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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So. Many. Minutes. 240 of them. That’s 4 hours of basketball. Now, the exact amount of hours doesn’t matter, and no player plays every minute of every game (what is this…video games?!?), but this week we get 240 minutes of Chicago Bulls basketball. What about their midwest rival, Indiana Pacers? A measly 48 minutes. Haha, seriously, the NBA scheduling committee breezed by these seven ahead apparently, because both the Pacers and the Nuggets play just once, whereas the Bulls take the court five times. 5x the minutes means 5x the volume means 5x the production. Well, potentially. But even the best players are on alert for a good benching when faced against that many minutes on the other side.

If you own any Bulls this week it won’t quite equal the amount of time mentioned by The Office team in saying bon voyage to Michael Scott, but it will certainly feel like it. It’s a minutes game in Week 12! Here’s The 7 Ahead!

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Who wants to go on a road trip?!? You know, the kind that lasts forever. The kind you start the new year with. The kind filled with adventure. The kind that freaking wears you out.

Well, for Week 11 of our NBA fantasy season that’s exactly what the Utah Jazz are receiving to kick off 2017. But this no ordinary road slate of five games. No…it’s 5 games in 7 days. In other words, that’s death. Will they be tired by the end of it? Most certainly, but while they’re on the ride I’ll be riding their hot hands and bringing death to my opponents in the fantasy realm as much as possible. So, let’s Go-bert on a road trip, because if you own Rudy Gobert you’re in for a wonderful week. Listen to the ridiculousness that he’s producing this year: 18 straight double digit rebound games, and only two games under that mark since November 9.

12.5 PPG
12.0 RPG
2.6 BPG

All on 70.1% shooting. See, it’s not just the boards and blocks, his efficiency has been gold for owners this year. And it’s showing in the box score as only seven times since that November 9 mark has he failed to score in double digits, either. He’s a poor man’s Hassan Whiteside offensively, with all the defensive stats on par. Enjoy these five games! Oh, and for the teams facing the Jazz this week: good luck to you, too. Utah’s now 21-13, leading the Northwest division and allowing the fewest PPG in the NBA. Sheesh.

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First off, Merry Christmas! Hopefully you enjoyed the smorgasbord of NBA basketball on Sunday, the first Christmas basketball with the Lakers playing but not this guy. And they’re better of for it. But with Christmas now a full calendar year away, let’s ring forth towards the new year!

And along with the new year comes a new look to The 7 Ahead! You know, New Year New You. All that nonsense. Well, I’m the same, still ballin’ out of control like Deion, but this series gets a facelift for 2017. And, of course, a little #millennial touch. Welcome to the new 7 Ahead! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Ho! Ho! Ho! Hark the herald, Jerry Stackhouse sings! The NBA has never been in fuller effect across the years than at the culmination of this week every year: CHRISTMAS! It’s unofficial start to the season (or the official start in the lockout-shortened 2011 season), and the first day since June owned by the NBA on the sports calendar. It’s been football, football, football for the past six months, but even the King Kong NFL takes a back seat to basketball on Christmas (only 2 NFL games in Week 16 are actually on Sunday, December 25). Make way, because winter is no longer just coming…it’s here! And with it comes all the basketball glory we can handle for the next 6 months.

From now on we’ll see teams jockeying for playoff position. You know, those coveted spots that only the few get to have in calling themselves the next up to be humiliated by the Cavs or Warriors. But seriously, this is where we start to see what teams really are. And it’s similar in other sports. Sure, you can start 5-0 Falcons in 2015, but you’re finishing 8-8. Or in baseball, everyone knows that the record before Labor Day is all just feeling it out. And in the NBA the Hawks may begin 9-2, but are they really that great? My optimistic homerism is hopeful, but their record now shows the answer is no. How about the Raptors? They started sluggish; they must have taken a step back this year. Well, um…nope. They’re a favorite to reach the Eastern Conference Finals again. See, Christmas brings out the best in us all, and acts as a litmus test for starting the year.

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