedies quickly, but the rollercoaster for Siakam continues. The card says buy-low if you can for the 168-ranked fantasy player at the moment. 

A solid and welcomed line from Jakob Poeltl (13-11-1-4-2) in 27 minutes, but Precious Achiuwa started the second half and posted 11 points, 4 boards and 2 blocks in 17 minutes. Might just be blowout loss tinkering, but something to watch. And Scottie Barnes continued to be awesome at basketball with 29-9-7 and a steal – his FG% has leveled off from the hot start, but he’s a category stud moving forward. 

Phoenix Suns 133, Minnesota Timberwolves 115

We were teased with a first viewing of the new Big 3, but Bradley Beal was a late scratch as his back flared up, and we’re now worried about Beal’s ability to play consistently this year. Devin Booker returned with 31-4-5. And despite my nightly prayers, Grayson Allen (14-3-2 with 3 threes) and Eric Gordon (15-1-3 and 3 threes) continue to get the minutes over Jordan Goodwin (3-3-3-1-1 in 16 minutes). Allen and Gordon actually started this one together, and remain streaming worthy while we figure out what’s wrong with Beal. 

Chock it up as a skip-over game for the Wolves in this blowout loss on the second of a back-to-back, but do note Karl-Anthony Towns (who I think I’ve been misplacing the hyphen for too often) has been playing much better after a slow start, posting 25-7-2 here. 

Boston Celtics 117, Philadelphia 76ers 107

Brown and the Unicorn were out, so we got a vintage night from Al Horford in 28 minutes, with 14 points (5-9 FG, 4-8 3PT), 8 boards, 3 assists and 5(!) blocks. Sadly he’s not really usable from the bench anymore, but worth a spot start on nights like this. Sam Hauser also started, but underwhelmed in the bright lights – just 2-of-8 from deep. 

Nic Batum remained out for unknown personal baggage, so I guess we’re streaming Robert Covington, who had 16 points, 7 boards and 2 steals. Don’t love it, but not sure who else fills the role at the moment. Certainly not Paul Reed, who went 10-6-2 and a block in 14 minutes. That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it Nick Nurse? Look at me, Nick. TELL ME WHYYYY [deep breath, chill out]. And we had a Jaden Springer celebration for a stretch of this game. The second year player had 9 points, 2 boards and 2 steals in 20 minutes, and was a +20. Could be a good deep league guy if he carves out a role. 

New York Knicks 116, Atlanta Hawks 114

Blue and Orange Julius Randle shot 50% from the field for the second time in three games [pops champagne bottle] and had a monster 29-10-8 line with 3 threes and a steal. Josh Hart was solid in another start with RJ Barrett sitting again, posting 9-8-5. Quentin Grimes left the game with a hand injury, and Hart should remain usable if QG misses time.

Bogdan Bogdanovic erupted for a season high 28 points (8-15 FG, 4-11 3PT, 8-8 FT). Trae Young still can’t shoot, but 17 assists and 2 steals will do. And remember when we [the royal we] joked if De’Andre Hunter (5-2-1) could have a break out? Ahhh, good times. Saddiq Bey just seems like the better player, and produced 18 points (4 three), five boards and two steals. I’m still holding Saddiq for the time being.

Dallas Mavericks 130, Washington Wizards 117

Once again, Derrick Jones Jr. played well on a Wednesday Night, posting 20 points (8-11 FG, 2-5 3PT, 2-3 FT), 7 boards, an assist and a steal and two blocks. Obviously he continues to clamor for approval. Getting kinda desperate Derrick, but glad it’s motivating your play onto some fantasy rosters. … He’s pretty much doubling his stat lines Hump Days, so if he’s on your waiver, at least give him a run next Wednesday in L.A.

Tim Hardway (31-4-3; 11-20 FG, 7-11 3PT, 2-5 FT) was hot from deep in the blowout win that was not as close as the final score shows.

