Matt Barnes capped off the Memphis Grizzlies comeback victory over the Pistons, by drilling a half court shot with 1.1 seconds left in the game. It’s probably the best mood that Barnes has been in all season. I don’t think Derek Fisher will have to worry about getting punched this week..

I was a bit surprised that Barnes took the shot considering there were still a few ticks on the clock when he chucked it up. Either way, it was a nice finish to a nice game from Barnes (8 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists in 30 minutes). The journeyman forward has always been a borderline fantasy player for his ability to do a little bit of everything.

Barnes had a nice string of games at the end of November, but now that Zach Randolph is back (21 points and 16 rebounds), Barnes has seen his minutes decrease. He should probably be dropped in 10 and 12 team leagues, but should continue to be monitored, should he see around 30 minutes a night.

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In an NBA landscape characterized by Steph Curry’s wizardry and Golden State’s record-breaking start, casual fans have missed one of the most interesting subplots from the first quarter of season: the East’s ascension to respectability. With a winning record against the Western Conference (60-58) and ten teams over .500, 2015 has marked a rebirth for the historically lesser conference, now sporting more top-to-bottom depth than in recent memory.

While it’s easy to say, “welcome to the party, we’ve been waiting for you for at least the past decade,” restoration of competitive balance in the East finally appears to be a tangible goal. With two of this season’s biggest surprises in the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets squaring off to open yesterday’s nine-game slate, last night’s contest may have actually been the first iteration of competitive basketball for this particular matchup since the mid-2000s.

With the Hornets emerging as the victors, it begs the question: are they actually good?? For a team with disillusioned hopes of postseason basketball heading into the season, their early successes may still spark skepticism after each passing victory. But with a +3.6 point differential and the fifth placed ranking in the standings this year, the Hornets actually appear to be a legitimately solid basketball team.

One of the main catalysts behind the turnaround, Nic Batum has played excellently on the wing as a secondary ball handler and defensive stopper. For fantasy owners who did not abandon the Batum bandwagon after a disappointing 2014-2015, the Frenchman has more than delivered this season, elevating his status to one of the primer fantasy wing options. Batum continued to produce last night with a near triple double of 13 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds in addition to a steal and a block. Vive la France!

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On a weekend where elite guys did elite things – we got served more 40-burgers than a McDonalds – I’m going to open this Monday morning a little further down the bunnyhole.  It may be “rabbit” hole, but it sounded dirtier my way…

When Al Jefferson went down with his calf strain (he’s still out at least another 1-2 weeks), I clowned the Hornets for their “three-headed” monster for C minutes.  I joked it was a nice way of saying none were any good.  Kinda like saying the “three-headed monster” of good M. Night Shyamalan movies.  Especially Frank the Stank, as Michael Jordan’s never-ending conquest of building an NCAA dream team continues to keep the Charlotte franchise in the awful-to-mediocre range.  At least Spencer Hawes looks OK out there, putting up decent lines in 20+ minutes the past two Hornets games.  But watching the Hornets against the Bulls on Saturday – I was mad impressed by Cody Zeller.  Took the lion’s share of PT playing 32 minutes, and went 17/8/2/1/1 on 6-10 FG (5-7 FT) with no TO.  And it wasn’t a cupcake matchup either against Pau Gasol.  Although Gasol wouldn’t get that joke, let’s say “it wasn’t a flan matchup.”  Just at the eye level, he was cutting to the basket with great speed, finished strong at the rim with a few dunks, and took jumpers confidently.  I think the Hornets wanted someone to step up with Big Al down, and they’ve found their guy.  Now this would only be a medium-term pickup in 12ers, plus the schedule is going to be a crazy test.  Hornets get DET, MIA then @MEM the next three, so Zeller is going to have to D up Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, then Marc Gasol.  Eesh.  At least the Gasol one is more his player-type…  And it’s not like Hawes or Frank Kaminsky is going to play any better against those beasts…  So if you’re looking for a little help up front without the big blocks upside, Zeller is worth a look.  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, including The 7 Ahead for week 7:

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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has already begun. After announcing that he would be retiring this past weekend, teams will start giving him the Derek Jeter treatment as fans and teams say goodbye to the legend.

