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 trade winds are blowing! After some smaller pieces were moved over the last few days, Tuesday brought about the most significant player shuffling to date ahead of Thursday’s Trade Deadline. Indiana sent All-Star Domantas Sabonis and friends to Sacramento for a package headlined by Buddy Hield and second-year stud Tyrese Haliburton. As someone who has dipped their toes into Kings fandom, it’s hard not to feel like the Kings are screwing things up all over again. Haliburton is arguably the best draft decision the Kings have made since taking DeMarcus Cousins at pick five in the 2010 draft, and his high basketball IQ, passing prowess, and ability to sit down and defend sure seem to be things that would be valued in Sac, especially considering the defensively leaky and largely clueless roster the Kings have assembled. In shipping out Hield and Hali, the Kings have kinda nuked their three-point shooting and Sabonis’ presence largely neutralizes the value of Richaun Holmes, a player they just handed a four-year deal. But hey, with Sabonis at least there’s an All-Star on the roster now (De’Aaron Fox grimaces at this). Longtime Blazer CJ McCollum was also given his walking papers on Tuesday. He’s headed down New Orleans way to play for the Ples, who might have something cooking now, even without Zion.

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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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On Monday, Mr. and Mrs. Hooper packed up the car, coaxed our puppy Buckets into the backseat, and left the Mecca of American basketball (Milwaukee) in our rearview mirror to pay a post-holiday visit to Mama and Papa Hooper in Ohio. Though it runs counter to who I eventually ended up becoming, there actually isn’t any basketball in this particular household, so this Tuesday night recap is coming to you more or less blind. I’ve scoured Twitter and box scores as best I can, and we’re on track to be back home for next Tuesday’s action, but because I didn’t watch any hoops last night, I’m foregoing nominating a lede player here and just getting straight into it.

It was a busy night Tuesday night across the league. Here’s what jumped out to me here in the hinterlands of hoops…

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No, no not THAT The Used, though we could certainly chat about them a bit if you’re into it. No? Not here for that? Fine.

Well, I wanted to talk about “the used” in the NBA, as in the guys who have seen their usage climb in the past two weeks compared to the first two weeks of the season, and whether or not that’s sustainable for them. Cool with you, bro? Sweet, let’s begin.

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Another fantasy season has started, another season for me to mumble about something that caught my attention in the introduction, review the performance of players suggested in the article of the previous week, and then showcase players to buy/sell every week before we discuss them in the comments with you good folks.

What caught my eye this week is something that is very hard to miss, pun intended. A not-so-flattering image of Zion Williamson’s weight has surfaced, comparing his appearance during the Pelicans’ media days in 2021 and 2019, on the left and right respectively.

Now I am the first to admit that good food is one of the greatest enjoyments in life and can certainly be sympathetic, but in terms of his basketball and fantasy future, this is concerning. His knees and feet, in general, will be under a lot of stress to support his massive frame so this is something to monitor going forward, particularly when he eventually makes his season debut, and hopefully, he is one of the usual weight-loss stories next off-season.

This week’s article contains more players than usual, as I think the start of the season presents many opportunities that should be pursued aggressively in order to get an advantage early on.

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Yes, the 1995 Magic with Shaq, Penny, 3D, Nick Anderson, and Ho Grant were my favorite team as a kid. Yes, I still have the Magic locker in my house that I got in 1995. Oh, and yes, I am currently rocking a NBA Jam shirt with Shaq and Penny on it.  Unfortunately, those guys are all retired and while some call Orlando the happiest place on earth the Magic were a pretty sad team in 2020-21. They struggled with injuries starting with Jonathan Issac who didn’t play a single game. Starter Markel Fultz played only eight games before tearing his ACL, and regular rotation guys Cole Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams, and Terrence Ross played a combined total of 126 out of a possible 216 games. The Magic finished last in FG%, 26th in 3PM,  28th in assists, and they traded two-time All-Star Nikola Vučević to Chicago at the deadline. All this led to a 21-51 record and a resignation from head coach Steve Clifford.

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This is where the men get separated from the boys. True decisions have to be made. Do you draft for need or best player available? Do you take a shot at that rookie, even though historically, it hasn’t been a good bet? What about the good players who have fallen due to injury concerns? Decisions, decisions, decisions. Speaking of decisions, there have been around 10% of NBA players who are choosing not to get vaccinated. Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, and Jonathan Isaac are the most known out of the group. Irving and Wiggins are in danger of not being allowed to play in their home arenas due to protocols. So be wary of drafting these players.

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Career night for Joe Ingles, who stepped in as a starter for the resting Mike Conley. Ingles went off for a career-high 34 points on just 17 shots, including eight connections from long distance. With so much scoring he only distributed two dimes, but chipped in with a pair of steals as well. Conley’s return will cap Ingles’ value, but he’s still a borderline top-100 player off the bench contributing threes, assists and good percentages.

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The Razzball team was putting in our fantasy all-star votes recently (more on that to come) and we noticed something strange: it seemed like an inordinate amount of top 50 fantasy players were from the Eastern Conference.

Upon further inspection, this turned out to be 100% true! According to Basketball Monster, 29 of the top 50 players in per-game value were from the Eastern Conference, including nine of the top 15 players. In total value, 29 of the top 50 were from the Eastern Conference, while a shocking 10 of the top 14 were as well.

Conspiracies immediately began flying, and while I don’t actually think that the league has asked statisticians to pad the stats of east coast teams because none of them are going to win the NBA championship, I thought there must be something behind this. So I started tossing out theories.

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Yep, I’m going to subject you all to my friends and family league yet again. We’re at the midway point of our regular season after today, so I wanted to go back and see where my predictions from the preseason were right and wrong, and which fantasy players are performing better or worse than their average draft position (ADP).

What I hope you can take from this is how to better formulate your strategy in your own leagues, and what seems to work best for people in a relatively average league. Our league is listed as a “silver” league on Yahoo!, which isn’t really scientific but indicates our team levels combined are slightly below the average of “gold.” We have two platinum, one gold, four silver, and five bronze managers. It’s a top-heavy league, which is the case in most scenarios as the people who run the league seem to be far more invested.

Anyways, the below records and rankings are based on if the scores stay the same as they are at the writing of this article. Those are subject to change, but not by much.

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