Back up in the heezy, baby!

Week One is in the ledger and we have a small sample size to work with, but there is still opportunity to land an underperforming player to help boost your team in the standings. Let me remind everyone the type of player that qualifies to be considered as underperforming by my standards. I will be looking for players who are playing below their rank who have shown consistency in the past to be better than what they are at that moment. I will also be looking for players who may not have the history but possess incredible upside with a path to minutes and production.

This week, upside and opportunity is what we are hoping for with this player who I believe, can be an absolute difference maker on your fantasy team.

It’s Isaiah, Isaiah Jackson, if you’re nasty.

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The Indiana Pacers enter the 2022-23 season as everyone’s favorite punching bag. The organization, in recent vintage, has been unwilling to execute an all-out tank like the 76ers in the Hinkie era or the current Sam Presti-led iteration of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This year is shaping up to be a notable exception to that history. The Pacers will begin the season without any reliable small forwards on the roster and a dearth of quality wing defenders. Buddy Hield will likely start at that spot in what will be a three-guard starting lineup of Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, Buddy Hield, Jalen Smith, and Myles Turner. The chatter in league circles (as reported by just about every reputable NBA media member) is that Turner will be traded sooner rather than later. Of course, it should be noted, that we’ve heard that story before and, at least for now, Turner remains on the roster

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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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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 23!  My goal is to help you win your league championship by finding widely available streaming candidates for your specific categorical needs.  As the title suggests, we are firmly in fantasy no man’s land as it relates to erratic player availability, as teams in both conferences pack it in to avoid injuries and bolster their chances of receiving a top draft pick.  While it pales in comparison to the 250 players who faced quarantine between December and January, one can be forgiven for saying that the luck side of the luck:skill ratio increases as the season winds down.

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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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Regarding last week’s suggestions, the inclusion of Tyus Jones stands out as he had a tremendous week and tilted many fantasy matchups with his assists alone, so hopefully you capitalized. The same can be said for Kris Dunn and his steals, as he had 7 in four games, rewarding fantasy owners who trusted him. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Jaxson Hayes, who was underwhelming and has an awful schedule, so he is a clear drop. Bones Hyland was mediocre at best. What can I say, you win some, you lose some, but Jones and Dunn were big wins indeed.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 22!  In this post, I identify under-rostered players who can help your team as streamers or long-term adds.  The ravages of tanking, phantom injuries, and real injuries are undoubtedly taking their toll on your squad.  I commend anyone with the intestinal fortitude to play fantasy hoops into late-March or April.  That being said, there are a lot of opportunities out there as we head down the stretch.

In the “late news breaking” category, Ja Morant was just listed as out for tonight’s game against Indiana.  This SHOULD boost the value of De’Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones, so look to them for those elusive assists.

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The Indiana Pacers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 129-98. In a rarity for this version of the Pacers, they were the more veteran team. Oshae Brissett spearheaded the Pacers’ attack, as he tallied 24 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), nine rebounds, one assist, and one steal. His day also included a highlight reveal reverse dunk in transition which came off a behind-the-back pass from Lance Stephenson. Have I mentioned that the Pacers are fun now!? Justin Anderson added 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Jalen Smith notched 17 points, five rebounds, and one block in just 17 minutes of play. I’m not sure if Smith will ever become the player the Suns hoped they were getting when he was drafted with the 10th pick in 2020, but he has at least grown into an intriguing prospect. He was 2-of-3 from behind the arc and also whipped out a Dirk-esque step-back off the dribble in the midrange. Terry Taylor (17) and Duane Washington Jr. (13) both had solid games as well. The Pacers led wire to wire and the lack of competitiveness of the game is reflected in the lower minute totals for Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Haliburton finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. Hield tallied nine points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Finally, Lance Stephenson scored just two points, but grabbed six rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and swiped three steals.

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We’re back to our regularly scheduled Tuesday night programming after a bit of travel to sunnier climes, and I hope the time away has been as good for you as it was for me. In case you missed it, Son and I just did a pod yesterday that covered all things RazzJam. It was good fun and I think I might have said something useful? After faceplanting in my first attempt last year, this year’s campaign is going much, much better and I find myself in the hunt for a title as we come down the home stretch of the season. Son and I chopped up how such a dramatic turnaround came to be and maybe even figured out some viable strategy for next year. And speaking of Cam Payne…

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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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Regarding last week’s suggestions, it was not a great week because Nickeil Alexander-Walker didn’t stay in Portland and was moved to Utah, obliterating his fantasy value in the process, while Jeremy Lamb had one great game but promptly injured himself and is currently sidelined. The same happened to Isaiah Jackson and only Goga Bitadge was left to carry the Kostas suggestions flag with a good but unspectacular week. On the Sell front, Chris Duarte was also sidelined with a sore big toe, so he can be a drop but unfortunately not a sell currently.

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Late February, everyone’s favorite little month, often feels like a desperate time in the NBA. The Trade Deadline, with all its promise, hope, and frequent disappointments, has come and gone, and with no cavalry coming to save you, you’re forced to come to grips with reality. Most of the time that reality isn’t pretty. Looking around the league, it seems like everyone is exhausted in ways that have become obvious. The NBA season is a long one, and the All-Star break is closer to the three-quarter pole than the halfway point, so if you haven’t figured out how to win by now, it’s getting awfully late to get it solved. Some teams have already begun to slowly pack it in and wind things down. “Better luck next year,” isn’t being said yet, but the phrase looms in the back of mouths in Indiana, Washington, and Texas. Outside, at least where I live, it’s gray, brown, and soggy, and it can be hard to remember that life and color exist in a universe that looks exactly the same way that a 19-40 season feels. It’s grim. Cold. Still. The NBA landscape can be equally sparse — I’m looking at you, Philadelphia, and your 40-point home loss — so when you see something beautiful and vibrant, you’ve got to celebrate it. So, with apologies to Giannis Antetokounmpo and his 50-point night (my god, he’s good), I’m renting out this Tuesday lede to Trae Young, who was a vibrant, flamboyant shot in the arm at home against a thoroughly game Cleveland group.

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