As the season trudges on with 15-20 games left in the regular season, the most exciting thing about the NBA season is the constant jockeying for position in the NBA Playoffs. The teams in the Top-6 are fighting to keep themselves out of the Play-In tournament. The teams sitting between 7th and 11th are battling it out for a chance to earn a playoff spot through the Play-In tournament. So last night, we got a very silent but deadly lineup of games as we only had seven games on the docket but they all had playoff implications of some sort. Some teams were looking to keep their season alive. Others were looking to keep themselves atop their respective conferences. Playoff-caliber basketball is slowly kicking up as teams make a late-season push and things are getting really interesting as we inch closer to the homestretch.

With that being said, here are our Primetime Performers from last night’s slate of games under the pressure of the Friday Night Lights.

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An extremely encouraging pattern is beginning to emerge with my every-other-week recapping of the Wednesday night games: Happy returns that are highlighted in the lede. You see, it was my distinct pleasure to highlight KAT’s return from his early season wrist + Covid absence, and I was the one who placed Kevin Durant in this place of prominence when he came back from the extended hammy vacation. Now, I’m due up for the recap on the night Jaren Jackson Jr. returned and you know damn well that I’m going to make him the lede. Welcome back, Jar—

Ah. Actually not. Sorry JJJ, I’m breaking up the welcome party and going with the 40 piece instead. We’ll see you later in the recap, because this lede (and maybe all of the Western world) belongs to…

Julius Randle

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
40 11 6 1 0 6 11/21 12/13 4

This is second time in the last week that Julius has gone 40+/10+/6+ with 6 made threes. Wut. That’s just unspeakable heat from New York’s Caesar, who led the Knicks to an OT win against the Hawks last night. Woe to those of you having wrestle this monster in head-to-head playoffs. It might be better just to simply bend the knee when Randle is going like this.

Here’s what else stood out on another busy Wednesday in the Association…

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Hey everybody, it’s me Keith! Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Blue’s Clues and every episode starts like that… Anyways, let’s get down to business.

It’s officially NBA silly season with the trade deadline already in distant memory, and plenty of teams are not super interested in winning basketball games right now. If a team can finish 10th and get into the play-in, they may be more interested in resting their guys and getting a better draft pick.

So which teams are doing that? And, more importantly, which players benefit the most from this shift?

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This was the Gary Trent Jr. game! He willed the Raptors to a much-needed victory over the Cavs in Cleveland. Of course, we have to start off with Trent Jr. Last night, the man shot 17-19 (89.5%!) from the field and did not miss a single two-pointer on his way to 44 points! He also grabbed seven boards while dishing out four assists. Rookie Malachi Flynn also had a very good game scoring 20 points, handing out 11 assists, and stealing the ball twice. Chris Boucher had another excellent defensive night swatting four shots while getting one steal with his teammate OG Anunoby scored 15 points with five rebounds and three assists. 

On the other side, the Cavs got 29 points from Collin Sexton, who shot 50% from the field and also handed out five dimes. Kevin Love put another 20 minutes of action under his belt scoring 18 points, grabbing in three boards, and stealing the ball once. Before exiting the game due to injury, Darius Garland put up 19 points and had eight dimes on 41.2% shooting from the field.

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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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It’s about that time again, isn’t it? The trade deadline has come and gone, the sun is starting to peek out with some regularity, and teams who have had long, dark, unsuccessful winters are beginning to look ahead to a little summer vacay. Even with the expanded playoff format for this season, there are still a handful of teams that are done. We haven’t gotten to “Cancun on three” yet, but if you’re in Orlando or Oklahoma City you can start thinking about it. 

For this week’s Hangin’, I looked at a couple of these lost causes and the opportunities for fantasy help that exist there. It’s not an exhaustive list, but all of the teams featured are 12th or worse in their conference and have gestured toward giving up. But just because they’re done with the year does not mean that the year is done with them. Every game needs to have 240 minutes of statistics accounted for, and we’re in the interest of compiling numbers. 

This is a bigger one, so let’s get to it. 

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Down goes Horford. We all lamented at the recent news of Al Horford getting shut down for the rest of the season, but it came as no surprise to some who have been playing fantasy basketball for going on two decades. The Oklahoma City Thunder have zero incentive to attempt to win basketball games as they try to squeeze the most value of their million draft picks.

The reality of this season is that COVID-19 continues to screw everything up. The second half of the season for every single NBA team this season is BRUTAL, with things like three games in four nights, and multiple back-to-backs. We are about to see a bunch of people sit out games they may have otherwise played.

In that same vein, we will likely see more shutdowns this season than ever before, as teams decide that playing for that playoff play-in isn’t as important as developing pieces for the future. We saw it with Al Horford, and we will see it again with other players.

But who will they be? Here is my best speculation:

*PLEASE NOTE: RECORDS AND STATS TAKEN BEFORE THE GAMES ON 3/28*

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The trade deadline is only a few days away, and we are pretty much guaranteed a trade or two that will shake up the NBA landscape. Whether you’re at the top of your league or near the bottom, stashing someone right now before it all goes down gives you a jump on the competition. Unless you can sit around all day waiting for the news, you need to have the foresight here to stash some folks and hope for the best.

Here are the top guys who should see their situation get better, in order of importance, with their respective percentages owned across Yahoo! leagues. We’ll be looking at projected 9-category value for this list, so it might be different if you’re playing a different format.

If you’re looking for an add, simply move down the list until you find someone who is available and go snag them and hope for the best, as long as you agree with my reasoning! Quick note: Most of these stats were gathered before the games on 3/21.

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The second half of the season is in full swing as we finish out the first full week of NBA basketball since coming back from the All-Star break. This may be the most grueling part of the season, but this is also the stretch where we see a lot of guys play a bit out of their mind.

Sometimes it is to help propel their team to a playoff position. Sometimes it is to help create a solid highlight tape for themselves as they head into free agency. Sometimes it is even to prove the doubters wrong as way of showing those in the comment section that they swung and missed on their perception of certain players.

With all that being said, there are a lot of guys who fall into this category across the NBA. Ironically, a handful of them were gathered together last night under the bright Friday Night lights. All faced with an opportunity to do something special with the world watching. So, after a night filled with thrilling finishes and plenty of season-high benchmarks, here are the Standout Performers from this week’s slate of Friday Night games!

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