Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 20!  In this post, I identify widely available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  Ideally, you’re either in the midst of a playoff matchup, or resting easy in a bye week.  Regardless of your status, there are always moves to make to outmaneuver your current or future opponent(s).  As the season stretches into its fifth month, you might find yourself unable to devote the same amount of attention to fantasy hoops as you did in the early going.  Never fear, because I never stop watching!  There is still plenty of player value to mine in these proverbial waiver wire hills.

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In the past I’ve mentioned that I don’t feel like I’ve got a great handle on who BI is as a player. There are flashy, stat-stuffing games like this one where it looks like he’s got it all figured out. A three-level scorer with more than a little playmaking ability offensively, and a long, rangy defender who alters shots and flits into passing lanes — there’s a lot to like about the slim 24-year-old with a massive wingspan. Then there are nights when the efficiency plummets and the turnovers, as seen here, balloon on him while the dimes dry up. For fantasy purposes, he’s got enough offensive punch to hang around the top-50 without much trouble, but the lack of defensive contributions and turnovers work like an engine regulator on his overall value. He’s been the 16th best player in the Association over the last week, so if you were wondering what the ceiling looks like, now’s your chance to catch a glimpse.

Speaking of catching glimpses, here’s what else I saw on a mostly-competitive night in the NBA…

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The Brooklyn Nets took home the 121-119 victory in this Sunday matinee against the rebuilding, but still pesky San Antonio Spurs. In classic 2021-22 Nets fashion, they gave up a 14-point lead and allowed the Spurs to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and push the game into overtime, where Nets’ rookie Cam Thomas stole the show. Both teams struggled to score in the waning minutes of regulation and overtime, most notably Kevin Durant. As a result, when Durant was doubled on the Nets’ final possession at the elbow, with about six seconds left in the game, he rose up and fired a pass to Cam Thomas sliding up from the corner. Thomas pump-faked, took two hard dribbles and rose up for a one-legged runner fading to his left at the free-throw line. Nothing but net. Thomas’ made floater in overtime turned out to be the game-winner as Lonnie Walker was blocked on the Spurs ensuing inbound play. Even if he hadn’t been blocked, however, the shot wouldn’t have counted. Walker released the shot after the buzzer, as the Spurs had just one-point-four seconds to shoot. The narrow escape victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Nets.

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A late Happy New Year to everyone taking the time to read this article. Welcome to 2022 NBA basketball where 10-day contracts bear 30-point performances, the league is finally getting healthy and every armchair general manager swears that every team should just blow it up. The more things change the more they stay the same eh? Well with 11 games and 22 teams playing last night let’s get right into it. 

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Looking at the score I thought to myself oh, what a low scoring affair. Julius Randle probably scored around 20, maybe even under. I know he’s been struggling as of late. Is RJ Barrett playing tonight? If so, most likely a disappointing night. Let’s just open up the box score to check. Meanwhile Alec Burks just played the best game of the season, putting up 34 points on just 17 shots. As for the young stars of New York, 15 for RJ and five for Julius Randle. He only played 26 minutes but to only put up five points is unacceptable for a supposed star player. As for the Detroit Pistons, Saddiq Bey continues to prove why he deserves a spot on your, no doubt fluctuating roster. 

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No, no not THAT The Used, though we could certainly chat about them a bit if you’re into it. No? Not here for that? Fine.

Well, I wanted to talk about “the used” in the NBA, as in the guys who have seen their usage climb in the past two weeks compared to the first two weeks of the season, and whether or not that’s sustainable for them. Cool with you, bro? Sweet, let’s begin.

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The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 114-116 on Sunday night, making them 3-3 since LeBron James has been sidelined due to an abdominal injury. None of the victories have been particularly impressive, but they’re doing what they need to do—staying afloat until they get healthy. After a lackluster performance that led to a 24-point loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves in their previous contest, Anthony Davis set the tone early for the purple and gold in this game. Davis had 19 points (8-10 FG) in the first quarter and finished the game with 32 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and one block. It was the kind of dominating performance the Lakers will need in James’ absence as well as when he returns if the Lakers have any hope of achieving their championship goals. This game also saw Talen Horton-Tucker return from injury, pushing Kent Bazemore all the way out of the starting lineup and into a DNP (Coach’s Decision). Horton-Tucker had a solid game with 17 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block. Carmelo Anthony continues to shoot the ball well at home and he received a surprise start in this game. He finished the contest with 15 points (5-7 FG, 2-3 3PT) and five rebounds. He’s still shooting a ridiculous 47.3% from three on the season and an even more ridiculous 56% from three at home. Finally, Russell Westbrook had a quiet, efficient night for the Lakers. I might contend that quiet and efficient should be the goal for most of Westbrook’s contest given his rocky start to the season, but that’s a conversation for another day. Westbrook finished the game with 14 points (5-11 FG, 3-5 3PT), 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and seven turnovers.

