The first round of the NBA Playoffs wrapped up on Sunday, with one awful Game 7 that I think everyone saw coming (I at least figured it was a blowout) and one fantastic Game 7 that seemed like a blowout early on, only to become a thriller.  Paul George isn’t elite!  Oh no, we’re STILL coming back to that one?!

While playoff hoops means very little to the fantasy discussion, there are some little nuggets (no, not Nate Robinson) that can help point us to some sneaky values in the subsequent season’s fantasy draft.  I’m thinking of Draymond Green in the 13-14 playoffs going 11.9/8.3/2.9/1.7/1.7 before his breakout, Otto Porter, etc.  But as we’ve progressed to a few games in the Second Round, there really ain’t that much going on anymore for fantasy purposes.  To be completely honest – and I know it might be sacrosanct – I don’t watch a ton of playoff hoops, especially early.  I’m not a fan of a team anymore, it’s not fantasy, and I admittedly get a little fatigued.  It’s a long season!  But ya know – overall – basketball is awesome!  And there were a few takeaways that I think could be applicable to 16-17.  Here’s a few interesting notes from NBA Playoffs so far:

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Follow the white Babbitt!  If you had told me Luke Babbitt would be a critical add over the fantasy finals weekend, I would’ve beaten you to death with a sack full of lucky rabbit’s feet.   Would that be a …lucky way to die?

No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke that Babbitt went 22/10/3/2/1 last night.  No, it’s a joke he took a team-high (and an absurdly-high!) 25 shots.  And no, it’s not a joke that the Pelicans won a game led by Luke Mother F Babbitt!  That’s right, a guy with a last night that sounds like how Grey incorrectly pronounces “BABIP” on the Razzball Baseball Podcast is all the sudden a must-own wing over the final 3 H2H days.  Such a Velveteen Babbitt!  “He said it was because I know you like rabbits, and I know you like cheese…”  The Pelicans have no reason not to throw (double negative police!) their scrubbiest of scrubs into the starting 5 and see what wet noodles stick on the wall, so I fully expect him to be a starter for you in most 12-team leagues or deeper on the final Sunday @BKN.  Throw him in your Babbitt Stew!  OK, enough rabbit puns, as Monty Python would say – “get on with it!”  Oh yeah, I shoulda used a Holy Grail reference.  TOO LATE NOW!  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy basketball action:

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The precursor to the much-hyped Clippers and Warriors game was the game between the Bulls and Knicks. On paper, this wasn’t the best choice by ESPN, considering the Knicks are out of the playoffs and the Bulls are competing for the 8th spot.

However, it featured two of the best, youngest international stars. Rookie Kristaps Porzingis dunked and shot his way to 29 points and 10 rebounds. He may have hit the so-called “rookie wall,” but he still contributes enough in a variety of categories to matter in fantasy for the playoffs.

Nikola Mirotic almost single handedly brought the Bulls back in the 4th quarter. He knocked down 9-13 from downtown, on his way to 35 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. Can you name the last Bull to knock down 8 threes in a game? Ben Gordon did it in 2008-09. While Gordon had a serviceable career, I hope both Mirotic and Porzingis have better careers than Gordon. Based on Wednesday, their futures look very bright.

Now only the other nightly notables:

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The season-long fantasy wasteland that is the Utah Jazz starting point guard spot saw a change to its depth chart on Tuesday night. New addition Shelvin Mack was tossed in with the first group after looking really good in his first game with the Jazz on Sunday. His promotion meant that Raul Neto was bench bound, a move that quite frankly would have been made several weeks ago had Utah actually featured a healthy, professional quality point guard on their roster prior to the trade deadline. One quick look at Neto’s game log from this season and you’ll see that he’s achieved fairly modest benchmarks quite infrequently:

  • Double-digit scoring – nine times
  • Five or more assists – seven times
  • Five or more rebounds – zero times (!)
  • Three or more combined 3s/steals/blocks – 16 times
  • Double-digit FGAs+FTAs – eight times

Those numbers come after having played in 55 games and averaging over 20 MPG, so they’re even more pathetic than they look at first blush. The usage wasn’t there for Raulzinho (yep, that is his full given name) and neither was anything resembling roster-worthy fantasy production.

