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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So injury-prone guys certainly get a stigmata.  Wait, I mean stigma.  Well, if you got a stigmata, it certainly would make you injured!

But I’ve been as guilty as anyone of really depressing Anthony Davis‘ value due to his injury issues yet again this year.  Boy needs to put some meat on dem bones!  Brow tried to lead the Pels to a win last night, going 39/11/0/1/1 on 16-25 shooting.  But you gotta make your free throws!  7-12 at the stripe, and the awful, no good, very bad Pelicans lost to the even worse Lakers.  At home!  Oh man, I’d be binge-eating some beignets, that’s for sure!  Even with a rocky start, Brow is 4th in per-game numbers this year, and I think some of the “shut down” concern should be alleviated.  Of course if he gets a nagging injury in late-March it’ll happen, so maybe we should keep him out of the top-10 discussion ROS.  Oh no, I’m doing it again!  Guilty is me!  Brow should still probably be a top-5 option, especially with getting me a point on the 30-point challenge board!  I would link it, but I’m lazy and haven’t updated it yet…  [update – let’s do this 30-Point Board, comeback is nigh!]  And to be honest, I’m just grinding through today to get pumped for the Super Bowl weekend!  I’m wearing my NFC champ shirt today, but might wear my “Smart” jersey all weekend for luck.  Let’s do this Carolina!  And let’s do this, rest of the daily notes!

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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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Alright, so actual Fat Tuesday doesn’t shake down in New Orleans for another couple weeks, but with a robust eight games on the NBA docket, it was a fitting – and catchy – title, so I decided to stick with it. (“Robust Tuesday” just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way, ya know?) We typically only get a handful of games on a given Tuesday, but the schedule makers decided to give League Pass subscribers a real workout this week. Games started at 7pm and didn’t wrap up until well after midnight on the East Coast. In the middle of it all was an overtime thriller at the Mecca.

The Knickerbockers of New York, absent Carmelo Anthony, were able to withstand a pair of fat (Tuesday) lines from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for much of the night. Despite a combined 74 points from the Thunder’s dynamic duo (KD poured in 44, Russ 30), the Madison Square Garden audience was treated to some bonus basketball, though the Knicks ultimately came up just short in the 53rd minute. New York shared the scoring burden as they had five different players contribute between 15 and 21 points: Kristaps Porzingis (15), Lance Thomas (16), Aaron Afflalo (17), Derrick Williams (19), Langston Galloway (21).

Durant supplemented his scoring barrage with 14 boards, five dimes, a steal, and four 3-pointers. A healthy Durantula is the second most valuable asset in fantasy basketball. It’s just that simple. I don’t care what format you’re playing or how many categories you’re counting, if I’m not getting Steph Curry in return, I’m not parting with KD right now.

Kevin’s running mate, Russell Westbrook, had himself quite the ballgame as well: 13-of-24 from the field, eight rebounds, 10 helpers and three steals complemented his 30-point outing quite nicely. Picky owners can find fault in his five turnovers or failure to connect from long range, but overall Westbrook is an absolute stat stuffer and you probably only need one hand to count the number of players more valuable than him moving forward.

Meanwhile, outside of the Big Apple…

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PPPPPAAAANNNNTTTHHHHEEERRRRSSSS!!!!!  Aight, aight, this is fantasy hoops, we’ll just leave it at that.

