Five game slate on a rainy Tuesday evening.  Well, might not have been raining in your neck of the woods.  I hate ice storms more than I hate this year’s Bulls squad and watching LeBron James complain about every game mattering, the refs screwing us, and then resting the next game so he can break a scoring record later on TNT.

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For the first four years of Terry Rozier’s career, he shot under 40% from the field. Boston fans were trying to figure out ways to bend the space/time continuum so that they could travel back to December 16, 1773, stuff Rozier into a wooden crate, and throw him/it into the harbor. Mercifully, Rozier was traded to the Hornets and the field goal percentage increased to 42%. With no harbors close to Charlotte, that must’ve taken a huge weight off of his shoulders. The efficiency continued to improve over the next two seasons and Terry was no longer scary to his teammates and organization. Instead, he was scary for the opposition. But, but, but….Scary Terry reared his ugly head once again this season. No, not that Scary Terry. The other Scary Terry. For the first 27 games this season, Rozier was shooting 38% from the field and 30% from downtown. In 13 games since the calendar flipped from 2022 to 2023, he’s converted 46% of his attempts and 38% from downtown. Last night, he continued the trend:

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I’ve been covering fantasy basketball throughout this season and well… I haven’t been able to write many nice things about the Charlotte Hornets to date. So when I saw they picked up a rare road victory on Wednesday night – 122-117 over the young, rebuilding Houston Rockets – I thought this is finally the Hornets’ time to shine! But alas, one step forward and one step back for this stumbling squad – despite the victory, the real loss was the apparent ankle injury to franchise superstar LaMelo Ball. Let’s dive a little bit deeper into this game and fantasy-relevant injury.

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Christmas Day is among the most hyped lineup of games during the NBA season. But Friday, Dec. 23, was a Festivus celebration for the rest of us. After all, the Association exemplifies feats of strength and airing of grievances this time of year, as the slow-starting teams begin to gripe in the locker room, trade chatter reaches new highs, and the established powers of the season start showing more muscle in impressive wins. 

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Following back-to-back years of Top 40 production, Terry Rozier has disappointed so far this season, mainly due to some rookie-level percentages (in fact, his worst percentages since his rookie season as it stands). But he’s just a hot shooting streak away from producing as owners have become accustomed to, and on Friday he helped the Hornets edge the Wizards 117-116. Rozier scored 25 points on 8-of-21 shooting, 2-of-5 from deep, with 5 boards, 8 assists, 2 steals and a season-low zero turnovers. Charlotte has been paying the doctor’s new vacation home so far this season, and Rozier’s percentages should benefit whenever (if ever) LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward return. For the time being, the assists are up along with his usage rate, and he’s a great buy target, especially for those punting the FG% category.

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The big Fin Lauri Markkanen put up a big stat line, hit a big shot and led the Jazz to a big win Friday night over the Suns. He scored a career-high 38 points on a silly 15-of-18 from the floor, 2-of-3 from deep and 6-of-8 at the line, and added 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a giveaway to the line. 

So far this season Markkanen has delivered late 2nd / early third-round value, which isn’t too  surprising. The skills were evident, it was just a matter of the fit and program in what was supposed to be a tanking Jazz team. And so far he’s fit like a glove worn by a big white dude in Utah. 

His counting stats aren’t too far from this 2019-20 breakout sophomore season, before things got stormy in the Windy City. The major difference is his ability to get shots inside, and being surrounded by willing and able passers helps, too. Markkanen is shooting 65.6% on 2-point shots with nearly 10 attempts a game, numbers comparable only to Nikola Jokic. The other improvement in the stat line is nearly 2.5 assists per game – again a result of playing in an offense that complements his skill set. 

Most of his career high points were actually easy buckets while taking advantage of a string of blown defensive plays. However, the difficulty level was high on this Kobe/Dirk vintage turnaround jumper:

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The Sacramento Kings get their first season victory, leaving the Los Angeles Lakers as the only winless team remaining.
Kings got strong play from rookie forward Keegan Murray, who was finished second on the team in scoring with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field; De’Aaron Fox was also very active on the glass as he led all players with 13 rebounds along with his 17 points.
Miami Heat big man Bam Adebayo finished with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in 37 minutes before fouling out.
A notable statistic for the Heat is that while Tyler Herro led all players with 22 shot attempts, veteran leaders Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler only combined for 19 attempts.

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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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It’s only appropriate that Halloween looms around the corner because the Charlotte Hornets are officially spooky; fantasy wise. Rising talent? Check. Shiny new first round draft picks? Check. Scary Terry? Check, check, check. 
The Hornets will be gunning for a late playoff position to give their young guys some playoff experience and, while it’s uncertain whether they’ll get there in a loaded Eastern Conference, player development is at the forefront of their priorities. 
We have to be intrigued about this team’s fantasy prospects this season. But why? 

They finished 10th in the East last season! 

Miles Bridges is probably not even playing this year! (rightfully so) 

Steve Clifford said their starting center is Mason Plumlee! 

Gordon Hayward has played over 55 games just once in the past five seasons! 

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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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Amidst watching too much basketball due to the ongoing EuroBasket tournament, scouting all the NBA depth charts, figuring player usage, minutes and opportunity, reflecting upon my previous mistakes, correcting projections in the yearly review article, and going on a one-month spiritual journey to the Himalayas in order to determine who the hell the Spurs will start this season, I am proud to present you, for the sixth year in a row, my 2022-23 top 155 projections for roto!

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