Enter Shelvin Mack, he of former Atlanta Hawks fame. Well, the “fame” part was mostly lacking as he was never truly unleashed by Coach Bud and the Hawks organization. After a largely forgettable three-year stint as a backup combo guard, Mack held seasonal high water marks of just 7.5 PPG, 3.7 APG, 2.2 RPG, and 0.8 SPG (all during the 2013-2014 campaign where he saw 20.5 MPG across 73 games). However, in his two games sporting a Jazz uniform and having had very little time to learn the offensive system and intricacies of his teammates’ games, Mack has already posted lines of 16/3/6/0/1 (in his debut off the bench) and 17/1/2/1/0 in his first starting gig last night.

It’s easy to see that Mack is worth a pickup as the complementary stats are sure to follow once he’s fully integrated into the Utah system. He may never be a top-50 player with several other capable ball-handlers on the roster (Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood currently, and Alec Burks within the next couple weeks once he returns from injury), but it’s clear that Mack no longer belongs on any fantasy waiver wires as he looks to have a stranglehold on the starting PG job. If you haven’t already, go pick him up.

Here’s what else happened on a five-game Tuesday in the NBA…

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I’m all for switching it up and trying something new to win. And while I think Hack-a-Shaq can work in the right situations, the Rockets took Hack-a-Whoever way too far. The Rockets fouled Andre Drummond repeatedly, giving him 36 free throws! At one point, K.J. McDaniels intentionally fouled Drummond 5 times in 9 seconds! (McDaniels finished the game with a very Jan Vesely-ish line of 1 minute, 5 fouls).

Drummond made only 13 of his 36 free throws, but it didn’t matter, as the Pistons still defeated the Rockets by 9. The 23 missed free throws was an NBA record for the most missed free throws in a game.

So you’re telling me the intentional fouling was effective in limiting the Pistons’ possessions, but somehow the Rockets still lost? How? The Rockets are definitely one of the biggest disappointments of the season and really need to turn it around if they’re going to make a splash in the playoffs.

While Drummond owners will be screwed in FT%, he still managed to post 17/11 with 1 steal and 1 block. Now onto the other highlights from Wednesday night’s games:

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Much has been written about Jimmy Butler and Bulls lately. Butler publicly criticized head coach Fred Hoiberg saying that the team needed to be coached harder. Reports then came out that there is growing tension in the locker room between Butler and his teammates. With Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose taking back seat roles this season, there are questions around Butler’s leadership. Just because he is paid well, doesn’t mean he’s the leader.

Leader or not, Butler willed the Bulls to victory over the Pacers in overtime. He scored 7 points in the final minute to force OT, before knocking down the game winner on an alley-oop tip in with 1.2 seconds remaining. The Pacers tried an alley-oop of their own on the ensuing inbounds, but Butler defended Paul George on the lob to preserve the Bulls’ win.

For the game, Butler finished with 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. This was a much needed game for Butler, as Rose was a game time scratch with right hamstring tendinitis. As long as Butler is producing, owners shouldn’t worry about the drama surrounding the team. These things usually get blown out of proportion when teams are playing below expectations.

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So I know what you’re thinking – where is Matty this morning?!  He’s been awesome!  Well, I’m here today to fill in while Matty takes a Canadian spa day.  What happens is you go to this facility and everything is made of poutines.  All you can eat is poutines, all the liquid you intake is gravy, the spa pillows are made of cheese curd…  Wait, why am I making fun of this, that sounds like the best day of my life!  Matty – true Canadian hero.

But back here in The Colonies, Klay Thompson has become MY true AMERICAN hero!  Going 13-21 from the field including 10-16 from deep, Thompson had a monster breakout going 39/7/6/0/1 against the Pacers, leading the Warriors to 23-0.  And speaking of “and-0s”, look at JB taking the 1-0 lead on the 30-point challenge board!  Looking like another season where I’m going to trounce Slim in the 30-pt challenge.  It’s not official yet, but I’ve heard mumblings that the IQ test will soon be phased out for the 30-pt challenge as the most accurate test for intelligence…  Anyway, it’s funny how perception and time can change a player’s analysis.  I went from slamming Thompson for being a ThrAGNOF, to finally buying in, and then defending his cold start suggesting making buy low offers.  All the sudden after last night, all he’s missing is 3.5 Pts and half a steal from having nearly identical stats from 14-15.  Of course as all of this unfolded last night, it ended with a monster cliffhanger after Klay got a kankle and looked like he was in some serious pain on the bench.  X-rays were negative, and luckily Klay says it’s not too bad and should be back in a few days.  Whew!  Let’s hope this doesn’t slow down his reacharound!  I mean turnaround!  Here’s what else happened last night in fantasy basketball action:

