• Opinion: the NHL knows how to do merchandise better than any other sports league and I stand by that. I’m a half-assed collector so that’s been on my mind as I go to these new stadiums. First of all, it took me four years to find the pro shop at Paul Brown Stadium (where the Bengals play) because I kept getting sabotaged by the people running the booths. If I was a hat-wearer,  the Bengals shop would have been a great place to be. I just want a cool mini-football. I decided that I would do baseballs, mini-footballs, mini-basketballs, and pucks from each stadium, and I’m also subsequently taking out a loan and buying lottery tickets. The Bengals didn’t have a cool design I really wanted so I begrudgingly settled for a mini-football that you could probably find online. The Blue Jackets store was the total opposite. I found myself wanting at least five of the puck designs and having to settle.

    Now for the stadiums themselves: Paul Brown Stadium was a little disappointing. It’s not picturesque at all, it’s a true concrete behemoth, but maybe I’m spoiled by my experience at Lambeau. It would behoove them, I think, to lean into the jungle theme more than they do. They really need to Seize the Dey and modernize their stadium a little bit. Maybe after they win some games. Nationwide Arena, on the other hand, was a great experience. Maybe it’s just the aesthetic of a hockey stadium that I like more, but it was each to maneuver even at full capacity. More importantly, it was easy to get in and out of when dealing with parking. Next up will be the United Center for the Bulls. If you never hear from me again it’s because I’m still trapped in the parking lot because I was too cheap to pay for easy-out parking and the person who boxed me in never came back to their car. The other alternative was I was eliminated on the train trying to get down to the UC. Those are the only two possibilities.

    Before we get into the pickups of the week, I just want to take a moment to recognize David Stern. I didn’t always love the state of the NBA under his guiding hand, especially the competition level late in his tenure, but he did great work growing the game globally and making it one of the best entertainment corporations in the world. He will be missed.

    Week 12 Stream Table

    General key:
    Home games are in orange because basketballs are orange.
    Road games are in blue because blue is not orange.
    Green means heavy schedule because green means go.
    Red means light schedule because red means stop.

    Back to Backs

    Brought to you by Drake*

    *not actually

    Sun/Mon (of Week 11): none
    Mon/Tue: BKN, OKC, SAC
    Tue/Wed: NYK, TOR
    Wed/Thu: BOS, HOU
    Thu/Fri: none
    Fri/Sat: CHI, DAL, LAL, MIL, NOP
    Sat/Sun: DEN
    Sun/Mon (of Week 13): CHA

    Working the Wire

    The new year has given us bushels of hope with a plethora of waiver wire adds who could be total garbage. The trade winds are blowing and giving us quite a bit to work with.

    Point Guards

    Jordan McRae: I have to assume that Jordan McCrae is the most added player over the last couple days. Partially this is a function of Bradley Beal’s injury and the fact that Isaiah Thomas got ejected for catching his balance on a ref. Apparently they would rather he crush a seven-year old sitting courtside. He’ll be worth owning in the short-term while the Wizards sort out this injury crisis up and down the roster.

    Shabazz Napier: Napier has been starting for the Timberwolves, which could be a function of the locker room passing around the flu and the absence of Jeff Teague. It seems like he’s going to get about 20-25 minutes of action when the entire team is healthy. If that’s the case we might not be long for Napier’s relevance in standard leagues. Keep a close eye on the Timberwolves injury report.

    Darius Garland: Bad stat set, so much opportunity. It backfires in general, but right now Garland is on a hot run and is garnering some attention. If he can just shoot 42% and score close to 20 points, he’s probably worth late-round value. He’s been hitting from range as well of late, so it’s a stream while he’s hot and drop the hot potato in someone else’s lap before it gets cold.

    Shooting Guards

    Patrick McCaw: McCaw has had a good run of minutes with the injury crisis in Toronto. Unfortunately, we may be seeing a change in the rotation with McCaw coming off the bench for 20 minutes instead of starting and playing 35+ which would really put a wrench in this excitement. McCaw has really only mixed in one mega-dud over the last two weeks, so this recommendation is contingent on him staying in good graces and maintaining 25-30 minutes.

