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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The Golden State Warriors, somehow, enter the 2022-23 season as unsteady defending champions after winning what nearly everyone described as their sweetest championship a season ago. A championship that came after two years in the wilderness of abject failure and mediocrity due to injuries to Thompson and then Curry and then Thompson again. Last season’s championship run also unfolded in the absence of all the “you broke basketball” talk that surrounded Kevin Durant’s arrival in the Bay and it saw Steph Curry win his long overdue finals MVP after a historic series in which there was no doubt he was the best player, not only on his own team, but on either team in the Finals. And yet, here we are.

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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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There are two obvious downsides to living in Milwaukee — winter (duh) and NBA League Pass blacking out the hometown team as they take up their championship defense. Considering the grinding nature of an 82-game regular season, it’s not the worst thing to have an excuse that allows you to check-out on February basketball, but it’s still nice to occasionally see the boys without using a VPN. Last night, the Bucks were fully visible the national stage against the Wizards and the game flow reads like regular season game where the better team wasn’t fully engaged all night.

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The Miami Heat took home the nervy, 113-107 victory, but the Lakers nearly caught them slipping. In a game the Heat led almost the entire way and by as many as 26 points, the Lakers put together a fierce fourth quarter and nearly stole the victory. For three quarters, however, the Heat played the basketball version of “the beautiful game.” Offensive production was spread across the lineup and they were flowing into good looks. Jimmy Butler led the charge in Kyle Lowry’s absence (personal reasons) and he finished the game with a triple-double: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals, and one block. Butler’s 10th triple-double moved him into the first place on the Heat’s all-time list, surpassing LeBron James. Duncan Robinson was hot early and even scored some important points in the fourth quarter; he finished the game with 25 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Bam Adebayo had a decent, but uneven game. He was stifled a fair amount by LeBron’s defense, as he was LeBron’s primary cover when the Lakers went small. Adebayo finished the game with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. Gabe Vincent filled in admirably, once again, for Lowry and finished the game with 11 points, one rebound, six assists, and two steals. Caleb Martin also notched eleven points and further cemented his “best two-way player in the league status”—a dubious honor, he’d no doubt like to be rid of as soon as possible.

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The Utah Jazz defeated the Denver Nuggets 125-102, snapping a four-game losing streak. The Jazz were just 1-4 without Rudy Gobert in the lineup and Gobert and Donovan Mitchell seemed to trade subliminal jabs in press conferences and on social media. They appear to have righted the ship, for now. The Jazz are a bit of conundrum. They are an undeniably good team that has been labeled “a regular season team” for a few years, maybe even erroneously, except it didn’t matter because they did fall short of expectations in the playoffs. This year, there is once again general indifference towards the team outside of Utah and most interested parties are just wondering when Donovan Mitchell asks for a trade because he can’t get along with Gobert. The Jazz can’t get very far without Donovan Mitchell’s scoring, but they appear even more doom-struck without Gobert’s defense. What can be done? Would Jerami Grant help? Harrison Barnes? Whatever happens, I know fans outside of Utah will watch with crazy-eyed delight if the foundation once again crumbles beneath them in the playoffs.

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Coming off a game in which he went scoreless in 22 minutes, Evan Fournier went OFF for a career-high 41 points, including 10 made triples. At one point I saw an actual fireball coming off his fingers as he flung up splashes before they barely touched his fingers. He added eight boards, a steal and a block to his line. He’s rostered in most leagues (64 percent), but maybe you can sell high on him if his national TV performance swayed some opinions in your league.

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Killian Hayes (11 percent owned in Yahoo!) has been a disappointment in his brief career, but there’s a chance he can help out your fantasy team. Ironically, the less he shoots the more value he provides because his field goal percentage is likely to remain low all season long. He can help in hard to get categories like assists and defensive stats though. Getting more minutes in his last two games has led to 3.5 dimes, 1.5 thefts, and 1.0 blocks per. He’s not worth a pickup yet, but don’t dismiss the thought.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for week two!  My goal is to help you win your category-league matchups by providing streaming suggestions for the rest of the current week’s action.  If you need an explanation of streaming, check out my week one post.

I’ll be running down players who are owned in fewer than 50% of Yahoo and/or ESPN leagues and have two or more games to play this week.  Hopefully, you were able to cash in on Cole Anthony, De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, and Ricky Rubio after reading last week’s post.  I am equally hopeful that you steered well clear of duds like Khem Birch and Marcus Morris Sr.

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The Hornets and Nets came into this game with very different vibes. In the Hornets’ first game of the season, they clawed back from a 17-point deficit in the second quarter to beat the Indiana Pacers 123-122 on Wednesday, October 20th—the first night of the 2021-22 season with a full slate of games, affectionately known as “League Pass Opening Night.” The comeback was fueled in large part, by a LaMelo Ball-led third-quarter surge, quickly putting any sophomore slump fears to bed. They followed that up with a 123-112 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, a game in which Miles Bridges scored 30 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Kelly Oubre scored 25 points off the bench. On the other hand, the Nets suffered a near wire-to-wire defeat to the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, immediately after watching them receive their championship rings. The Nets, of course, have been mired in vaccine drama because of Kyrie Irving and although they remain the overwhelming favorite to win the title, Kyrie’s absence has been deeply felt during their first two games.

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What are your Netflix recommendations like, dear Reader? According to Netflix’s almighty AI, I’m a 99% match for a good number of action films, (shocking I know). It appears that I’m an inveterate sucker for Hollywood’s IV drip of characteristic stylized violence, where everything and nothing is at stake all at once. The kind of morality plays where revenge and a particularly violent idea of justice come inseparably together. But I’m especially moved by a meta element in these stake-less physical dramas, something the algorithm isn’t picking up on, I hope. The more I can tell the minds behind the film want me to know, that they know, this is all dopamine mush in the mouth of a baby the more I’m pleased. I’m looking for a kind of philosophical match with the director. Something that says, “Yes, this is almost certainly a meaningless distraction on our collective journey to some hopefully plush after, but at least this haze of aesthetic violence offers some neon lights and choreographed blood splatter.” Which is a long-winded way of saying, as artists, writers, thinkers, maybe even as fantasy basketball players, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

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