Earlier in the year when the NBA released its schedule for the 2015/2016 season, one of the very first things I did was flip forward to December 25th. I was really stoked to see five games, neatly stacked one after the other, for our holiday viewing pleasure. The excitement continued to grow right up until the games went live and we quickly learned that putting the ball through the hoop is, apparently, quite a bit more difficult on Christmas.

Anthony Davis in South Beach for a noon eastern tip-off against the Heat. What a great way to kick off the afternoon after tossing back a few coffee & Baileys, scarfing down some cinnamon buns, and opening some presents, right? Yeah…  no. They needed overtime and the Pelicans still couldn’t hit the 90-point mark. Brow was nice (29/15/4/4/3), as was Chris Bosh, but the game was not pretty. At all.

So I says to myself, I says: “Self, one stinker does not a bad day make. We just got the ugly one outta the way early. This will not be a harbinger of things to come. No, sir, it will not.” Next up we got the weirdly entertaining (and enigmatic) Bulls visiting the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook & Kevin Durant in front of an always raucous Oklahoma City crowd. Well, Chicago doubled up OKC in the third quarter (32-16) to quiet the crowd and pulled away as nobody other than the Thunder’s two stars bothered to show up. The league’s second most efficient team on offense couldn’t crack the century mark and fell 105-96.

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Congratulations to Dirk Nowitzki. He passed Shaquille O’Neal for number 6 on the all-time NBA scoring list.

While Kobe Bryant gains the headlines in his last season, Dirk and Tim Duncan have quietly shown how to adapt their game for the team’s sake, taking less money and adding more wins to their already impressive résumés.

At 37, Dirk isn’t the same fantasy monster that he used to be, but is still valuable. He’s scored 20+ points in three straight games and so far has posted better overall numbers than last season. His game is much different than Kobe’s, with much less wear and tear on his body, allowing him to remain relatively healthy later in his career. Personally, I don’t see any reason why Dirk has to tie the sneakers up anytime soon.

In addition to passing Shaqtus, Dirk hit the game winner in the Mavericks’ overtime win over the Nets. He finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Not bad for a 37-year-old.

Overtime basketball is free basketball and it usually means great stat lines for everyone involved:

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So, I married a Jew 11 years ago. I should elaborate, and let you know that she’s a woman, and more importantly, that I’m not jewish myself, so there is a blending in our house of different cultures and holidays, which is dope, IMO. We celebrated the first night of Chanukah (pronounced HHHHHHHHHHHa-nu-Kah. When you sound like you’re bringing up a goober, you’ve nailed it) last Sunday night, and my boys dug it. On Christmas Eve, we will get both our families together for a Christmicah dinner. But what does this have to do with fantasy basketball, Dan? Well, it doesn’t at all, but upon reflecting on the season, I realized that even though my elder son got clothes yesterday in an entirely anti-climactic fashion from his maternal grandparents, he should just suck it up and be thankful that at least they’re clothes that he would want to wear. What I’m saying, gentle reader, is that you should appreciate the gifts as they come, whether it’s what you wanted exactly or not, and re-gift away the excess junk. And in that spirit, I present to you some gift-ish fantasy players you should definitely be thankful to get, or get rid of:

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In an NBA landscape characterized by Steph Curry’s wizardry and Golden State’s record-breaking start, casual fans have missed one of the most interesting subplots from the first quarter of season: the East’s ascension to respectability. With a winning record against the Western Conference (60-58) and ten teams over .500, 2015 has marked a rebirth for the historically lesser conference, now sporting more top-to-bottom depth than in recent memory.

While it’s easy to say, “welcome to the party, we’ve been waiting for you for at least the past decade,” restoration of competitive balance in the East finally appears to be a tangible goal. With two of this season’s biggest surprises in the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets squaring off to open yesterday’s nine-game slate, last night’s contest may have actually been the first iteration of competitive basketball for this particular matchup since the mid-2000s.

With the Hornets emerging as the victors, it begs the question: are they actually good?? For a team with disillusioned hopes of postseason basketball heading into the season, their early successes may still spark skepticism after each passing victory. But with a +3.6 point differential and the fifth placed ranking in the standings this year, the Hornets actually appear to be a legitimately solid basketball team.

One of the main catalysts behind the turnaround, Nic Batum has played excellently on the wing as a secondary ball handler and defensive stopper. For fantasy owners who did not abandon the Batum bandwagon after a disappointing 2014-2015, the Frenchman has more than delivered this season, elevating his status to one of the primer fantasy wing options. Batum continued to produce last night with a near triple double of 13 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds in addition to a steal and a block. Vive la France!

