The Indiana Pacers enter the 2022-23 season as everyone’s favorite punching bag. The organization, in recent vintage, has been unwilling to execute an all-out tank like the 76ers in the Hinkie era or the current Sam Presti-led iteration of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This year is shaping up to be a notable exception to that history. The Pacers will begin the season without any reliable small forwards on the roster and a dearth of quality wing defenders. Buddy Hield will likely start at that spot in what will be a three-guard starting lineup of Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, Buddy Hield, Jalen Smith, and Myles Turner. The chatter in league circles (as reported by just about every reputable NBA media member) is that Turner will be traded sooner rather than later. Of course, it should be noted, that we’ve heard that story before and, at least for now, Turner remains on the roster

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LaVine led the team with 25 points as the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers, 98-94. DeMar DeRozan returned to the lineup after missing the last game with a groin injury and added 20 points but the key to this game for the Bulls was defense. Chicago held the Cavs to only 35 points in the first half and stifled their try at a fourth quarter comeback. With this win, the Bulls got their first road victory since March 9th as they maintain control of the 5th seed in the East.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 22!  In this post, I identify under-rostered players who can help your team as streamers or long-term adds.  The ravages of tanking, phantom injuries, and real injuries are undoubtedly taking their toll on your squad.  I commend anyone with the intestinal fortitude to play fantasy hoops into late-March or April.  That being said, there are a lot of opportunities out there as we head down the stretch.

In the “late news breaking” category, Ja Morant was just listed as out for tonight’s game against Indiana.  This SHOULD boost the value of De’Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones, so look to them for those elusive assists.

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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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I’m no doctor (sorry mom!), but in my professional opinion (in which my profession is nothing besides maybe making a lot of parentheses), I believe (and feel!) that whatever injury Harden was coming back from, well, it seems to have miraculously solved itself and this is the most 100% I’ve seen James Harden in a long time, not counting the strip clubs, of course. And that’s not to act glib, anyone can smirk injury statuses, it’s pretty much tradition in all sports leagues in this day and age. But I guess it’s always nice to see the confirmation right before your eyes, so without incredulously referring to Harden’s previous injury, I think after last night’s performance scoring 29 points, grabbing 10 boards and providing an easy breezy smorgasbord (totally a phrase) of 16 assists, I think we can say that whatever ailed him does no longer. Probably his previous injury was playing with Kyrie Irving…
Here’s what else I saw during yesterday’s “truncated” basketball schedule:

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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 Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks 105-95, behind Jayson Tatum’s strong performance and an explosive third quarter. With the win, the Celtics extend their winning streak to eight games. Tatum had 13 points going into halftime, but he was just 5 of 13 from the field and 1 of 6 from three. He, and the rest of the boys from Beantown, overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and soared past the Hawks with a 42-point third quarter. Tatum finished the game with 38 points (13-27 FG, 4-10 3PT), 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two blocks. Jaylen Brown added 17 points, nine rebounds, and three assists. The recently acquired Derrick White tallied 14 points, four rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one block. Marcus Smart compiled 13 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. Robert Williams III also had a strong game, finishing the contest with 10 points, 14 rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. Al Horford was 2-2 from three and finished the game with eight points, six rebounds, and one block.

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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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Every year, Buddhists pilgrimage to Lumbini, Muslims to the Hajj, Christians to Jerusalem, and Hindus to Kumbh Mela. Yours truly treks to Sin City for Summer League. If any of you plan to go out there, hit me up. Anyways, it’s been three days and I’ve seen James Wiseman unfold out of a taxi, Rachel and Perk set up for a broadcast, and I now know that The Matrix (best nickname EVER) is now a blond.

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Daniel Theis still got the start even with Nikola Vucevic back in the lineup. The former Celtic contributed across the board in his 26 minutes, with 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting along with 7 rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks, and a three. Theis (46 percent owned in Yahoo!) has averaged 12.5 PPG over his past six, while also amassing some defensive stats and making close to one triple a game. He’s a great streaming option if he’s still out there in your league.

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The play-in tournament has been a hotly debated topic for the NBA community since its introduction last year. Metrics and revenue suggest that it is a great addition to the excitement building up to the playoffs but many players have voiced their displeasure, most notably Lebron James and Luka Doncic.

The strong counterargument is that most voices surfaced when their respective teams began to get affected by the said tournament. The Lakers for example are currently struggling and are in real danger of falling into the playing positions of the West. From a fantasy standpoint, I think it is slightly beneficial, as more teams are in the hunt for playoff qualification and so the effects of the usual silly season are less obvious with less random rest days and flat-out tanking from teams positioned 10th -12th.

Regarding last week’s suggestions, Oshae Brissett is showing no signs of slowing down with excellent performances in his last games and even averaged 33 minutes in the two games Domantas Sabonis returned. He has been a real difference-maker in fantasy playoffs this year. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was serviceable and while Matisse Thybulle was clutch for those streaming him for stocks, as he accumulated six steals and five blocks in the three games he played last week. Finally, Terrence Ross predictably didn’t play at all and has no reason to be in any fantasy roster.

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