After a well-deserved break from regular-season action, the 2021 NBA All-Star Weekend has passed and the second-half grind towards the playoffs is officially underway. In a short week to kick things off the big story of the week was the superb play of the big men across the league. After seeing big guys like Domantas Sabonis (2021 Skills Competition Winner) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2021 All-Star Game MVP) dominate during All-Star Weekend, it seems like the big fellas are coming into the second half of the season with a new swag and confidence. So this week, to recognize and celebrate the continued emergence of the New-Age bigs, my Hoopers of the Week are Domantas Sabonis in the Eastern Conference and Jonas Valanciunas in the Western Conference.

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The Knicks, after getting walloped by the Bucks, took care of business against a Thunder team without their star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and one of their key young guys in Darius Bazley. 

Julius Randle posted a triple-double after a lackluster return to action against Milwaukee the other night. He scored 26, assisted 12 times, and grabbed 12 boards on top of two steals. RJ Barrett also continued his excellent form with a nice 32 piece and stealing the ball three times. Immanuel Quickley also had an eye-catching game since he racked up 33 minutes of playing time with Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton not being available for this game. IQ scored 21 points on the back of three triples. 

The Thunder had a balanced scoring effort since they had eight players hit double digits in points. The young Frenchman Theo Maledon scored ten, had two triples, and dished out three assists. Fan-favorite, Lu Dort, scored 14 and grabbed six rebounds with five assists and Al Horford contributed with 16 points and five boards. A new hopeful in the world of fantasy who seems primed to come into a bigger role now in the second half of the season after the dust from the trade deadline settles is Aleksej Pokusevski who scored a measly four points but grabbed seven rebounds with two assists. I think we can expect much better from Poku moving forward. 

The Knicks pick up a much-needed win here ahead of a brutal second half scheduling-wise while the Thunder continue their development in a season where they have exceeded all expectations.

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Post-All-Star Break is the time when teams make their push for a spot in the NBA Playoffs. Every game becomes even more important as teams jockey for seed positioning and players look to make their cases for why they should win an individual NBA award or be named to an All-NBA team.

The road to the NBA postseason starts now and the lights are as bright as can be with last night being the first set of Friday night games of the second half of the season. These games did not disappoint as a handful of them quite literally had some second-half surges that flipped the outcome of those games as they ended in an exciting fashion.

With a promising second half to the season ahead, here are some of the top performers in the first slate of post-All-Star Weekend Friday night games!

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I highlight some things about next week’s schedule. The impact of Marcus Smart for Boston and Blake Griffin for Brooklyn. PJ Washington is one of five 1/1/1 players in the league. The Hornets, Bulls, and Pistons are starting to get healthy. Kevin Porter. The Pacers could be deadly down the stretch. The impact of Jrue Holiday for the Bucks and Pokusevski starts for the Thunder.

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No Blake Griffin means Saddiq Bey should be unleashed the rest of the season. The rookie is good for points and treys (14 and four, respectively, last night), and never turns the ball over. He’s been a top-75 player over the past 30 days, so he (36 percent owned in Yahoo!) should be picked up if he’s still on your wire.
Svi Mykhailuk remained in the starting lineup for Dwane Casey’s club. Nominally a three-point specialist, Svi broadened his statistical output on Thursday to include eight dimes and a couple steals to go along with his three triples. Svi (two percent owned in Yahoo!) is worth a speculative add in case he sticks as a starter.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance, All-Star break edition!  Most of you find yourselves in the midst of a two-week duel, so you already have five days’ worth of stats determining the direction of your contest.  To help get you over the top, I’ve identified some players that excel in common punt strategies.

If you see a player listed across multiple formats below, he’s probably worth a closer look.  During week ten, that player was Robert Williams III.  In week nine, I covered Jae’Sean Tate and Saddiq Bey as their minutes and value increased.  Yes, there have been a couple of landmines, but just remember that these suggestions are primarily for streaming towards the end of close matchups.  If there is a player that I believe is a long-term option, I will specify that in the write-up.  Otherwise, I only recommend adding these players if you have an obvious drop candidate.

