Long-suffering Kings fans are back on the hopium, and since 2006 was the last time we witnessed playoff basketball in Sacramento, who can blame them? But after February’s blockbuster trade, an outstanding Summer League performance from their first round pick, and a pair of free agent guard acquisitions, there is a sense that the optimism is warranted.  On paper, the Kings have a more focused roster built around the playmaking abilities of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.  They get a fresh start to a season after shedding players who didn’t want to be there – Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III.  They have arguably more depth with Richaun Holmes shifting to the bench, Malik Monk playing significant minutes off the pine, and Davion Mitchell continuing to develop.  They have a new head coach in Mike Brown who will seek pull them out of the bottom half of the defensive rankings.  This time may be different…

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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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For the first two seasons of Morant’s career, he finished as the 133rd and 201st player on a per-game basis for fantasy. The athleticism shined early and his ability to score was evident. He could board and dish out dimes with the best of them but, but, but….Did I stuffer mother f-er? The defensive stats weren’t bountiful, the tres didn’t rain down from the heavens, and the free-throw shooting was meh at 75-ish percent. At only 22 years old, I thought there would be improvement in Year Three but, as Caine from Menace II Society said, “I never thought he’d come back like this.” I’m such a stupid, stupid man as he would fall, then fall, then fall some more in drafts, but I’d pass, even though dimes are a precious resource and he was going to improve. Well, he’s not only improved, he’s broken out! And last night was just another leg on the victory tour.

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But we’re not here to talk about impact players that are owned in most, if not all, leagues, because we deal with players on the margins in this post!  My goal is to identify widely-available players in order to give you the best streaming options for your head-to-head matchups.  And despite the spiciness of the trade deadline, this week is no different.  Hopefully, you kept your powder dry and saved a couple player additions for opportunities that are now presenting themselves as a result of deals.

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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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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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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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Variety, they say, is the spice of life. So while there were monster games on Tuesday night from all the usual suspects — Joker, Joel, LeBron, Harden, Anthony Edwards, the Boston Boys — I’m bowing out on trying to split those hairs and passing on the opportunity to bestow the lede player honor on one of these repeat customers. Instead, we’ll spice things up by going off the beaten path and checking in on a number one pick who feels like he’s flying a bit under the radar.

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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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There were a lot of great choices last night, but the fantasy star of the night must go to James
Harden for his massive 37-point triple-double. With Kevin Durant out with a knee injury, Harden
was forced to step up and did it in a big way on Friday with 37 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds
for his eighth triple-double this season. He ranks just outside the top-five fantasy players but is
likely to sneak into the top five while Durant is out. Kyrie Irving continues to only play in road
games because of his vaccination status but has been great when in the lineup. He scored 24
points in yesterday’s game and will see a larger role without Durant. He ranks in the top-20 on a
per-game basis, but that is only in six games this year

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At this point I’m just going to stop fighting it. Fate, it seems, is throwing an endless stream of Knick games onto Tuesday nights and there’s nothing I can do but sit back and let it wash over me. Considering that I’ve spent most of my NBA fandom in the West and the Knicks have been the Knicks for the last 30 years, there’s never been a season where I’ve watched more New York regular season basketball than this one. After being hit with wave after wave of it, I just feel…bad. Is that normal? Last year I heard all about Julius Randle in breathlessly excited tones. The assists! The triples! The triple-doubles! King of New York! But now that I have to watch him and his teammates week after week, I’m struck but what a bad time it looks like he’s having out there.

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