As we head into August, now is a perfect time to take a look back at the free agency period for the upcoming 2014-15 NBA season.

While there is one big name yet to sign (Eric Bledsoe), a few less-intriguing options still on the market (Michael Beasley, Andray Blatche, Kent Bazemore, Jordan Crawford), and another who’s unsure whether he’ll play or retire (Ray Allen), most of the fantasy basketball world knows where guys will be playing this season.  Of course, that still doesn’t include the possibility of Kevin Love finding a new home by the end of the summer, but that could be the subject of an entirely different article.

There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that Love will land in Cleveland, which will make them a huge force in the Eastern Conference — and in the entire NBA.

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Free agency is here!  It has been a bit mum since the FA pool is awaiting that LeBron James cannonball, leaving us without a good snapshot of how the league will look in 2014-15.  But we’ve got Summer League getting into gear and a couple interesting FA moves.

With the The Decision 2.0 on hold, even P.J. Hairston is antsy and trying to get some ball in.  According to reports, he got into a fight with a high school senior, literally at the YMCA closest to the one where I play pickup (Chapel Hill).  While some guys are really good at Chapel Hill, there aren’t any NBA players actin’ a fool and calling three in the key!  This is likely a non-story, but it just makes you shake your head.  Almost as much as my former rookie nookie Archie Goodwin getting arrested at an Arkansas skating rink.  Sure, you can tweet “Don’t assume if you don’t know the whole story…” to which I say, “the hell you gonna get into that kinda situation at a skating rink for!”  Man, that pine gonna stay warm this year, Archie!  Here’s some other [actually useful for fantasy] news and notes of free agent signings and early Summer League performances:

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Happy draft lottery, Cleveland-ites!  Is having another 1st overall pick enough to lure LeBron back?!  I think chances of that are as good as Anthony Bennett turning out to be a good player…

And now to the fun stuff… Figuring out where to rank the volatile middle-tier guys.  As Paris Hilton once said, “Studs are studs!  Except for when they’re busts!”  Wow, awful.  Needed to get some shock value in here – that was my proverbial watermelon mallet.

After the top 20, things get pretty tricky this early in the offseason.  And until a good bit after the NBA Draft, 50 is as high as we’re gonna go.  The draft class is loaded, and several should proliferate into the top 100, with a few even top 50 guys in the right situation.  Then free agency, old guys retiring, all that hooblah.  But if you’re thinking ahead to some dynasties or formulating some early fantasy draft strategies, here’s my way too early Top 50 for the 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Season (spoiler alert: still no Jonas Valanciunas):

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More rankings, more “hindsight is 20-20″-ing!  Damn man, seeing LaMarcus Aldridge carve up the Rockets after his huge season is bumming me out – even before I hop into reviewing 21-50!  Get the red marker ready Slim!  Get that F ready!

Just like we reviewed in the Top 20, rankings are based on my final updated top 200, comparing them to the FantasyPros aggregate Draft Day Rankings along with Basketball Monster’s Total Value for 9-cat leagues on the season.  Slim busts out his grading pens and reviews for grammatical correctness and how stringently I followed the assignment.  “What if I stay after class for tutoring!?”  This dialogue and mental image is starting to sound like a low-rent porno.  It’s not like that!  Here’s a look back at the Top 50 for the 2013-14 Fantasy Basketball Season:

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Remember back in the day when you played Oregon Trail every waking moment?  I only sorta remember because I kept getting dysentery…  But I imagine an update should have the mythical creature of LaMarcus Aldridge as some sort of omnipotent deity that you hope comes to your aid.  “Your wagon is stuck in quick sand, use 1 of 3 remaining LaMarcus Aldridge summons?”  Hells yea!  And then I need him to save my oxen.  Huge game from LA last night putting up a career-high points and a sick 44/13/5/0/2 line including 14-17 FT while the crowd chanted “M-V-P” all 4th quarter.  Scored the last 15 points, went 8-8 at the stripe in the last 70 seconds, all in a 5-point win.  The Nuggets just had nothing for him inside when he was crashing the glass, and LA was boarding like a beast.  I know he’s had a lot of Goromotaros, but almost all the boards he got in this one were in traffic.  And the Nuggets were fouling him extremely hard all 4th quarter.  Gonna need an ice bath!  All he has to do is come to the east coast and jump in a lake.  One of my worst calls of the year was my poor Aldridge ranking, but if you can’t get it right, join em!  Or something like that… Traded for him in REL and in another league.  I don’t know why owners were pulling a Kurt Russell and trying to Escape From L.A., but enjoy your huge stats and the first-round value you’re accruing.  Here’s what else I saw last night in NBA news and action:

