Well, kids…we have officially entered the NBA silly season.

Coaches for teams locked into the post-season are only too happy to rest their starters, as evidenced Tuesday by LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka all receiving healthy DNPs.

Coaches for teams destined for the lottery are exercising extreme caution with future core players, as seen last night with the Nets’ Rondae Hollis-Jefferson & Thaddeus Young getting a precautionary rest day, and franchise center Brook Lopez sitting for the entire second half of a blowout loss.

Even teams not in action on Tuesday were making headlines by shutting down players or announcing their plans to rest star players periodically as the 2015-2016 season draws to a close. DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, Danilo Gallinari, Ryan Anderson, and Jrue Holiday have all been added to the “shutdown watch” list. (And in Jrue’s case, you can officially stick a fork in him. He’s done.)

Additionally, DeMarre Carroll suffered a setback in his recovery from knee surgery and won’t be of use to fantasy players until next year, Nikola Vucevic can’t get cleared to return from what was believed to be a mild groin strain, and the starting Philly frontcourt of Nerlens Noel & Jerami Grant is going to be treated with kids’ gloves due to knee injuries.

It’s bad, folks. It’s real, real bad.

Thankfully for fans of the NBA and fantasy owners grinding through the final days of their season, a select few professional basketball players did, in fact, decide to earn their pay checks last night. Let’s take a look at who shined brightest, who fell short of expectations, and who else made waves on a six-game Tuesday slate.

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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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Welcome to the semis! Hopefully your week 1 matchup of the playoffs didn’t go as badly as most of mine… And with a mix of my awful bracket in the Razzball Bracket Challenge, who’s ready for baseball season?! Haha, I keed, I’m still alive in a few leagues and still have my-Heels-as-champ pick alive and well.

And just like the Hoosiers – one of virtually all the teams in the Sweet Sixteen I got wrong – Victor Oladipo went ham over the weekend, including living up the RainbOladipo nickname for 45/5/3/3/2 against the Cavs Friday night. Shot an unreal 16-22 FG including banging 6 treys. With a game like that, I would’ve expected the Magic to BEAT the Cavs! But then again, they’re coached by Scott Skiles… SKIIIIIIIILES! Oladipo kept it up last night for 21/6/3/0/2, giving him 7 straight games with blocks and multi-blocks in the last 4. Better shot blocker than Serge right now! In per-game, Oladipo is still only ranked 45th (42nd in total) according to BBMonster, so he’s still finishing right at my pre-season rank. If only this team was coached by someone else, I would be going Eric Bledsoe-nuts for this guy in my 16-17 ranks. Scott Skiles – ruining basketball one player at a time… Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for week 20 and the semi-finals of standard league H2H playoffs:

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Lob City was alive in well in Houston on Wednesday. Chris Paul was throwing DeAndre Jordan alley-oops left and right. By halftime, Paul already had 11 assists. He finished the blowout with 15 points and 16 assists, while Jordan added 23 points and 16 rebounds. Jordan even shot over 50% from the FT line (7-13 FT, but not by much!). J.J. Redick also knocked down 5-9 from the 3PT line to finish with 25 points. It was all Clippers from the beginning and the Rockets just couldn’t find an answer.

James Harden did his usual thing, trying to carry the disappointing Rockets, but it wasn’t enough. He finished with 33 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. Big men Dwight Howard (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Clint Capela (3 points, 3 rebounds) were rendered useless against Jordan. The only other bright spots for the Rockets were Trevor Ariza (16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 threes) and newly acquired forward, Michael Beasley, who scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds off the bench. Coming over from China, Beasley makes a good waiver wire add for all teams.

The Rockets started the season with lofty expectations, but are currently tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the 7th playoff spot. If they finish 7th or 8th, they’ll end up playing the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors in the first round of playoffs, something that nobody wants to do.

The Warriors, by the way, won their 50th straight game at home on Wednesday, dismantling the New York Knicks by 36. Stephen Curry hit 8 threes and scored 34 points (6 rebounds and 4 assists), before sitting out the 4th quarter of the blowout.

I don’t think anyone saw the Warriors playing on an historic level or the Rockets playing this poorly at the beginning of the season, but that’s why you play the game!

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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A matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers is Candyland for talented opposition and on Tuesday night it was Thaddeus Young‘s turn to feast. The injury-depleted Sixers couldn’t keep Thad off the glass as he collected a season-high 16 rebounds (four offensive). In addition to the board-fest, Young scored 14 points on 5-9 from the field and a perfect 4-4 mark from the foul line. He handed out a team-high four assists (with no turnovers), swiped the ball twice and rejected three Philly shots for an eight-category gem. The only disappointment for Thad’s owners on this night is that he fouled out, holding him to 33 minutes, or the line could have been even sweeter.

Thad has been a fourth round value on the season so big lines have popped up here and there, but monster outings like Tuesday’s illustrate just how favorable a matchup with Philadelphia can be. All told, the Nets hung 131 points on ’em (in regulation) and with the 76ers having now given up more than 110 points in twelve of their last fifteen games, it’s worth a look ahead to see who else might have an opportunity to post a season-best line at the expense of Philadelphia pride in the near future…

  • Thursday, March 17th vs Wizards – Look for Otto Porter to go big, especially if Bradley Beal can’t go.
  • Friday, March 18th vs Thunder – If you’ve ever wondered if Russell Westbrook can post a triple-double in less than 20 minutes, this might be the night we find out.
  • Sunday, March 20th vs Boston – Avery Bradley is due for a scoring outburst as he hasn’t had a 20+ point performance since February 22nd. Maybe he busts loose against the “defense” of Isaiah Canaan and Nik Stauskas.

