Can you tell that Joel Embiid is tired of coming in second? Because that was made extremely clear after last night’s performance in the battle between the top two MVP finalists the past two seasons. After being snubbed as an All-Star starter and barely being mentioned in the MVP conversation this season, Embiid had a near 50-20 game on the head of the reigning MVP and this year’s lead candidate, Nikola Jokic. Embiid took this matchup so personally that he finished in style, hitting a dagger jumper in the closing moments, followed by the infamous Michael Jordan shrug. Five other Sixers finished in double figures, including James Harden, who had 17 points and 13 rebounds, but last night was all about Embiid.

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Something tells me the Pelican won’t fare well in that scenario, right? Well, that was the case Wednesday night when the Celtics’ Scottie Pippen, “Robin” or what have you – Jaylen Brown – torched the young Pelicans to the tune of 41 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes of action. Brown led Boston to a convincing 125-114 victory over New Orleans and he wasn’t alone – top dog, Batman Jayson Tatum bullied his way to 31 points and 10 rebounds of his own.

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The Magic at full strength have a great, young frontcourt, and that was on display last night.  They totaled 78 points, 22 boards, and 6 assists last night.  If you own Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., and Paolo Banchero, well, that’s kinda weird to have three guys from the same team.  But any of them are legitimate starters going forward, and they all still have some upside.  Unfortunately, if you are holding Bol Bol, he looks like the fourth wheel of this tricycle.  I would hold him and see, but I’m not optimistic.  The other three are better players.

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Earlier this week, Mr. Hooper outlined his redemption attempt from a lackluster RazzJam performance with a mid-season 12-team roto league draft (which starts counting stats Dec. 26) that I managed to snag a spot in as well. 

How’s my RazzJam team doing? Oh, well, thanks for asking. Pretty dang well! I’ve been the pace car most the season in my league, currently with a healthy lead over second place Guiseppe Racco. I was in the Top 10 overall for a bit, but have dropped back to 16th in the last few days. Still a long way to go, so definitely not doing any early celebrating. 

But I digress. I thought it would be fun to compare rookie draft ranking in the current draft, making the turn into round 21 of 25 as I write this, to preseason ADP to gauge the market for rookie performances so far this season. I’m using NFBKC for the pre-season ADP and Monster Basketball for current rankings.

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Tuesday night’s five-game slate presents me with my first opportunity to bring you a game recap!  Normally, I’m the guy who writes up borderline players and streamers on Thursday afternoon, so it’s a nice change to profile some of the league’s studs.  It’s kind of like hate watching Hallmark Christmas movies (Mingle All the Way, among others) for the first few weeks of December before switching gears and watching It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story.

Disclaimers: Because I was too busy watching Santa Switch last night, and the fact that I’m on Greenwich Mean Time, I haven’t had a chance to watch the games.  As a result, all of my observations are through a strictly fantasy lens and don’t necessarily account for every nuance.  Additionally, all of my ranking references are based on category-league values as a default.

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Despite only three games on Tuesday, DFS dynamos were in play. A small game slate featured a battle of the best pure scorers in the NBA and provided us with one of the best games of the season. Scoring giants, Steph Curry and Luka Doncic clashed in Dallas. The Knicks and Pistons were both in need of a win. A game that on paper appeared would be close, was anything but. And a Portland team that not long ago led the Western Conference, trying to stay in playoff position against a hobbled Clippers squad.

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You can’t win a championship at the beginning of a season, but you can lose one. Much as it pains me to say, I think I’ve already lost.

After a successful Writer’s League last year that ended against Kostas in the semifinal and a pretty intensive offseason of thinking about hoops, I came into this year’s draft feeling like I was in decent shape to post a good showing again. But this year ain’t last year. Stats and success don’t carry over, and if you’re resting on laurels rather than applying lessons learned, there’s no way to bank Ws on account of “experience.” If you’ve been following Kelder’s weekly recaps, you might have noticed that my team isn’t anywhere in the mix. Indeed, you’ve got to scroll almost the way to the bottom of the table to see my name. A record of 19-34-1 is good enough for 11th and I feel all but certain the hole that I’ve put myself in is going to be too deep to recover from. I’m not quite ready to quit on some other struggling squads, but I think it’s safe to let go of preseason expectations at this point and set a different goal for the remaining three-quarters of the season here in the Writer’s League.

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The week begins with a container ship in the old windows, its long red belly splitting the gray vault of sky from the mirror gray of lake. Flakes fell a day or two later, a dusting, a sign of things to come. A day after that, the sun and wind wipe the dry snow from the concrete into the grass. Overnight on Friday, a second ship, this one white, appears in the same window. I’m two years late to winterizing, but this year will be different, I think, as I squeeze out lines of caulk along the sill. We’ve passed a significant, severe line up here. Winter has arrived irrevocably and my mind, perhaps now finally falling into the rhythms of this place, sets in on ideas like patience and endurance. It’s the slow season up here, perhaps slowest of all for that red ship lingering in the bay. 

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Here’s a story of a man with two first names, who hit the age of 30, an age when most players say goodbye to their primes and buckle up for the descent below. And descend the man with two first names did, playing in 58 and 58 games the next two seasons. Many called him injury-prone and swore him off for fantasy. Father Time leaned back in the La-Z-Boy chair, grabbed the bowl of popcorn and just waited. But the man with two first names spit in the face of Father Time and proceeded to play 70, 70 and 65 games in his age 34, 35 and 36 seasons. So far this season, the man with two first names has missed five of 15 games and caused much consternation for those who drafted him. “We can squeeze one more year out of him!!!”, they said. It’s akin to having one taco left with no more freshly cut limes. You rummage through the whole table and squeeze every last drop out of what’s left. Anyways, the pain that has been felt by the Chris Paul owners has been nothing but elation for the Cameron Payne truthers. Over the last five games, he’s averaged 33.5 minutes, 15.6 field goal attempts, 20 points, 3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.2 steals. On Sunday:

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Did you know about 75% of hops grown in America come from the Yakima Valley? Of course you didn’t. Unless you’re reading from the Pacific Northwest, you probably don’t even know where the heck Yakima is. Which means you also don’t know about this hilarious billboard declaring it the Palm Springs of Washington (funny because Yakima is kind of a craphole). But, if you’re paying attention to your NBA rookie origin stories, you’d know that MarJon Beauchamp is the first and only NBA 1st round draft pick to come out of this quasi-desert rose of a geographical location.

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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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“Houston, we have a problem” … is the headline I had to fight off for days when contemplating an article on the early returns (or lack thereof) from No. 3 pick Jabari Smith Jr. And that’s just wrong. Literally. The astronauts of Apollo 13 actually said to mission control, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” While we’re at it: Forrest Gump said, “Life was like a box of chocolates;” Marie Antoinette wanted them to eat a pastry, not cake; Manfred Mann was “Revved up like a deuce;” the cornfield winds whispered “If you build it, he will come;” and Darth Vader’s famous line is, “No, I am your father” (either way, its hilarious to say into a fan). Thanks to my Master’s degree in Web Searchography, I know those formations of false collective memories are called the Mandela Effect. What does this have to do with Smith? I have no idea, but it was a fun way to cut through some writer’s block.

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