Why yes, Jim Mora. Playoffs. That’s all we’re talking about.

(Hangs head in shame for using the Jim Mora reference)

Alright, let’s breathe new life into this whole post-season conversation. It’s The 7 Ahead, dern it! Can’t you hear my enthusiasm? Haha. We’ve just managed our way through 21 weeks of the basketball grind to reach this pinnacle. Or at least the foot of the mountain that we believe will provide a pinnacle. Chances are that if you’re still reading this you’re still in the mix for some fantasy basketball hardware, since this is, after all, Razzball, and it’s the middle of March. In other words…no one’s reading the basketball side of things during the site’s heaviest month of the year: baseball draft season. Let those sabermetric nerds worry about preseason…let’s focus on what they hope to get to.

PLAYOFFS!

Ok, it’s still not Jim Mora, but just about everything is better. Oh, and yes…I’m one of those sabermetric nerds, too. Make sure to play some fantasy baseball this year, join an RCL, and watch me and JB be the Top 100 banner carriers for Hitters and Pitchers. But before that it’s time for a Playoff Edition of…

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I hate Daylight Savings Time. I mean, I’m really not a fan. However, my love for this archaic nuance of our calendar shifted during seasons of my life. Growing up through college and early married years? Loved Fall Back and loathed Spring Forward. Now? Well, my three little kids that run on a body clock and not a real one don’t care that you just gained an hour. Wake the eff up and play with me! Don’t worry…I say that to my wife sometimes in the mornings, just with less aggressive language. It’s much more enticing. And you don’t care.

So, my point is…now that Spring Forward is here the responsible professional in me is still loathing losing an hour of sleep. But the parent in me…haha, oh the parent. They sleep an extra hour now?!? Done. Give me this thing all day long. I look forward to ‘losing an hour.’

And now that I’m ~200 words in to something that no one cares about, let’s just call that a test to see if you’re with me. Many have dropped out to this point, and only the truly great still remain. It’s officially playoff time in fantasy basketball (at least for the RCL’s), so we trim the fat and only discuss that which matters. As a result, this week is a little thinner in depth. So, let’s Spring Forward not just into a warmer season (and baseball!), but into the playoffs!

Oh, and into the 7 Ahead!

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How could you be so Dr. Evil? You’re bringing out of a side of that I don’t know. Maybe this was the beginning of the end for legit Kanye, when we started to see the side of him that we (he) didn’t know? Sorry Yeezy fans, but his last great album was Graduation. But maybe that’s what we all need to do…graduate. Onto better seasons. Onto changes perceptions. Onto the playoffs.

As we move into (or closer to) the playoff part of the season, strategies change. For your squad, perhaps you’ve sat middling in the standings when it comes to certain categories. What if you punted 3 cats for the sake of bolstering the other 6? In a head-to-head format that’s all you need (me personally, I’m not the biggest proponent of this move). Or, if it’s not a roster building strategy, perhaps what changes is just the way you assess the value of certain players. At this point in the season injuries, losses and trades have adjusted the mindset of so many teams that a few names seemingly so awful just a month ago may now be the key to your playoff push. Can you change your mind on them before the others in your league? Can you find their value in spite of their potential pitfalls?

When they have 5 games in a week where basically everyone else has 4…yep. (Pour one out for all the Russy owners. Worst possible timing for a short week. Good luck to ya!)

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Y’all think he got out of it? I mean, c’mon…it’s Razor offing Ramon! I bet he walked over, grabbed his toothpick and flicked it straight at Scott Steiner’s eye. The glory of that gif. The mullet. Sorry, the sweaty mullet. The stubble chest hair. The shaking hamstrings. The black leather leotard. The metal print banner of WCW Monday Nitro. Goodness, take me back to 6th grade already!

