Regarding last week’s suggestions, both Quentin Grimes and especially Immanuel Quickley had great weeks and remain premium streaming targets until the Knicks get back to full strength. The same can be said for Jeremy Sochan, who with an exception of a dud in the blowout at Brooklyn seems like a good value for the rest of the season. On the contrary, Damion Lee never got it going in Devin Booker’s absence and the returns of both Landry Shamet and Cameron Payne put a nail in his fantasy relevance coffin.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 11!  In this post, I identify widely-available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  It’s not often that big injury news serendipitously breaks right before I write my piece, but that’s exactly what happened last night, with the Suns announcing a minimum of four weeks’ down time for Devin Booker.  My late grandmother, who followed Chicago sports, used to refer to groin injuries by exclaiming, “he’s got a groin!”  Well, Devin booker has got a groin, folks, and it’s going to cost Phoenix in the near term.

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I may not be the most religious of men, but I do believe in a higher power and understand the significance of the Christmas day holiday. Many view it as a day of giving thanks, and participate in the commercialization of the holiday without understanding the true significance of the day. Christmas is the day Jesus Christ was born. The same Jesus Christ who died later for the sins of man, then was reborn three days later. Christian Wood has traversed that birth/death/ressurection story many times in his career. Undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft, he latched on with the 76ers, then went to the G League, returned to the league with the Hornets, then went back to the G League. He got another chance with the Bucks then went down to the G League once again. In 2019, the Pelicans gave him another shot and, while he has never sniffed the G League again, he went to the Pistons and Rockets before ending up with the Mavericks this season. But the story doesn’t end there. He was coming off the bench and playing fewer than 30 minutes a game in the early part of the season, but then injuries struck the front court and he started the last four games. So, it’s only fitting, that on Christmas, this Christian balled out:

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week Ten!  In this post, I identify widely-available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  The NBA is not exempt from cold and flu season, as demonstrated by the numerous “out for illness” designations across the L.  This is a double edged sword for streaming aficionados like us.  On the one hand, there are plenty of opportunities opening up as long as you keep your ear to the injury report scanner (e.g. Moses Moody).  On the other hand, this post may be obsolete in two hours.

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Tuesday night’s five-game slate presents me with my first opportunity to bring you a game recap!  Normally, I’m the guy who writes up borderline players and streamers on Thursday afternoon, so it’s a nice change to profile some of the league’s studs.  It’s kind of like hate watching Hallmark Christmas movies (Mingle All the Way, among others) for the first few weeks of December before switching gears and watching It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story.

Disclaimers: Because I was too busy watching Santa Switch last night, and the fact that I’m on Greenwich Mean Time, I haven’t had a chance to watch the games.  As a result, all of my observations are through a strictly fantasy lens and don’t necessarily account for every nuance.  Additionally, all of my ranking references are based on category-league values as a default.

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The Suns’ off-season produced enough fireworks to sustain Kenny Powers on the Fourth of July.  Unfortunately, if you’re a Suns fan, the drama was less of the blockbuster trade or free agent acquisition variety, and more front-page-of-the-tabloid variety.  For starters, majority owner Robert Sarver is putting the team up for sale after being suspended for the entire season.   The news unleashed a circus of speculation surrounding the identity of the next owner, with Bob Iger, Shaq, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. being mentioned as candidates with varying levels of seriousness.  The Suns are also trying to deal a frustrated Jae Crowder, who capped off his summer of discontent by sitting out training camp and pre-season while the franchise works out a trade.  Speaking of pre-season, the Suns got off to an inauspicious start when the Adelaide 36ers came from Down Under and handed Phoenix a loss on their home court.  We all know not to read into pre-season too much, but between distractions at the top, the cloud hanging over Crowder’s exit, and simmering tensions between coach Monty Williams and Deandre Ayton, one gets the feeling that the turmoil from their disastrous second round ouster may extend into this season.

Whatever happens, there is still fantasy goodness to be mined from this fast-paced squad.  Here are my assessments as we near the start of the action:

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The Charlotte Hornets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 119-110 to remain ahead of the Nets in the Eastern Conference standings. The two teams have identical 39-36 records, but with this win, the Hornets move to 2-1 against the Nets and secure the tiebreaker. Led by LaMelo Ball’s hot shooting, the Hornets spoiled Kyrie Irving’s home debut. Ball finished the game with 33 points (10-21 FG, 7-12 3PT), seven rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. Miles Bridges added 24 points (9-24 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds, two assists, and one steal. P.J. Washington tallied 18 points (8-12 FG, 2-3 3PT), 11 rebounds, and five assists. Terry Rozier notched 14 points (5-12 FG, 2-5 3PT), seven rebounds, four assists, and one steal. If the Hornets are making their threes they can be tough to beat and that was the case in this game. They shot 42% from the field as a team, but they shot 53% from three (17-32). As things currently stand, the Hornets would match up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the play-in tournament, rather than the Nets. That’s unfortunate for us, the fans, as the pace of play and lack of defense on both sides would make a Nets vs. Hornets matchup must-see TV. Then again, there likely won’t be much defense in a Nets vs. Hawks series either.