On Friday morning, the Clippers shed one of their % drain players, giving the DNP-king [another] fresh start in Houston.  And what does Josh Smith do in his debut?!  Goes all J Smoove like you’d expect!  Goes 1-10 FG, 0-2 FT, for some reason took 4 treys and missed them all (what did you expect after bricking the first 3, Smoove?!), but still gets a rainbow line for 2/5/6/2/3.  Oh yeah, 2 TO in there too.  Smoove did bounce back last night after almost single-handedly costing the Rox a W in his debut, going 16/3/2/2/2 yesterday afternoon for back-to-back rainbows.  He apparently stole someone else’s talent ala Space Jam alien, because he shot 6-14 FG, 2-2 FT, and had only 1 TO.  “Talkin’ bout the Dream Team, we’re the Mean Team!”  Josh Smith is not a good 9-cat fantasy asset in any league, and even in 8-cat, he’s probably not ownable in 12ers for me.  That mean enough?!  But the real criminal aspect of the acquisition is of course their absolute hatred for Terrence Jones.  HE’S getting the full Mean Girls treatment – they’re feeding him Swedish weight gaining bars, JB Bickerstaff made out with his boyfriend, they’re turning his best friends against him…  That organization is an institutional bully – culminating in a whopping 10 minutes of action last night with Dwight Howard (kankle) still out.  I didn’t understand the McHale firing, I don’t understand this trade, I don’t understand the Ty Lawson signing…  They’re taking this off the rails faster than Lindsay Lohan’s Prius!  Or, well, Lawson’s Prius…  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for Week 14:

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…The Sixers don’t have a Clue, that’s for sure!

On a night of comebacks where we saw the Spurs come back from their largest deficit at home to beat the Cavs, we also saw the Bulls down more than 20 in the 2nd quarter and 16 at half come back and just obliterate the Sixers in the 2nd half and overtime by unleashing the Godzilla.

Jimmy Butler Godzilla

“God” the key word in that one! Jimmy Butler just went insane going 15-30 FG (2-4 3PTM 21-25 FT) for 53 Pts. “Ohhhhhh, look at me, I’m Slim, I get another point on the 30-pt Challenge Board! Do you get double if they score 60, because it was close!” And of course I poked the Slim, texting him earlier yesterday afternoon that Butler might not play, being listed as a game-time call due to a kankle. Yeahhhhh, so much for that. At least I won’t suffer this kind of loss again, as Butler made himself a top-10 scorer last night, upping it to 23.1 PPG. Butler still kept it multi-cat with 10 boards, 6 dimes and 3 steals to top if off. I haven’t been so turned on by a Butler since Michael Caine! He’s also continuing a trend that the second round wings are paying off – Buckets, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Draymond Green… It’s really making some nice parity among the game’s elites so there’s enough to not mind a later draft pick in 16-17, as you’ll be able to nab two solid players at the first turn. It’s going to make next year really interesting… Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

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As many of you already know (or as my avatar may suggest), I’m a Canadian so I don’t really have a dog in the 2016 United States Presidential fight. I do, however, live close to the border and have enjoyed traveling throughout the United States (including the entire northeast, Florida, California, Colorado, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands) with my wife over the better part of the last ten years. So I have a keen interest in American politics as it indirectly impacts “my world.”

That leads me to my admission – I watched President Barack Obama’s eighth and final State of the Union address last night (and the subsequent analysis & reaction) instead of basketball. There was basketball to be watched up here, I just chose not to. But it gave me some perspective – it reminded me that a common sense approach to the big picture issues is never as simple as it should be, and that holds true in the NBA as well. Examples from some of the 16 teams in action on Tuesday alone:

  • The Timberwolves have a wealth of young talent to cultivate and yet they start Kevin Garnett & Tayshaun Prince?
  • The Suns have a cancerous presence in their locker room (Markieff Morris) and they can’t decide what to do about it – they give him multiple healthy DNPs in a row, and then they unleash him for 27 minutes, taking opportunity from someone like Jon Leuer (17 minutes) who could actually be a part of their future plans.
  • The Celtics and Knicks – both of whom are in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt – continue to run heavier-than-necessary rotations rather than identifying the best court combinations and maximizing their efficiency and output.
  • The Rockets have an extremely fragile, high-salaried starting center (Dwight Howard) who is prone to usage-related injuries and they run him for 38 minutes when they have a number of other very capable young frontcourt players to ease the burden.
  • The Bulls appear to embrace their future for a moment by giving a solid rotation spot to Bobby Portis, only to yank it out from under him (he played 4 minutes on Tuesday) once they’re back to full health.
  • The Pelicans offer center Omer Asik a massive contract in the offseason and even when he’s playing well (13 rebounds, a steal and a block, team-high +7 net rating), and they’re absent their best frontcourt player, he can’t get minutes (18).

