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 Warriors needed overtime, but still continued their historic run to 73 wins. They have been a lot of fun to watch this season and are must watch basketball (if you’ve been hiding under a rock this season). It will probably be years, if ever, that any team comes this close to this historic of a streak. So enjoy it while you still can! Let’s just hope that the Warriors aren’t gassed when they inevitably play the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

Stephen Curry led the way with 31 points, including 6 straight points in OT. He knocked down 5-10 from downtown and added 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Draymond Green (13/8/6), Harrison Barnes (15/11), and Klay Thompson (18/4 and 3 threes) all saw around 40 minutes, as the Warriors continue their race for 73. Don’t worry about any of these getting benched down the stretch.

The Jazz kept it close and forced overtime, but the Warriors are just too good and improved to 6-0 in OT. Rudy Gobert grabbed 18 boards and scored 11 points, while Rodney Hood went for 20/6 with 3 threes. Gordon Hayward had a poor shooting night (7-20 FG, 4-8 FT), but still scored his usual 20 points with 4 rebounds and 3 steals. You have to hand it to the Jazz; they have definitely exceeded all expectations this season and should be playing postseason basketball.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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I think I can, I think I can, I think I can! Winning a fantasy hoops season is like the little engine that could, with tough decisions along the way and navigating a billion injuries. But hell, if your railroad tracks get demolished, there’s not much you can do (cough, stupid REL injuries, cough…). Unless ya know, you’re Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom and have some nice Mario Kart music fueling your escape

Trust me, I’ve never run a marathon – mostly because I don’t want to have to pay for one of those dumb 26.2 bumper stickers – but I ended up cutting Myles Turner as a desperation stream in a cutthroat 5-4 playoff win last week in one of my RCLs. It feels like I sold out to sprint past 1st place during mile 24! Now I’ve lost control of my bowels, my muscles are spasming out of control, and I’m probably sputtering into not completing the race. Fortunately in the JB vs. Slim RCL I had the luxury of the bye and held strong. Strong and steady wins the race (as does 1st round byes…)! Turner went nuts for 24/16/1/0/3 on 11-17 FG last night, in a hell of a way to celebrate his 20th birthday. Dude can play pro ball like this, vote, drive, and CAN’T celebrate with a beer?! It was a strong way to break through that nebulous rookie wall, even though he’d been pretty solid lately anyway. And with a possible DNP from your main Pacer, another big game could be coming to close out your week in the semis. Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

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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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This is the part in your fantasy run where, if you were in Independence Day, Bill Pullman would give you that inspiring speech about not going quietly into the night, that we will fight to the last man, etc, etc. In fantasy terms, simply put, it’s The Final Countdown, which ironically as it relates to Independence Day, was performed by a band called Europe. Perhaps you are inspired by Rocky, maybe you like Rudy.  Whatever floats your boat. You are in the win or go home stage, I would gather, if you’re reading this article, and very likely not going swimmingly, if you’re looking to add a desperation piece. So clearly my advice is not really possible in the traditional sense, as trades are no longer possible in leagues. This is more of a Add/Drop waiver kinda thing; we’re trying to polish a turd, essentially. So, before I don my Randy Quaid hat and fly my jet up an alien’s exhaust pipe, let’s try to glean some usable quality off the waiver for streaming or injury replacement, shall we?

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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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Shelvin Mack has finally been reunited with Gordon Hayward, and the Jazz definitely feel so good about it. (If you don’t remember their heroic run with Butler to the championship game against Duke, then I feel very sorry for you.) Mack immediately becomes a must own after leapfrogging the rest of the dismal PG depth. Shelvin has always been a versatile guard, but he really lacked a true playmaker’s skill-set during his early years. Fortunately, he really adapted to that point guard role, during his time with the Hawks. Don’t get too carried away with projections though, he’s likely to average points in the low teens, 4 or 5 assists, and probably over a 3. Odds are, he won’t produce a lot of defensive stats, but on the plus side, he won’t turn the ball over much. (Ignore the 6 TO outlier last game, since he’s been fairly consistent career wise.) He is likely to be impacted by the return of Alec Burks, so that’s another thing to keep an eye on. Overall though, he needs to be owned for now, and we’ll deal with Burks when he gets back.

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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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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.

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