On a recent podcast with Son, I let slip, “If you’re a center that doesn’t get blocks, I don’t think I have any use for you.” It was a knee-jerk line, one that I hadn’t much considered before it fell out of my mouth, and I’ve been wrestling with how true that might actually be ever since. For most of the summer, I’ve been vexed by the center position because, outside of the elite guys, the shortcomings of the position are obvious and numerous. For many, their usefulness in category leagues extends only to rebounds, blocks and FG%, and oftentimes those few spoils are sacrificed at the altar of points, dimes, triples, and free-throw percentage. Drafting a center that doesn’t, it’s a steep tradeoff in the best of circumstances, so when looking at someone like Deandre Ayton – a top-50ish, center-eligible player who produced exactly enough swats last year to break even in the category by z-score – I began to wonder what exactly the point was. 

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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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There are two obvious downsides to living in Milwaukee — winter (duh) and NBA League Pass blacking out the hometown team as they take up their championship defense. Considering the grinding nature of an 82-game regular season, it’s not the worst thing to have an excuse that allows you to check-out on February basketball, but it’s still nice to occasionally see the boys without using a VPN. Last night, the Bucks were fully visible the national stage against the Wizards and the game flow reads like regular season game where the better team wasn’t fully engaged all night.

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Lauri Markkanen shot the ball exceedingly well, making eight out of 10 attempts for 18 points. Everything else about his night was concerning though, especially the minutes, which also topped out at just 18. Markkanen’s playing time has taken a hit—he’s been under 24 minutes in five of his past six outings. In those limited runs, he’s failed to corral more than six rebounds in a game, and totaled just two assists, one steal, and one block. With fantasy playoffs looming, he could be a cut candidate. Chicago just embarked upon a four-in-five-nights set, so let’s see if he can slingshot his hot shooting from last night into some real momentum.

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Carmelo Anthony has been a reliable source of points and treys on good efficiency, and stayed on brand Thursday night with 20 points and four triples, while hitting all four of his freebies and turning the ball over just once. Adding Norman Powell to the mix shouldn’t have too much of an impact on Melo, who should continue to get minutes in the mid-20s and put up enough shots to retain value.

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The young season has already provided some serious ups and downs, surprises, and plenty of excitement. We’ve seen several 50-point games, a Derrick Rose time machine experience, some thrilling overtime finishes, and one Javale McGee three-pointer.

One thing I don’t get is why players need rest when they have been chilling on the beaches of Jamaica, hanging out in Paris, or making some extra change running basketball camps, which they don’t really run, but is a way for their high school buddies to capitalize on their name and make a few dollars.

Yet, here they are resting in week 2. Gordon Hayward, I get. I certainly don’t get Kawhi resting. He rested all last year!

In this piece, I will provide some info on the basketball and fantasy trends of the teams in the Association. We will start this week with the teams located on the Left Coast.

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