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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What’s up Razzballers!? After a week of final exams, it’s an understatement to say I’m excited to be back this week. Between impossible questions, countless hours in the library, and spending way too much time calculating my GPA instead of studying, fantasy basketball was my beacon of hope, the light at the end of the preverbal tunnel, and ultimate study break. (Also I’m an engineering major. We hate our lives, so we need hobbies to make our daily existence palatable).

While it certainly helps that both my fantasy football teams have been eliminated from their respective playoff matchups (I HATE DAVID JOHNSON WITH A PASSION), spending a night watching hoops never sounded so great.

With a nine-game slate of basketball last night, let’s discuss the standout performance:

DeMarcus Cousins – Against a depleted Washington frontcourt, Cousins filled up the box score posting 22 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, and 3 steals while going 1-3 from deep. While his shooting percentage leaves a little more to be desired, Cousins has been playing well while adjusting his game to playing as the starting center. Even with Cousins opening up about his concerns in adjusting to his new role, the big man has managed to continue to provide top tier value while expanding his range to the 3-point line.

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Wazzup Razznation??  It’s good to be back!  I obviously missed the last week because I was on vacation, visiting some friends in Cincinnati.  While I was up there, I got a chance to go to a Kentucky game at Rupp arena, then shoot around, and play some pick-up in the practice gym after the game (one of my friends is a manager for the team).  Definitely was a cool experience, although I’m not a huge Kentucky fan.  The athleticism and talent of the UK squad is unquestionable, but they won’t make it very far in March without a lot more hustle and outside shooting.

Just for the record, this was the UK vs Arizona St. game on 12/12/2015:

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At any rate, let’s dive into some NBA action!

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Early in the day on Wednesday, Major League Baseball announced that All-Star Todd Frazier was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seven-player trade. Wait, I thought this was a basketball blog! Well, one of those guys involved in the trade was Trayce Thompson. Not quite a Splash Brother, but the biological brother of the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson and former NBA player, Mychel Thompson, who now plays in Italy.

As brothers, it’s pretty common to be competitive with each other. We may not be on as big of a stage as the Thompson brothers, but my older brother and I make almost everything a competition between each other, whether it’s games of one-on-one, 10-mile races, or Settlers of Catan.

While Trayce was gaining popularity as a new member of the Dodgers in California, Klay went off for 27 points in the 3rd on his way to a game high 43 points (15-22 FG, 8-13 3PT). It must be a happy time for the Thompson family!

Coming off their first loss of the season, the Warriors blew out the Suns by 25, leading by 40 after the 3rd quarter.

With the game in hand, Thompson, Draymond Green, and Stephen Curry weren’t even needed in the 4th quarter. That was enough minutes for Green to go for a triple double (16/11/10/5) and Curry to drop 25 points and 7 assists. So much for feeling sad about their first loss.

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So I’m watching the Bulls and Clip last night, Blake Griffin starts hot, then sorta melds into his normal role.  BORING!  Virtually 20/10 every night, and after scoring 6 early, it looked like your typical BG evening – as plain and simple as a Kia.  With his line at 18/11/2/0/2, Blake was like, “aight, time to either get a Razzball mention for 5-6 blocks, or swing tryin’!”  He became a medieval dentist swinging at Taj Gibson, getting this flagrant 2 for a hit that would make Holly Holm proud.  I’m not the biggest Taj fan, but he mouths “I’m OK” even though he easily could’ve lost 4 teeth.  Can’t keep him down!  Should’ve been cast in Creed…  Even with the premature exit, Griffin’s line was solid and we’re seeing some microscopic improvements to his game that could make 2015-16 a career year.  But when you’re right at career-norms and performing right at draft day value, it’s tough to get a lot of attention unless you pop someone right in the weasel.  And with the comradery helping Taj up and you could make the argument it was a legit block attempt, he’s certainly not missing any games due to a suspension.  So ride your boring, reliable ol’ Kia and enjoy consistency.  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy basketball:

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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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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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How do you decide who is most deserving of the lead between these two stellar performances?:

  • Player A – 25 points, 18 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block, 10-15 FGs
  • Player B – 22 points, 14 rebounds, 10 blocks, 10-14 FGs

I’m going to give the nod to the player who posted his gaudy stats in a winning effort and that would be Player A, also known as Detroit center, Andre Drummond. The Pistons asked a lot from their franchise big man, and he responded with 39 minutes of terrific play that helped lead his team to a win over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers. Drummond was a +17 in a five point win, and even made the Cavs pay when they intentionally fouled him in the fourth quarter. After starting 1-4 from the line, AD made four of his last five to help seal the deal. It was a great overall performance and at this point the only thing fantasy owners need to fear is this heavy workload catching up to him later in the season. But at only 22 years old, there’s no reason why Drummond can’t make 2015-2016 his career campaign.

Player B is Miami Heat center, Hassan Whiteside. In just his 77th career game, Whiteside treated fantasy owners to his second points/boards/blocks triple-double. Unfortunately it was in a losing effort to the visiting Timberwolves, and was accompanied by four turnovers and a 2-9 mark from the charity stripe. Despite the sub-par free throw shooting (which was a bugaboo coming into the season), Hassan is providing first round returns and very likely earning himself a max contract when he hits free agency in the summer of 2016. Similar to Andre Drummond, there are no legitimate threats to Whiteside’s value other than injury, so it’s a “sit back and enjoy the ride” opportunity for his owners.

Honorable mention goes to Brooklyn’s pivot, Brook Lopez, who wasn’t too shabby himself on Tuesday night, dropping a 24/10/1/1/3 line in a two point win over the visiting Hawks. BroLo only turned the ball over once in 35 minutes and made 11-21 from the floor against a reasonably stout Atlanta front line. He may not be posting the monster lines like Whiteside and Drummond, but he’s chugging along as a third round per-game value in 9-cat leagues which is likely providing his owners with a solid return on their draft day investment.

Let’s take a look at what else shook down on a highly entertaining seven-game Tuesday evening…

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This fantasy team you’ve assembled is still settling into place, like the foundation of a new building. As someone who knows nothing whatsoever about construction beyond my adventures in Ikea assembly, it stands to reason that if the foundation isn’t sound, if the footprint is comprised of poorly poured concrete, the building won’t stand. Or maybe it will, I haven’t the foggiest clue. But in terms of your squad, I proudly assert that I am marginally less out of my element. Look at it this way: we all need to take these early weeks as seriously as the later ones, particularly for securing those cumulative stat categories, if we wish to compete for a championship, right? So I say, perhaps recklessly, that even entering week 3, improving your foundation should be everyone’s goal, particularly those employed in the concrete business. Check out these cornerstones I’ve poorly stuck into this analogy:

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