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Shortly before the tip of the Grizzlies’ game in New Orleans on Tuesday night, Memphis beat writer Ronald Tillery reported that coach Dave Joerger “desperately wants to reduce Marc Gasol‘s minutes.” Coming into the game, MG had averaged in excess of 38 MPG over his last five contests – a number that is, by all accounts, quite high for a true big man in today’s National Basketball Association. Fantasy owners of Gasol were probably watching Tuesday’s game to see how Joerger would adjust his rotations to get the prized center some more rest. What did they witness? (I’m so glad you asked…)

Marc Gasol played 42 minutes of other-worldly basketball, posting 38/13/6/0/4. If that wasn’t enough, he shot an even 50% from the field on 22 attempts and was flawless from the FT line on 16 (!!!) tries. Yep, sixteen for sixteen.  He was the only Grizzlies starter with a positive rating (+8) on the night and his team won the game, which goes to show you just how instrumental Gasol was in this one.

(As an aside – perhaps Tillery heard coach Joerger wrong and he said he desperately wanted to reduce everyone but Gasol’s minutes? No other Memphis starter played more than 31. Go figure.)

This is your ultimate sell-high moment on the younger of the two Gasols. If you can score a top-25 asset in return, I think you pretty much have to do it. In trade negotiations you can point to the high minutes, the nice boards & blocks numbers, and the sweet out-of-position dimes. That is, unless you are a believer that Marc can withstand this kind of workload over the course of an 82-game season. I’m never one to predict injuries, but wear & tear is a very real thing, and when you’re dealing with a 7’1″, 265lb monster of a man on the wrong side of 30, miles add up quickly.

I’d be interested to know where Gasol’s owners stand after this one. Are they looking to sell? Or are they going to ride him all the way to the edge of the cliff? (Chime in below via the comments section if you have a buy/sell/hold take.)

Let’s take a look at what else shook down on Tuesday night with 12 teams in action…

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As you can tell from my Avatar, I’m no genius. Heck, that’s me actually trying to look smart.

But after watching last night’s Epic Battle of Rookie Big Men, featuring Jahlil Okafor vs. Karl-Anthony Towns, I do feel like I got one thing right: It is indeed Jah, and not KAT, who should have been the number one pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Can you honestly and fairly say that after one game between the two?

I say yes, and the stats are only part of the story. Okafor finished with 25 points, 12 boards and two blocks and absolutely manhandled Towns the whole game, in which the Wolves topped the Sixers 100-95. Towns had six points, two boards and two blocks in 17 minutes. In fact, Towns barely got off the bench after Okafor out-positioned him for a rebound and forced Towns to commit his fourth foul before the end of the first half.

For the season, Towns has arguably better stats. But with Okafor, it’s not just the stats that he gets, it’s how he gets them. He gets them without a real point guard, and without any great shooters to help open up the paint. He gets them looking like Tim Duncan Jr., whether its gracefully sweeping the lane for a lay-in with some dandy big-man footwork, denying a Towns’ shot with some uncharacteristic anger or pulling up and nailing a 15-footer at will.

Some say this is Okafor’s ceiling. They say he’s a 20-10 guy, and is only getting that because he’s on one of the worst teams in NBA history. I’m not so sure about that. I think he’d be getting better stats with better guys around him, and therefore I’m not so sure that this is his ceiling.

As for Towns? This is definitely not his ceiling. This is Andrew Wiggins‘ team right now, so he has time to develop, which is scary.

Still, despite the Wolves getting the win, Round 1 of this battle goes to Okafor. Round 2 will be January 4, 2016 in Philly.

Here’s some other B-N-B studs and duds from the past week:

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Wow, how good is Russell Westbrook? Two nights after dropping 40 points and 14 assists against the Grizzlies, Westbrook scored 43 points, 8 assists, and 9 rebounds on Wednesday. The Thunder controlled the game, but never really put the game out of reach for the injury-riddled Pelicans. Whenever the Thunder needed a basket, Westbrook had no problem getting to the hoop or finding the open man. My only knock on Westbrook’s game is the turnovers, but when you’re posting near triple doubles every night, you’re allowed to turn the ball over as much as he does.

Now his stats are inflated a little because Kevin Durant has been sitting with a hamstring injury, but Westbrook is still a top 10 talent even with Durant in the lineup. Should Durant leave the Thunder next season (to go to, say, the Wizards!!!), Westbrook would enter my top three, along with Steph Curry and Anthony Davis.

Now onto the other notables from Wednesday night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?