Just like how Denial is not just a river in Egypt, so too has Kawhi Leonard risen above the ashes in this new final form of continued limited play. But, it’s quite the improvement from the semi-obituary I wrote several weeks ago, essentially a long-winded sigh followed by some comments about muscle sprains. That’s basically Leonard’s entire Clippers career in a nutshell. But over the last few weeks, Kawhi has slowly started getting more minutes and, while he looks a bit hobbled still (and is there a landing he doesn’t grimace on?), there’s only a handful of players you’d like to have on your last few possessions and I don’t think there’s a better closer out there when healthy. It’s just that, you know, he’s never that… But the dude has taken on and beaten peak LeBron and Steph and has a career 70%+ win percentage, not many modern names on that list. And so of course when given the chance, he’ll do the same thing to the Hornets, nailing an elegant step-back two-pointer with 1.4 seconds and securing the 119-117 win. Kawhi is definitely back, but at rate and for how long? No one can really know, but I do know that the Association is a better place when he’s on the floor and that’s all that matters… Here’s what else I saw during last night’s games:

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Following back-to-back years of Top 40 production, Terry Rozier has disappointed so far this season, mainly due to some rookie-level percentages (in fact, his worst percentages since his rookie season as it stands). But he’s just a hot shooting streak away from producing as owners have become accustomed to, and on Friday he helped the Hornets edge the Wizards 117-116. Rozier scored 25 points on 8-of-21 shooting, 2-of-5 from deep, with 5 boards, 8 assists, 2 steals and a season-low zero turnovers. Charlotte has been paying the doctor’s new vacation home so far this season, and Rozier’s percentages should benefit whenever (if ever) LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward return. For the time being, the assists are up along with his usage rate, and he’s a great buy target, especially for those punting the FG% category.

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Buy Low. Sell High. 

It’s a simple concept, projected every week of every season in fantasy sports. And for good reason. It’s the foundational strategy to get the most out of in-season trades and improve your roster. The only problem is that it’s all based on general consensus of which players are performing below ADP and should improve, and who’s overplaying their hand and is due for regression. There’s always variable opinions on what the best moves are in the buy low / sell market. But, for the most part, there’s agreement of what players fit in that box on any given week.

So – if for nothing else other than a matter of practice – let’s think outside the box for a moment, using as an example the biggest sell high candidate of the moment. 

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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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The big Fin Lauri Markkanen put up a big stat line, hit a big shot and led the Jazz to a big win Friday night over the Suns. He scored a career-high 38 points on a silly 15-of-18 from the floor, 2-of-3 from deep and 6-of-8 at the line, and added 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a giveaway to the line. 

So far this season Markkanen has delivered late 2nd / early third-round value, which isn’t too  surprising. The skills were evident, it was just a matter of the fit and program in what was supposed to be a tanking Jazz team. And so far he’s fit like a glove worn by a big white dude in Utah. 

His counting stats aren’t too far from this 2019-20 breakout sophomore season, before things got stormy in the Windy City. The major difference is his ability to get shots inside, and being surrounded by willing and able passers helps, too. Markkanen is shooting 65.6% on 2-point shots with nearly 10 attempts a game, numbers comparable only to Nikola Jokic. The other improvement in the stat line is nearly 2.5 assists per game – again a result of playing in an offense that complements his skill set. 

Most of his career high points were actually easy buckets while taking advantage of a string of blown defensive plays. However, the difficulty level was high on this Kobe/Dirk vintage turnaround jumper:

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Darius Garland returned to the Cavaliers, putting up 29 points and 12 assists in a close victory over the Boston Celtics. In both games where Garland and Donovan Mitchell have played the Cavs bigs have struggled to score. Jarrett Allen had 15 points last night while Evan Mobley had 14, both were below regular season averages. As for the Celtics, it’s hard to win games when Jayson Tatum shoots 8-21 from the field. On a positive note his defensive numbers were quite solid last night: nine defensive rebounds and four blocks. 

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It’s only appropriate that Halloween looms around the corner because the Charlotte Hornets are officially spooky; fantasy wise. Rising talent? Check. Shiny new first round draft picks? Check. Scary Terry? Check, check, check. 
The Hornets will be gunning for a late playoff position to give their young guys some playoff experience and, while it’s uncertain whether they’ll get there in a loaded Eastern Conference, player development is at the forefront of their priorities. 
We have to be intrigued about this team’s fantasy prospects this season. But why? 

They finished 10th in the East last season! 

Miles Bridges is probably not even playing this year! (rightfully so) 

Steve Clifford said their starting center is Mason Plumlee! 

Gordon Hayward has played over 55 games just once in the past five seasons! 

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Same format as last week, with one readily available player per game and some additional insight into the game. I’d imagine that most fantasy leagues have either wrapped up or are in the finals, so take my picks this week as desperation moves. Not a single pick this week is meant for a dynasty league, as this week is all about making that final pickup to win this season. Let’s get right into it. 

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Can LeBron be corny at times? Yup. Does LeBron flop sometimes? Premier League players break down his tape. Is LeBron entering the final stages of his hooping career? Father Time is undefeated. That said, is LeBron one of the greatest players of all time? He almost won a chip with Eric F’ing Snow at point guard. He’s Magic Johnson in Karl Malone’s body with Zion Williamson hops, before Zion morphed into the long lost Klump. He’s won the chips, received all the accolades and awards, and is still doing this at age 37….

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The fantasy star of the night rarely comes from a losing team, but RJ Barrett fully deserves it. After missing the last four games before the All-Star Break with an ankle injury, Barrett returned on Friday night to provide the best game of his career. He finished with 46 points and nine rebounds on 6-11 three-point shooting. He has been on a tear over his last 20 games and appears to be taking a leap forward as a player. He has been a huge disappointment for category players this year because of his shooting numbers and consistency but will look to finish strong in the remaining weeks of the fantasy season. Julius Randle added 11 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in the loss. He struggled shooting the ball but was still a focal point of the offense. He should see a large facilitating role with Kemba Walker out of the rotation and with Derrick Rose set to have a cleanup surgery on his previously injured right ankle. 

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After months of traversing the seas and facing the wrath of Poseiden, we have finally made it to the new world. It is a beautiful place and I hope to bring you back here with me when all is safe. The trees. The flowers. The fertile plains bordering the myriad of streams. It is so plush here. We did encounter the natives and, while they speak a strange dialect, we were able to bond over the wacky tabacky. Till next time.

Love,

Son

P.S. – I miss you.

I’ve always had an issue with the postscript. Why is it even a thing? If it was so important, put what was in the P.S. into the body of the message. Hmmm, well back in the day, they didn’t have White Out or Microsoft Word. Fine, I get it in that context. But now we do! Let’s be better humans and eradicate things that are unnecessary. Who’s with me? Do you know what P. S. I’m aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight with? Pascal Siakam. 

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