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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After a tough loss in Detroit, it’s safe to say things have yet to take flight for this year’s Houston Rockets. While many came into the season thinking Houston’s out-of-this-world lineup had the potential to challenge the incumbent Golden State Warriors for the title as best team in the West, those dreams came crashing back to earth weeks ago (and Kevin McHale is still searching through the wreckage for the cause of the incident). Last night’s struggles are just another indication of this season’s overall trend: the Houston Rockets are looking more like Team Rocket when they step on the court.

Even a near triple double from James Harden (29 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) wasn’t enough for Houston to surmount a surprising Pistons squad. With Harden passing 40 minutes for the fourth straight game, it’s looking like the Rockets are going to be riding their thoroughbred until the saddle cracks. In fairness, a monster game from Harden is probably the best chance Houston has to win every night, but for fantasy owners, the team’s struggle bodes well for the Beard’s outlook. Harden is going to score in abundance while racking up rebounds, assists, 3s, and steals as Houston fights to stay in the playoff hunt early. I think these past five games are particularly telling for the current state of the team as well as Harden’s prospects for the next few weeks as they try to right the ship (or the rocket).

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Hoops fans were treated to a pretty entertaining six-game slate on Tuesday night, and those who were able to stay awake into the wee hours of Wednesday morning (for us East coasters anyways), saw history made at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors set a new benchmark for best record to start an NBA season by winning their sixteenth straight game to open the 2015-2016 campaign.

For all intents and purposes, the game between the Warriors and the visiting Lakers was over before it started. GSW entered the contest as 17-point favorites and it took them all of 10 and a half minutes to cover that number. The Dubs were up 34 after three quarters and LA had the look of a team that might as well have just stayed home – they walked in defeated. (Aside: Byron Scott needs to go. Awful, awful ball coach.)

Unfortunately the blowout factor was in full effect as none of the Warriors starters were needed in the fourth quarter, evidenced by Stephen Curry and Draymond Green playing a game-high 30 minutes each. However, in honor of this Golden State team destroying the league so far this season, here are the lines for each of their starters tonight:

  • Chef Curry – 24/4/9/2/0, four triples, zero TOs
  • Klay Thompson – 11/3/2/0/1, two triples, one TO
  • Harrison Barnes – 8/2/1/0/0, two triples, one TO
  • Draymond Green – 18/7/5/1/2, two triples, 7-11 FGs
  • Andrew Bogut – 8/7/2/0/2, 4-7 FGs, zero TOs

Those are pretty pedestrian numbers (relative to each player’s typical contributions this year), but these are the types of lines that we’ll occasionally see with a team as dominant as the Warriors. For season-long owners you just have to move on to the next game and hope it’s a more competitive affair. And for DFS players, you know for the future to fade GSW players on nights when they’re huge favorites as the main guys won’t be needed for the full 48. At some point we’ll also have to keep an eye out for DNP-Rest days, though I can’t imagine that will happen until Golden State loses their first game. (For the record, the teams standing in the way of a 28-0 Warriors team hosting the Cleveland LeBrons on Christmas Day are: Phoenix twice, Sacramento, Utah twice, Charlotte, Toronto, Brooklyn, Indiana, and Milwaukee twice. Seriously – who of those teams is scaring you if you’re the Dubs?)

Let’s take a look at the non-Bay Area happenings on Tuesday night…

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After witnessing the Philadelphia lose their eleventh straight contest this year, needless to say, it certainly takes balls to be a 76ers fan right now. I’m not referring to testicular fortitude or alpha masculinity, but rather literally, to the ping pong balls of hope known as the 2016 NBA Draft Lottery. With the possibility of multiple lottery picks in the 2016 Draft, it’s going to be okay Philadelphia fans. Put down your weapons, we’ll get through this together.

But it may take some time, since the franchise is focusing on future contention; the on-court product suffers as the 76ers appear to be the worst team in basketball once again.

At this point, I’m just surprised Philadelphia still has a team website, since they can’t string three “W’s” together…

I think I’m going to hide in a corner for the rest of my life after that joke.

Philly, I’m rooting for you, and I’m rooting for the process!

Jahil Okafor continued to impact the box score with a 19 points, 11 boards, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 2 blocks. The Rookie of the Year frontrunner recorded his second straight double double against a soft Dallas front court. Luckily for fantasy owners, Okafor will see plenty of minutes to develop in the interim despite concerns about his immediate impact to the team’s chances of winning. Long term, his inabilities to defend the rim and stretch the floor may impact his fit in Philadelphia. I don’t think the coaching staff has any surprising moves in store for 2015 (such as playing more small ball around Noel or limiting Okafor’s minutes experimenting with more perimeter-based lineups), but moving forward, it is a trend to monitor as he continues to develop this year.

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Maybe he didn’t call glass on his clutch three with 1:05 left in the 4th, but when you’re Dirk Nowitzki, a future hall of famer, who cares? I know fantasy owners don’t care whether it was a swish or a banked in three. All we care about are the final stats. And, boy, did Dirk deliver.

Down one going into the second half, Dirk took over for the Mavericks, leading them to a 10-point win against the Clippers. Dirk finished the game with 31 points and 11 rebounds on 11-14 shooting, including 5-6 from downtown. It was vintage Dirk.

Midway through the 3rd quarter he caught a Zaza Pachulia pass off of an offensive rebound and without squaring up, knocked down an one foot fade away jumper without hesitation. He knocked down threes with DeAndre Jordan in his grill. It was truly a great game.

As a fan of the game, it’s amazing to watch games like this, but as a fantasy owner, you have to realize that these games aren’t as common for the 37 year-old as they used to be. It was Dirk’s first 30-point game since December 28, 2014. In his 18th year in the NBA, Dirk is still a top 50 player when he plays, but just be aware his minutes are monitored more closely and he sits on back to backs, hurting his total overall value.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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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:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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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Wazzup razz nation!  This article is primarily going to cater to the more casual reader, simply because I’m not going to go into any in-depth stat analysis, for this particular post.  Basically, this is going to address some of the pet players we have on this site, and why we adore them.  I’m not going to cover most of the first few rounds with players like Andrew Wiggins and Rudy Gobert, since they have been covered in a fair amount of detail previously.  Without further ado, lets dive in!

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The last two months of the NBA season can produce some extremely strange numbers. You don’t necessarily have to be a good basketball player to produce at the NBA level during these months. That doesn’t matter for winning fantasy leagues though. Numbers are NUMBERS:

2014/2015 NBA Season Final 2 Months Ranking 8-Cat:

Rudy Gobert (27)

Hassan Whiteside (63)

Jordan Clarkson (40)

Zach LaVine (85)

Nikola Mirotic (61)

What do all these players have in common?

-They were all undrafted or dropped to the wire in the majority of 12-team 8-cat roto leagues last year.

-They were all rookies or sophomores for the 2014-2015 season. (Whiteside excluded)

-They all provided top 100 per game value for the final two months of the 2014-2015 season.

Every year there are difference makers that arise throughout the final two months of the season. The correlation between winning teams and scooping up difference makers in the back end of the season cannot be underestimated. Below are some players I think may be able to break out in the final months of the season:

Please, blog, may I have some more?