I watched the stupid Bulls lose to the stupid Pacers last night and am in a bad mood.  So in honor of my bad mood and in an effort to put myself through self therapy, all of my takes in the recap are going to be people to move off of or avoid altogether.  Seriously, blowing a 21 point lead to the Pacers without Tyrese Haliburton…

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Mark Williams made the most of his 21 minutes on Thursday. Charlotte’s rookie center went a perfect 7-for-7 from the field to score 17 points, while also hauling in 13 boards, ripping two steals, and swatting two shots. Williams has broken into the rotation over the past couple of games, and while Mason Plumlee is entrenched as the starter, the Hornets have had valuable performances from their backup center over the course of the season. Williams can do a lot of damage even in shorter minutes, and if he sticks as the primary backup he’s a worthy streaming option, especially if you need defensive stats (four percent rostered).

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Christmas Day is among the most hyped lineup of games during the NBA season. But Friday, Dec. 23, was a Festivus celebration for the rest of us. After all, the Association exemplifies feats of strength and airing of grievances this time of year, as the slow-starting teams begin to gripe in the locker room, trade chatter reaches new highs, and the established powers of the season start showing more muscle in impressive wins. 

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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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The Indiana Pacers enter the 2022-23 season as everyone’s favorite punching bag. The organization, in recent vintage, has been unwilling to execute an all-out tank like the 76ers in the Hinkie era or the current Sam Presti-led iteration of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This year is shaping up to be a notable exception to that history. The Pacers will begin the season without any reliable small forwards on the roster and a dearth of quality wing defenders. Buddy Hield will likely start at that spot in what will be a three-guard starting lineup of Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, Buddy Hield, Jalen Smith, and Myles Turner. The chatter in league circles (as reported by just about every reputable NBA media member) is that Turner will be traded sooner rather than later. Of course, it should be noted, that we’ve heard that story before and, at least for now, Turner remains on the roster

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All the absences in Philly has opened the door for some new contributors to step forward. Case-in-point—Shake Milton, who entered the starting lineup and played 34 minutes on Thursday. He took advantage of the opportunity, doing a little bit of everything with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting, with eight rebounds, five assists, and a pair of steals and treys. Stream him (15 percent rostered in Yahoo! leagues) as long as he’s getting this much burn.

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During draft season, I joked with the other Razz writers that, according to my extremely unscientific research, 100% of LA guys were in on LaMelo Ball. The echo chamber and hype bubble were too well-constructed for this not to be the case (also I didn’t really do much research and threw out evidence that didn’t support my theory. I’m Mister Hooper, not Doctor.) LaVar’s greatest creation was not the trio of ballers he sired (or those ugly shoes), but the machine he constructed to discuss them ad infinitum. Put off the Ball family brashness, I was lukewarm on LaMelo when drafting and missed out on an extremely fun and productive rookie year. The hype will be hot again next season, I assume, especially if the Hornets show some fight against one of the beasts of the East, so I’ll probably miss him next year too. But perhaps there’s a backdoor to one of these Balls. While little bro is taking up all the shine, Lonzo Ball has taken another step forward, especially as a shot maker. The vision and passing has always been legit (even my hater-ass was quick to concede that after watching him at Summer League) but the stroke has been sanded down and his 3-point percentage now creeps towards 40%. Still shy of 24-years-old, he’s putting it together.

Last night, playing in the aptly named Ball Arena in Denver, Lonzo consistently got where he wanted to go on the floor and then dimed up his teammates once he cracked the Denver defense open. The highlight package below isn’t spectacular, but if you want to watch a dude move to the exact spots  where he’s most dangerous, then I have the clip for you.

Lonzo Ball

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
16 12 12 4 2 4 6/14 0/0 4

It was another busy Wednesday in professional hoops. Here’s what else stood out:

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Fantasy projections are hard. We look to others in the industry for guidance without plagiarizing or pilfering, overanalyze quotes from team personnel, and process the preseason (paltry as this one is) like we’re being given tea leaves to read — when by and large they should be treated like used tea bags and be tossed. Yet, we try to put forth the best information possible — even if some of it is conjured from the Ether — because, above all, NONE of us want to hear about it later if we miss poorly.

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With the new season approaching sooner rather than later, I think it’s time for some “right on time” or “way too early,” however you want to see it, predictions for the season. More specifically, the top 8 seeds in both conferences, including the 9th and 10th seeds that can be involved in the newly implemented play-in tournament.

What is this new play-in mini tournament thing you ask? Well, we first saw it in the Bubble and it allowed the teams that finished outside the top eight, specifically the ninth seed to play for a shot at entering the playoffs. This season, the rules will be that the 7th and 8th seed will play in order to win the spot of the 7th seed, while the 9th and 10th seed will battle it out for a chance at the loser of the previously mentioned matchup, where the winner takes that last 8th seed. 

There are also the questions of who will find themselves with the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, and the Most Improved Player awards. I’ll give my predictions for those later on. This season will be one like no other. 72 instead of 82 games. No All-Star game, but an All-Star break. The usual frustrations of injuries, both in the fan bases and of the fantasy players will only be heightened since now we will also have inevitable positive COVID cases flying around. But who will come out on top and consider their teams “successful”? 

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