Ahhh, the early mid-rounds. This is where you can really start zagging when owners want you to zig, or zig when they wanna zag, or just be a total Zags homer and draft Adam Morrison for the hell of it! Stupid Jordan picks…

So here we start vaulting into some of the bolder calls, where hopefully you don’t say “stupid JB picks”… I finally start going an island with a few calls, particularly some saucy PF-types. Choo choo! “Know what I’m SAYIN’!!!” Uh oh, I am starting to go delirious with the rankings already… I feel like Russell Crowe in that forest outhouse with magazine clippings everywhere. “What did Oladipo say in Slam Magazine about playing with Westbrook?!” Enough foreplay! You can check out the Top-10 and Top-25 though some clickage right there, and here’s the Top 50 for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Finally, we’ve got some action to break down on the court! And what better venue than the Summer League, where raw NBA rooks and sophs go to strut their stuff and get fantasy basketballers needlessly excited. Remember all the Mario Hezonja hype last Summer League?! Hopefully I did pretty well to quash that! Wow, surprised I was right that “quash” was a word… I thought people were just saying squash too fast!

But one guy I definitely don’t want to squash/quash is second-year PG Cameron Payne. We were pretty big on this guy coming out of the draft last year, and he really surprised as a rookie overtaking D.J. Augustin as the backup to Russell Westbrook by going 14.6/4.4/5.6/1.9/0.3 in per-36 during 2015-16, with only 2.3 TO. He didn’t shoot particularly well (41%), but a lot of that was due to nearly 40% of his shots being treys. In his one start of 2015-16, he went 17/3/7 against the Spurs who shockingly weren’t resting anyone.

In the Orlando Summer League which wrapped a couple days ago, Payne led the league in scoring at 18.8 Pts a game, averaging 4 AST to only 2.5 TO. Not huge in the AST total, but that’s a ton of usage for a very few giveaways. The deep ball was still a little meh only going 4-14 from the perimeter, but he did have a 14-14 FT game in there. The Thunder squad (or quad, maybe?) went 4-0 in the games he played, and Payne looks primed for a bigger role with OKC.

With all the talk on Russell Westbrook being shopped (and even if he isn’t traded pre-season, a deadline deal would be very likely), a lot of focus has been on what newly acquired Victor Oladipo could do. No Westbrook and no other big-time creators would obviously be big for RainbOladipo. But lost in that noise is what it would mean for Cameron Payne. I think he’d all but certainly shift into the starting line-up (or at least near-starting minutes, if they still wanted to start Andre Roberson), and give a nice low-TO line with a handful of dimes and steals. The FG% might be lacking, but he would become a top-80ish asset in my mind. So while visions of sugarplums and rainbow lines for Oladipo might cloud your Christmas Eve dreams if Westy is traded, don’t forget about the huge opportunity it would give Major Payne. Here’s what else has caught my eye thus far during 2016’s Summer Ball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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):

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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!!!!):

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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…

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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:

Please, blog, may I have some more?