Essentially what I’m saying is that there are a lot of things we, as fantasy owners, think should happen by any measure of common sense, but just don’t because of a number of factors beyond our control. We can go data mining until the cows come home and have an open & shut case to make why Player X deserves more minutes/opportunity, but it doesn’t matter. We can only do so much. There will always be someone on the other side who impacts that situation and we just have to make the best of it. Thankfully, the NBA has a long season and, unlike football, one or two bad weeks won’t spell doom for your campaign. I love that we get 82 games to try and figure out what the heck is going on. We’ll never be right 100% of the time, no matter that the stats or common sense says we maybe could be, but it sure doesn’t stop us from trying…

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Finally! Our flaccid fantasy line-ups that have experienced a ton of shrinkage on the front line can re-erect their Stifle Towers! Although we certainly HOPE this lasts more than 4 hours…

After missing just over a month, Rudy Gobert returned to action right in the sweetspot of his 4-6 week timetable and looked solid off the bench for 6 Pts and 3 Reb, hitting 3-4 “from the field” (a couple were dunks). He looked spry and pretty close to the Gobert of old, which isn’t old at all – he’s still a young Flyin’ Frenchman. It’ll probably be one or two more games before he’s fully unleashed, but since he didn’t have a block (one was called a foul that seemed close), maybe the buy low window is still narrowly cracked open. If the minutes rise to 20 then 25 the next two outings and the stat lines aren’t shimmering with Boards-n-Blocks goodness, then I would be assaulting Gobert owners in one final push to acquire him. If you own Gobert, don’t get nervous, let your Stifle Tower stand strong, and let Monsieur Elbow pitch a tent on your front line! (I had to edit out like 5 worse metaphors – you’re welcome…) Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

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Conventional basketball wisdom suggests that smaller lineups play at a faster pace and typically score more points. That wasn’t exactly the case in Chicago on Tuesday night. The Milwaukee Bucks rolled out their massive starting lineup that features five players who all measure between 6’6″ and 6’11”. The Bulls countered with considerable size of their own, as only Derrick Rose came in under 6’7″ among the first unit. Coming into this one, Chicago ranked 10th in the league in pace while Milwaukee was 24th, and both teams sat in the bottom third in offensive efficiency. On paper this looked like a matchup destined to be played in half court sets with plenty of contested late-in-the-shot-clock possessions. The opposite came to pass as all ten starters scored in double figures and we saw 223 combined points poured in.

Following his record breaking 40-point second half against that basketball team that plays in a country other than the United States, Jimmy Butler remained en fuego, scoring 20 first half points to give him an even 60 for that four quarter stretch. The man they call “Buckets” finished with a game-high 32 on 11-21 from the field, 2-4 from beyond the arc, and a perfect 8-8 on his freebies. Jimmy is every bit a first rounder this year regardless of whether or not the usage-sucking, possession-wasting Rose lines up next to him or not. (He did on Tuesday.) There aren’t ten players I’d rather have on my roster, especially considering the Bulls’ outstanding playoff schedule.

On the other side, Khris Middleton did his best to keep the Bucks in it, posting a stellar 26/4/7/1/0 line. The Duchess of Wisconsin did his damage on 10-21 shooting, pouring in five threes and only turning the ball over twice in 38 minutes. Middleton has been a top-20 nine category player over the last month and with Jason Kidd not around to mess with lineup & rotation consistency, there’s no reason to think Khris can’t keep this hot streak going.

Let’s have a little look-see at the rest of the notable fantasy lines from Tuesday night, shall we?

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