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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Lob City was alive in well in Houston on Wednesday. Chris Paul was throwing DeAndre Jordan alley-oops left and right. By halftime, Paul already had 11 assists. He finished the blowout with 15 points and 16 assists, while Jordan added 23 points and 16 rebounds. Jordan even shot over 50% from the FT line (7-13 FT, but not by much!). J.J. Redick also knocked down 5-9 from the 3PT line to finish with 25 points. It was all Clippers from the beginning and the Rockets just couldn’t find an answer.

James Harden did his usual thing, trying to carry the disappointing Rockets, but it wasn’t enough. He finished with 33 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. Big men Dwight Howard (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Clint Capela (3 points, 3 rebounds) were rendered useless against Jordan. The only other bright spots for the Rockets were Trevor Ariza (16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 threes) and newly acquired forward, Michael Beasley, who scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds off the bench. Coming over from China, Beasley makes a good waiver wire add for all teams.

The Rockets started the season with lofty expectations, but are currently tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the 7th playoff spot. If they finish 7th or 8th, they’ll end up playing the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors in the first round of playoffs, something that nobody wants to do.

The Warriors, by the way, won their 50th straight game at home on Wednesday, dismantling the New York Knicks by 36. Stephen Curry hit 8 threes and scored 34 points (6 rebounds and 4 assists), before sitting out the 4th quarter of the blowout.

I don’t think anyone saw the Warriors playing on an historic level or the Rockets playing this poorly at the beginning of the season, but that’s why you play the game!

Now onto 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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You’d think a team decimated by injuries would throw in the towel. Not the case with the Bulls. Already missing Jimmy Butler (left knee strain), Nikola Mirotic (appendicitis), and Joakim Noah (shoulder surgery), Derrick Rose was a last-minute scratch due to right hamstring tendinitis. The Bulls won anyways, their third straight victory.

Playing alongside a makeshift lineup, Pau Gasol played through the flu, just missing a triple-double with 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists. While it wasn’t Michael Jordan’s flu game, it was a still a pretty strong line.

Even with the Bulls’ starters ailing, there is value to be had on the roster. Under-owned guys like Taj Gibson (17/7/7), E’Twaun Moore (17 points and 3 rebounds), and Doug McDermott (14/5/2), can and should be relied upon down the stretch for both the Bulls and your fantasy teams. McBuckets also had the dunk of the night.

They won’t win you a championship on their own, but don’t overlook lesser named (and owned) guys during your playoff push.

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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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Full disclosure – the entirety of this post was written before Sunday afternoon. I know that either A – I would be too drunk to try to finish this if the Panthers win the Super Bowl, and my writing would be as incoherent as the screenplay of Southland Tales. Although to be fair, I actually kinda liked that movie! It was a mess; but a weird mess! A little JT before he went full movie star! And Amy Poehler before she, ummmm, fired her agent. And Cheri Oteri! Before she, ummmmm, was never heard from again. Or B – I would be too depressed to write anything about basketball.

As we chug along into the All-Star Break, one train is certainly doing the Ozzy Crazy Train right now! Gorgui Dieng just tore apart the Bulls, going 24/14/7/0/1 in 41 minutes, hitting 10-13 FG and 4-4 FT. And you’ve been benching this guy for Kevin fuc$*$*$&#*#*$$ing Garnett!? Even Ricky Rubio is like, “wait, he got more assists than even MI last game!? Ay dios mio!” The Dieng Train is on an absolute tear the past 7 games, and Coach Sam Mitchell said “he might be willing to find out” if Dieng can play 40 minutes a night. Hey Mitchell, I might be willing to bitchslap you if you play KG at the starting 4 again! I might go so far as saying Dieng is a top-50 option ROS, which is as disheartening as it gets as I own him nowhere. I was late for the Train! The conductor was like “All Aboard!” and I was like, “F that, Mitchell isn’t playing him enough!” Kudos to you if you hopped aboard anyway right before this run. Here’s what else went down over the weekend, plus the 14 [kinda] Ahead for Week 16:

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ESPN picked a good one for their weekly Wednesday night NBA showcase. Stephen Curry vs. John Wall, two of the best point guards in the league. It was a very high scoring, up-tempo game, with the final score 134-121. And the stars did not disappoint.

