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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The precursor to the much-hyped Clippers and Warriors game was the game between the Bulls and Knicks. On paper, this wasn’t the best choice by ESPN, considering the Knicks are out of the playoffs and the Bulls are competing for the 8th spot.

However, it featured two of the best, youngest international stars. Rookie Kristaps Porzingis dunked and shot his way to 29 points and 10 rebounds. He may have hit the so-called “rookie wall,” but he still contributes enough in a variety of categories to matter in fantasy for the playoffs.

Nikola Mirotic almost single handedly brought the Bulls back in the 4th quarter. He knocked down 9-13 from downtown, on his way to 35 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. Can you name the last Bull to knock down 8 threes in a game? Ben Gordon did it in 2008-09. While Gordon had a serviceable career, I hope both Mirotic and Porzingis have better careers than Gordon. Based on Wednesday, their futures look very bright.

Now only the other nightly notables:

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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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Do-you-want-s’more?

That was the last time I saw a Butler as mechanical as Jimmy Butler… “He’s more machine now, than man!”  Well, that was more a bartender, but ya know…  Godzilla returned from a pretty scary knee injury faster than I thought, going 24/11/6/1/0 in 34 minutes Saturday night exactly a month after “straining” his knee.  I’m sorry, when I hear nonspecificity with a knee injury, it’s scarier to me than realizing Deebo from Friday would lead our presidential candidates right now.  “WHY THE HELL IS IT EATING ALL THE SATELLITES!?”  Future came sooner than we thought on that one…  Focus, JB!  Aziz, light!  Godzilla did have some warts with the 5 TO and fouling out (actually the first time he’s fouled out in his career!), but when you’re a lizard-beast born from nuclear winter, it’s tough to have a blemish free outing!  I preached caution in trying to buy Buckets low, so hopefully you were bolder than me.  More daring.  Basically let’s hope you treated this like a giant Dorito, while I was a tasteless vegan vegetable straw.  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for week 19 (last week of the regular season!!!!):

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It’s unusual for teams to be clinching playoff spots this early in the season. The Warriors are on a historic pace to challenge the ’95-96 Bulls for the best single-season record in NBA history, at 72-10.

Because of this, the Spurs are flying under the radar, something that they seem to do every season. By beating the Pistons on Wednesday, the Spurs improved their home winning streak to 29 games and are now 51-9 on the season. That’s 17 straight 50+ win seasons. Absolutely incredible.

Marcus Morris (16 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists) the oldest Pistons’ starter was 8 years old when Tim Duncan (12 points and 8 rebounds) made his debut. And when Duncan is ready to call it a career, he has two young studs to continue the Spurs’ legacy: LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.

Just like David Robinson and Duncan, Aldridge has played nicely along with Duncan. He grabbed a double-double against the Pistons with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. Meanwhile, the reigning Finals’ MVP, Leonard, posted a 27/6/5 line with 2 steals.

While the Warriors have a shot at 72-10, both the Warriors and Spurs are still a ways away from matching the Bulls’ record of 44 straight wins at home.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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Like Radiohead’s Kid A album, we need to start off this morning with a reminder that even ThrAGNOFs can get Everything In Its Right Place treatment. Often ridiculed, thrown garbage at, excommunicated like lepers, they pretty much mope around like they’re listening to Radiohead… Even ThrAGNOFs are people too!

Just look at our conversation during the Pod yesterday. Slim hates on Mirza being a ThrAGNOF, I say he’s the only real consistent PF, and Slim has to begrudgingly agree. We say “Threes ain’t got no face” not because they have no existential meaning and are The Plague on Camus’s fantasy team, but because a player that hit 3s/scores/low TO are often overrated by the metrics. Last night, Mirza went 30/11/1/0/0, hitting 12-23 FG with 5 treys against his former Nets. Now, he didn’t have the normal low TO (4), but he grabs more boards than your typical wing ThrAGNOF, and brings it at an out-of-position PF spot. In the 4 games since the deadline, ThrAGNOFovic is 20.5/7.3/1.5 with 3.5 treys a game. He’s owned in all of my RCLs, but he’s still only 39% owned across the Yahoo-verse and still available in several leagues. Of course if you don’t need scoring and 3s, you’re not missing on too much, and his production is easily replaceable if he gets cold. But while hot, you gotta ride your ThrAGNOFs! Here’s what else went down in fantasy hoops action last night:

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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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Wow, we certainly got polar opposite trade deadlines the past two years!

With shocking move after shocking move around 3:00 PM last year, 2016 was a nice afternoon siesta, putting the “dead” in Trade Deadline.  This is why it’s impossible to predict trades!  I might use this year’s deadline as a response to “who is most likely to be traded” quandaries.  Is there a shrug emoticon?!  Because in 2016, every NBA GM was too busy playing Candy Crush to make phone calls to other teams!

Really the biggest trade had very little fantasy impact too…  Markieff Morris comes to the Wizards, and just like Archie Goodwin‘s neck, he puts a stranglehold on the PF position.  Watch me whip!  Watch me Nene!  …watch me never play again 🙁  Even though Nene started last night over Jared Dudley (and had a decent game too), I think that’s more about having him be a placeholder to get ready for the new Wiz rotation once Kieff gets there.  I just think Wizards fans should be happy Gilbert Arenas isn’t still there, that locker room might get fiestier than in Memphis!  We’ll get to that later…  Kieff should’ve been owned in all leagues already, and you can happily drop Dudley in almost all leagues.  That was my first text to Slim!  Pssshhh, Slim arguing to hold Dudley…  On the flip side, Phoenix got trash and roster dumpage, with Kris Humphries mayyyyybe playing some backups kims.  I mean mins.  The big takeaway is Alex Len should be nabbed in all 12ers, and when the news broke, he was owned in only 30% of leagues (and still is at 30% apparently)…  He should get a nice boost in consistency, minutes wise.  Here’s what else went down over this snoozer of a deadline, plus the Daily Notes from last night:

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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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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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?