Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 18!  The goal of this post is to identify widely-available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  Though we’ve only witnessed one night of regular season games since my last post, there’s a lot of player news to digest.  On the good news front, the return of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander appears imminent, so we can put those shutdown rumors to bed.  Malcolm Brogdon is probable for today, which caps the value of Chris Duarte after a run of games in which he clocked 35+ minutes.  Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons are reportedly nearing their respective returns to the court, but there’s no target game set for either player as of this writing.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

So we’ve arrived at the final nightly recap before the All-Star break. A time when team rosters are locked in, new trade pieces are already paying dividends, and teams generally know what they are. So let’s look at the 22 teams that played last night and evaluate where there at, where they could improve, and who stood out from a fantasy perspective. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Ja Morant scored 33 points in three quarters to help the Memphis Grizzlies dominate the Orlando Magic, 135-115. The Grizzlies led by as many as 31 points and things got out of hand early as Memphis went into halftime up 76-56. Alongside Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 21 points and Steven Adams added 12 points and 11 rebounds. These three spearheaded a strong inside presence for the Grizzlies as they scored 68 points in the paint to the Magic’s 34. With this win, Memphis is 5-1 in their last six games and notched their 16th road win in 20 games.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Orlando Magic beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-108 in a nailbiter in the sunshine state. The vaunted Mavericks defense posed only so much resistance as seven Magic players scored in double figures, led by Chuma Okeke off the bench. Okeke finished the game with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Franz Wagner finished the game with 18 points, two rebounds, three assists, and one steal.  Cole Anthony tallied 16 points, four rebounds, and six assists. Wendell Carter Jr. notched a double-double with 14 points, 14 rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Moritz Wagner tallied 14 points, four rebounds, and two assists off the bench. The last time these two teams played Mo Wagner and Luka Doncic got into a bit of a curfuffle. Wagner has an earned reputation as an irritant and Luka did not forget their exchange. He spent much of the first half talking trash to Wagner, growing bolder and bolder every time a Mavericks player scored on the German. However, later in the game, the Magic seemed to make point of involving Luka in the action when the Mavericks were on defense. Wagner rolled to a number of dunks in pick and roll action with Luka guarding Wagner or in the vicinity as a help defender. With the victory, it was Wagner who got the last laugh, at least for now. Mo Bamba and Gary Harris each scored 10 points.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Pacers beat the Thunder in overtime on Friday night behind the fantasy star of the night, Domantas Sabonis, who was questionable to play coming into Friday but suited up against his former team to get revenge. He finished with 24 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, and two blocks. He found a way to get it done in almost every category. He is a top-30 player this year and should enjoy an increased role with Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner out for the foreseeable future. Justin Holiday added 22 points and five rebounds on 4-7 three-point shooting, but numbers like this are unable to be counted on in the long run. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Variety, they say, is the spice of life. So while there were monster games on Tuesday night from all the usual suspects — Joker, Joel, LeBron, Harden, Anthony Edwards, the Boston Boys — I’m bowing out on trying to split those hairs and passing on the opportunity to bestow the lede player honor on one of these repeat customers. Instead, we’ll spice things up by going off the beaten path and checking in on a number one pick who feels like he’s flying a bit under the radar.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Miami Heat took home the nervy, 113-107 victory, but the Lakers nearly caught them slipping. In a game the Heat led almost the entire way and by as many as 26 points, the Lakers put together a fierce fourth quarter and nearly stole the victory. For three quarters, however, the Heat played the basketball version of “the beautiful game.” Offensive production was spread across the lineup and they were flowing into good looks. Jimmy Butler led the charge in Kyle Lowry’s absence (personal reasons) and he finished the game with a triple-double: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals, and one block. Butler’s 10th triple-double moved him into the first place on the Heat’s all-time list, surpassing LeBron James. Duncan Robinson was hot early and even scored some important points in the fourth quarter; he finished the game with 25 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Bam Adebayo had a decent, but uneven game. He was stifled a fair amount by LeBron’s defense, as he was LeBron’s primary cover when the Lakers went small. Adebayo finished the game with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. Gabe Vincent filled in admirably, once again, for Lowry and finished the game with 11 points, one rebound, six assists, and two steals. Caleb Martin also notched eleven points and further cemented his “best two-way player in the league status”—a dubious honor, he’d no doubt like to be rid of as soon as possible.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

There were a lot of great choices last night, but the fantasy star of the night must go to James
Harden for his massive 37-point triple-double. With Kevin Durant out with a knee injury, Harden
was forced to step up and did it in a big way on Friday with 37 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds
for his eighth triple-double this season. He ranks just outside the top-five fantasy players but is
likely to sneak into the top five while Durant is out. Kyrie Irving continues to only play in road
games because of his vaccination status but has been great when in the lineup. He scored 24
points in yesterday’s game and will see a larger role without Durant. He ranks in the top-20 on a
per-game basis, but that is only in six games this year

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Despite the continuing drama in La La Land and the conversions it would bring writing about, I’m going to spend a bit of time on Devin Booker who dropped 48 points, six assists, five rebounds, and three steals in a win against the Spurs last night. Mmm, those sweet sweet unique hits from Phoenix… all 12 of them. I’m kidding, there’s actually a lot of people out there in the tri-state area, just too old to understand anything digital that’s not Facebook, so here we are. And even though Booker tried for 50 (was pulled with the Suns up by 10 and missing his last two shots), the stat line last night was downright dominant when you realize it may all be happening because he pointed at the Raptor. (Suns are 4-0 now since that incident by the way.) During the same span, Booker has been averaging 32.3 PPG and has carried the Suns a few times this past week all by himself, including last night’s win against the aforementioned Spurs. Best player in Arizona currently wearing #1? Don’t tell Razzball Football, but I think so…

Here’s what else I saw during last night’s games:

Please, blog, may I have some more?