Lauri Markkanen is among the most improved


One thing I’m annually grateful for when I spend Thanksgiving in the East? That november chill that one receives while rushing outside to harvest the local standard leaves. (Today: The Washington Post. Tomorrow: The Bucks County Courier Times.)


Come Thanksgiving week, I’d take a sketchy ride across the Bay for a touch-up newspaper.

There is something about the smell of newsprint, combined with cold-weather asthma, whets my youthful appetite for what awaits me on the back page of the tactile sports section. There lies the diva every local newspaper provides: her generous bounty of NBA box scores.

But with Dr. Naismith’s sinister apologies, we’re playing fantasy basketball in the post-Peach Basket era. An age where a day-old canon is expressed as a principal denoted by a scarlet G…for “aging”.

In this new world, with just a few keystrokes, the web may gather an automated abundance of all necessary statistics. From the minutes played to the rate of use, tidy, intense and pressed – like apples from the orchard – to any configuration we require.

(I get it. I love Thanksgiving. I’ll stop now.)

Why do the Fund’s results retain such attractiveness? I speak for myself three goals:

1. To print out Cliff’s notes on each game’s story
2. The dopamine blast I get when I see players challenging and exceeding hot expectations
3. Signs a player has started adding new stats to their fantasy portfolio

It’s one of my favorite aspects of looking for a waiver system; Being the first to see faint marks, the player is permanently adding extra steals, three-pointers, etc. to their per-game averages. Conditions in the NBA are subject to constant change.

Any single move in a series of trades, injuries, coaching changes, periodic adjustments, and new systems in the news cycle can give a player a chance to bring something new to their tool belt.

It starts with an extra block. theft. A couple of extra passes. A few more trips to the free throw line. Soon… said player will start saving this extra production regularly. This additional stat becomes a trend.

Then in time, it becomes an expectation. The higher slot stabilizes the player rate. The elevated fictional reputation of a happy player becomes the new normal.

For this writer, my search for square points for added stats inspires a list of insider phrases. Last night featured one “Where did the ___ come from?”: Oshae Brisett inspired 18 points and 4 3-pointers in the trash time. Also, AJ Griffin’s second line “I see you” this month; 17 points, 3 made 3 and 3 steals. (meaning in the deep leagues, Griffin’s streak also yielded a “BWARRGGGH! Is Griffin still available?”)

As the 2022-23 season looks more and more like a transitional campaign, this season’s box office results are spilling over with a myriad of new benchmarks. Let’s take a look at two recent in-box scores by two players with the potential to produce new benchmarks.

Box Score: November 20 vs. Memphis Grizzlies – 12 points, five rebounds, eight assists, four 3s, one block.

An accomplished deep-league glue guy, O’Neale has been over 30 mpg in Utah the past two seasons. In 2021-22, confirmed playing time assists O’Neal averaged 1.5 3 seconds, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals, despite his single-digit utilization rate.

There have been moments where O’Neal has made light of the imagination’s expanded potential. But in Utah’s seemingly star-crossed dynamic, nothing was locked in a direction or extra stat. But three recent developments radically elevate O’Neal’s in-game upside: 1) Danny Ange’s summer demolition of the Utah roster, which landed O’Neal in Brooklyn 2) Jack Vaughn’s mid-season promotion to head coach, demoting Vaughn from the top notch. Ben Simmons 3) Kevin Durantnods about he and O’Neal’s chemistry.

Asymmetric, inconsistent, and underperforming teams are looking for The Lever. There is something pulled that will anchor performance, generate consistency, and provide momentum. The Nets really pulled the classic lever, replacing Steve Nash with gritty Jacque Vaughn.

Now, Vaughn is known in some circles for his 10-year career in the NBA. But in my neck of the woods, Vaughn is best appreciated for his legendary leadership of John Muir High School in Pasadena.

Demonstrating the in-game shrewdness, consummate strategic acumen, quick analytical grasp, and supreme emotional intelligence famous among all John Muir High School alumni, Lever: O’Neale immediately recognized himself as the facilitator.

(Author’s note: Did I just try to help my son’s guidance counselor? It’s Thanksgiving. Leave me alone.)

This mosquito season hasn’t yielded many pleasant surprises. But O’Neale as a point forward is certainly a happy development. Over the previous three seasons at Utah, O’Neal posted an identical assist per game average: 2.5 APG. So far for the season, O’Neale is averaging 4.6 APG. Over this past week: 6.7 APG.

During the previous two matches? O’Neale has accumulated 19 dimes. The first of those games was a triple-double: 11 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists.

Box Score: Nov. 19 vs. Portland Trail Blazers – 23 points, 10 rebounds, three 3rds, one steal.

So far, my favorite Roto success story this season is Markkanen, the player who replaced O’Neale in the Jazz’ Aingified lineup. (I’ve been watching Mr. Ainge since my early days watching the NBA. This list is sparse and flammable Peak Ainge.)

Markkanen is my favorite because it toppled conventional wisdom; That he is doomed to the representative of the bulls, who has many wounds, and one trick runs for four. Not many noticed the changes underway during Markkanen’s 2021-22 campaign (again, injury-shortened). In Cleveland, Markkanen started to clock the fast forward. An injury to Jarrett Allen opened up more playing time, and Markkanen began to step up in his new role.

However, Markkanen’s low ADP performance belies a lack of confidence in his jazz potential. This was just a byproduct of his screeching Chicago rep. This is a case where, over a few moves, a young player with a high and fluctuating hit record, rises to his ideal role, and goes along with an improved roster.

Markkanen does more of everything across the board. But he quietly splurges on two more stats… Honestly, they’re more like “stats restored”.

Markkanen broke the 60.0 TS% barrier another season in his career when he posted 61.9 TS% in 2020-21. But as of this writing, Markkanen goes Steph Curry’s career-high 57.5 TS% with a flashy 64.2 TS%.

And after three years of declining rebounds per game? Markkanen resurrected his early career mojo off the glass. Regardless of his other stats, any shredder in an 8.5 RPG is worthy of making lists. But as the lagniappe to a plentiful feast including the aforementioned 22.4 PPG, 2.1 3PG, 0.9 BPG and 64.2% TS?

Only an imaginary glutton will not lack gratitude for raising his pitcher to the harvest moon and offering a Marakkanen toast of autumnal thanks.

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