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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Trae Young is the clear choice for Friday’s fantasy star of the night after scoring 33 points and dishing out 15 assists in a 121-110 win over the Warriors. Young had one of his best games of the season at the perfect time for fantasy managers. He should continue to carry the Hawks offensively as they push for the best possible seed in the play-in tournament. Danilo Gallinari added 25 points before exiting with an elbow injury in the fourth quarter. It did not appear to be too serious but the Hawks would be very thin if he were to miss any time. 

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When I think of brown, my stomach rumbles. It’s possible that’s a byproduct of releasing more than a few sacrifices to the porcelain god earlier today. But when I get my head out of the gutter, there’s Charlie Brown, Larry Brown, Foxy Brown, Bobby Brown, Jim Brown, Dan Brown, and James Brown. I feel goooooood!!!! We are going to have to add another Brown to the list as Bruce Brown delivered so many goodies on Monday night that Jeff Bezos rushed out of the rave and had his analysts run a statistically analysis.

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Dejounte Murray comes in as our fantasy star of the night for Friday, posting a huge stat line and helping to beat the Hawks 136-121 as an heavy underdog. Murray scored 32 points while dishing out 15 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds. This was arguably the best game of Murray’s career, but more games like this could be in his future now that Derrick White is off the team. He has unlimited upside without White next to him and should be seen as a top asset for the rest of the season. He is just outside of the top-15 players and should be able to push higher after the All-Star Break. Keldon Johnson finished as the second-leading scorer with 26 points on 6-8 three-point shooting. There should be extra opportunities without White, but Johnson should not be relied on to score like this on a game-to-game basis.

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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 Hart family was one of extraordinary magnitude. Don Corleone would traverse up north and cross the border to pay his respects and kiss the ring of Stu, who had eight sons with Bret and Owen wreaking havoc on the WWF streets for many of years. There’s Smith, Bruce, Keith, Wayne, Dean, Bret, Ross, Diana, Owen, Teddy, Tyson, Mike, Hart, Helen, Martha…..Someone go get Son a ventilator! On Monday, a Hart from another mother represented the family name well, despite not being a part of the family yet I’m sure he’d be welcomed with open arms because of this:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
22 10 2 1 0 3 1/5 6/11 9/9

“That’s my boy,” Stu proudly said. After being told that Josh did not come from his sperm, Stu grabbed that person, flipped him upside down, then piledrived him to China. With no Brandon Ingram on Monday, Hart saw a slight uptick in usage to 21.5%. It was the sixth time he scored at least 20 points this season and 11th time pulling down at least 10 boards. He’s racked up a steal in six straight games and has four games with three steals on the season. He’s a top 90 player for fantasy on a per-game basis. I. Hart. You.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Remember that scene in Jurassic Park when the SUVs are rolling along the track and the people inside are looking out the windows to get a glimpse of the dinosaurs? Except there are no dinosaurs. This is Jurassic Park, not some bootleg zoo where wild animals are confined to what amounts to a jail cell for humans. The dinosaurs are not beholden to the whims of us silly humans. They will appear, eat, and do their dinosaur things when they so desire. The same thing goes for volcanoes. They do not erupt when the 1:00 pm tour guide gets to the base of the mountain. They do their thing when they are ready to do their thing. Which brings me to Hassan Whiteside of the Utah Jazz. Every once in a while, Mt. Whiteside will erupt for a huge game, like he did back in mid-December: 18 points, 14 boards, and four blocks in 20 minutes of action. Over the past two games with Rudy Gobert out of commission, the tour guides to Mt. Whiteside were selling tickets like hotcakes because he was set to start and crush. If you don’t know where this story is going, then you have a serious reading comprehension issue. He started the last two games, played 30 and 26 minutes, and disappointed. Granted, he endured some foul problems but he only blocked two shots and did not reach double-digit in points or rebounds. As the visitors returned to the safety of their homes, hopes dashed, money wasted, Mt. Whiteside exploded again last night.

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The Toronto Raptors faced what was essentially a G-league team on Friday night and played down to their opponent for the first half. They turned it around in the second half with a comeback behind our fantasy star of the night, Fred VanVleet. He finished with 37 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists with four three-pointers. FVV has been excellent this year and is on fire of late. He ranks in the top-15 fantasy players and could make a push with his recent hot streak. 

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Joe Ingles is finally kicking it into gear after a slow start to the season. Ingles is back to canning threes and dropping dimes—he amassed three of the former and seven of the latter on Thursday—and has scored in double digits in five of his last seven. Over that span, he’s averaging 11.3 PPG, 3.9 APG, and 2.7 3PTM. Those numbers may seem modest, but paired with close to 60 percent shooting, it’s made him a top-100 player over the past 14 days. He’s trending in the right direction, and I would scoop him up now if you need treys and dimes (39 percent rostered in Yahoo! leagues).

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Welcome back to Thursday Night DFS Dunks with me, Cousin Timmy.  I break down tonight’s NBA slate and give you my starting five for both FanDuel and Draftkings.  These will be my core plays (guys I’ll be playing in my lineups with my money) for hitting the cash line in 50/50s and double-up contests.  If you’re looking for GPP winning plays you’ll have to follow me on Twitter (@TimmySperos) and then we can talk. At the end of the article, I’ll have a pool of three to five players I like that you can use to fill-in the rest of your lineups. It’s important to have a process in DFS so let’s review the strategies you should be thinking about.

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