On a day with few games on the slate, we had an eventful day in the National Basketball Association. There was some movement in the coaching ranks. Steve Nash was dismissed by Brooklyn after only seven games. Rumors were rampant in the offseason that Kevin Durant wanted Nash fired. As life would have it, that happened. Whether or not Durant had any involvement is unknown. The two-time league MVP, Nash, in all his professionalism, thanked the city of Brooklyn, the players, and the organization for the opportunity. Nash exits, leaving the Nets 2-5, currently sitting at 13th in the Eastern Conference. The only way is up, right?

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The Suns’ off-season produced enough fireworks to sustain Kenny Powers on the Fourth of July.  Unfortunately, if you’re a Suns fan, the drama was less of the blockbuster trade or free agent acquisition variety, and more front-page-of-the-tabloid variety.  For starters, majority owner Robert Sarver is putting the team up for sale after being suspended for the entire season.   The news unleashed a circus of speculation surrounding the identity of the next owner, with Bob Iger, Shaq, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. being mentioned as candidates with varying levels of seriousness.  The Suns are also trying to deal a frustrated Jae Crowder, who capped off his summer of discontent by sitting out training camp and pre-season while the franchise works out a trade.  Speaking of pre-season, the Suns got off to an inauspicious start when the Adelaide 36ers came from Down Under and handed Phoenix a loss on their home court.  We all know not to read into pre-season too much, but between distractions at the top, the cloud hanging over Crowder’s exit, and simmering tensions between coach Monty Williams and Deandre Ayton, one gets the feeling that the turmoil from their disastrous second round ouster may extend into this season.

Whatever happens, there is still fantasy goodness to be mined from this fast-paced squad.  Here are my assessments as we near the start of the action:

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The Charlotte Hornets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 119-110 to remain ahead of the Nets in the Eastern Conference standings. The two teams have identical 39-36 records, but with this win, the Hornets move to 2-1 against the Nets and secure the tiebreaker. Led by LaMelo Ball’s hot shooting, the Hornets spoiled Kyrie Irving’s home debut. Ball finished the game with 33 points (10-21 FG, 7-12 3PT), seven rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. Miles Bridges added 24 points (9-24 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds, two assists, and one steal. P.J. Washington tallied 18 points (8-12 FG, 2-3 3PT), 11 rebounds, and five assists. Terry Rozier notched 14 points (5-12 FG, 2-5 3PT), seven rebounds, four assists, and one steal. If the Hornets are making their threes they can be tough to beat and that was the case in this game. They shot 42% from the field as a team, but they shot 53% from three (17-32). As things currently stand, the Hornets would match up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the play-in tournament, rather than the Nets. That’s unfortunate for us, the fans, as the pace of play and lack of defense on both sides would make a Nets vs. Hornets matchup must-see TV. Then again, there likely won’t be much defense in a Nets vs. Hawks series either.

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The Indiana Pacers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 129-98. In a rarity for this version of the Pacers, they were the more veteran team. Oshae Brissett spearheaded the Pacers’ attack, as he tallied 24 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), nine rebounds, one assist, and one steal. His day also included a highlight reveal reverse dunk in transition which came off a behind-the-back pass from Lance Stephenson. Have I mentioned that the Pacers are fun now!? Justin Anderson added 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Jalen Smith notched 17 points, five rebounds, and one block in just 17 minutes of play. I’m not sure if Smith will ever become the player the Suns hoped they were getting when he was drafted with the 10th pick in 2020, but he has at least grown into an intriguing prospect. He was 2-of-3 from behind the arc and also whipped out a Dirk-esque step-back off the dribble in the midrange. Terry Taylor (17) and Duane Washington Jr. (13) both had solid games as well. The Pacers led wire to wire and the lack of competitiveness of the game is reflected in the lower minute totals for Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Haliburton finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. Hield tallied nine points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Finally, Lance Stephenson scored just two points, but grabbed six rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and swiped three steals.

