You can’t win a championship at the beginning of a season, but you can lose one. Much as it pains me to say, I think I’ve already lost.

After a successful Writer’s League last year that ended against Kostas in the semifinal and a pretty intensive offseason of thinking about hoops, I came into this year’s draft feeling like I was in decent shape to post a good showing again. But this year ain’t last year. Stats and success don’t carry over, and if you’re resting on laurels rather than applying lessons learned, there’s no way to bank Ws on account of “experience.” If you’ve been following Kelder’s weekly recaps, you might have noticed that my team isn’t anywhere in the mix. Indeed, you’ve got to scroll almost the way to the bottom of the table to see my name. A record of 19-34-1 is good enough for 11th and I feel all but certain the hole that I’ve put myself in is going to be too deep to recover from. I’m not quite ready to quit on some other struggling squads, but I think it’s safe to let go of preseason expectations at this point and set a different goal for the remaining three-quarters of the season here in the Writer’s League.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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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After their loss in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat went star chasing.  Ultimately, they went 0 for the field, as they were unable to make deals for Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell.  Their efforts to sign T.J. Warren to blunt the impact of P.J. Tucker’s absence also came up empty.  As a result, this year’s Heat will look very similar to last season’s.  Preview over. Just kidding.  There are still questions hanging over the existing roster, including what the Heat will do at the four, and whether or not Tyler Herro suits up as a starter.  On a more intriguing front, there’s the ever-present possibility of a trade occurring at some point to shore up their frontcourt weakness.  If we don’t see Herro sign a contract extension in the next few weeks, there’s potential for him to be used in a deal before the deadline.

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Trae Young is the clear choice for Friday’s fantasy star of the night after scoring 33 points and dishing out 15 assists in a 121-110 win over the Warriors. Young had one of his best games of the season at the perfect time for fantasy managers. He should continue to carry the Hawks offensively as they push for the best possible seed in the play-in tournament. Danilo Gallinari added 25 points before exiting with an elbow injury in the fourth quarter. It did not appear to be too serious but the Hawks would be very thin if he were to miss any time. 

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Changing the format slightly, as I will choose two players from each NBA game last night who are available on the waiver wire. I highly value minutes played and opportunities given when it comes to fantasy. Every single NBA player is elite at basketball and, given the right opportunity, every single player could produce fantasy goodies. There’s a reason every player made the league, so the more chances they’re given the more likely they can produce. So without further adieu, let’s get into the first match from last night.

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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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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 19!  The goal of this post is to identify widely available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  This week, the Suns once again take center stage, as Devin Booker joins Chris Paul on the sidelines.  If you didn’t have the option to stash Cam Payne through the final stages of his absence, now is a good time to grab him.  It won’t be long until he’s owned in more than 50% of leagues across most fantasy platforms, at which point I’ll no longer be able to use pain puns in my title.  Until that day comes, I will exhaust them without shame.  This week’s is brought to you by Tyler Durden:

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Late February, everyone’s favorite little month, often feels like a desperate time in the NBA. The Trade Deadline, with all its promise, hope, and frequent disappointments, has come and gone, and with no cavalry coming to save you, you’re forced to come to grips with reality. Most of the time that reality isn’t pretty. Looking around the league, it seems like everyone is exhausted in ways that have become obvious. The NBA season is a long one, and the All-Star break is closer to the three-quarter pole than the halfway point, so if you haven’t figured out how to win by now, it’s getting awfully late to get it solved. Some teams have already begun to slowly pack it in and wind things down. “Better luck next year,” isn’t being said yet, but the phrase looms in the back of mouths in Indiana, Washington, and Texas. Outside, at least where I live, it’s gray, brown, and soggy, and it can be hard to remember that life and color exist in a universe that looks exactly the same way that a 19-40 season feels. It’s grim. Cold. Still. The NBA landscape can be equally sparse — I’m looking at you, Philadelphia, and your 40-point home loss — so when you see something beautiful and vibrant, you’ve got to celebrate it. So, with apologies to Giannis Antetokounmpo and his 50-point night (my god, he’s good), I’m renting out this Tuesday lede to Trae Young, who was a vibrant, flamboyant shot in the arm at home against a thoroughly game Cleveland group.

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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.

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Last night’s version of Dennis Schroder is exactly what the Celtics need to save their season. A legitimate third scoring option they can rely upon when Tatum and Jaylen are either being double teamed or are having a bad shooting night. Considering how the rest of this roster is built, defense isn’t a concern at all. As for if he’s worth picking up in fantasy, I would have to say a hesitant no. Plenty of other more consistent scoring options available league wide such as Kelly Oubre Jr. or Jalen Brunson.

Please, blog, may I have some more?