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Now I’m not sure about this, but when Taj Gibson had a couple good games over the Thanksgiving week, I probably recapped and gobble-gobbled at it.  My jowls flapped around like Boss Nass bein’ all “Hmmpphhherr Rumpity-Doooo, Taj Gibson, rabble rabble rabble!”  At least that sounds like me… Now you see what I deal with in my inner monologue!  It’s like I battle a drunk Kenny Rogers.  Which is to say, I battle Kenny Rogers.  Gibson has been a scrate-up beast the past four, going 23/8, 18/4, 26/14 5 blks, and 19/6/0/1/1 last night.  Bringing big time energy to that front line as the main big off the bench, he’s playing insane out there, shooting 67% from the floor in those past 4.  I watched the game last night and was impressed with his spark, but then again, the Heat bigs are awful.  They got out-rebounded 49-27 last night!  Back in the day, I used to love Taj when Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah battled injuries.  But now… it took some time and four in a row to buy it.  I think it’s because the Bulls are my least favorite team.  Sorry Bulls fans!  Boozer & Noah just yell on virtually every rebound and definitely every single putback attempt.  It’s unreal!  It’s like Maria Sharapova is rebounding.  And Gibson does it at least 50% of the time.  He’s becoming the Bulls Sex Panther.  “50% of the time he’s yelling… every time!”  But regardless of how annoying he/the Bulls bigs are to watch/listen to, he’s playing like a must-own in all formats.  At 33% owned in Yahoo and 24% in ESPN, he’s hot while a lot guys are not.  I don’t think he’s going to turn into a set-it and forget-it guy the rest of the year, he doesn’t do enough of anything else besides score and board (if not for that 5 block game, he’d be under 1 in Asts, Stls & Blks on the year), but I think he’s a ride the wave kinda add right now.  Here’s what else I saw on the light Thursday slate of games and a few updates for tonight:

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As an ancient proverb goes – “I’d like to introduce you to an old friend and a new friend.”  Ok, so I made that up.  But it sounds good!

For an old friend I’ve mentioned a few times and pumped up in my last rankings update before the season started up, my boy Omri Casspi had another solid outing last night that probably was under the radar.  In 24 minutes, he went 7/8/5 with no turnovers, 2-4 from the field and 3-4 from the line.  He just looks awesome every time I see him play.  Did you know he was the first Israeli to play in the NBA?  He’s pretty much Chandler Parsons but with Chandler Parsons in his way.  After a ho-hum first two games, his past two have been fantastic – and this last one without hitting a three which is a big part of his game.  Not necessarily a must own in 12-teamers, but definitely worth a look, and needs to be grabbed in 14+.

Then my new friend - Gal Mekel on the Mavericks.  You’re like, “who the eff is Gal Mekel?  I thought this was NBA not WNBA!”  Mekel was signed to a three-year deal by the Mavs this offseason, and became the second Israeli to join the NBA.  Cut to Amar’e Stoudemire going, “Hey, I should count!”  With Shane Larkin dealing with an ankle injury, and no Devin Harris for a while, Mekel is getting full-on backup PG run and playing well doing it.  He got his 2nd 6 assist game last night going 9/4/6 and hitting a 3.  Sure some run was in junk time, but with the oft-injured Jose Calderon the only one ahead of him (hasn’t played in over 68 games since 2007), Mekel could find his way into starts.  Of course, now I’ve ruined my play on him in the REL League.  Let’s just hope no one in that league is reading!  Here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy hoops:

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[It’s March of 2011. A disenchanted DeMarcus Cousins is mindlessly taking part in a layup drill during a practice at ARCO Arena/ Power Balance Pavilion/ Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento]

Paul Westphall: Ah, yeah, what’s up DeMarcus. Um, I understand there’s been a few questions about your efforts on the glass? Yeah, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and fix that by participating in some rebounding drills, um-kay? Greaaat. Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and practice on Sunday, too…

[Cousins says nothing, fumes, and goes off to take part in the rebounding drills with Assistant Coach Keith Smart]

DeMarcus Cousins: Hey, guys.

Tyreke Evans: What’s up, G?

DeMarcus Cousins: Want to go to Mokeski’s? Get some coffee?

Marcus Thornton: Oh, it’s a little early.

DeMarcus Cousins: I gotta get outta here. I think I’m gonna lose it.

Keith Smart: Uh-oh. Sounds like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays.

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Heading into the upcoming Fantasy Basketball Season, Razzball will be interviewing local NBA beat writers for some actual in-depth basketball knowledge to shed some additional light on our fantasy basketball knowledge. Keep your eye out for an interview for every NBA team through the summer. This installment comes courtesy of Reece Helms from leading Miami Heat blog Hot Hot Hoops.

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Continuing on with updated rankings after the top 10 and top 20, below rounds out my to 50.  Previous rankings are in parentheses next to these updated ranks, with up and down designations only for guys hopping up or down significant spots.  Have fun grilling these!

(22) 21. Nicolas Batum – A lot of commenters have wondered why he’s not in the top-20, and as I said in my previous 20-50 rankings, the declining FG% (45.1% to 42.3%) and 3PT% (39.1% to 37.2%) from 2011-12 to 12-13 gives me pause.  Despite playing over 8 more minutes a game in 11-12 to 12-13, his scoring average only went up 0.4 Pts a game and he only averaged 12 a game after the All-Star Break with his wrist injury.  He’s said the wrist is completely healed, and despite not needing surgery I would be worried with Batum as my second-rounder as the wrist could plague him again.  He’ll still be a multi-cat workhorse, but I see no way he chucks up 6.1 3′s a night with new acquisitions Mo Williams and C.J. McCollum also manning the perimeter.  Yeah their PT may not overlap too consistently, but I just don’t see the three point output mimicking last year.

(23) 22. LaMarcus Aldridge – Another big fantasy asset I’m slightly down on, the Blazers could very easily have another rough first half and look to trade their franchise big.  The rumors have been swirling for quite some time, and there’s virtually no destination where I think he would be a better fantasy player than in Portland.

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