PB and G is the cream of the crop, he rose to the top, he never eats a pig cuz a pig is a……………okay, whatever, I play the guy this week!  Talk about a House of Pain. He is followed closely by JokerSmoker, then a glob of four who are close, then another glob of the rest who are trying to claw their ways up out of the gutter like Elon Musk’s Twitter.

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The big Fin Lauri Markkanen put up a big stat line, hit a big shot and led the Jazz to a big win Friday night over the Suns. He scored a career-high 38 points on a silly 15-of-18 from the floor, 2-of-3 from deep and 6-of-8 at the line, and added 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a giveaway to the line. 

So far this season Markkanen has delivered late 2nd / early third-round value, which isn’t too  surprising. The skills were evident, it was just a matter of the fit and program in what was supposed to be a tanking Jazz team. And so far he’s fit like a glove worn by a big white dude in Utah. 

His counting stats aren’t too far from this 2019-20 breakout sophomore season, before things got stormy in the Windy City. The major difference is his ability to get shots inside, and being surrounded by willing and able passers helps, too. Markkanen is shooting 65.6% on 2-point shots with nearly 10 attempts a game, numbers comparable only to Nikola Jokic. The other improvement in the stat line is nearly 2.5 assists per game – again a result of playing in an offense that complements his skill set. 

Most of his career high points were actually easy buckets while taking advantage of a string of blown defensive plays. However, the difficulty level was high on this Kobe/Dirk vintage turnaround jumper:

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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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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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In this fantasy corner, besides the usual fantasy recommendations, we are all about weird and interesting stats. Some of them mean a lot for team and player performances and some of them mean absolutely nothing (remember the infamous number 2 Bane game). The stat that caught my eye this week has to do with the stumbling Lakers and the effect LeBron has on this team. Since the All-Star Break the Lakers are 0-9 when LeBron does not score 50 points or more, which you can certainly say is a bad look for his supporting cast. Of course it is common knowledge that he had a huge say on how this team is constructed and that stat alone does not describe how many points he gives up on the other end, which are truthfully a lot. Just take a lot at the following clip that summarizes the Lakers season and to an extent their superstars both on the offensive and the defensive side.

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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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Regarding last week’s suggestions, Isaiah Roby completely flopped and has turned from must-add to must-drop, Marvin Bagley is still holding value but Isaiah Stewart is back with the team and Immanuel Quickley had an OK, if mediocre week. All in all, I can do a lot better apparently, as even the “Sell” suggestions of Devonte’ Graham and Evan Fournier performed good last week.

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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 Razzball readers to your weekly dose of player profiling that highlights opportunities to take advantage of a player performing below reasonable expectations. Now, let me again be crystal clear, playing poorly is not enough to land you a spot in this post. If that were the case, I would be suffering from a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome, as there is no shortage of bad players throughout an NBA season. I mean, even the worst NBA player would average a triple-double at your local YMCA but I am not here to compare any professional baller to Carl who plays every other Tuesday. I digress.

In order to make my weekly list there must be a path to value based on a history of said player having shown sustainable value in the past. This week we take a 30-hour drive to find a player who is wearing a new uniform since the trade deadline and might just be ready to show his new city what he is fully capable of.

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So we’ve arrived at the final nightly recap before the All-Star break. A time when team rosters are locked in, new trade pieces are already paying dividends, and teams generally know what they are. So let’s look at the 22 teams that played last night and evaluate where there at, where they could improve, and who stood out from a fantasy perspective. 

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