The Magic have been everyone’s favorite fantasy outlet this season, from Bol Bol Euro-stepping into monster jams to Paolo Banchero compiling historic rookie numbers. The play of Franz Wagner has by no means been lost in all the excitement, but his games of late have been next level good. Over his last six games, he’s averaging 24 points on 55% shooting, 68.3 TS%, pitching in about 4 boards, 3 assists, a steal and 3 threes per game. 

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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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Tuesday night’s five-game slate presents me with my first opportunity to bring you a game recap!  Normally, I’m the guy who writes up borderline players and streamers on Thursday afternoon, so it’s a nice change to profile some of the league’s studs.  It’s kind of like hate watching Hallmark Christmas movies (Mingle All the Way, among others) for the first few weeks of December before switching gears and watching It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story.

Disclaimers: Because I was too busy watching Santa Switch last night, and the fact that I’m on Greenwich Mean Time, I haven’t had a chance to watch the games.  As a result, all of my observations are through a strictly fantasy lens and don’t necessarily account for every nuance.  Additionally, all of my ranking references are based on category-league values as a default.

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After a much-discussed rough week watching the Timberwolves, we’re changing speeds a bit this time around and taking a look at a team that’s actually moving in the right direction. At 16-10, the Denver Nuggets currently sit in third place out West, trailing the top-seeded Pelicans by just two games. Despite a slow pace, Denver is home to a top-four offense in basketball (and a bottom-five defense), the NBA’s second-best eFG%, and the reigning two-time MVP. Let’s start with him.

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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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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week Four!  In this post, you’ll find widely-available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.

The past few days have provided plenty of intrigue, with Kyrie Irving and the Nets taking center stage.  After Brooklyn handed Kyrie a minimum five-game suspension, Jaylen Brown told media outlets that senior members of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) viewed the punishment as too severe.  Their objection is based on the lack of guidance governing social media conduct in the league’s collective-bargaining agreement.  Though Brown indicated that the NBPA would seek to appeal the suspension, no appeal is filed as of this writing.  Brown mentioned that the outcome of a Tuesday meeting between Irving and Adam Silver would influence the NBPA’s decision to move forward with the appeal, so it’s possible that the reportedly positive meeting compelled the union to stand down.  Inaction on the part of the NBPA suggests that Kyrie’s suspension will not greatly exceed the five-game minimum, but it’s equally possible that I have no idea what I’m talking about.  Either way, Brooklyn players who have picked up the slack over the past four outings are due for at least one more game of elevated run.

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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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This summer I was looking over a sheet of future odds in a sportsbook with a wad of dollars that I previously did not have, when I noticed that the Denver Nuggets had the fifth-best odds of winning the west. Future bets are tough, especially in the west (especially in this current version of the west, too), but after considering the return of Jamal Murray, the potential of Michael Porter Jr., and the metronomic brilliance of the reigning, two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, I found myself at the window with a belief that this was an opportunity to turn money won into more money. Persistent injuries since the Aaron Gordon deal have hobbled the mile-high hopes for the Nuggets, but it’s not all that difficult to see a world where Denver is an especially tough out in the postseason. Having a two-time MVP puts you at an advantage like that. 

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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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There were quite a few players who exploded for big performances on Friday, but Obi Toppin deserves the fantasy star of the night award the most, for a career-high 35 points on 6-9 three-point shooting. Toppin has scored 19 or more in his last four games starting and looks like he is getting more comfortable in the NBA with every minute he plays. This stretch of starts was a possible look into the future if Julius Randle is traded or if Toppin manages to get more minutes next to Randle next year. Obi will remain as an interesting stash in dynasty leagues with an undetermined role moving into next year. Immanuel Quickley ended the night with 23 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds as he saw more minutes than usual with RJ Barrett leaving the game with a knee injury. Quickley continues to show upside in all facets of the game and is leaving the Knicks with a difficult decision on what to do at the point guard position next year. His role has a lot to do with what the Knicks do in the offseason.

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