Beyond that the ‘6ers head out on a four-game road trip with the last of those contests taking place at Oracle Arena against the Golden State Warriors…yikes.

Let’s take a game-by-game look at the studs, duds and noteworthy performers from a six-game Tuesday night.

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Winter might not officially end for another couple of weeks, but Spring looks to have sprung for us up here in the northeast. Temperatures are climbing, the last of the snow has melted, the pretty girls are starting to peel away their heavy winter apparel, and the Toronto Raptors are reminding Canadian hoops fans why it’s never a good idea to buy into the idea that “maybe this will be our year.”

You’d think after nearly blowing a 15-point lead to the Blazers on Friday, and then actually blowing it against the visiting Rockets on Sunday, my Raps would take out some of their frustrations on the woefully bad Brooklyn Nets…yeah, not so much. Thanks to getting outscored 35-14 in the 2nd quarter, they were down 16 at half…to the Nets. The 18-45 Nets. That Toronto came back to win on the strength of 48 points from their All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry (23) & DeMar DeRozan (25) is besides the point. These extended periods of disinterested play against inferior competition are what have caused their early playoff exits each of the past couple years and Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre was just the most recent example of the team failing to learn from their past mistakes. If history is any indication, there’s going to be a lot more where that came from…

Whatever. I’m preemptively upset about it happening again and I don’t want to talk about it anymore, alright? Let’s just move past it.

For variety’s sake, we’ll change up the format again this week and break down Tuesday’s six pack game-by-game with a focus on the noteworthy fantasy performers who are helping and hurting owners as the playoffs fast approach.

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Do-you-want-s’more?

That was the last time I saw a Butler as mechanical as Jimmy Butler… “He’s more machine now, than man!”  Well, that was more a bartender, but ya know…  Godzilla returned from a pretty scary knee injury faster than I thought, going 24/11/6/1/0 in 34 minutes Saturday night exactly a month after “straining” his knee.  I’m sorry, when I hear nonspecificity with a knee injury, it’s scarier to me than realizing Deebo from Friday would lead our presidential candidates right now.  “WHY THE HELL IS IT EATING ALL THE SATELLITES!?”  Future came sooner than we thought on that one…  Focus, JB!  Aziz, light!  Godzilla did have some warts with the 5 TO and fouling out (actually the first time he’s fouled out in his career!), but when you’re a lizard-beast born from nuclear winter, it’s tough to have a blemish free outing!  I preached caution in trying to buy Buckets low, so hopefully you were bolder than me.  More daring.  Basically let’s hope you treated this like a giant Dorito, while I was a tasteless vegan vegetable straw.  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for week 19 (last week of the regular season!!!!):

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I love Sports.  WORST CLICHE OPEN EVER!  But seriously, what makes sports awesome is you can have very little interest in one-particular game, then all the sudden you’re watching something unbelievable.  A great example was that 2013 Alabama Auburn game that I flipped on for the 4th quarter then the way short field goal ended up being an Auburn TD.  I had no stake in that game!  But sooooo glad I just happened to flip to it…  Then it happened again on Saturday night.

I know what you’re saying…  “But JB, it’s GSW and OKC, you weren’t planning your whole weekend around that matchup?!” Well, I have none of those guys on my favorite teams (who are we kidding, none on my REL team), and was out Saturday night anyway at my buddy’s house.  We kinda nonchalantly put it on in the background, then the next thing you know, Stephen Curry is running back out of the tunnel like a gladiator after his injury and we watched one of the best regular-season NBA games I’ve ever seen.  If not THE best.

In case you missed it during the depths of the offseason, I wrote a pretty lengthy rant on the awfulness that was Interstellar.  At some point during the movie, Anne Goaway says something like “Love is the ONE THING that can transcend time and space” or some crap expository dialogue…  Well, Christopher Nolan, looks like you need to do a 4-years-too-late re-write!  It should be “Stephen Curry’s jump shot is the ONE THING that can transcend time and space”!  I don’t think I need to transpose his numbers ever again; he just is the best at basketball.  And the game was a little bit of a microcosm of his career – started fine but not awesome, got a kankle, but persevered and was able to get back into the game, then was the best shooter the NBA has ever seen.  Cleaning house of awards and records like Mad Max: Fury Road last night!  To think he went to college less than a mile from my childhood house and I sat right behind him once at a Davidson College game!  I should’ve tried to nab his mouthguard when it was hanging out on a FT shot…  Here’s what else went down over the weekend of fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for Week 18:

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Shelvin Mack has finally been reunited with Gordon Hayward, and the Jazz definitely feel so good about it. (If you don’t remember their heroic run with Butler to the championship game against Duke, then I feel very sorry for you.) Mack immediately becomes a must own after leapfrogging the rest of the dismal PG depth. Shelvin has always been a versatile guard, but he really lacked a true playmaker’s skill-set during his early years. Fortunately, he really adapted to that point guard role, during his time with the Hawks. Don’t get too carried away with projections though, he’s likely to average points in the low teens, 4 or 5 assists, and probably over a 3. Odds are, he won’t produce a lot of defensive stats, but on the plus side, he won’t turn the ball over much. (Ignore the 6 TO outlier last game, since he’s been fairly consistent career wise.) He is likely to be impacted by the return of Alec Burks, so that’s another thing to keep an eye on. Overall though, he needs to be owned for now, and we’ll deal with Burks when he gets back.

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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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