Ranks are hard! I almost changed the title to “Way Too Much Of A Headache Ranks” since 2016-17 is gonna be ridiculous on draft day! So many guys with upside, so many injury question marks, free agency is gonna explode, we still have rookies to mix in here… And I don’t feel like I have as many “on a limb” calls as the past few seasons. Everything seems to be nebulous, murky, jiggly-like-Raymond-Felton-running, “I guess this guy seems about right” kind of ranks filling out the top 50. If anyone thinks they’re more excited than I am for free agency and the NBA Draft, they would be sorely mistaken! I need some clarity out here, dammit! Hopefully with some signings and scouting the rookies, I can find some more bold calls when we get to the “real” ranks in August. Or maybe I’m gun shy after the Wiggins fiasco. That will go down as one of the biggest international scandals in history… Dammit, eh! Here’s my Way Too Early Top 50 (1-10 can be read here, 11-25 here) for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season (with 1-50 in a complete list below):

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So here we are in the semi-finals of the H2H playoffs! It feels like I was just writing sleeper posts for the season yesterday… Just for the record, I would like to pat myself on the back for calling Greg Monroe a bust.  That was probably my most contentious bust call during the preseason, and it didn’t look like it would pan out at the start.  The call would look even better if the Bucks had come to their senses earlier… Monroe just doesn’t fit that team.  I should apologize to Rondo for the bust call, but a selfish player with those percentages, will always be a bust to me.

*Here’s where I need the opinions:  What content would you like to see this basketball off-season?  I’ll do some sleepers and busts again later on, but are there any other ideas?  Possibly an alternative set of early rankings, individual player previews for the next season, or maybe something else!  Leave your thoughts in the comments!*

Ok! Back to the here and now!

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What a return from the break!

It was an exceptional weekend of NBA action after the wayyyyyyy too long layoff for the break, highlighted by a huge upset by the Blazers.  Is anyone else getting annoyed by that Damian Lillard commercial on the NBA App?!  The one where he semi-raps, then says “thanks for the motivation” when asked about his haters?  Well, it’s kinda fitting now, with that performance after that All-Star snubbery!  Dame went Insame on the Warriors for a career-high 51 points, going 51/0/7/6/0, shooting 18-28 from the field.  But the crazier numbers were 9 treys, and not a single TO.  6 steals and no turnovers?!  That’s winning hoops right there!  He followed it up with a huge night last night as well, going 24/4/4 through 3 quarters before grandpa JB hit his bedtime.  Portland bested Golden State with a crushing 137-105 W in that Friday epic win, solidifying the Blazers as a playoff contender.  No one thought they would even be close, and as Slim and I talked on the Pod, Stotts deserves a ton of cred and maybe some Coach of the Year consideration.  If you told me in October the Blazers would make the playoffs, I woulda said you’re Insame!  Here’s what else went down over an exciting return to hoops over the weekend, plus The 7 Ahead for week 17:

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The last Tuesday before the All-Star break featured five games spread all over the USA. From South Beach to NYC, Wisconsin to Texas, and finishing up in the Bay Area out west, we had a handful of contests that featured some big fantasy lines.

In lieu of a Thursday night double-header as a result of the abbreviated week, TNT snagged the two marquee games on Tuesday. First up was the Spurs and Heat featuring the Kawhi Leonard show. He served fantasy owners a generous helping of popcorn (23 points, nine boards, four dimes) with just the right amount of butter (three steals, a block, and a trey). Despite a few quiet games recently, you’re not moving Leonard for anyone outside the top-5.

Also jumping at 8pm were tilts between the Wizards and Knicks, and Celtics and Bucks. John Wall put on a show at the Garden, dropping 17 dimes to complement his team-high 28 points. He and backcourt mate, Bradley Beal combined for 54 points, five steals, eight triples, and only three turnovers. The Wizards needed every bit of it as they narrowly escaped New York with a three point win. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, a wild and foul-filled last few seconds allowed the Bucks to steal one from the visiting Celts. Greg Monroe made his case for 6th Man of the Year as Jason Kidd decided it would be best for him to come off the bench on Tuesday. In 30 reserve minutes, Moose went off for 29/12/3/1/2. He was a team-best +11 and you have to wonder if him being so dominant as a reserve has Coach Kidd considering this as more than just a one game thing? So long as he’s getting the run, owners should continue to bank on the third round value he’s been returning on the season.

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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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Monday night’s heavyweight match between the two best teams in the league mostly disappointed. Sure, Stephen Curry and the Warriors were fun to watch, but the Spurs were mostly a no show, losing 120-90.

On Wednesday, the Spurs returned home to host the Rockets. They took all of their rage out on the self-destructing Rockets, destroying them 130-99. Do you think the Spurs were mad about losing by 30 on Monday night?

Scoring only 5 points on Monday, LaMarcus Aldridge rebounded to lead the Spurs with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. Danny Green knocked down 6 threes to post 18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. That’s more like it Aldridge and Green!

Kawhi Leonard (18 points) and Tony Parker (15 points, 7 assists) got in on the fun too, as Tim Duncan sat another game, while the Spurs await the MRI results on his knee. If Duncan misses substantial time, the Spurs will roll with a combo of Kyle Anderson (7/3/1), David West (4/2/2), and Boris Diaw (0/2/3), depending on matchups.

I would really love to see more of Boban Marjanovic, but I think he’s a little too big to see much more than 20 minutes a night. The dude’s 7’3” and weighs 290, with ears that give Barack Obama a run for his money, but his hands are crazy big. They make normal people’s hands look worthless, Ray McCallum’s head small, and a gallon of ice tea look like a juice box. Thanks to the blowout, Marjanovic posted a 13/10 double-double in 17 minutes.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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PPPPPAAAANNNNTTTHHHHEEERRRRSSSS!!!!!  Aight, aight, this is fantasy hoops, we’ll just leave it at that.