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As is the custom in all articles, the last part before the suggestions is the review of the weekly performance of players mentioned in the last article. Franz Wagner is balling and just had a career-high 28 points game, moving him inside the top 60. Even Chuma Okeke’s return is not looking like it will slow him down so hopefully you went with the advice and have him on your roster. In terms of the buy-low suggestions, Kristaps Porzingis got injured and Michael Porter Jr. continued to underwhelm, but I still view both as terrific buy-low options, even lower now with another week of bad games. Finally, the sell-high suggestions of Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas still remain, although the former’s fg% did come down a notch to more logical levels, while Luguentz Dort did nothing to change my view of him as a drop candidate.

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Another fantasy season has started, another season for me to mumble about something that caught my attention in the introduction, review the performance of players suggested in the article of the previous week, and then showcase players to buy/sell every week before we discuss them in the comments with you good folks.

What caught my eye this week is something that is very hard to miss, pun intended. A not-so-flattering image of Zion Williamson’s weight has surfaced, comparing his appearance during the Pelicans’ media days in 2021 and 2019, on the left and right respectively.

Now I am the first to admit that good food is one of the greatest enjoyments in life and can certainly be sympathetic, but in terms of his basketball and fantasy future, this is concerning. His knees and feet, in general, will be under a lot of stress to support his massive frame so this is something to monitor going forward, particularly when he eventually makes his season debut, and hopefully, he is one of the usual weight-loss stories next off-season.

This week’s article contains more players than usual, as I think the start of the season presents many opportunities that should be pursued aggressively in order to get an advantage early on.

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Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been as plugged into fantasy basketball as I am this season, but I feel like I’ve heard Neil Olshey’s quote about Anfernee Simons’ potential over and over again this year. If you’ve somehow missed it, here’s what the Blazers GM said back in June:

“He’s as talented as anybody we’ve ever drafted since I’ve been here, in terms of just natural gifts. He’s not the player [Lillard] and [McCollum] was, but in terms of just natural, God-given, basketball ability, Anfernee is as gifted as anybody I’ve ever drafted.”

It’s the kind of quote that grabs attention. Considering that he said it almost a year ago and it’s still rattling around in my head, it’s also a quote that sticks. Anfernee Simons, reads a dusty card catalog in my mind, Extremely gifted? Simons, who is still just 21 years-old, had played 142 NBA games prior to last night and his career numbers don’t exactly make you forget about Damian Lillard. But game 143 pulled the curtain back a bit and lended some credibility to Olshey’s big talk last summer. Simons was on.

Anfernee Simons

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
27 4 4 2 0 9 9/13 0/0 0

Those nine triples he hit? They were consecutive. In total, Simons connected on 13 straight threes over four games. Mercy. That’s some heat from deep. Unfortunately for our game, the minutes haven’t been consistent enough for the reigning Dunk Champ for many of us to be in a position to capitalize on his hot shooting. We’ll just have to admire the feat from the other side of the waiver wire. Still, nine (or 13) straight will get you into the lede around here.

Here’s what else went down in the NBA on Tuesday…

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The ridiculous and predictably bad “condensed” NBA schedule has finally reared its ugly head. The injuries are rolling in faster than me when they say there’s free cake in the break room, and fantasy teams everywhere are hurting. Hopefully you have multiple IL spots. I have two in the league I run usually, but we upped it to three midseason.

If your commissioner didn’t have such foresight, RIP. But there’s good news: You don’t have to hurt anymore.

When players go out, that means other players step up to fill the void. So who should we be grabbing for the week? Who is going to win us our fantasy playoff matches?

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If your league has been around a while, you have likely started the fantasy playoffs already. If not, you’re likely starting them very soon. There’s always a shift that happens after the all-star break as teams decide they need a drastic shift or they choose to tank.

As a result, players often slip into fantasy relevance that were once forgotten, or borderline, plays. All rankings in this article were taken from Basketball Monster and are the 9-category player rankings for the last two weeks of the season in PER GAME value, not total value.

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