No, don’t do that. I don’t want to be 12 again. However, that was the first time I ever played fantasy basketball. But I’ll quit reminiscing and focus on what’s really happening in that gif: the full nelson. Change the faces around, time travel to today and make that a basketball court in Denver and you’d see the story of Jameer Nelson and Emmanuel Mudiay: the young’n with the death grip on the PG position to start the year, but, wait for it…the wily veteran shaking free of his bonds on the bench to reclaim his rightful place running the team! Is it a stretch? Sure, but look at that extension through his obliques. Clearly, this is a great move to increase flexibility.

Ok, are we talking about wrasslin’ or fantasy basketball? I’m all befuddled now. Must be the mullet.

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The headline should serve as a warning: one of the most exciting days of the entire NBA season is fast approaching, and the results of said day could make every bit of what I’m about to write a moot point. If that happens I’ll be gloriously thrilled, because every year I cheer for the chatter to come to fruition on…NBA TRADE DEADLINE DAY!

The All-Star Game is tonight, and then three days of rest for the whole league (which is actually a full week for every non-All-Star). But the day everyone comes back to the court is the day the madness can occur. As a result, the names I’m mentioning are either hot hands or stand in line to get a boost from the hired hands that left their team. It’s certainly a tricky week, and the limited games only add to the nuance.

So, go play with the Trade Machine, let me hear the proposal you want to happen for your team, and let’s get ready for…

For the three people who wondered, the most enjoyable Trade Machine scenario I can find for my Hawks is (and no, it’s not for Carmelo Anthony: the expiring contracts of Mike Scott and Tiago Splitter with a 2nd round pick to the Lakers for Nick Young and Jose Calderon. Gives Hawks a legit second-team scorer, gives Lakers cap flexibility and a pick.

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The All-Star Break. The Halfway Point. Well, the 65% Point. Haha, the NBA season is a funny animal. Beginning in the heart of football season, it’s not until December that the league begins to take center stage of the national attention. Then, once the league hits the true half-way mark, everyone is hyped for the Super Bowl. So, finally, in the dead of winter, we reach the All-Star game and everyone’s favorite exhibition game and festivities. Sure, the entire weekend has lost a little luster over the past decade or so, but this week will be defined by the NBA All-Star Game. Oh. Hell. Yeah. Son. (OHYS)

However, like I said, it’s an interesting spot. We’re now 17 weeks into this thing. At the 17 week mark of baseball your past the trade deadline and in the home stretch towards the playoffs. With football you’re season is officially over (unless you’re one of those strange folks that plays Week 17). Yet, with fantasy basketball I feel like we just started. This little break will give us a quick breath before the final charge to the playoffs, but also, unlike other sports, creates a little chaos during the middle of that charge. The games shut down on Thursday, and don’t pick up again until the following Thursday. It’s brilliant for NBA players, but brutal for fantasy players. I thought about combining the two weeks into one, but a whole heckuva lot can happen between now and next week. Just beware, there aren’t many games for the next 14 days, so while we’re focusing on the next week, there’s also one eye on the following set to get a little ahead.

Now, onto the final few games, my predictions for the All-Star Game, and the 7 Ahead! Who do y’all have winning the All-Star Game? Dunk Contest? 3 Point Contest?

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“Hey hey, Boo Boo!” I still know the exact tone of the voice from the cartoon saying that phrase. I’d imagine we all do. Yogi Bear wasn’t just a cartoon. No, he was an icon. He was the answer to Jim Halpert’s question: ‘What kind of bear is best?‘ How could you miss that Dwight!?! Or is it JimDwight that missed it?

He’s ‘smarter than the average bear!’ And the Mavs have clearly outplayed the rest of league, most notably the Cleveland LeBron’s, but bringing Indiana product Yogi Ferrell up from the D-League to help their depleted roster. And in a flurry not seen since perhaps Linsanity, Yogi’s taken off since joining the senior circuit. In his four game stint he’s posting a 17.8/3.0/5.0/1.8 line with 3.3 3PG and only 1.5 TO per game, while shooting 44.4% from the field in his 38 mpg. He’s revitalized the geriatric Mavericks and is helping push them towards the 8 seed. What did he get for his 32 point outburst with 9 threes on Friday? A 2 year deal at the league minimum. What do we get out of it? A legit waiver wire pickup that has averaged top 25 numbers in his four games. He should be swinging onto your roster faster than that gif up there…minus the sandwich.

