Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 15!  In this post, I identify widely available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  Depending on who’s on your roster, this week has offered its fair share of ups and downs so far.  We witnessed the long-awaited return of Anthony Davis, Brandon Ingram, and Khris Middleton, while lamenting fresh injuries to Kristaps Porzingis, Bobby Portis, and Steven Adams.  In Adams’ case, we were left wondering who would gain the most minutes between Xavier Tillman, Santi Aldama, and Brandon Clarke.  After a promising showing on Monday, Tillman’s minutes fell off a cliff on Wednesday, as Clarke and Aldama gobbled up the lion’s share of time at the five.  Suffice it to say, that situation is still developing…

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Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap. Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap. Duh duh duh duh. Duh duh duh duh. Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap.

He’s bearly and he’s brawny. Supposedly good looking. He’s not proficient shooting. His name is Steven Adams.

He plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. When people come to see him. They all end up screaming. His name is Steven Adams. 

Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap. Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap. Duh duh duh duh. Duh duh duh duh. Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap.

Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane get all the shine for the Memphis Grizzlies but it’s players like Adams who give them that grit so that they can grind towards the top of the NBA landscape. He’s a mountain of a man at 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds. He’s known as one of the strongest and toughest guys in the league, and is an excellent screener, which frees up space for Morant and Bane. Last night:

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It was tough to enjoy watching my Ducks eek out the Holiday Bowl Wednesday because every commercial break was chock full of warnings about shingles. I have never known anyone in my life getting shingles, and after that I’m convinced all of us are getting it next year. 

On Friday night, however, Minnesota had to deal with a case of the non-viral irritation known as Ingles: Joe Ingles. [Wow, Phil, way to send off 2022 with the oddest lede/transition yet.] In his sixth game back from injury, Ingles played a season-high 25 minutes and banked 14 points (5-9 FG, 4-7 3pt), 5 boards and 10 assists, and was a major factor for the Bucks in the second half, as Milwaukee pulled away from Minnesota in a 123-114 win. Ingles probably won’t garner enough minutes when Jrue Holiday and Middleton play, but is worth adding to the streamer board as needed. 

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In this life, do-overs are rare. The opportunity to go back and change the mistakes of the past is reserved for science fiction plots or melancholy discussions over a pint in dimly-lit watering holes. But over this last week, I was presented with an opportunity to do just that – to go back with the knowledge of hindsight and fix where I failed, to atone, to set things right. I had screwed up once and now I was gifted a second chance. Please, I told myself, don’t blow it again. 

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Devin Booker with the 50-ball! 58 points on 35 shots with 15 free throw attempts and six made threes. In short, Booker was letting that thing fly last night. The next closest player on the team in terms of shot attempts was Mikal Bridges with 13. Speaking of Mikal Bridges, he and Chris Paul combined for 33 points on the night. Notable players that missed this game were Deandre Ayton (left ankle sprain) and Cameron Payne) right foot strain.

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Light the beam! Despite being on the opposing team’s home floor, “Light the beam!” chants erupted in the Crypto.com Arena for almost the entire final three minutes of the game. The Kings came out and dominated with all five of their starters finishing in double figures, along with Malik Monk and Chimezie Metu who combine for 23 points off the bench.

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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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The Atlanta Hawks get some late-game heroics from their All-Star backcourt of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray to pull out the close overtime win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Murray recorded his first triple-double of the season with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists; Young had a game-high 34 points along with 10 assists on 9-of-26 shooting and going 14-of-15 from the free throw line.
Big night for Clint Capela who finished with 21 points, 19 rebounds, and four blocks.
The New Orleans Pelicans got 29 points apiece from the duo of CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson.
Jonas Valanciunas finished with 13 points and 17 rebounds while Herb Jones had a near double-double with 19 points and nine rebounds to along with three steals.
A notable thing to monitor is the play of Brandon Ingram who had a quiet night with 16 points on 7-of-23 shooting from the field in his second game back from injury; Might not be anything, but there is a chance that his stats may fluctuate from night to night as he gets reacclimated.

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Just like last season, we’re going to spend a lot of wasted energy trying to guess correctly which of the Bucks’ pupu platter of wings will be the most reliable source of fantasy goodness, especially with star swingman Khris Middleton (and also Pat Connaughton) on the shelf to begin the year. Jevon Carter replaced Middleton as a starter—not sure if that was purely match up with Tyrese Maxey on the other end or if that will stick. But it was Grayson Allen (16 percent rostered in Yahoo! leagues) who garnered the most minutes of the motley crew with 32, also leading them all with 10 field goal attempts, five free throw attempts, 12 points, four assists, and a pair of triples. Allen established himself as a fairly consistent source of points and triples at the beginning of last season, and should carry that momentum forward. Milwaukee also seemed surprisingly comfortable letting Allen create a little off of DHO actions, and the four helpers are a welcome boost to his value if he can keep that up.

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On a recent podcast with Son, I let slip, “If you’re a center that doesn’t get blocks, I don’t think I have any use for you.” It was a knee-jerk line, one that I hadn’t much considered before it fell out of my mouth, and I’ve been wrestling with how true that might actually be ever since. For most of the summer, I’ve been vexed by the center position because, outside of the elite guys, the shortcomings of the position are obvious and numerous. For many, their usefulness in category leagues extends only to rebounds, blocks and FG%, and oftentimes those few spoils are sacrificed at the altar of points, dimes, triples, and free-throw percentage. Drafting a center that doesn’t, it’s a steep tradeoff in the best of circumstances, so when looking at someone like Deandre Ayton – a top-50ish, center-eligible player who produced exactly enough swats last year to break even in the category by z-score – I began to wonder what exactly the point was. 

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The path should be crystal clear now for your squad. If not, then it may be time to order those seppuku knives on Amazon. Don’t forget the sharpener. I kid, I kid. Drafts are fluid so pivoting and changing lanes are always within the range of outcomes, especially when there are snipers and ADP jumpers to your left, to your left, to your left. Then you have all those heathens to your right. This is why we must always adhere to the wise and venerable Bruce Lee:

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I’ll be honest, my original plan was to have this piece written and published at the end of last season, back when the failed chase for the top spot in the RazzJam was still fresh in my mind. But the NBA season is long and the Playoffs are so good, so when I fell just short of a championship, it seemed just fine to me to put this on the shelf for a bit. So, I sat on this with it being 95% completed and rested instead. Then Middleton went down and the Bucks got beat. The sun came out, the Celtics ran out of gas, and another Golden State summer onto my shores like a warm wave, even though I’ve traded in the Bay Area for Bay View. 

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