Moving on to fantasy, I’m pretty pleased with last week’s suggestions as both Chuma Okeke and Grant Williams have been solid, while Jae Crowder has been very good and will continue to be must roster with Cameron Johnson still sidelined. Montrezl Harrell on the other end of the spectrum did everything he could to validate the “Sell” label and is a drop in all leagues.

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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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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.

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The Hart family was one of extraordinary magnitude. Don Corleone would traverse up north and cross the border to pay his respects and kiss the ring of Stu, who had eight sons with Bret and Owen wreaking havoc on the WWF streets for many of years. There’s Smith, Bruce, Keith, Wayne, Dean, Bret, Ross, Diana, Owen, Teddy, Tyson, Mike, Hart, Helen, Martha…..Someone go get Son a ventilator! On Monday, a Hart from another mother represented the family name well, despite not being a part of the family yet I’m sure he’d be welcomed with open arms because of this:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
22 10 2 1 0 3 1/5 6/11 9/9

“That’s my boy,” Stu proudly said. After being told that Josh did not come from his sperm, Stu grabbed that person, flipped him upside down, then piledrived him to China. With no Brandon Ingram on Monday, Hart saw a slight uptick in usage to 21.5%. It was the sixth time he scored at least 20 points this season and 11th time pulling down at least 10 boards. He’s racked up a steal in six straight games and has four games with three steals on the season. He’s a top 90 player for fantasy on a per-game basis. I. Hart. You.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Good morning! I’m still sweating from last night’s 13-game slate. Heading into the fourth quarter of the Denver vs. Clippers game I thought first place was locked-up in two GPPs. I was ready to go to bed a relaxed, happy man, and what happened? Overtime! I had a few pieces from that game, but not the right combo to take it home. Nikola Jokic almost hit the century mark recording 93 Draftkings points! I had him. I also had Will Barton but needed Aaron Gordon. Gosh I really don’t like Aaron Gordon. One of the most frustrating DFS players ever. Anyway, I finished in 6th place out of 1,500 entries good for 35x my entry fee. A nice little profit. On to tonight!

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At this point I’m just going to stop fighting it. Fate, it seems, is throwing an endless stream of Knick games onto Tuesday nights and there’s nothing I can do but sit back and let it wash over me. Considering that I’ve spent most of my NBA fandom in the West and the Knicks have been the Knicks for the last 30 years, there’s never been a season where I’ve watched more New York regular season basketball than this one. After being hit with wave after wave of it, I just feel…bad. Is that normal? Last year I heard all about Julius Randle in breathlessly excited tones. The assists! The triples! The triple-doubles! King of New York! But now that I have to watch him and his teammates week after week, I’m struck but what a bad time it looks like he’s having out there.

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It is only fitting that we end 2021 with LeBron James as the fantasy star of the night. The ageless superstar scored 43 points while adding 14 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks en route a 139-106 win. He has been amazing over the past seven games but it has only translated to two wins during that stretch. James sits inside the top-three fantasy players this year and could pass Nikola Jokic for the top spot if he continues this high level of play. Russell Westbrook posted his fourth straight triple-double in the win, finishing with 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists. Although Russ has his ups and downs on the court, he remains an elite fantasy option with nightly triple-double upside. He has struggled with turnovers and poor shooting numbers this year which has resulted in poor category play. He sits just inside the top-100 and should not move much from this spot.

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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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And I’m not talking about Christmas.

Despite vaccination numbers north of 95%, a new variant of the Coronavirus has breached the walls of the NBA and is wreaking havoc on a league that is already being thinned out by non-virus injuries that stem from playing three seasons in two years. The sick are just getting sicker (Tuesday night’s Brooklyn/Washington matchup was postponed) and as a result, the NBA has thrown off some of their normal roster restrictions to ensure that teams can field full squads. Names that are normally reserved for the silly season of March and early April are now turning up before the unofficial start of the season on Christmas Day. Consider Marquese Chriss, one of the newest Dallas Mavericks, as an example. A lottery pick in 2016 who has never found his footing in the Association, Chriss was added as a reinforcement to the Mavs roster amid a Covid outbreak in Dallas. To his credit, Chriss looked springy, played well, and actually closed the game for Dallas against Minnesota before the ink dried on his contract. Chriss was joined out there by luminaries like Theo Pinson and Sterling Brown, and all across the league there were was a mix of old names and new showing up in NBA box scores. Guys like Wayne Seldon in New York and Tony Snell in Portland resurfaced after time spent in the NBA hinterland, while Marcus Garrett saw some burn in Miami, and Leandro Bolmaro and Nathan Knight popped up for the Timberwolves.

Amid these strange times in the NBA, it was good to see that Damian Lillard is still good for a bucket or two.

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Following a heartbreaking buzzer-beater loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Oklahoma City Thunder respond with a last-second bucket of their own to take down the LA Clippers, 104-103. The big basket came from none other than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who finished the night with 18 points and six assists. Lugentz Dort led the team with 29 points, but the guy to watch in this one was Josh Giddey. Although the rookie finished with only eight points, he also grabbed 18 rebounds and dished out ten assists. He may not be getting the same Rookie of the Year buzz as guys like Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes, but statistically, he should definitely be in the discussion.

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The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the New York Knicks 112-97 in the matinee matchup yesterday. The Bucks are now back to their winning ways, having beaten the Rockets in their previous game after losing their first game with Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton in the lineup against an undermanned Miami Heat team on Wednesday. The sweet machine of destruction that is the Milwaukee Bucks appears to have returned. Seven players scored in double figures for the Bucks, led by Khris Middleton, who finished the game with 24 points (8-17 FG, 4-11 3PT), eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 20 points (7-16 FG, 0-2 3PT), 10 rebounds, 11 assists, one steal, and one block. Bobby Portis chipped in 19 points (7-14 FG, 3-7 3PT), 10 rebounds, and three steals. Jrue Holiday added 13 points (6-11 FG, 1-2 3PT), four rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton, and Rodney Hood rounded out the double-digit scorers’ list.

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