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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Perhaps no player since the great Oscar Robertson has felt like such a nightly threat to record a triple-double than Russell Westbrook. Lately, when the Thunder point guard takes the court on any given night, you’re expecting huge production. You can just tell how much he wants it. He is a special player with an unparalleled combination of aggression and talent…and it was on full display on Tuesday night.

For the third game in a row and the sixth time this month, Russell Westbrook poured in double-digit points, grabbed double-digit rebounds, and handed out double-digit assists. He finished Tuesday’s home win with 21, 13 & 15.

After Tuesday’s game, Westbrook now has March averages (11 games) of: 20.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 11.4 assists.

The remarkable thing though, is that Russ is ranked 54th for 9-category per-game fantasy value this month, due in large part to 4.7 turnovers per game and a high-volume .408 mark from the field. This is a perfect illustration of how eye-popping numbers can be misleading when gauging a player’s actual value to your team. In contrast, Kawhi Leonard is a full 50 ranking spots ahead of Westbrook this month with more modest averages of 22.7/7.4/2.9. But when you add in a .495 shooting percentage and only 1.6 TOs, the valuation swings wildly in his favor.

So while Russell Westbrook is posting trip-dub after trip-dub, it’s prudent for fantasy owners to keep in mind exactly what goes into the making of a star in the real world versus the fantasy world as this 2015-2016 season comes to an end.

Let’s take a look at some of the other note-worthy performers on a quiet four-game Tuesday night in the NBA…

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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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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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[Editor’s Note – No podcast today due to a funny story of JB having to go to the ER, he’s fine though! We’ll be back with the Pod on Thursday]

As the biggest and most surprising player dealt before the Trade Deadline, Tobias Harris arguably has more eyes on him now in Detroit than ever before in Orlando. Brought in to fill the Rashard Lewis role of playmaking 4 in Stan Van Gundy’s quest to reincarnate the 2010 Magic, Harris development with the Pistons will be one of the most intriguing story lines over the rest of the season.

With 16 and 21 points respectively in his previous two outings, Harris has flashed potential in his roll off the bench as a playmaker capable of finding his own shot. Due to any injury to Anthony Tolliver, Harris found himself in the starting lineup at power forward, a potential glimpse into Detroit’s long-term future.

Scoring 14 points to compliment 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals, his debut may have lacked a flashy statline to pair with his status as one of Pistons new core pieces. However, Harris is undoubtedly in a better situation right now than his previous tenure in Orlando.

As a result, fantasy owners should be monitoring his value accordingly. While Detroit is in win-now mode to secure a playoff birth, Harris will be acclimating to his new role and teammates for the rest of the year. Not to temper expectations, but I don’t view his multi-cat impact materializing over the last 30 games.

There may be flashes of his potential, but the Harris move is about 2016 and beyond, not just the last two months of the season.

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With any All-Star list, it’s impossible to include everyone who is having a great year. There are only 12 roster spots and there will always be well-deserving candidates that just don’t fit on the roster. It’s what makes the All-Star selection so noteworthy.

With the All-Star Game this weekend, here is my list of valuable fantasy all-stars who just don’t receive as much love:

Eastern Conference:

Kemba Walker – The Hornets are right in the hunt for the 8th playoff seed in the east and that’s due to the play of Walker. Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (more on him later) have missed most of the season, while Nicolas Batum (11/6/5) has been in and out of the lineup. Walker produces night in and night out with whoever is playing alongside him. Walker scored 25 points with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals to lead the Hornets to another victory.

Nikola Vucevic – Vucci Mane has been the cornerstone of the Magic and has single-handedly won the game for them with a few recent game-winners. He did much of the same on Wednesday with 20 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks. He’s only 25 so there’s still time for him to make the roster one of these years.

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ESPN picked a good one for their weekly Wednesday night NBA showcase. Stephen Curry vs. John Wall, two of the best point guards in the league. It was a very high scoring, up-tempo game, with the final score 134-121. And the stars did not disappoint.

Curry started out on fire, scoring 25 points in the first quarter and 36 in the first half. He cooled down a little bit, but still knocked down 11 of his 16 three point attempts, en route to 51 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Wow. Just like his Charlotte buddy Cam Newton, can they crown him MVP already?

