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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While a large swath of America headed to the voting booth, your friendly neighbor to the north spent last night kickin’ back, feet up, drink in hand (technically it was multiple drinks), with the channel tuned to NBA basketball. I traded in polls for points, delegates for dimes, and rhetoric for rebounds.

You see, the beauty of basketball is that it’s pure. It’s honest. It’s 48 minutes of team competition, largely devoid of self interest. Positive results have a direct correlation to superior effort and ability – things that you just can’t fake. It’s refreshing. The best fantasy assets are those who are well-rounded and who contribute more than just the basic “popcorn” numbers that appeal to the casual observer. Fantasy studs have depth and consistency…as they should. So when you juxtapose a random Tuesday evening of professional basketball with one of the biggest nights in American politics, you really gain an appreciation for just how lucky we are to live in the time of NBA LeaguePass. It’s super duper. (Sorry, CNN.)

In a departure from the normal “good/bad/noteworthy” format, I’ve decided to simply take a “studs & duds” approach to breaking down the evening. Winners and losers is what it’s all about on Super Tuesday, so let’s roll with it. Without further adieu, here are your best lines from a six-game slate, along with some that left fantasy owners as angry and confused as a registered Republican…

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NCAA+Basketball+Tournament+West+Regional+Salt+Hm_kXXj3f7Vm

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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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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