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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While I’d love to talk about Tim Hardaway testing the double-jeopardy statute of being cancelled (there is no law), quickly getting right back into it after his post-hate clarity of attacking and then apologizing to the LGBTQ community and then moving straight into describing basketball plays as raking. It could have been graping because no one ever thinks about the grapes, you know? But as I said, Tim’s swan song as an NBA broadcaster isn’t exactly “fantasy basketball” relevant, so it might be better to focus on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s continued emergence as a legit NBA star (second team for sure, first team anyone?). Coming off a night where he scored 37 points with 4 rebounds and 8 assists, there were times last night (and during the season) where he just looks simply unguardable. Even the Celtics, who don’t run too many doubles, were throwing everything at him. While still pulling out the win, the Celtics’ elite defenders exposed SGA’s agility and shot IQ to be exceptional and confirmed that this may actually be a very special year despite tanking towards Wembanyama. (Trademark pending.)

Here’s what else I saw during last night’s light slate of games:

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week Two!  In this post, I identify widely-available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  If this is your first brush with midweek guidance, check out the intro to last week’s post to get some insight on my groundbreaking methodology (it’s not groundbreaking).  The dust is settling on the initial rush to grab surprise successes like Santi Aldama, but there is still a lot of rotation churn in the NBA as teams try to find the best way to win (or lose).  Unsurprisingly, we’ve already seen multi-game injuries and/or load management issues with big names on the Pelicans, Cavaliers, Clippers, Thunder, and Hornets, so there are potential opportunities on those teams as we look for streaming candidates to cycle through with that final roster spot.

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I figure y’all don’t need reminding that these aren’t your father’s Rockets. I don’t even think these are your brother’s Rockets either, especially if you don’t have a brother. That kinda eliminates you out of the metaphor. But the point stands, the Rockets are basically last year’s Rockets in that this is a team still in rebuild mode. But, as one of the dozen or so Padres fans from another ball sport (heehee balls), one can be accustomed to a bad team and still like the parts on it. In this, I guess “mechanic” type metaphor, parts are people and before I start getting too random, yes, the Rockets will be terrible, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some non-terrible things on it. I guess I could have just said that and saved 250 words of bad metaphors. Hmm.

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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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I’m no doctor (sorry mom!), but in my professional opinion (in which my profession is nothing besides maybe making a lot of parentheses), I believe (and feel!) that whatever injury Harden was coming back from, well, it seems to have miraculously solved itself and this is the most 100% I’ve seen James Harden in a long time, not counting the strip clubs, of course. And that’s not to act glib, anyone can smirk injury statuses, it’s pretty much tradition in all sports leagues in this day and age. But I guess it’s always nice to see the confirmation right before your eyes, so without incredulously referring to Harden’s previous injury, I think after last night’s performance scoring 29 points, grabbing 10 boards and providing an easy breezy smorgasbord (totally a phrase) of 16 assists, I think we can say that whatever ailed him does no longer. Probably his previous injury was playing with Kyrie Irving…
Here’s what else I saw during yesterday’s “truncated” basketball schedule:

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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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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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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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I was chilling out with pops the other night. Yes, your Son is actually a son. I know, mind-blowing. Anyways, we were chatting about who the superstars in the league are. Giannis, LeBron, KD, blah blah blah. Then Jayson Tatum came up. My pops shook his head…..which way though? Up and down or side to side? It was side to side with a crooked frown. For full transparency, he is a Lakers fan but he does know his hoops. He has skills, he said. He can score, he said but he’s missing that extra element that vaults him into the upper echelon. My response? 

I’ve seen him do fantastic things that make me go, daaayyam. I also remember that he and Kobe would train and converse so Mamba passed down secrets, no? Then I remember those games where I’m left completely underwhelmed. Well, last night, Tatum knocked on our craniums with….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
42 5 4 3 0 3 7/13 16/25 3/5

It was the eighth time Tatum has gone for at least 40 points in his career! Now, Tatum is shooting 42% from the field on the season. He has never finished with a mark below 45%. The early-season struggles may be dissipating as he’s been shooting over 50% from the field over the last seven games. Tatum was being drafted at the back end of the first round in most drafts. While he scores a ton of points, the efficiency has improved, and he chips in tres, boards, and some dimes, the defensive stats are lacking at 0.9 steals and 0.7 blocks. Fine, they aren’t exactly lacking but in order to be a first-rounder, he will likely need to be in the 1/1/1 club. Get your act together, Tatum!

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The Charlotte Hornets were on a three-game losing streak heading into this Sunday evening matchup with the Atlanta Hawks—a bad loss to the Rockets in overtime, a sluggish and overmatched defeat against the Bulls, and a buzzer-beating loss at the hands of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. LaMelo had a standout game against the Bucks and before Giannis’ game-winning layup, he hit a beautiful leaning three over Pat Connaughton to tie the game. Sometime after their loss to the Bucks, LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Jalen McDaniels, and Mason Plumlee were placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. At the time of that announcement, Ball was leading the Hornets in points, assists, steals, and rebounds per game. Heading into this contest, I was bummed to not get a chance to watch these two teams compete at something closer to full strength. But as is so often the case with the Hornets, they did the unexpected, beating the Hawks 130-127 with two of their best four players sidelined.

Don’t spit the bit was the directive from Eric Collins—after the Hornets coughed up leads against the Rockets and Bucks. Collins—the team’s television play-by-play announcer and rising star in the NBA universe—brought his full bag of phrases for this road game. It was almost like Collins was trying to will the undermanned Hornets to a victory by unloading his full clip of quips—and it worked! (Miles Bridges might have helped)

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In a rematch from only two days ago, the Pelicans were able to get revenge behind the fantasy star of the night, Brandon Ingram, who hasn’t been as good as last year since his injury but showed up last night with a near triple-double. Ingram finished with 24 points, 12 assists, and eight assists. This was easily Ingram’s best game of the year, and he will look to keep the streak going. While Jonas Valanciunas continues to start at center, his foul troubles recently have opened up more minutes for Willy Hernangomez, who has been stellar off the bench. Hernangomez finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds and should continue to be a solid streamer even with a great center in front of him. 

With Kristaps Prozingis out of the lineup, the Mavericks struggled offensively. Luka Doncic led the way, as he usually does, with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. He remains one of the top category players with unlimited upside on a night-to-night basis. Maxi Kleber had 13 points and nine assists while filling in for Porzingis, but his production is too sporadic to justify rostering him.

Please, blog, may I have some more?