    De’Anthony Melton: Melton’s fantasy upside is much more advanced than his NBA upside. He’s going to be playing behind Ja Morant barring injury, but even in short minutes off the bench, Melton is trying to swipe everything in sight. This is a definite steals specialist option with upside for more in case Ja Morant suffers any injuries.

    Lonnie Walker IV: If Walker gives this job back to Bryn Forbes, it’ll be because his hair is so bad it drives Greg Popovich nuts and puts Elfrid Payton to shame. Walker is just more explosive and brings an element to the game that Forbes and Patty Mills just can’t provide. Walker is going to be a good rebounding guard who can get to the basket and drive play. It’ll be interesting to see if he takes on a bigger role. I’m not confident about that yet.

    Small Forwards

    Michael Porter Jr.: I know it’s exciting and MPJ should absolutely be picked up in all standard and deeper formats. Also remember that this Nuggets team is incredibly deep. We recommended Jerami Grant last week and in general but there’s not always distinct clarity on this deep Nuggets bench. Porter followed up his offensive explosion with a 12-minute outing with just seven points and three turnovers. He has a boatload of potential and also a boatload of obstacles to being a standard league asset.

    E’Twaun Moore: I’ve low-key had an affinity for 3’Twaun since his days at Purdue. He had five double-digit scoring games in a row before putting up a dud in Sacramento on Saturday. In those five games before this dud, he made 15 3-pointers. This is an easy streamer for triples, but the Pelicans have a light schedule in the upcoming week.

    Wesley Iwundu: Jon Isaac is out for two months which is a total bummer for everyone, because now we have to see Aaron Gordon disappoint everyone with even more volume. Wes Iwundu is going to get chances to fill those minutes. He hasn’t been a standout yet and may not be with volatile deployment and a mediocre fantasy skillset, but he could be a late-round streaming value just on general volume. I also felt that way about Khem Birch in Nik Vucevic’s absence, so what do I know about the Magicians.

    Power Forwards

    Christian Wood: We are engaging all pistons on the Pistons’ stash train. It looks like Andre Drummond is going to get dealt before the trading deadline this season and that opens up a huge opportunity for the entire Pistons’ frontcourt. We’ve been knocking on wood for Christian Wood a few times and have come up hollow, but this is finally looking like the window. He’s the safest stash on this team.

    Isaiah Hartenstein: Hartenstein filled in admirably for Clint Capela when he was hurt. He’s back on the bench with Capela back, so this is a deep-league speculative stash for the time being. The upside is what we saw in his extended minutes and we’re looking at maybe a 14-10 double-double. The main concern is if he’ll still get minutes when Mike D’Antoni squeezes his rotation.

    Sekou Doumbouya: I’ve been interested in Sekou as a raw prospect and he’s going to get his chance to shine, especially as the Pistons head towards spring cleaning early. It’s good for them that they’ve established internally that they don’t have the pieces to win right now, so they’re going to try to recoup some picks to start from the beginning. They really need to see what they have in Doumbouya, who could be an important cog on the next well-oiled Pistons squad.

    Centers

    Aron Baynes: With Frank Kaminsky out indefinitely, Baynes is the obvious pickup. He was productive in stretches early in the year before injuries slowed him down when the Suns were still figuring out rotations and how to run the team without Deandre Ayton. He’s not that different than Bobby Portis, who pops up next on this edition, except Baynes has more minutes locked up on a team that marginally knows better.

    Bobby Portis: The minutes seem to be stabilizing, and with that we’re seeing what we expect from Portis. He’s always been a good offensive player. There’s no reason he can’t be a Zach Randolph clone who doesn’t actually rebound that well and makes 3-pointers. The decent percentages make him a viable points-league option. I see 15 points and six rebounds as a reasonable expectation.

