A few weeks back, before the RazzJam drafts started, Son and I were talking about strategies for the upcoming year. “Talking about strategies” is a generous way of describing my contributions to the discussion. Mostly I was bellyaching about the mistakes I made last year (double guard to start, no real center…ever) and committing to not doing that again. Son, who I’m sure was saying something brilliant and valuable and actionable, was mostly there as a witness to me turning over new leaves. 

Draft season kicked off with the RazzJam (slow draft, four-hour timer. Mine took 13 days to complete), and I was enjoying it so much that I kept finding myself in more draft rooms. By the time my RCL draft wrapped up on Monday night, I had seven rosters to manage — a medley of H2H and roto, 10- and 12- teamers, weekly and daily — which is significantly more than I normally play.  

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After nine years, including eight straight playoff appearances, the Terry Stotts era is over in Rip City.  Chauncey Billups takes the reins with the aim of shoring up the defense to complement the Blazers’ number two ranked offense.  Aside from the coaching change, Portland retained its nucleus from last season.  They will look to take advantage of having a healthy Jusuf Nurkic and a full season of Robert Covington and Norman Powell.  Given their ability to run up the score, the Blazers present a target-rich environment for fantasy drafts.  Here are the names to watch going into the 2021-22 campaign:

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I did welcome everyone back when I introduced all the writers this season but when I drop my Top 10 is when I feel things get real. Plus, I will use any excuse to post this song. Always gets me so amped.

Before I get into each player of the Top 10, I wanted to write a disclaimer: THIS IS NOT A RANKINGS PIECE. The order I have players is based on my projections and overall value for category leagues. Where I’d draft a player depends on ADP, categorical need, and roster construction. Keep that in mind when going through all my Top X pieces and when choosing who to draft in your leagues. The FG and FT numbers are weighted for volume.

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I’m the big, fat loser this year in our 9-cat league’s championship game. Am I happy I made it this far in a totally insane season? Yep. Am I upset I lost? It always stings, but one week can make or break you and I don’t feel bad losing to a team I lost to the only time I faced them in the regular season. It feels like the right team won.

All that said, this season was completely wackadoodle and probably the most benefit you’ll get from reading these words is this introduction where I’m going to attempt to break down my thinking on the season and how we all got here.

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The 2021 NBA Regular Season is coming to a close and the NBA Playoff picture is slowly starting to shape up. When looking at the MVP race, it seems pretty obvious that consensus top candidates are Nikola Jokic in the West and Joel Embiid in the East. These guys have been jockeying for the top spot and most have argued that Jokic has separated himself as the guy due to his availability and his play without Jamal Murray on the floor. Nonetheless, these guys have dominated the headlines, but what about the other guys in their conferences who have been carrying their respective teams in a similar way? As of late, there has been buzz for guys like Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, and even dare I say, Julius Randle. But instead, I want to highlight two guys who have not captured the same kind of late-season hype who really deserve some love. That is why this week, I happy to say that my Hoopers of the Week are Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard! Let’s get into it!

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An overtime thriller last night saw Russ tie the Big O, Oscar Robertson, for the all-time triple-double list, but also had the Wizards pick up their 32nd win and tiebreaker over the Indiana Pacers which allowed them to leapfrog the Hoosiers and find themselves in the ninth seed of the Eastern Conference. 

Starting with that man Russell Westbrook of course, who posted yet again another triple-double of 33 points, 19 rebounds, and 15 assists. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest Westbrook fan, but I’ll also admit that what this man is doing right now is absolutely historic and legendary. At some point down the line, after Russ is long retired, we will all look back and realize how truly underappreciated he is and what he does on the court each night. Like Russ himself says, if it were easy, anyone would do it. Bradley Beal had a phenomenal performance with a 50 piece on 19-for-31 shooting which included only three triples. Russ and Beal seem to be picking it up at the right time. The Wizards also got solid minutes from Alex Len who flirted with a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds. 