The players listed below have two or more games remaining in the current week and are rostered in 50% or less of Yahoo and/or ESPN leagues.

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I had the good fortune of playing on some pretty good basketball teams in my youth. Well, good fortune in the sense that I was on teams that won a bunch of games and had the best seat in the house at the end of the bench. The two high school classes ahead of mine were absolutely loaded, creating a bottleneck of talent and pushing varsity-caliber players down to a JV squad that churned through overmatched programs over and over again. Winning by 15+ and then getting an earful about how poorly we played the next day in practice was a pretty routine occurrence. I’m not sure we lost more than three games over the course of two years.

What Jonas Valanciunas did to the Wizards reminded of these glory days, as JV was absolutely dominant against a frontcourt that didn’t have anything resembling an answer for the Memphis big man. Jonas is a load in the paint, and if you don’t have a big body to throw at him, the results can be Just Vicious.

Jonas Valanciuias 

PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 3PM FG FT
29 20 3 0 4 2 0 12/21 5/7

JV feasted on Washington’s undersized group. Moritz Wagner could only hang for 21 minutes with him before collecting six fouls. Davis Bertans racked up five fouls in 20 minutes. Robin Lopez fared better than those other two, but Scott Brooks eventually had to turn to his fourth big, Alex Len, for a couple of minutes in search of relief from the abuse. This is the second time Valanciunas has posted a 20+  points and 20+ rebounds line this year. Skilled and huge, he abuses teams that don’t have an ogre of their own to throw at him. With only two games on the slate, there was nowhere to hide JV’s dominance.

Here’s what else I saw on slow Wednesday in the NBA:

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If you’re looking for intro material, check out yesterday’s post regarding the Eastern Conference All-Star team. If click and reading isn’t your thing, here’s a quick refresher:

The task was to assemble a 12-man ballot comprised of 3 Guards, 3 Forwards, 2 Centers, and 4 Flex positions with 9-category scoring (points, boards, dimes, steals, swats, turnovers, three-pointers made, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage) in mind. Votes were cast and write-ups were, uh, written up by the Razzball basketball staff.

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Flashback, if you will, to about three weeks ago — it was colder, snowier, and darker then, I’m sure you remember it — when I reached out to Son with an idea.

Mr. Hooper: I’ve got three words for you, Son: the 2020-2021 Razzball Writers Fantasy Basketball All-Star Team. We’ve got some sharp players in this corner of the Razzverse. Why don’t we poll the writers and have them submit ballots? We can tally the votes, form our own super team, and then present our readers with a fantasy basketball All-Star team from each conference. It will be great!

Son: That’s a lot more than three words, Hoop, but as long as you do the polling and tabulating and writing, I won’t stop you.

How do you not love a guy like that? Such inspiring stuff. Flashforward past doing some research and a half dozen emails about Google Forms and then a few more about Google Sheets, and poof! We’ve got a couple of All-Star teams for you to enjoy/critique/grouse about.

Before we do the big reveal, a few notes about what exactly we’ve done here. The task was to fill out a 12-man ballot for each conference that has: 3 Guards, 3 Forwards, 2 Centers, and 4 Flex positions. It’s also important to keep in mind that we were using 9-category scoring (points, boards, dimes, steals, swats, turnovers, three-pointers made, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage) when punching our ballots. Because it was a collaborative effort to construct each team, I also enlisted my fellow writers to share their thoughts about their favorite All-Stars.

Observant readers will notice that we ended up with more than 12 Eastern Conference All-Stars. It turns out the Leastern Conference is actually pretty stacked (check out Keith’s piece exploring the why) and when it came to the final two flex spots we found ourselves with a five-way tie. Because this is a for-fun exercise and I didn’t have the foresight to create a tie-breaker, we decided to expand the bench and bring all our favorites on board (plus we needed to find a way to get Julius Randle onto this team so Vas could cook.) In this case, asterisks are not scarlet letters for PED users, but signifiers that the player listed was part of that five-way deadlock.

Without further ado, Razzball readers, here are your Eastern Conference Fantasy All-Stars!

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