    Maxi Kleber: Kleber is putting in the finest of work with Kristaps Porzingis out. We’ll have to see how long that absence is for Kristaps, because Kleber’s production is directly tied to the Latvian’s health. Porzingis may return in the upcoming week, but I would consider holding on to Kleber for a while longer until we see Porzingis operating at full capacity (which could be in 2022 at this point).

    The Stream Team

    The new year kept giving for the Stream Team as well, because I had to exclude some guys I’m definitely looking at in 16+ owner leagues. My teams are pathetic.

    PG: Avery Bradley – Bradley season is back because he’s back to chew up minutes that should go to someone with more upside.

    SG: Garrison Matthews – This is a made-up player who might get some streaming or DFS moments because no one knows who he is.

    SF: Reggie Bullock – Bullock quietly made his season debut for the Knicks earlier this week. He could be a sneaky forgotten 3-point specialist.

    PF: Harry Giles – I’m keeping an eye on Giles because he’s at least gotten some playing time recently and was a highly-touted prospect before the injury saga we’re all familiar with at this point.

    C: Naz Reid – Definite late-season stash in the deepest leagues. Reid has filled in reasonably for KAT in his absence, although we expect that will be where KAT will fill back in upon return. Reid has made some long-range shots (eight triples in three games) as well as accounted for one blocked shot in each contest.

    Miscellaneous Musings

    Decade theme! In this edition of the musings, I’m going to highlight what I think the most defining moment was for each team in the last decade which is 2010-2019 and everyone who says otherwise is objectively wrong and we can’t have a relationship.

    Atlanta Hawks: We quickly forget that the Hawks made the playoffs in the first eight years of this decade, including an unprecedented 60-win team in 2014-15. All-Star Kyle Korver and 60 wins has to be their peak. Thanks for Coach Bud!

    Brooklyn Nets: June 28, 2013 marks a hugely disappointing day for the Nets in hindsight. The acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in their post-prime, floating at sea waiting to be washed up state for a million first round picks set this team back so far in the big picture that they’re only now making a move to come out of it.

    Boston Celtics: A Finals loss to start the decade was the beginning of the curtain call for the first “Big 3”, followed by sustained success and just one missed playoff berth. It’s been a strong decade for the Celtics. They’ve had a lot of moving parts this decade and have maintained consistent success. We’ll pinpoint an underrated retirement, with Paul Pierce’s last game in Boston in 2017. He didn’t even need a wheelchair.

    Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker became the best player in franchise history and then left. The Hornets have so much work to do.

    Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose was the league’s youngest MVP in THIS DECADE. They say time flies but I feel like I’ve aged 32 years since then.

    Cleveland Cavaliers: The poetry and romance in the LeBron return and the comeback from 3-1 down is simply put, one of the most incredible storylines the NBA has ever manufactured.

    Dallas Mavericks: It has to be Dirk singlehandedly winning the Mavs’ first title. It’s also the last time we’ve seen an individual effort like that lead a team to glory.

    Denver Nuggets: It’s hard to imagine that Carmelo Anthony was a Denver Nugget in this decade after all the hoopla in New York. There were some lean years in the Rockies, but they have pieced together more success and a much better long-term outlook than the Knicks.

    Detroit Pistons: Pistons fans probably don’t need reminding that they didn’t win a playoff game in this decade after two eighth place conference finishes in 2015-16 and 2018-19. We have to at least applaud the intent when trading for Blake Griffin. It signified positivity in trying to compete. It just wasn’t the right fit and Tobias Harris would have been a better fit.

    Golden State Warriors: The Warriors have so much to write home about from this decade. Villainy and dynasty aside, we should recognize the best regular season team of all time (73-9) for doing what they did BEFORE they became public enemy number one for signing Kevin Durant.

    Houston Rockets: James Harden is doing record-breaking and incredible things for the Rockets so that coup to bring The Beard to Houston takes the cake by far.

    Indiana Pacers: Things that happened in this decade: Pacers should have made the Finals in 2013 or 2014. The Pacers did not make the Finals in 2013 or 2014. Paul George did a semi-screw job and the Pacers somehow came out better.

    Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul and Lob City define the last decade, but a shout out to the Kawhi and Paul George moves to set up what should be an even stronger decade coming up.

    Los Angeles Lakers: The retirement of Kobe Bryant takes the cake because we’re suckers for storylines. The 60 point final game and all that outdoes the snoozy LeBron move to LA because we saw that a million miles away.

    Memphis Grizzlies: The Grit and Grind Grizzlies were a throwback to old-fashioned, hard-nosed basketball and they created a culture that we don’t see much anymore. Maybe their upside was limited but it’s admirable how consistent and good those Memphis teams were in the early part of the decade.

    Miami Heat: The Decision and not one… not two… not three… not four… It was two.

    Milwaukee Bucks: With the 15th pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select the future face of the NBA and put Milwaukee back on the NBA map.

    Minnesota Timberwolves: They made the playoffs.

    New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans used to be the Hornets and used to have a Hall of Fame point guard. Then they had a future Hall of Fame Unibrow and now they have Gumbo Williamson. Two lottery wins are the best we can do for the Pelinets of the 2010s. They have the 2020s to make something of it.

    New York Knicks: Linsanity is the only positive thing that has happened to the Knicks since basically the 1980s. Patrick Ewing was overrated. Don’t send me angry Twitter messages.

    Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder have had an action-packed decade as well, starting with drafting three future MVPs and putting together a potential dynasty which was derailed by the reality of the salary cap landscape. One would have to say the biggest domino was the Kevin Durant departure after blowing the 3-1 series lead against the aforementioned Warriors. Durant left to seismically shift the NBA into boringness and allow Russell Westbrook to steal everyone’s rebounds and be grumpy.

    Orlando Magic: There was a five-year window when having Dwight Howard on your team was enough to win 45 games and then everything else was gravy. Howard was moved to the Lakers in 2012. For a small-market team, that seismic move affects them far more than a team that can just call up the next free agent. I hope for the best for them.

    Philadelphia 76ers: The Process is working. There was a lot of doubt, and I would say that it hasn’t worked unless this team, with this group of players, competes for a championship, but for all the jokes, it IS working.

    Phoenix Suns: The Suns have finished last in the Western Conference three seasons in a row and four times this decade. One other time they finished 14th.  They were two wins from the first Finals berth for Steve Nash to open the decade. In an otherwise disappointing decade, how about Devin Booker’s 70-point game as one of the best individual performances we’ve seen?

    Portland Trail Blazers: There’s quite a few Damian Lillard-centric moments to choose from. The deep game-winner against the Thunder, making the Conference Finals with a do-or-die win over the Nuggets, but I’m going with a sad one here. There’s a trifecta of what-if’s for this team. What if Aldridge never left? What if Brandon Roy had knees? What if Greg Oden could have been healthy. December 9, 2011 was the day Oden suffered yet another setback and Roy hung up his sneakers.

    Sacramento Kings: The Kings haven’t played extra basketball since 2006. This was a tumultuous decade off the court for the Kings as well. A relocation to Seattle was definitely in the cards until David Stern stepped in and helped facilitate the ownership change.

    San Antonio Spurs: Winning a championship in the waning years of the Duncan-Ginobili-Parker era overshadows the drama with Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs maintain their status as the picture-perfect organization.

    Toronto Raptors: The Raptors completed a trifecta of professional sports titles in Toronto before the precious hockey team won hardware. The Blue Jays last won the World Series in 1993 (coincidentally also the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup), and Toronto FC brought home an MLS Cup title in 2017. Toronto isn’t just a hockey city anymore and the Raptors are a huge part of that.

    Utah Jazz: The Jazz put together a fairly good decade given the limitations of their market. Most notably, they got out from under Deron Williams before he fell apart and acquired Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell from the Nuggets on draft day.

    Washington Wizards: The Wizards are unfortunately defined in the latter half of the 2010s by the injury luck of John Wall. Maybe they reached their ceiling with Wall and Beal, but we’ll likely never know.

    If you have other moments that define your team over the last decade, hit me up with your takes on Twitter here.

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