Onto the 7 Ahead!

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Is it done with that much sass? Probably not. But man, talk about taking the long road to success, and not even getting rewarded for it. The Nets are a clustereff, as we all know, but there are some bright spots. Many of their assets belong to the Celtics, and their best player is always the center of trade rumors (Brook Lopez). Sounds bleed (and it is), but through the dark skies rests a young’n with enough creativity as a playmaker to bring people to the arena and make the Nets a viable contender soon. Now, soon is a subjective term, so for the sake of the Nets we’ll say soon is, I don’t know…five years?

Seriously, they need a Process. Maybe it’s years from now, maybe it’s decades (Clippers, anyone?), or maybe it’s just months (nope), but one thing is for sure: they’re ruining the process of creating young fantasy assets this season. That creative playmaker I just mentioned? Caris LeVert. And while his average stats of the past two weeks are strong (11.8/2.7/3.5/1.3 with only 1.2 TO on 57.1 FG% and 82.4%), he’s not getting enough consistent run to make himself worthy of the add. Instead, Sean Kilpatrick trades time with him, effectively canceling out the two. Coach Sean Atkinson said, “we’re just taking a futuristic approach and keeping his best interests at heart.” Well, that’s great, but doesn’t help anybody. You don’t even own your 1st pick this year!

Point of this small rant? If you can play the days right, both Kilpatrick and LeVert are good adds as a stream option, but it’s eenie-meenie-minie-moe between them with LeVert getting a sweet, ‘Have a seat, child.’ every other day.

Enough about the Nets. That was a waste. Onto the 7 Ahead!

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Why. Yes. I. Did. Now from when did I miss you is another question? From last year’s playoffs when Zach Lowe awarded you an island after your own name? Or was it just from this year when you provided 6th round value out of someone essentially undrafted?

For the first time this year, we have a second-timer as the highlight. And yes, Dion Waiters, you actually deserve it. Coming back from injury wasn’t enough to get back to the top of the scrap heap. No, you needed a few games to get your legs back. I get it. Haha, goodness, at 30 I need a few weeks to get my legs back. I’m also not an NBA vet, though (sadly). Nope, just a washed up college volleyball player. And before you think too much of me, that would be club volleyball, because in the south boys don’t play volleyball growing up. And neither did I, but white boy shooters without enough quickness to blow by smaller defenders don’t get the chance to play big league basketball. Thankfully, Dion has it, though. And enough swag where I probably could have borrowed some. Oh, and thankfully for fantasy…he’s vastly under-owned.

Oh, wait, you thought I looked like the other Deion?

(Or do I?)

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Was it enough to topple the visiting Boston Horford’s? Well, no, because the evolution of Muggsy Bogues, Isaiah Thomas, is as as it gets in the 4th quarter, but you can’t say the Hawks had their winning streak snapped due to anything Tim Hardaway Jr. did. We knew from his days as a Knick that he could fire up shots, but as a Hawk this year he’s starting to play with a much higher efficiency, and from a fantasy perspective it’s exactly what we need. I’ll save that for a moment, though, and focus for a second on why it’s what the Hawks need, too. Sure, an efficient scorer is every team’s need, but when you trade one of the greatest shooters, especially while defended, in NBA history in Kyle Korver there’s a chasm-wide role left to fill. It seemed as though the Hawks were planning on throwing in the towel to rebuild with Carver’s trade a harbinger of future moves and a move towards their youth. But whether it’s still a play for the future (THJ is a free agent after this year) to showcase his value, or simply a pure replacement to Korver, Hardaway Jr.’s never played like this before. The league’s taken notice, but have you yet for fantasy?

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