On Friday morning, the Clippers shed one of their % drain players, giving the DNP-king [another] fresh start in Houston.  And what does Josh Smith do in his debut?!  Goes all J Smoove like you’d expect!  Goes 1-10 FG, 0-2 FT, for some reason took 4 treys and missed them all (what did you expect after bricking the first 3, Smoove?!), but still gets a rainbow line for 2/5/6/2/3.  Oh yeah, 2 TO in there too.  Smoove did bounce back last night after almost single-handedly costing the Rox a W in his debut, going 16/3/2/2/2 yesterday afternoon for back-to-back rainbows.  He apparently stole someone else’s talent ala Space Jam alien, because he shot 6-14 FG, 2-2 FT, and had only 1 TO.  “Talkin’ bout the Dream Team, we’re the Mean Team!”  Josh Smith is not a good 9-cat fantasy asset in any league, and even in 8-cat, he’s probably not ownable in 12ers for me.  That mean enough?!  But the real criminal aspect of the acquisition is of course their absolute hatred for Terrence Jones.  HE’S getting the full Mean Girls treatment – they’re feeding him Swedish weight gaining bars, JB Bickerstaff made out with his boyfriend, they’re turning his best friends against him…  That organization is an institutional bully – culminating in a whopping 10 minutes of action last night with Dwight Howard (kankle) still out.  I didn’t understand the McHale firing, I don’t understand this trade, I don’t understand the Ty Lawson signing…  They’re taking this off the rails faster than Lindsay Lohan’s Prius!  Or, well, Lawson’s Prius…  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for Week 14:

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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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As many of you already know (or as my avatar may suggest), I’m a Canadian so I don’t really have a dog in the 2016 United States Presidential fight. I do, however, live close to the border and have enjoyed traveling throughout the United States (including the entire northeast, Florida, California, Colorado, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands) with my wife over the better part of the last ten years. So I have a keen interest in American politics as it indirectly impacts “my world.”

That leads me to my admission – I watched President Barack Obama’s eighth and final State of the Union address last night (and the subsequent analysis & reaction) instead of basketball. There was basketball to be watched up here, I just chose not to. But it gave me some perspective – it reminded me that a common sense approach to the big picture issues is never as simple as it should be, and that holds true in the NBA as well. Examples from some of the 16 teams in action on Tuesday alone:

  • The Timberwolves have a wealth of young talent to cultivate and yet they start Kevin Garnett & Tayshaun Prince?
  • The Suns have a cancerous presence in their locker room (Markieff Morris) and they can’t decide what to do about it – they give him multiple healthy DNPs in a row, and then they unleash him for 27 minutes, taking opportunity from someone like Jon Leuer (17 minutes) who could actually be a part of their future plans.
  • The Celtics and Knicks – both of whom are in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt – continue to run heavier-than-necessary rotations rather than identifying the best court combinations and maximizing their efficiency and output.
  • The Rockets have an extremely fragile, high-salaried starting center (Dwight Howard) who is prone to usage-related injuries and they run him for 38 minutes when they have a number of other very capable young frontcourt players to ease the burden.
  • The Bulls appear to embrace their future for a moment by giving a solid rotation spot to Bobby Portis, only to yank it out from under him (he played 4 minutes on Tuesday) once they’re back to full health.
  • The Pelicans offer center Omer Asik a massive contract in the offseason and even when he’s playing well (13 rebounds, a steal and a block, team-high +7 net rating), and they’re absent their best frontcourt player, he can’t get minutes (18).

Essentially what I’m saying is that there are a lot of things we, as fantasy owners, think should happen by any measure of common sense, but just don’t because of a number of factors beyond our control. We can go data mining until the cows come home and have an open & shut case to make why Player X deserves more minutes/opportunity, but it doesn’t matter. We can only do so much. There will always be someone on the other side who impacts that situation and we just have to make the best of it. Thankfully, the NBA has a long season and, unlike football, one or two bad weeks won’t spell doom for your campaign. I love that we get 82 games to try and figure out what the heck is going on. We’ll never be right 100% of the time, no matter that the stats or common sense says we maybe could be, but it sure doesn’t stop us from trying…

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I’m living at home with my parents temporarily, while work is being done on my condo. I didn’t want to be bothered living there while they’re painting and installing new carpeting and flooring. As a result, I’m getting kicked off the television so that my mom can watch her shows. I missed the Sunday Night Football game for “Downton Abbey” and then had to turn off the Wizards/Cavs and Knicks/Heat games for “Law & Order.” I guess it’s a fair trade, since I’m getting so many home cooked meals and leftovers for lunch.

Fortunately SVU ended early enough for me to catch the Thunder’s dismantling of the Grizzlies. Kevin Durant returned from a toe injury to post 26 points and 17 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook continued his near triple-double stat lines with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. You always worry with Durant’s foot being a problem last season, but it was nice to see KD back, after only missing one game.

It was all Thunder in this game, as the Grizzlies played down due to injuries. Mike Conley was out because of a sore left Achilles and Courtney Lee, who started for Conley, left early in the second half after injuring his hip. That left Mario Chalmers, who exploded for 23 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 threes. It’s unclear how long Conley and Lee could be out, but Chalmers would become the starter by default. It’s not like the Grizzlies will give Vince Carter lots of minutes!

Now onto the other Wednesday night games:

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