Curry started out on fire, scoring 25 points in the first quarter and 36 in the first half. He cooled down a little bit, but still knocked down 11 of his 16 three point attempts, en route to 51 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Wow. Just like his Charlotte buddy Cam Newton, can they crown him MVP already?

John Wall was doing his best to cover Curry, but it’s a difficult job, even for a strong defender like Wall. Since he couldn’t stop him, Wall tried to match him offensively, finishing with 41 points, 10 assists, and 3 rebounds. He even knocked down all 3 of his three-point attempts, a facet of his game that is nowhere near the level of Curry. It was nice to watch two point guards with very different styles of game dominate the box score.

Oh, and lost in this point guard matchup was that Draymond Green got his league leading 10th triple-double with 12 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. He even added 5 blocks as a point forward!

As a Wizards fan, I figured that the Warriors would win the game, but was happy to see the Wizards play the defending NBA champions close for stretches of the game. Now onto the other nightly notables:

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At no point this season did I ever think that Markieff Morris would be getting the lead in an article…unless, maybe, it was because he killed a guy or something (leading victim candidates included a coach, a referee, or a reporter who spoke ill of his twin brother). Well, he got the lead and nobody died…that I’m aware of.

In his first game playing for interim head coach Earl Watson, ‘Kieff showed out to the tune of 30 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, a steal, and a pair of blocks. If that wasn’t worthy of a raised eyebrow or two, Morris also drained a three and shot 13-20 from the field in his 41 minutes. Hot damn.

Whether he’s actually interested in helping the Suns win games or simply trying to improve the value of his stock in an effort to facilitate a move out of the desert, it doesn’t really matter for fantasy purposes. If he’s going to get the run…if he’s going to keep his attitude in check…if he’s going to play with effort and focus…he needs to be on fantasy rosters. Trying to predict what kind of situation he’ll be in this time next month is likely a fool’s errand, but there is big time upside (as we just witnessed) when everything is kosher with Markieff. I wouldn’t give up anything of value or break your free agency bank account because this could be very temporary, but if you have some dead weight to drop, you could do a lot worse than having Morris occupy your last roster spot until the trade deadline.

Let’s take a look at what else shook down on a five-game Tuesday evening in the NBA…

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Been a bad start to the year for NBA coaches.

David Blatt could have realized that all he had to do was get out of the way and let LeBron James coach. But I’m pretty sure the clock was running on his tenure in Cleveland the second he was hired.

Jeff Hornacek could have figured out how to turn Archie Goodwin into “Teen Wolf,” or mastered whatever weird magic/religion that fire woman from “Game of Thrones” practices. Not sure either one of those tricks would have turned an injury-ravaged Suns team into a playoff squad.

Somehow, without doing anything close to the above, and racking up a record of 14-35 with a talented but raw roster, Sam Mitchell has managed to keep his job.

And thanks to injuries to Kevin Garnett (wink, wink) and Nikola Pekovic (big shocker), he might actually be forced into doing something right. Mitchell is now playing his best young players, a group that so obviously includes Gorgui Dieng.

After riding the pine all year so Garnett and Tayshaun Prince could log minutes in meaningless games, Dieng finally has the starting slot and minutes (close to 40 per) that he deserves.

He’s responded by averaging 17.6 ppg and 11.3 rpg in those three starts. All Mitchell could do was mutter that he’s “getting a lot better.” No, he’s playing a lot better, because you’re playing him!

Win or lose, the Wolves have to keep running Dieng out there with Karl-Anthony Towns and make it work. Or Sam might go the way of Blatt and Hornacek.

Get Dieng, any way you can, and check out some of these other guys:

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