The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 114-116 on Sunday night, making them 3-3 since LeBron James has been sidelined due to an abdominal injury. None of the victories have been particularly impressive, but they’re doing what they need to do—staying afloat until they get healthy. After a lackluster performance that led to a 24-point loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves in their previous contest, Anthony Davis set the tone early for the purple and gold in this game. Davis had 19 points (8-10 FG) in the first quarter and finished the game with 32 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and one block. It was the kind of dominating performance the Lakers will need in James’ absence as well as when he returns if the Lakers have any hope of achieving their championship goals. This game also saw Talen Horton-Tucker return from injury, pushing Kent Bazemore all the way out of the starting lineup and into a DNP (Coach’s Decision). Horton-Tucker had a solid game with 17 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block. Carmelo Anthony continues to shoot the ball well at home and he received a surprise start in this game. He finished the contest with 15 points (5-7 FG, 2-3 3PT) and five rebounds. He’s still shooting a ridiculous 47.3% from three on the season and an even more ridiculous 56% from three at home. Finally, Russell Westbrook had a quiet, efficient night for the Lakers. I might contend that quiet and efficient should be the goal for most of Westbrook’s contest given his rocky start to the season, but that’s a conversation for another day. Westbrook finished the game with 14 points (5-11 FG, 3-5 3PT), 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and seven turnovers.

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HE’S BACK!!! Or is he…?? After having essentially zero impact thus far (he hadn’t played 20 minutes in any game and only scored in double figures once), Chris Boucher broke out with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting in 24 minutes. He tossed in a trey, steal, and pair of swats to boot. His lack of playing time has been extremely concerning to fantasy managers. Coach Nick Nurse has played his starters heavy minutes all season, leaving little room for fantasy viability off the bench. And this may just be a blip given the absences of both Pascal Siakam and Khem Birch. I still can’t trust him at this point, and I wouldn’t be one of the 55 percent of Yahoo! managers still holding him if there was anything interesting on the wire.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for week four!  My focus is on giving you the best streaming suggestions as we approach winning time in H2H matchups.  Fantasy hoops matchups are won on the margins.  Unless you drafted flawlessly, you’re going to have to outmaneuver your opponent via waiver wire adds in competitive leagues.  Fortunately for you, I’m here to take on some of the research burden.  I trawl through the NBA schedule on a weekly basis and identify the teams and players who give you the best chance of success in various categories.  Let’s get into it!

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The bloom has been coming off the Kristaps Porzingis rose in recent seasons. Thursday’s opener didn’t do anything to dissuade the critics, as the oft-maligned big man tallied just 11 points on 13 field goal attempts, with just five rebounds, zero assists, and four turnovers. A steal and two blocks kept it from being a completely lost night, but he didn’t exactly look like an integrated part of the offense, often forcing bad shots out of rhythm. Managers investing in the artist formerly known as The Unicorn are hoping it was just a case of the game getting out of hand early.

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It’s not a great sign that the most valuable Grizzly on the 2020-21 roster (Jonas Valanciunas, the 31st best player in fantasy on a per-game basis last year) is now playing for another team. The news gets worse when the second-best (Jaren Jackson Jr. at 62) only played eleven games, and worse still when you have to click Next Page to find franchise cornerstone, Ja Morant, at 206 overall. Despite these drawbacks, there is value to be cultivated in Memphis — a team that played at the league’s ninth-fastest pace last year and, after securing two play-in wins, arrived at the 8-seed in the Western Conference well ahead of schedule. Slo-Mo Kyle Anderson turned in sixth-round value for the first time since 17-18, Brandon Clarke proved his rookie year was no fluke by returning value just outside the top-100, and Dillon Brooks took another step forward in his fourth season as a pro. Backup guard and per-36 darling De’Anthony Melton is a trendy breakout pick headed into this year, especially on the heels of Grayson Allen’s departure and the allotment of minutes that have come available. If only that Morant fella were as valuable in our game as he is to the fortunes of basketball in the Home of the Blues. 

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The Good Land indeed. It has been a magic time on the western shores of Lake Michigan. Winter became a distant memory, Summerfest returned, and after 50 years, the Milwaukee Bucks are NBA Champions. Though fall is in the air, everything is still glowy up here. This kind of joy will do that to a place: 

I’m not crying, you’re crying!

