Hey everyone!  It’s good to be back!  After a nice little break, I figured it was time to get back to the old keyboard.  This series will focus on the real world impact projections for rookies in the coming season, and also their projected fantasy value.  If this post gets any interest, then the next would likely be on Buddy Hield, or possibly a request if anyone has one!  With that housekeeping stuff out of the way, lets dive right in!

Ben Simmons will be a bust.  “How do I know this?”, you incredulously ask.  The answer to that is fairly straight forward.  Simmons shies away from the moment, he has a mediocre jumper at best, and he really doesn’t have a position.  Now by bust, I don’t mean that he won’t be a very productive player.  However, a comparison to Lamar Odom or Boris Diaw is far more warranted than one to say, LeBron James.

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The drought is over, the drought is over! Cleveland has finally won a sports championship after 50 some odd years, including the world of fiction where the Indians couldn’t even win in Major League. Remember when CLE fans were burning their LeBron jerseys? Ah, how things have changed… And a good excuse for me to show my graphic representation of when LeBron was re-signed and his introduction press conference!

LeBron Gets New Cavs Jersey

Wow, things change in 2+ years, including my eye at graphic design! At least I hope! I remember that was pretty hard to put together too…

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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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Follow the white Babbitt!  If you had told me Luke Babbitt would be a critical add over the fantasy finals weekend, I would’ve beaten you to death with a sack full of lucky rabbit’s feet.   Would that be a …lucky way to die?

No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke that Babbitt went 22/10/3/2/1 last night.  No, it’s a joke he took a team-high (and an absurdly-high!) 25 shots.  And no, it’s not a joke that the Pelicans won a game led by Luke Mother F Babbitt!  That’s right, a guy with a last night that sounds like how Grey incorrectly pronounces “BABIP” on the Razzball Baseball Podcast is all the sudden a must-own wing over the final 3 H2H days.  Such a Velveteen Babbitt!  “He said it was because I know you like rabbits, and I know you like cheese…”  The Pelicans have no reason not to throw (double negative police!) their scrubbiest of scrubs into the starting 5 and see what wet noodles stick on the wall, so I fully expect him to be a starter for you in most 12-team leagues or deeper on the final Sunday @BKN.  Throw him in your Babbitt Stew!  OK, enough rabbit puns, as Monty Python would say – “get on with it!”  Oh yeah, I shoulda used a Holy Grail reference.  TOO LATE NOW!  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy basketball action:

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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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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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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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Ya know, Brandon Knight and The Dark Knight metaphor work pretty well as a parallel to my time here on Razzball Hoops.  In 13-14, Knight was one of my first bolder calls that panned out (hey, it’s easier for me to forget the bad ones OK!  …cough, MCW, cough…), exploding onto the scene as the Bucks PG like Batman Begins.  I guess that implies I exploded onto the scene, let’s just say I feel like I was better than Batman & Robin, so that’s a plus…  Then he was somehow even better for most of 14-15; the rare sequel that’s better than the original in The Dark Knight.  In my second season, I was the only ‘pert to have #OccupyDraymondGreen top 100!  Take that, Christopher Nolan!  Then he was traded to the Suns, and thus far this season, we’ve only seen flashes of the former brilliance.  Exactly like The Dark Knight Rises.  He got a bigger budget with his max deal, and also got a longer run time.  And while Anne Hathaway is hot and all, there’s a lot of things that just didn’t make sense.  Only time will tell if Knight can break this analogy, because the next stop for Batman is this horrific looking dawn of justice movie hooblah.  Whatever the hell it’s called…  Why in the hell is Affleck going from Oscar-winning director to star of a CGI clusterF$*#?!?!?!  Not like he needs the money!  Knight returned last night (hah!) for 10/2/5/0/1 in 25 minutes off the bench after nearly 2 months out due to a groin.  He looked pretty good out there, even though he shot only 2-9.  Was cutting hard and ran into a mess of big men to scuffle for a board, so he’s not just coasting until the end of the season.  Good timing before the fantasy playoffs!  Hopefully you were able to hold; while I think he’s gonna be ho-hum compared to his numbers pre-injury with the Suns tanking, I do think he’ll be must-own.  So here’s to hoping he’s finally healthy, and buck the trend of both the Batman franchise, or movies by Christopher Nolan.  I have to buck the trend of this analogy too!  Now THERE’S some pressure for 16-17 ranks!  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

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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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