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The NBA regular season is quickly coming to a close with only a week left of games. The urgency across the league is truly starting to show as teams make their late-season postseason push. Every single game matters and every outcome influences a different storyline. Some teams are trying to control their playoff destiny by fighting to maintain their Top-6 seed. Other teams are jockeying for position within the Play-In tournament picture. At the end of the day, the fight for a spot in the postseason is underway and every night could have a serious impact on the Eastern and Western Conference standings.

On the second to last slate of Friday Night NBA regular-season games, we got some premiere matchups along with some interesting Playoff/Play-In implications. So, with that being said here are our top performers from last night’s matchups!

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As of April 28, LaMelo Ball remains Vegas’ heavy favorite (-350) to take home Rookie of the Year honors. I don’t really have much quarrel with that, especially since the rookie of consequence I drafted this season wasn’t Ball or Anthony Edwards but James Wiseman. Whoops! Who’s the wise man? Not me. Despite missing some time, Ball will be a deserving winner if the oddsmakers in the desert prove to be correct. Of the top three picks, I feel like Edwards is the one who gets the least amount of shine despite being the no. 1 selection. Flying under the radar makes sense, especially when considering that he doesn’t hail from a(n) (in)famous family, his team has been in the postseason one time since 2005 and has been out of contention since November, and he’s not trying to integrate his game into the dying dreams of decaying dynasty. If you didn’t go looking for it (or if you didn’t draft him), Edwards’ fine first year could pass by more or less unremarked on.

Or dude could throw out a 40-burger and make himself the lede of my final Wednesday recap of the season like freakin’ boss.

Anthony Edwards

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
42 6 7 1 1 8 17/22 0/1 3

On the year, Ant is a top-100-ish player, a ranking that is weighed down by the 41% shooting from the floor. There have definitely been some clunkers over the course of the season and I generally have not been very quiet about them. That said, he’s been a top-50 guy over the final month, a top-35 player over the last two weeks, and a top-25 player the last week. The FG% has ticked up over that same span too, from 46% to 49% to 58%! Too late to put a dent in LaMelo’s case for the hardware, but definitely the kind of growth you love to see out of a young player. Keep eating, Ant! We’ll see you next year.

Here’s what else I saw on the penultimate Wednesday of the regular season…

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I feel like our children’s generation and their children’s generation are going to look back upon our generation and have a gross underappreciation of Kevin Durant. Maybe it’s because of all the narratives floating around but I rarely hear him mentioned as one of the greats. Because in my mind, granted my mind is small and has been heavily influenced by trees and mushrooms, he is one of the greatest to ever play the game. He’s a seven-footer who has handles like a guard, is a career 1/1/1 player, a career 27-point scorer, and a career 49/38/88 shooter. He’s got the hardware and is one of the most unstoppable offensive forces in the game. Because he’s missed so much time this year due to injury, he’s been out of the consciousness of many but Dudeisamazingant reminded us of his ability yesterday.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
42 10 2 1 0 5 7/13 16/33 3/4

In 40 minutes. The 58th time Dudeisamazingant has scored at least 40 points in a game. Durant has played 28 games this season and he’s the number six player on a per-game basis. Over the last seven seasons, he’s finished as the numero uno player for fantasy three times and been top five in six seasons. I hope he stays healthy so I can continue to watch his greatness.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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Yet another set of lopsided Friday night matchups as teams look to assert their dominance heading into the playoffs. With ten or so games left before the Play-In tournament, the landscape of the NBA is set where every team qualifies as one of the following: A set playoff team jockeying for position, a Play-In team holding on for dear life, or a team playing spoiler. No matter where your favorite team sits in the standings, each game matters down this final homestretch of the regular season. This Friday night we got blowouts, a historic comeback, and the return of LeBron James! The final two-three weeks of the NBA regular have more at stake than ever before as teams all look to close the season on some kind of positive note. With that being said, let’s take a look at all of the Primetime Players from Friday night’s slate of games in the race to the 2021 Playoffs!

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