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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Same format as last week, with one readily available player per game and some additional insight into the game. I’d imagine that most fantasy leagues have either wrapped up or are in the finals, so take my picks this week as desperation moves. Not a single pick this week is meant for a dynasty league, as this week is all about making that final pickup to win this season. Let’s get right into it. 

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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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Crazy fourth quarters and Devin Booker, name a more iconic duo. While last night’s game against the Nuggets was on Chris Paul’s return after 15 games due to a thumb fracture, Booker continued to perform like he has most of the season putting up 49 points, 4 rebounds and 10 assists, leading the Suns to their 60th win. And with that win, the Suns have now clinched first place overall (home court advantage through the playoffs) and are now on pace to become the 14th team ever in the history of the NBA to win more than 67 games. And if you didn’t believe me about Booker, the Suns, and the fourth quarter, they are now 44-0 when leading after three quarters. I’m not even sure how to live in a world where the Suns are this good.

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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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In the battle for the 9th seed out west, LaMelo Ball rose to the occasion while Ice Trae went Ice Cold from three. Despite his 15 assists, Trae Young finished with only nine points as he shot 3-of-12 from the field and 0-for-6 from downtown. Danilo Gallinari was averaging 14 points, five rebounds and four assists over the last week. However, he suffered an injury last night and would recommend dropping him for Onyeka Okongwu, who has averaged similar numbers and, with more opportunities, should score more.

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There was no doubt in this Friday’s fantasy star of the night as LeBron James scored 50 points in a must-win game as the Lakers try their best to stay afloat in this season. James has been a top-five category player this year and will look to continue his hot streak to close out the fantasy season. Malik Monk added 21 points on 5-7 three-point shooting while battling early foul trouble last night. Monk will continue to operate as the second scoring option until Anthony Davis returns from injury. 

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With fantasy playoffs right around the corner, I thought it would be a fun exercise to go team by team and point out one player that should be available on waiver wire in most fantasy leagues. With most fantasy trade deadlines passing, I thought it would be informative that you know who’s available on waivers. A quick note before we get into the article, the percentages are based off of ESPN leagues, the numbers may vary on other platforms, however they shouldn’t change to a significant degree.

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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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The fantasy star of the night rarely comes from a losing team, but RJ Barrett fully deserves it. After missing the last four games before the All-Star Break with an ankle injury, Barrett returned on Friday night to provide the best game of his career. He finished with 46 points and nine rebounds on 6-11 three-point shooting. He has been on a tear over his last 20 games and appears to be taking a leap forward as a player. He has been a huge disappointment for category players this year because of his shooting numbers and consistency but will look to finish strong in the remaining weeks of the fantasy season. Julius Randle added 11 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in the loss. He struggled shooting the ball but was still a focal point of the offense. He should see a large facilitating role with Kemba Walker out of the rotation and with Derrick Rose set to have a cleanup surgery on his previously injured right ankle. 

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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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