So, everyone out there seems to be dancing around of Deni Avdija – who posted an efficient 15 points (5-6 FG, 3-4 3PT, 2-2 FT), 3 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals in 24 minutes – being a quality fantasy player. Lots of “It’s ok to roll with him for now to see where he goes” sort of comments. And I get it: He’s yet to build a record of consistency; the game-to-game minutes distribution on this team would immediately be thrown out of and Sense-Making Factory; and he doesn’t post huge games to balance the lighter once (yet). But, he has been as consistent as his allotted minutes have allowed; and I think I know the real reason fantasy analysts are doing the Deni Dance – they don’t want to consider the possibility of coping with the fact that Deni is better than Franz Wagner this season: the two currently ranked Nos. 77 and 122, respectively. 

That long rant was brought to you by not wanting to talk about the rest of the shit show that is the tanking Wizards.

Orlando Magic 96, Chicago Bulls 94

Goga “Bordello” Bitadze posted 15-11-2 and 2 steals on 6-of-10 shooting in a season-high 26 minutes, as he and Moe Wagner (5-4-1-1-0) are in kind of a European version of the dance Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu perform day-to-day (just not quite as good). Jonathan Isaac played the second leg of a back-to-back for the first time since my third kid was born (lot’s of numerals there; moving fourth …) and picked up 4 stocks with 4 points and 7 boards. And the aforementioned Tour de Franz Wagner crashed and burned with 13-2-3.

The Bulls made a 4th quarter comeback here, no thanks to a 5-1-1-1-0 line from Coby White. He’s still a hold, but wouldn’t it be nice for his minutes (33) to swap with Alex Caruso (24)? The Bald Mamba had 16 points (5-7 FG, 2-4 3PT, 4-4 FT), 5 boards, 3 assists, a block and a rare no steals game. With DeMar DeRozan out (personal), Patrick Williams returned to the starting lineup and … we actually get to say something nice! His 9-9-2-1-2 line was decent and the defense helped the come back – tho he still shot horribly. Ok, kinda nice. 

Sacramento Kings 125, LA Lakers 110

Helloooo Kevin Huerter. The hottest non-star in the NBA over the last week kept it going with 28 points (10-16 FG, 6-11 3PT, 2-2 FT), 5 boards, 7 assists and 2 steals. He’s hit 20 threes in his last four, so enjoy the ride while it lasts. And that means low minutes for Malik Monk (3-5-5 and a steal). As last year, these two will likely play see-saw in minutes and usage, making both frustrating to own. 

Another Hail to the King night for LeBron James (28-10-11-4-1), along with his favorite young nobleman Cam Reddish, who snagged 5 steals to go with 16 points, 2 threes and 2 boards. I repeat from last week: I guess Reddish is a thing nowt [question mark]. He’s ranked 30 over the last week of play and clearly is ahead of Taurean Prince (7-2-0-1 in 25 minutes) and Rui Hachimura (5 points and nothing else, after a couple promising games that teased he’s reliable) in the pecking order by now. 

Cleveland Cavaliers 109, Portland Trail Blazers 95

Nice to see Jarrett Allen sniffing 30 minutes, and producing a very useful 11-point, 9-board, 3-block game. Darius Garland sat out with a pain in the neck, so Donovan Mitchell got a get-back game (34-6-4 with 5 threes and a steal) after a few ho hum (for him) efforts. And Caris LeVert has definitely arrived as a solid fantasy asset, poisting 17-8-6-2-1 with a three here. He’s making a heck of a case for Sixth Man of the Year in the early going, ranked No. 80 in 9-cat per game value. 

Skylar Mays was a bit off (13-1-4 and a steal) but we’re still streaming him hard until the other guards return. Duop Reath has snagged Portland’s backup center role and posted 16-2-3 and two threes. Definitely a deep league add if he’s there. As is Jabari Walker (12-3-1 with 3 threes and 2 blocks), who should be getting low to mid 20 minutes a game (but we know how the minutes carousel of tanking teams can turn). But any injury to Jerami Grant (17-3-2 and 2 steals) shoves Walker into at least 14-team and maybe even 12-team value. 

That’s it for the week. Hit me up in that comment section with any questions or blasphemous retorts.