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Moving on to fantasy, I’m pretty pleased with last week’s suggestions as both Chuma Okeke and Grant Williams have been solid, while Jae Crowder has been very good and will continue to be must roster with Cameron Johnson still sidelined. Montrezl Harrell on the other end of the spectrum did everything he could to validate the “Sell” label and is a drop in all leagues.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 19!  The goal of this post is to identify widely available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  This week, the Suns once again take center stage, as Devin Booker joins Chris Paul on the sidelines.  If you didn’t have the option to stash Cam Payne through the final stages of his absence, now is a good time to grab him.  It won’t be long until he’s owned in more than 50% of leagues across most fantasy platforms, at which point I’ll no longer be able to use pain puns in my title.  Until that day comes, I will exhaust them without shame.  This week’s is brought to you by Tyler Durden:

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After a break for the All-Star festivities we are back to our regular fantasy program, in one of the most crucial stretch of the season, as most leagues are on the verge or have already started their playoffs. Now is the perfect time for bold decisions, as every game played counts and there could be no “next week” to wait for any underperforming or injured player. Bear this in mind in your decision making and hopefully the trophy is yours at the end of the season.

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Brandon Goodwin popped off the bench with 15 points, four rebounds, five assists, two threes, and a steal in 24 minutes, making six of his 12 shots as well as his lone free-throw. Goodwin benefited from the absences of both Darius Garland and Caris LeVert, but LeVert will continue to miss time, making Goodwin a potential streamer. When Goodwin has gotten the requisite playing time, he’s put up numbers. Most recently, that came in a three-game stretch at the beginning of the month when Goodwin averaged 13.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 6.0 APG, 2.7 3PTM, and 2.0 SPG. However, with the Cavs fancying themselves as legit contenders, they may favor veteran Rajon Rondo over him, making Goodwin a watch-and-wait guy for the time being (zero percent rostered).

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 18!  The goal of this post is to identify widely-available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  Though we’ve only witnessed one night of regular season games since my last post, there’s a lot of player news to digest.  On the good news front, the return of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander appears imminent, so we can put those shutdown rumors to bed.  Malcolm Brogdon is probable for today, which caps the value of Chris Duarte after a run of games in which he clocked 35+ minutes.  Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons are reportedly nearing their respective returns to the court, but there’s no target game set for either player as of this writing.

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We’re back! Wow, that was a long All-Star break, almost too long. I actually had to spend time with my kids (kidding, not kidding). I did enjoy the All-Star game and played a few Showdown lineups that hit the cash line. Unfortunately, I did not roster Stephen Curry, who displayed one of the best shooting performances I’ve ever seen on his way to 50 points. Curry is playing tonight vs. a depleted Portland team but he is pricey. I like Steph tonight but my favorite play is Devin Booker. Book’em Danno (Hawaii Five-o reference)! I’m ready to get back to the grind, are you? Let’s get it.

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The Orlando Magic beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-108 in a nailbiter in the sunshine state. The vaunted Mavericks defense posed only so much resistance as seven Magic players scored in double figures, led by Chuma Okeke off the bench. Okeke finished the game with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Franz Wagner finished the game with 18 points, two rebounds, three assists, and one steal.  Cole Anthony tallied 16 points, four rebounds, and six assists. Wendell Carter Jr. notched a double-double with 14 points, 14 rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Moritz Wagner tallied 14 points, four rebounds, and two assists off the bench. The last time these two teams played Mo Wagner and Luka Doncic got into a bit of a curfuffle. Wagner has an earned reputation as an irritant and Luka did not forget their exchange. He spent much of the first half talking trash to Wagner, growing bolder and bolder every time a Mavericks player scored on the German. However, later in the game, the Magic seemed to make point of involving Luka in the action when the Mavericks were on defense. Wagner rolled to a number of dunks in pick and roll action with Luka guarding Wagner or in the vicinity as a help defender. With the victory, it was Wagner who got the last laugh, at least for now. Mo Bamba and Gary Harris each scored 10 points.

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