After their loss in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat went star chasing.  Ultimately, they went 0 for the field, as they were unable to make deals for Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell.  Their efforts to sign T.J. Warren to blunt the impact of P.J. Tucker’s absence also came up empty.  As a result, this year’s Heat will look very similar to last season’s.  Preview over. Just kidding.  There are still questions hanging over the existing roster, including what the Heat will do at the four, and whether or not Tyler Herro suits up as a starter.  On a more intriguing front, there’s the ever-present possibility of a trade occurring at some point to shore up their frontcourt weakness.  If we don’t see Herro sign a contract extension in the next few weeks, there’s potential for him to be used in a deal before the deadline.

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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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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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It was a true team effort for the Wiz, with four guys off the bench scoring in double figures. One of those four was Deni Avdija, who has really been playing well since the trade deadline. He finished up with 13 points, eight rebounds, a triple, two steals and a block. It was his fifth straight game scoring double-digit points. Over that stretch he’s been playing 30 minutes a night despite coming off the bench, with averages of 12.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.4 3PTM, 1.0 SPG, and 0.8 BPG. He should be entrenched in this role the rest of the season, meaning he’ll have plenty of opportunity to produce (17 percent rostered in Yahoo! leagues).

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Milwaukee’s Big Three showed up to play last night: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Bobby Portis. What? Portis has been an amazing role player and crucial to the Bucks this season. He put up 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in last night’s loss to the Cavaliers. Who would have thought that this match would determine the 3rd seed in the East for the time being? Who expected the Cavaliers at all this season? A deep team highlighted by Darius Garland’s breakout, Kevin Love’s positive influence off the bench and an early season trade for Rajon Rondo. Speaking of which, man that trade looks like highway robbery, as he’s playing like everyone thought he would in Atlanta last season. 

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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 Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Indiana Pacers 108-104, behind strong performances from Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, and Jarrett Allen. After finding themselves down 84-73 in the third quarter, the Cavaliers went on a 17-0 run to take the lead and never gave it up. Mobley led the Cavaliers in scoring with 24 points (11-16 FG, 0-2 3PT) and added nine rebounds and four assists. Love tallied 20 points (6-13 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Love has scored 20 points or more in five straight games. He’s played well with increased minutes as the Cavaliers have seen a number of players go down with injury or Covid absences. Allen notched 18 points (6-12 FG, 0-1 3PT), 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three blocks. Lamar Steven added 15 points (6-13 FG, 0-4 3PT), three assists, two assists, and one steal. Lauri Markkanen finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, and one block. Isaac Okoro played just 12 minutes and had to leave the game due to an elbow injury. He finished the game with 2 points, one rebound, one assist, one steal, and one block. He was one made three, one free-throw, one turnover, and one personal foul away from a really exciting stat line. The Cavaliers were without Darius Garland and Cedi Osman as both entered the league’s health and safety protocols) while Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio are out due to season-ending knee injuries.

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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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And I’m not talking about Christmas.

Despite vaccination numbers north of 95%, a new variant of the Coronavirus has breached the walls of the NBA and is wreaking havoc on a league that is already being thinned out by non-virus injuries that stem from playing three seasons in two years. The sick are just getting sicker (Tuesday night’s Brooklyn/Washington matchup was postponed) and as a result, the NBA has thrown off some of their normal roster restrictions to ensure that teams can field full squads. Names that are normally reserved for the silly season of March and early April are now turning up before the unofficial start of the season on Christmas Day. Consider Marquese Chriss, one of the newest Dallas Mavericks, as an example. A lottery pick in 2016 who has never found his footing in the Association, Chriss was added as a reinforcement to the Mavs roster amid a Covid outbreak in Dallas. To his credit, Chriss looked springy, played well, and actually closed the game for Dallas against Minnesota before the ink dried on his contract. Chriss was joined out there by luminaries like Theo Pinson and Sterling Brown, and all across the league there were was a mix of old names and new showing up in NBA box scores. Guys like Wayne Seldon in New York and Tony Snell in Portland resurfaced after time spent in the NBA hinterland, while Marcus Garrett saw some burn in Miami, and Leandro Bolmaro and Nathan Knight popped up for the Timberwolves.

Amid these strange times in the NBA, it was good to see that Damian Lillard is still good for a bucket or two.

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The Sacramento Kings defeated the San Antonio Spurs 121-114 behind strong performances from Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. I love me some Tyrese Haliburton. With De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell in the NBA’s health and safety protocol, Haliburton has been handed the keys to the Kings’ offense and he’s put together strong performances in back-to-back games now. Haliburton had a double-double by halftime and finished this game with 27 points (12-19 FG, 3-5 3PT), four rebounds, 11 assists, and two steals. Haliburton’s off-kilter rhythm and unorthodox shooting stroke make him a fun watch and his defensive playmaking make him a reliable fantasy option in any format—bask in the glory if he’s on your roster. Buddy Hield was the other star of the night for the Kings. Hield scored 18 of his game-high 29 points (10-18 FG, 7-9 3PT) in the fourth quarter and finished this game with three rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Damian Jones scored a career-high 23 points and added eight rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. Harrison Barnes rounds out the Kings’ top performers with 14 points (4-11 FG, 1-3 3PT), seven rebounds, and three assists.

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The Portland Trail Blazers took down the Hornets at home behind the fantasy star of the night, Damian Lillard., who contributed 43 points, eight assists, and four rebounds. He looks fully healthy as he has recently returned from an abdominal issue that has bothered him since the Summer Olympics and maybe even before then. Even with his injury, Lillard has remained a top-40 player and should stay that way for the rest of the year. Ben Mclemore was the second-highest scorer with 28 points off the bench last night on 8-13 three-point shooting. He ended up with more minutes than Anfernee Simons because of his amazing play, but these minutes and points can not be relied on. 

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