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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If you were ever wondering what the process was for how team previews get assigned, it’s essentially a modern day duel to the death, but digital with way less death and way more clicking. But for the most part, we do get some say on which teams we cover, which for me is a strange thing to admit as I’ve now covered the Bulls, Rockets and now the Wizards. I’ve begun to question my very core ethos… am I masochist? Do I love to suffer from watching lost causes and rebuilding projects? Granted, the Bulls are kinda breaking out of their shell, Ninja Turtles metaphor for all the senior citizens out there, but there’s no denying that being a fan of the Rockets and Wizards franchises has its challenges. And while the Rockets have committed to a full rebuild and have essentially forfeited the next few seasons in order to quickly regenerate their team, the Wizards have chosen the meandering method (Or how I make love). With the re-signing of Bradley Beal, the Wizards look to be competitive for some weeks before returning to their middle-of-the-ground wasteland. The real question is, how many weeks and how much meh-basketball will be generated in that span? Enticing, I know!

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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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One team in this matchup projects to be a difficult and gritty playoff opponent and a sneaky conference finals contender; the other team in this matchup is the Brooklyn Nets. The Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 126-120, behind a historic 54-point performance from Jayson Tatum. It was Tatum’s fourth 5o-point game, tying him with Larry Bird for the most 50-point games in Celtics history. Tatum finished the night with 54 points (16-30 FG, 8-15 3PT), five rebounds, three assists, and it was his hockey assist that led to a dagger Jaylen Brown three to stamp out all hope for the Nets. Jaylen Brown added 21 points, four rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Marcus Smart finished the game with 14 points, three rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Al Horford finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. Robert Williams III tallied 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and five blocks.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 18!  The goal of this post is to help you identify streaming options who will help you win your head-to-head matchup.  With there being only one night of games remaining for this half of the matchup, I’m only running down options for Thursday’s games this week.  However, this post felt sad and empty without some additional long-term options, so I’ve included players at the bottom who fit that mold.

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Variety, they say, is the spice of life. So while there were monster games on Tuesday night from all the usual suspects — Joker, Joel, LeBron, Harden, Anthony Edwards, the Boston Boys — I’m bowing out on trying to split those hairs and passing on the opportunity to bestow the lede player honor on one of these repeat customers. Instead, we’ll spice things up by going off the beaten path and checking in on a number one pick who feels like he’s flying a bit under the radar.

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Last night’s version of Dennis Schroder is exactly what the Celtics need to save their season. A legitimate third scoring option they can rely upon when Tatum and Jaylen are either being double teamed or are having a bad shooting night. Considering how the rest of this roster is built, defense isn’t a concern at all. As for if he’s worth picking up in fantasy, I would have to say a hesitant no. Plenty of other more consistent scoring options available league wide such as Kelly Oubre Jr. or Jalen Brunson.

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In the past I’ve mentioned that I don’t feel like I’ve got a great handle on who BI is as a player. There are flashy, stat-stuffing games like this one where it looks like he’s got it all figured out. A three-level scorer with more than a little playmaking ability offensively, and a long, rangy defender who alters shots and flits into passing lanes — there’s a lot to like about the slim 24-year-old with a massive wingspan. Then there are nights when the efficiency plummets and the turnovers, as seen here, balloon on him while the dimes dry up. For fantasy purposes, he’s got enough offensive punch to hang around the top-50 without much trouble, but the lack of defensive contributions and turnovers work like an engine regulator on his overall value. He’s been the 16th best player in the Association over the last week, so if you were wondering what the ceiling looks like, now’s your chance to catch a glimpse.

Speaking of catching glimpses, here’s what else I saw on a mostly-competitive night in the NBA…

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The Brooklyn Nets took home the 121-119 victory in this Sunday matinee against the rebuilding, but still pesky San Antonio Spurs. In classic 2021-22 Nets fashion, they gave up a 14-point lead and allowed the Spurs to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and push the game into overtime, where Nets’ rookie Cam Thomas stole the show. Both teams struggled to score in the waning minutes of regulation and overtime, most notably Kevin Durant. As a result, when Durant was doubled on the Nets’ final possession at the elbow, with about six seconds left in the game, he rose up and fired a pass to Cam Thomas sliding up from the corner. Thomas pump-faked, took two hard dribbles and rose up for a one-legged runner fading to his left at the free-throw line. Nothing but net. Thomas’ made floater in overtime turned out to be the game-winner as Lonnie Walker was blocked on the Spurs ensuing inbound play. Even if he hadn’t been blocked, however, the shot wouldn’t have counted. Walker released the shot after the buzzer, as the Spurs had just one-point-four seconds to shoot. The narrow escape victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Nets.

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Welcome back! Another wild week of protocols is behind us and it’s time to prepare our New Year’s resolutions. It’s important to set specific, attainable goals and not just say you want to win the milly-maker. I’ll go first. My resolution is to take one night off from playing DFS every week to mentally reset. Lucky for you, that night isn’t tonight. A common resolution is to lose weight or go to the gym, but those are too general and they typically don’t last. So if you’re having trouble thinking of something I’ll help you out: resolve to sharpen your DFS skills! There’s no better way to do that than reading this article every Thursday. Let’s smash 2022!

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On Monday, Mr. and Mrs. Hooper packed up the car, coaxed our puppy Buckets into the backseat, and left the Mecca of American basketball (Milwaukee) in our rearview mirror to pay a post-holiday visit to Mama and Papa Hooper in Ohio. Though it runs counter to who I eventually ended up becoming, there actually isn’t any basketball in this particular household, so this Tuesday night recap is coming to you more or less blind. I’ve scoured Twitter and box scores as best I can, and we’re on track to be back home for next Tuesday’s action, but because I didn’t watch any hoops last night, I’m foregoing nominating a lede player here and just getting straight into it.

It was a busy night Tuesday night across the league. Here’s what jumped out to me here in the hinterlands of hoops…

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