Now, Kevin Durant really did hit that Game 7 jumper and the Nets really were a toe’s length away from the ECF and maybe more. Personally, I find the championship asterisk conversation to be tired and fruitless. However you feel about it, the Milwaukee Bucks are the reigning champs and their title defense begins with the third best odds at repeating, as Vegas likes Brookyln and LA more than the Cream City Champs (the Warriors and the Bucks both begin the season at +900.) With an improved Eastern Conference, there’s no reason to think that the path back will be without challenges.

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Hello once again, Razzballers. Not sure why I’m saying hi like it’s a surprise you’re here, but we’ll just go along with it and I’ll act disappointed you didn’t bring nachos. Nachos, man, will no one think of me? As the arrival of the newest NBA season comes closer (nearer?), it’s that time again to go over the specific teams and do our yearly ritual to pontificate, debate, and articulate what we see before us. Don’t ask me why it sounds like some slogan from the corporate zeitgeist where synergistic methods on trending markets do something or whatever. I just wanted nachos. For my first preview, we’ll be tackling the Los Angeles Clippers, a franchise that has really made me question why I follow sports at all, and then I remembered I know this pain. I was born in it, molded by it. As a Padres fan, it’s always nice to see darkness, my old friend. Exiting stage left from last year’s playoffs (or right, I don’t think it matters which direction) once again in the Conference Finals was both expected and surprising. There were many caveats as to why it happened yet again, but there were also a lot of great developments that could help the Clippers in their goal to finally reach the NBA Finals. So let’s see how the Clippers are shaping up and the fantasy implications henceforth. Medieval vernacular, why not?

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Bledsoe has scored in single digits 25 times this season. He’s outside the top 200 on a per-game basis. There was a time when he was a perennial top 40 player. Life comes at us fast. On what was championship Sunday for many, Eric Bledsoe turned back the clock and produced his best performance of the season.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
24 4 11 2 0 1 3/9 8/17 5/10

Now, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram did not play in this one but whatever. A chip is a chip. If Bledsoe led any of you to a chip, you are obligated to buy a jersey of his. And you better wear that bad boy proudly. If anyone starts clowning you, just punch them in the face and say that your face Bledsoe that I could wear this jersey proudly around town.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Being in the zone is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Everything you chuck up has an increased probability of going in for some reason. Is it just perception? No, because the numbers bear it out. Is it some feeling or boost you get from confidence? Are the muscles and synapses firing faster and more efficiently to allow for greater accuracy? Are the stars aligned? Is the code in the matrix error-free? Whatever the case may be, it is amazing and I want it all the time. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible, and even if it was, then the script would flip because then the zone would be about missing a shot because we would be so accustomed to making everything. Ah, the conundrums of living. Last night, Landry Shamet was on one.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
30 2 3 0 0 1 7/12 10/15 3/4

The 30 points were a career-high. Over the last four games, he’s played 38, 21, 36, and 26 minutes, scoring 30, 20, 17, and 19 points respectively. The usage rate has been 22, 33, 19, and 20. That’s been good for top 70 value. Now, the 76ers are dealing with injuries so he will turn back into a pumpkin but enjoy this heater while it lasts.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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It’s been just over a week since a friend of mine pointed me toward the Kevin Durant/Michael Rapaport beef that had bubbled up on social media. At the time, I somewhat gleefully read through their back and forth until I felt my emotions start to turn. KD, from all the stories I’ve heard and books that I’ve read, does not strike me as a happy man. The texts he sent to Rapaport support this. Then I saw the follow-up video that Rapaport put out that provide additional context for his spicy IG chat with Durant and I felt even worse. KD might be unhappy, but Rapaport strikes me as something far more distasteful than the aloof ennui of the unfathomably talented. After eating my fill of online garbage, I sent the following text to my buddy:

I wish I could get that time back. 

I can’t, obviously. None of us can. But what we can do is make up for the time lost, and Durant did just that in his return to NBA action on Wednesday night. All told, the Nets played 23 games since KD was last in uniform, but you wouldn’t have known that by watching him.

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