Growing up in the 90’s (don’t date me bro!), it would have been hard to imagine not just the mediocrity that would follow the next two decades (okay, I’ll add the qualifier “measured” mediocrity for all those Noah/Rose fanboys out there), but also feeling some sort of compassion for hanging out near the bottom-half of the league for longer than it takes to legally drink.  Truth be told, it’s not like the Bulls have been, say, the Kings over the same span. (I’d feel sorry for making fun of the Kings if they had more than a dozen fans.) But there’s definitely been a markable difference between the Michael Jordan Bulls and everything that came afterwards. I also go by the name: Captain Obvious. And while it’s been a long wait for those in Chitown, there’s a lot to like with this team, especially building off a successful season that led to the first round of the playoffs, fruits of their previous active off-seasons. Sure, it’s not the chips we middle-aged men were used to seeing from this team a long time ago, but as someone great once said, time is flat circle… (Don’t worry, I prefer the McConaughey quote over Nietzsche too. Actually, after typing that sentence out, I prefer neither since it took me a few hours for spellcheck to agree.)

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The path should be crystal clear now for your squad. If not, then it may be time to order those seppuku knives on Amazon. Don’t forget the sharpener. I kid, I kid. Drafts are fluid so pivoting and changing lanes are always within the range of outcomes, especially when there are snipers and ADP jumpers to your left, to your left, to your left. Then you have all those heathens to your right. This is why we must always adhere to the wise and venerable Bruce Lee:

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I’ll be honest, my original plan was to have this piece written and published at the end of last season, back when the failed chase for the top spot in the RazzJam was still fresh in my mind. But the NBA season is long and the Playoffs are so good, so when I fell just short of a championship, it seemed just fine to me to put this on the shelf for a bit. So, I sat on this with it being 95% completed and rested instead. Then Middleton went down and the Bucks got beat. The sun came out, the Celtics ran out of gas, and another Golden State summer onto my shores like a warm wave, even though I’ve traded in the Bay Area for Bay View. 

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There were quite a few players who exploded for big performances on Friday, but Obi Toppin deserves the fantasy star of the night award the most, for a career-high 35 points on 6-9 three-point shooting. Toppin has scored 19 or more in his last four games starting and looks like he is getting more comfortable in the NBA with every minute he plays. This stretch of starts was a possible look into the future if Julius Randle is traded or if Toppin manages to get more minutes next to Randle next year. Obi will remain as an interesting stash in dynasty leagues with an undetermined role moving into next year. Immanuel Quickley ended the night with 23 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds as he saw more minutes than usual with RJ Barrett leaving the game with a knee injury. Quickley continues to show upside in all facets of the game and is leaving the Knicks with a difficult decision on what to do at the point guard position next year. His role has a lot to do with what the Knicks do in the offseason.

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In the battle for the 9th seed out west, LaMelo Ball rose to the occasion while Ice Trae went Ice Cold from three. Despite his 15 assists, Trae Young finished with only nine points as he shot 3-of-12 from the field and 0-for-6 from downtown. Danilo Gallinari was averaging 14 points, five rebounds and four assists over the last week. However, he suffered an injury last night and would recommend dropping him for Onyeka Okongwu, who has averaged similar numbers and, with more opportunities, should score more.

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The Denver Nuggets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 124-104, behind a well-balanced scoring attack and more Nikola Jokic brilliance. Seven Nuggets’ players scored in double figures, led by the Joker, who finished the game with 27 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, and one block. It was Jokic’s 14th triple-double of the season and the 71st of his career. Will Barton added 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one block. Aaron Gordon tallied 17 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. Monte Morris chipped in with 12 points, five rebounds, and eight assists and Jeff Green finished the game with 12 points, five rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Bryn Forbes (11) and Zeke Nnaji (10) also scored in double figures. Forbes (25), Nnaji (20), Bones Hyland (17), and DeMarcus Cousins (16) played the most minutes off the bench.

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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.

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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. 

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Regarding last week’s suggestions, Goga Bitadze has established himself as the starting center in Indiana and should be rostered until the Pacers get their big men back while Kessler Edwards has been getting many minutes and has performed adequately. Finally, De’Anthony Melton had a great week but keep in mind that Memphis’ players in the protocol are expected back this week, so temper your expectations and be ready to move on if his playing time takes a significant hit. Finally, Coby White was a part of the “Sell” but with Lonzo Ball out for longer than expected and Alex Caruso going down as well, he is a hold for now.

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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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Regarding last week’s suggestions, Julius Randle had maybe his best game of the season so hopefully you capitalized on my buy-low suggestion last week. The same can be said for Amir Coffey who continues his solid play and has scored over 16 points in four of his last five games. On the other hand, Gary Harris seems like a potential drop with Orlando getting healthier and subsequently his usage significantly reduced.

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