More ranks, here we come!

Whew, I admittedly had a little rankings-shock after writing War & Peace with my Top-10 there.  I gotta whittle this down a little bit if we’re gonna have the ranks done by September like I hope!  No one wants to wait until early October to read about the 198th ranked Jeremy Lamb…  Or maybe they do!

I must preface these ranks with an admission – I’m buying more and more into punting.  I’m Todd Sauerbrunning it!  You can pull off some pretty crazy rankings changes when you knock off some categories in BBMonster valuation.  And before everyone gets all snotty with their comments, I know I’m going to bounce around using some 9-cat valuation for some guys, then take out some cats for others.  Ranks can’t be a one-size fits all, they change each player you draft.  It would be like ranking a white wine high with a steak recommended as the pairing, THAT’S BLASPHEMY, DAMMIT!  Here’s the Top 25 for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season:

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Oh man, things are going to get saucy in the second round!  After Slim and I (and most of you commenters) seemed to more-or-less agree on most of my top-10, here’s where I gotta get my defending pants on.  They kinda look like waders, but they’re decked out in OKC branded colors and logos.  I call them my “Dion Waiters”!  BOOM!  Offseason jokes are in in-season form!

While we’re all watching StanVan complain about the LeBron calls and crossing our fingers Steph is healthy enough to come back for game 3, there’s no better time to dive into the deep end of hoops rankings a good 5 months too early.  Can I put Ben Simmons in the top-25 yet?!  Pssshhh, thing be gettin’ crazy outside the top 10, but not dat crazy!  Here’s my Way Too Early Top 25 for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season:

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Getting through a fantasy basketball season can sometimes feel like everyone in the building is against you. Like you’re John McClane. Once you get into April, you finally have a bajillion options helping you, but your feet are bleeding and your shirt is burnt off! Perils of April basketball. If you’re in a H2H league and your championship stretches until game 82, it’s time to change your league settings! Maybe it’s just sour grapes since it’s looking like we’re gonna come up short in the Yahoo Friends & Family championship. Slim could blame me too, because he wanted to welcome Norman Powell to the Razzball party. Welcome to the party, Powell!

As with a lot of these April guys, Powell is putting up some surprising stats. But he’s been getting better and better when given the opportunity, with an absolutely crazy Friday night with the Raps regulars DNPed going 27/6/4/1/0, but on only 11 shots and 5 – FIVE! – field goals made. He hit 3 treys, and apparently bought all the refs dinner before the game, going 14-19 from the FT line. 19 free throws, after 0 trips to the stripe the two games before it. WTF, mate?! Then promptly left the party last night, playing only 21 minutes for 2/1/1/1/0 in a scrubby game as the starting SF, and you guessed it, yet again 0 FTA. What in the wide world of sports?!

I’ve seen a few comments asking about Powell’s keepability for 16-17, and I just don’t know. He’s 6’4 and definitely a SG (even though he was listed as a SF last night), so you’d imagine they’d have to push DeMar DeRozan to the 3. That wouldn’t be outlandish or anything, but remember we saw a couple huge flashes from Terrence Ross before he turned into a Holiday Armadillo. And I’m lazy and didn’t want to rewrite those last couple sentences – I totally forgot about DeMarre Carroll! He’s signed through 2018-19, so it’s really hard seeing much happen for Powell out of the gate next year. And even for the final two Raps games tomorrow and Wednesday, it’s hard to give him a starting nod unless we know the Raps are resting peeps. With Toronto still alive to sneak into the #1 spot, I don’t see that happening if the Cavs beat Atlanta tonight and lock the first seed. Here’s what else went down in fantasy hoops action over the weekend:

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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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Well, kids…we have officially entered the NBA silly season.

Coaches for teams locked into the post-season are only too happy to rest their starters, as evidenced Tuesday by LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka all receiving healthy DNPs.

Coaches for teams destined for the lottery are exercising extreme caution with future core players, as seen last night with the Nets’ Rondae Hollis-Jefferson & Thaddeus Young getting a precautionary rest day, and franchise center Brook Lopez sitting for the entire second half of a blowout loss.

Even teams not in action on Tuesday were making headlines by shutting down players or announcing their plans to rest star players periodically as the 2015-2016 season draws to a close. DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, Danilo Gallinari, Ryan Anderson, and Jrue Holiday have all been added to the “shutdown watch” list. (And in Jrue’s case, you can officially stick a fork in him. He’s done.)

Additionally, DeMarre Carroll suffered a setback in his recovery from knee surgery and won’t be of use to fantasy players until next year, Nikola Vucevic can’t get cleared to return from what was believed to be a mild groin strain, and the starting Philly frontcourt of Nerlens Noel & Jerami Grant is going to be treated with kids’ gloves due to knee injuries.

It’s bad, folks. It’s real, real bad.

Thankfully for fans of the NBA and fantasy owners grinding through the final days of their season, a select few professional basketball players did, in fact, decide to earn their pay checks last night. Let’s take a look at who shined brightest, who fell short of expectations, and who else made waves on a six-game Tuesday slate.

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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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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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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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