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On a weekend where elite guys did elite things – we got served more 40-burgers than a McDonalds – I’m going to open this Monday morning a little further down the bunnyhole.  It may be “rabbit” hole, but it sounded dirtier my way…

When Al Jefferson went down with his calf strain (he’s still out at least another 1-2 weeks), I clowned the Hornets for their “three-headed” monster for C minutes.  I joked it was a nice way of saying none were any good.  Kinda like saying the “three-headed monster” of good M. Night Shyamalan movies.  Especially Frank the Stank, as Michael Jordan’s never-ending conquest of building an NCAA dream team continues to keep the Charlotte franchise in the awful-to-mediocre range.  At least Spencer Hawes looks OK out there, putting up decent lines in 20+ minutes the past two Hornets games.  But watching the Hornets against the Bulls on Saturday – I was mad impressed by Cody Zeller.  Took the lion’s share of PT playing 32 minutes, and went 17/8/2/1/1 on 6-10 FG (5-7 FT) with no TO.  And it wasn’t a cupcake matchup either against Pau Gasol.  Although Gasol wouldn’t get that joke, let’s say “it wasn’t a flan matchup.”  Just at the eye level, he was cutting to the basket with great speed, finished strong at the rim with a few dunks, and took jumpers confidently.  I think the Hornets wanted someone to step up with Big Al down, and they’ve found their guy.  Now this would only be a medium-term pickup in 12ers, plus the schedule is going to be a crazy test.  Hornets get DET, MIA then @MEM the next three, so Zeller is going to have to D up Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, then Marc Gasol.  Eesh.  At least the Gasol one is more his player-type…  And it’s not like Hawes or Frank Kaminsky is going to play any better against those beasts…  So if you’re looking for a little help up front without the big blocks upside, Zeller is worth a look.  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, including The 7 Ahead for week 7:

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Welcome back from Thanksgiving!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, with leftovers still to spare to get you through a full work-week back.  I even bought a few extra boxes of stuffing since that ran out fast on T-giv day!  Got two or three meals left to go…  God I love Thanksgiving!

And while I added several inches to my waistline, Draymond Green has been stuffing his stats even more!  Back-to-back tripdubs over the weekend for #OccupyDraymondGreen, going 14/10/10/1/2 then 13/11/12/1/4 on Friday and Saturday.  The multi-cat phenom hit two treys as well on Friday – averaging a career-best 1.6 3PTM a game on the season – while his FG% has continued to climb all four seasons as a pro, up to 48.2% this year.  It’s almost like the Warriors have good players or something!  The only knock is his TO are up, but even in standard 9-cat he’s bringing back top-15 value on BBMonster and top-10 on Yahoo.  I remain a little incredulous that a lot of people thought 2014-15 was a fluke (I guess?), and I had to defend a “high” rank a few times in the comments.  So after this Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful Dray is helping our Yahoo F&F team be decent this year and that rank is working out…  Because trust me, a lot has gone wrong.  Friggin’ Rubio…  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops, plus The 7 Ahead for week 6:

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It just took prime time to rejuvenate Derrick Rose!  After an utterly atrocious outing against the Hornets on Tuesday – and three straight games of single-digit scoring – it certainly looked like the injuries had maybe made Rose a below-average PG…  I just edited out about 3 flower puns from this open, NO ONE IS READING FOR BOTANY OR WHATEVER THE WORD IS FOR FLOWER-STUFF!  Is it horticulture?  SHUT UP ABOUT IT ALREADY!  That’s me yelling at myself.  And also venting some anger, because I wanted him to be poopy for one more week as I face him in REL, so of course he would have by far his best game of the season last night.  Rose looked pretty spry out there, shooting 12-25 for a nice popcorn 29/5/7 stat line.  But as always, his lines have thorny stems supporting the bloom (AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!), as he didn’t notch a trey or steal.  He’s got no treys and only two swipes though 6 games now.  Even Jarrett Jack is like, “is this really an NBA PG?!”  At the very least, Rose is keeping the TO in check and he looked pretty healthy last night.  I think he’s still hovering in that 80-100 range that he fell in ADP, but if anyone would buy last night’s game as he’s back to vintage Rose, you’re obviously selling.  I actually saw him dropped in an RCL, and I’m pending my waiver claim.  Of course I won’t get him at my #6 spot, and of course I could use PG depth.  I’ve luckily avoided Rose the past half-decade, but now my frustration with him is reaching Nate Robinson levels.  Waived like three days after being the opening night starter?!  Or maybe it’s a Pelicans issue, THE WORST RUN NBA FRANCHISE!  Aight, aight, I’ve taken my diazepam, I’m ready to mellow.  Thankfully NO didn’t play last night, or else I mighta needed to double my dosage…  Here’s what else went down yesterday in fantasy hoops action:

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So I Googled “crisis of leadership” because, well, it’s been a pretty annoying ride for NBA franchises in Charlotte since the 90s.  According to never-wrong Wikipedia, the term was coined about something with Trotsky and Communism, I ain’t goin’ there!  It’s been well-documented and scrutinized through the years, but Charlotte certainly seems to make odd decisions behind Michael Jordan.  And before that, they moved to New Orleans, brought in an expansion team called “The Bobcats” (????@#?#$%@#%), and drafted Sean May.