John Wall was doing his best to cover Curry, but it’s a difficult job, even for a strong defender like Wall. Since he couldn’t stop him, Wall tried to match him offensively, finishing with 41 points, 10 assists, and 3 rebounds. He even knocked down all 3 of his three-point attempts, a facet of his game that is nowhere near the level of Curry. It was nice to watch two point guards with very different styles of game dominate the box score.

Oh, and lost in this point guard matchup was that Draymond Green got his league leading 10th triple-double with 12 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. He even added 5 blocks as a point forward!

As a Wizards fan, I figured that the Warriors would win the game, but was happy to see the Wizards play the defending NBA champions close for stretches of the game. Now onto the other nightly notables:

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Been a bad start to the year for NBA coaches.

David Blatt could have realized that all he had to do was get out of the way and let LeBron James coach. But I’m pretty sure the clock was running on his tenure in Cleveland the second he was hired.

Jeff Hornacek could have figured out how to turn Archie Goodwin into “Teen Wolf,” or mastered whatever weird magic/religion that fire woman from “Game of Thrones” practices. Not sure either one of those tricks would have turned an injury-ravaged Suns team into a playoff squad.

Somehow, without doing anything close to the above, and racking up a record of 14-35 with a talented but raw roster, Sam Mitchell has managed to keep his job.

And thanks to injuries to Kevin Garnett (wink, wink) and Nikola Pekovic (big shocker), he might actually be forced into doing something right. Mitchell is now playing his best young players, a group that so obviously includes Gorgui Dieng.

After riding the pine all year so Garnett and Tayshaun Prince could log minutes in meaningless games, Dieng finally has the starting slot and minutes (close to 40 per) that he deserves.

He’s responded by averaging 17.6 ppg and 11.3 rpg in those three starts. All Mitchell could do was mutter that he’s “getting a lot better.” No, he’s playing a lot better, because you’re playing him!

Win or lose, the Wolves have to keep running Dieng out there with Karl-Anthony Towns and make it work. Or Sam might go the way of Blatt and Hornacek.

Get Dieng, any way you can, and check out some of these other guys:

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It’s the takeover, the break’s over. Apparently firing David Blatt may have been the right decision after all, inspiring the recent play of LeBron James and company.

With the Cavs winning their last five games, I have no reasonable doubt that the Big 3 will fail to continue this trend after the All-Star Break. Despite heavy minutes and an up-tempo pace, James has unfinished business on his quest to win his third ring, and this style of play is the blueprint from the successes of his Miami Heat teams.

Maybe this is all a convoluted way of saying the Ruler’s back, but King James and the Cavs look rejuvenated under new coach Tyronn Lue, attacking the opposing defense and getting to the foul line. Playing 43 minutes in an overtime contest, James finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block while shooting 9-22 from the field. Although shooting 4-8 from the foul line is more Drummond-like than MVP level, just remember everyone makes mistakes, everyone has those days.

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The Flash is finally finding his stride!

Skiles still had some “SKIIIIIIILES!” moments, but is finally letting the youngun Aaron Gordon get his consistent minutes in the starting 5. It was such a tough decision sitting that phenomenal Channing Frye! Ugh. And as much as I’d like to see the Magic lose every game to get Skiles the hell outta there, he’s coached Orlando to a better record than anyone woulda thought. Last night he kept rotations that were sparking a comeback, led by Gordon who went 19/14/5/0/2 in 39 minutes, shooting 8-11 with no TO. The only black eye was a very unsavory 3-9 FT. That’s almost two black eyes! But he’s been a decent enough FT shooter to not worry too much on that… With the minutes starting to look consistent (gulp, I may have jynxed it… SKIIIIILES!), Gordon is looking like a must own in all 10 team leagues or deeper. The STL and BLK have been pretty anemic until last night, but as the Magic were streaking late in the 3rd quarter, he just seemed to get this stride in him, and little extra pep in his step. He had a nasty steal with a behind the back shake-n-bake then dime during the comeback run, and a great putback slam in the 4th. Sometimes the younguns can really build off success, so let’s hope this is the start of a streak as epic as Will Ferrell heading to the quad. There’s more coming! Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops, plus The 7 Ahead for Week 15:

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