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The Indiana Pacers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 129-98. In a rarity for this version of the Pacers, they were the more veteran team. Oshae Brissett spearheaded the Pacers’ attack, as he tallied 24 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), nine rebounds, one assist, and one steal. His day also included a highlight reveal reverse dunk in transition which came off a behind-the-back pass from Lance Stephenson. Have I mentioned that the Pacers are fun now!? Justin Anderson added 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Jalen Smith notched 17 points, five rebounds, and one block in just 17 minutes of play. I’m not sure if Smith will ever become the player the Suns hoped they were getting when he was drafted with the 10th pick in 2020, but he has at least grown into an intriguing prospect. He was 2-of-3 from behind the arc and also whipped out a Dirk-esque step-back off the dribble in the midrange. Terry Taylor (17) and Duane Washington Jr. (13) both had solid games as well. The Pacers led wire to wire and the lack of competitiveness of the game is reflected in the lower minute totals for Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Haliburton finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. Hield tallied nine points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Finally, Lance Stephenson scored just two points, but grabbed six rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and swiped three steals.

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We’re back to our regularly scheduled Tuesday night programming after a bit of travel to sunnier climes, and I hope the time away has been as good for you as it was for me. In case you missed it, Son and I just did a pod yesterday that covered all things RazzJam. It was good fun and I think I might have said something useful? After faceplanting in my first attempt last year, this year’s campaign is going much, much better and I find myself in the hunt for a title as we come down the home stretch of the season. Son and I chopped up how such a dramatic turnaround came to be and maybe even figured out some viable strategy for next year. And speaking of Cam Payne…

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One team in this matchup projects to be a difficult and gritty playoff opponent and a sneaky conference finals contender; the other team in this matchup is the Brooklyn Nets. The Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 126-120, behind a historic 54-point performance from Jayson Tatum. It was Tatum’s fourth 5o-point game, tying him with Larry Bird for the most 50-point games in Celtics history. Tatum finished the night with 54 points (16-30 FG, 8-15 3PT), five rebounds, three assists, and it was his hockey assist that led to a dagger Jaylen Brown three to stamp out all hope for the Nets. Jaylen Brown added 21 points, four rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Marcus Smart finished the game with 14 points, three rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Al Horford finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. Robert Williams III tallied 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and five blocks.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Indiana Pacers 108-104, behind strong performances from Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, and Jarrett Allen. After finding themselves down 84-73 in the third quarter, the Cavaliers went on a 17-0 run to take the lead and never gave it up. Mobley led the Cavaliers in scoring with 24 points (11-16 FG, 0-2 3PT) and added nine rebounds and four assists. Love tallied 20 points (6-13 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Love has scored 20 points or more in five straight games. He’s played well with increased minutes as the Cavaliers have seen a number of players go down with injury or Covid absences. Allen notched 18 points (6-12 FG, 0-1 3PT), 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three blocks. Lamar Steven added 15 points (6-13 FG, 0-4 3PT), three assists, two assists, and one steal. Lauri Markkanen finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, and one block. Isaac Okoro played just 12 minutes and had to leave the game due to an elbow injury. He finished the game with 2 points, one rebound, one assist, one steal, and one block. He was one made three, one free-throw, one turnover, and one personal foul away from a really exciting stat line. The Cavaliers were without Darius Garland and Cedi Osman as both entered the league’s health and safety protocols) while Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio are out due to season-ending knee injuries.

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In a rematch from only two days ago, the Pelicans were able to get revenge behind the fantasy star of the night, Brandon Ingram, who hasn’t been as good as last year since his injury but showed up last night with a near triple-double. Ingram finished with 24 points, 12 assists, and eight assists. This was easily Ingram’s best game of the year, and he will look to keep the streak going. While Jonas Valanciunas continues to start at center, his foul troubles recently have opened up more minutes for Willy Hernangomez, who has been stellar off the bench. Hernangomez finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds and should continue to be a solid streamer even with a great center in front of him. 

With Kristaps Prozingis out of the lineup, the Mavericks struggled offensively. Luka Doncic led the way, as he usually does, with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. He remains one of the top category players with unlimited upside on a night-to-night basis. Maxi Kleber had 13 points and nine assists while filling in for Porzingis, but his production is too sporadic to justify rostering him.

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