While Charlotte’s follies could be it’s own dedicated article, I’m just going to talk about the planning behind PF/C minutes for 15-16.

TANGENT!  Speaking of planning, we’re debuting a new part of Monday daily notes this season.  The 7 Ahead!  After wrapping up the standard daily notes from the weekend, at the bottom will be a weekly planner for the upcoming 7 nights of NBA action.  Let me know if you like it!  And as always, add any suggestions you commenters have for The 7 Ahead moving forward.  If you don’t like it, ya know, not wanting to read such a long effin’ blog post when you’ve got a case of the Mudiays, just let me know!

FOCUS!  So the Hornets draft Frank Kaminsky 9th in the draft, passing on in-state product Justise Winslow (who looks great in early run for the Heat) and the undeniably awesome Myles Turner.  Part of the argument seemed to be NBA-readiness.  But instead of sticking with the decision, or continuing to play Cody Zeller, another high-draft pick, they instead come out and start Starvin Marvin Williams.  I mean, if you’re just going to take a no-upside PF/C for bench depth, why not go pure upside of my boy Kelly Oubre?!?!  Such a wasted pick and poor planning for the rotation, as now Marvin is running away with the role with a fantastic start to 15-16.  Opening the season with back-to-back dubdubs, Marvin went 15/5/1 with 3 blocks and 5 treys last night.  They need some speed on D and a perimeter player to compliment Al “slow feet” Jefferson, and it’s put Marvin clearly in the ThrAGNOF category.  The blocks were a little fluky, but I don’t think the minutes are.  He’s surged to 34% owned which seems a smidge high, but on low-schedule nights, he’ll be a frequent streaming target of mine.  And if I sounded unnecessarily bitter, it’s because I had him as a $1 REL keeper and let him walk.  Friggin’ Hornets.  What a waste of draft picks only to play the low-paid vet…  Here’s what else happened over the weekend in fantasy basketball action:

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Flashy player.  Ridiculous opportunity.  Buzzy preseason.  A lot of times it ends up fizzling out, sometimes it works out OK, and one time it’s C.J. McCollum.

C.J. went absolutely bonkers in his 15-16 debut, hitting 14-22 from the field including 6-9 3PTM for 37/6/1/1/0 and no TO.  Video game numbers!  So he’s a shooter, and he does what NBA shooters do – keeps draining em when they hot!  But I think we need to take a step back and consider a few things:  Other than massive Pts and treys it was fairly empty.  This was against the Pelicans, who without Brow, might look worse than the Sixers; they look horrific.  And the third thing that no one seemed to mention while anointing McCollum the next big thing in combo guards this preseason – he’s got a pretty extensive injury history.  He’s at the pinnacle of a sell high for me.  Do I think he’ll be hot garbage all the sudden?  Of course not.  But do I think he scores 37 again this year?  I don’t.  Well, unless they faced the Pelicans every night…  I’d shop around in the 40-50 range of ADP and see if you can get lucky.  As with all fantasy takeaways off one game, it’s always good to keep from overreacting.  Compared to fantasy football, we’re at the same point as about 9 minutes into the first quarter of week 1.  Still a long way to go.  Here’s what else went down during the first full slate of fantasy basketball action:

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Yeah. It goes like this right here. It’s the return of the writings of Slim! That reminds of an Outkast song, and that song reminds me of 1998. If you don’t remember it was the year we learned there was yet another way to be disgusted by a cigar. That near, far, wherever you are you probably found yourself at some point rooting for the most unlikeliest of protagonists, Billy Zane. And of course it was the year the ‘Blue Screen of Death‘ truly became a meme, long before anyone knew what a meme was.

Gangstaaaaa… It’s the return… turn…

In the NBA draft that year there were 3 guys drafted that are still playing and should one day be in the Hall of Fame. I’ll give you a hint, the top 3 draft picks were Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby, and Raef LaFrentz, and if you were playing fantasy basketball back then you might have gone all-in on one of them. Give up? They are Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce. Pick number 5, 9, and 10 respectively. That’s not to say great players aren’t drafted 1st, but the only thing guaranteed when you are first overall is a whole boat load of money. Something about the use of the word ‘only’ there doesn’t quite feel right.

Return… Ganstuhuhuh… It’s the re…

It seems so easy to see when you’re talking time traveling, something mind unraveling. Get Down. It’s a whole lot harder to do here and now using some funky combination of math, logic, illogical fandom, a random number generator, and of course the occasional dart throw. For some reason though, after about an hour on 350 (or about 176c) it develops a creamy caramel colored crust. Once it cools, just cut it up and consume. So here’s you’re 1st taste. Slim’s, I can’t believe I’m writing this in 3rd person, RCL playoff schedule post.

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