The Magic have been everyone’s favorite fantasy outlet this season, from Bol Bol Euro-stepping into monster jams to Paolo Banchero compiling historic rookie numbers. The play of Franz Wagner has by no means been lost in all the excitement, but his games of late have been next level good. Over his last six games, he’s averaging 24 points on 55% shooting, 68.3 TS%, pitching in about 4 boards, 3 assists, a steal and 3 threes per game. 

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Something tells me the Pelican won’t fare well in that scenario, right? Well, that was the case Wednesday night when the Celtics’ Scottie Pippen, “Robin” or what have you – Jaylen Brown – torched the young Pelicans to the tune of 41 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes of action. Brown led Boston to a convincing 125-114 victory over New Orleans and he wasn’t alone – top dog, Batman Jayson Tatum bullied his way to 31 points and 10 rebounds of his own.

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School for us is back tomorrow, which means that the past two weeks were spent keeping the kids gainfully occupied. (Teachers, man, you guys are the best! Oh, my regular job is also a teacher!) But everyone needs to figure out ways to get, you know, alone time. So, in lieu of ranking teams and writing up two weeks of inactivity by me (more below), I’ll place the teams in tiers according to the best ways of sneaking in alone time during the busy holiday season.

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Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap. Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap. Duh duh duh duh. Duh duh duh duh. Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap.

He’s bearly and he’s brawny. Supposedly good looking. He’s not proficient shooting. His name is Steven Adams.

He plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. When people come to see him. They all end up screaming. His name is Steven Adams. 

Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap. Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap. Duh duh duh duh. Duh duh duh duh. Duh duh duh duh. Clap clap.

Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane get all the shine for the Memphis Grizzlies but it’s players like Adams who give them that grit so that they can grind towards the top of the NBA landscape. He’s a mountain of a man at 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds. He’s known as one of the strongest and toughest guys in the league, and is an excellent screener, which frees up space for Morant and Bane. Last night:

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 11!  In this post, I identify widely-available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  It’s not often that big injury news serendipitously breaks right before I write my piece, but that’s exactly what happened last night, with the Suns announcing a minimum of four weeks’ down time for Devin Booker.  My late grandmother, who followed Chicago sports, used to refer to groin injuries by exclaiming, “he’s got a groin!”  Well, Devin booker has got a groin, folks, and it’s going to cost Phoenix in the near term.

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Regarding last week’s suggestions, Walker Kessler was already a hot add but Kelly Olynyk missing some time with an ankle injury makes him even more must add, while Jordan Goodwin had a good run and is still a steals specialist but with the Wizards healthier, he becomes more of a 16-team league player. Finally, Maxi Kleber got unlucky and injured his hamstring in practice, while the two “Sell” suggestions from last week, Jalen Smith and John Wall did nothing to change their status as players I don’t want in my fantasy team.

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Tuesday night’s five-game slate presents me with my first opportunity to bring you a game recap!  Normally, I’m the guy who writes up borderline players and streamers on Thursday afternoon, so it’s a nice change to profile some of the league’s studs.  It’s kind of like hate watching Hallmark Christmas movies (Mingle All the Way, among others) for the first few weeks of December before switching gears and watching It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story.

Disclaimers: Because I was too busy watching Santa Switch last night, and the fact that I’m on Greenwich Mean Time, I haven’t had a chance to watch the games.  As a result, all of my observations are through a strictly fantasy lens and don’t necessarily account for every nuance.  Additionally, all of my ranking references are based on category-league values as a default.

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In this life, do-overs are rare. The opportunity to go back and change the mistakes of the past is reserved for science fiction plots or melancholy discussions over a pint in dimly-lit watering holes. But over this last week, I was presented with an opportunity to do just that – to go back with the knowledge of hindsight and fix where I failed, to atone, to set things right. I had screwed up once and now I was gifted a second chance. Please, I told myself, don’t blow it again. 

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Just like how Denial is not just a river in Egypt, so too has Kawhi Leonard risen above the ashes in this new final form of continued limited play. But, it’s quite the improvement from the semi-obituary I wrote several weeks ago, essentially a long-winded sigh followed by some comments about muscle sprains. That’s basically Leonard’s entire Clippers career in a nutshell. But over the last few weeks, Kawhi has slowly started getting more minutes and, while he looks a bit hobbled still (and is there a landing he doesn’t grimace on?), there’s only a handful of players you’d like to have on your last few possessions and I don’t think there’s a better closer out there when healthy. It’s just that, you know, he’s never that… But the dude has taken on and beaten peak LeBron and Steph and has a career 70%+ win percentage, not many modern names on that list. And so of course when given the chance, he’ll do the same thing to the Hornets, nailing an elegant step-back two-pointer with 1.4 seconds and securing the 119-117 win. Kawhi is definitely back, but at rate and for how long? No one can really know, but I do know that the Association is a better place when he’s on the floor and that’s all that matters… Here’s what else I saw during last night’s games:

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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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Watched a delightful little game between the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans.  They are my favorite teams to watch!  So many dunks, Ja Morant is great, I’ve been following Brandon Ingram since he was in my area high school, and even with Zion Williamson sitting, this game was teeming with talent.

I won’t bore any of you with a take on Morant (I, at one point, thought RJ Barrett was a better pick than Ja.  I, at one point, needed a lot more sleep).  What I noticed was there were so many good players on either team that could shower us with fantasy goodness any time someone hits the injured list, health and safety protocols, or is simply tired and needs a night off.  I’ll give some stats from last night and my take on each team.

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