There was a lot of fanfare when Bryant returned to Philadelphia on Tuesday night, where his basketball journey began. The hype was there and despite a strong start, the Lakers lost, giving the 76ers their first win of the season. Bryant shot 7-26 from the field, including 4-17 from downtown. Definitely not the homecoming that everyone was expecting.

On Wednesday, Bryant played his last game at the Verizon Center and boy did he leave those in attendance with a memorable performance. Fresh off his poor shooting Tuesday, Bryant shot 10-24 from the field and 4-11 from downtown. Not vintage Kobe, but a marked improvement. More importantly, 12 of his season-high 31 points came in the fourth quarter, as the Lakers defeated the Wizards.

Now this was definitely one of his best games of the season. Maybe with the Lakers’ season over and having already announced his retirement, Kobe will have one less thing on his mind and start to play better. I mean he can’t shoot any worse, right? I wouldn’t necessarily be buying low, but I’d hold onto him and pick him up in any leagues where impatient owners have dropped him. You never know, maybe he closes out his last season healthy and on a tear, a la Mariano Rivera (and that wasn’t an ACL joke).

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Shortly before the tip of the Grizzlies’ game in New Orleans on Tuesday night, Memphis beat writer Ronald Tillery reported that coach Dave Joerger “desperately wants to reduce Marc Gasol‘s minutes.” Coming into the game, MG had averaged in excess of 38 MPG over his last five contests – a number that is, by all accounts, quite high for a true big man in today’s National Basketball Association. Fantasy owners of Gasol were probably watching Tuesday’s game to see how Joerger would adjust his rotations to get the prized center some more rest. What did they witness? (I’m so glad you asked…)

Marc Gasol played 42 minutes of other-worldly basketball, posting 38/13/6/0/4. If that wasn’t enough, he shot an even 50% from the field on 22 attempts and was flawless from the FT line on 16 (!!!) tries. Yep, sixteen for sixteen.  He was the only Grizzlies starter with a positive rating (+8) on the night and his team won the game, which goes to show you just how instrumental Gasol was in this one.

(As an aside – perhaps Tillery heard coach Joerger wrong and he said he desperately wanted to reduce everyone but Gasol’s minutes? No other Memphis starter played more than 31. Go figure.)

This is your ultimate sell-high moment on the younger of the two Gasols. If you can score a top-25 asset in return, I think you pretty much have to do it. In trade negotiations you can point to the high minutes, the nice boards & blocks numbers, and the sweet out-of-position dimes. That is, unless you are a believer that Marc can withstand this kind of workload over the course of an 82-game season. I’m never one to predict injuries, but wear & tear is a very real thing, and when you’re dealing with a 7’1″, 265lb monster of a man on the wrong side of 30, miles add up quickly.

I’d be interested to know where Gasol’s owners stand after this one. Are they looking to sell? Or are they going to ride him all the way to the edge of the cliff? (Chime in below via the comments section if you have a buy/sell/hold take.)

Let’s take a look at what else shook down on Tuesday night with 12 teams in action…

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This is usually where I talk about how we did with the picks last week, but not this edition.  I think it’s a good time to talk/rant about what’s going on in the industry, because 140 characters on Twitter isn’t long enough.  As many of you know the Daily Fantasy Sports Industry is under fire. We recently had  Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of New York say it’s illegal to play DFS in the state of New York.  I don’t think it’s right for a person to have that much power in any state.  To cut the head of the snake is just stupid in my opinion.  New York has the most DFS players than any other state, with an estimated 900k.  That’s a big hit for Draft Kings, Fan Duel (which is headquartered in New York) and any other site.  Also, think of the tax money that the state of New York is losing out on.  What states should be doing is protect the consumer by regulating DFS, not abolish it.  The industry got too big too fast.  Both of these companies are valued at a little over a billion dollars each.  That’s just crazy how fast it happened.  Then with Draft Kings and Fan Duel going on an all-out media blitz promoting millions of dollar in winnings, you’re going to attract a lot of unwanted attention.  Now of course the politicians have their hands out wanting their cut of the pie.  I’m not shocked at all because the political industry is probably the dirtiest and most corrupt industry we have. It’s been that way for the longest time and will continue to be that way.  Many have asked, is season-long fantasy going to be affected?  Probably not and here’s why:  If there were season long companies worth a billion dollars and promoting million dollar winners, I am sure these scumbag politicians would go after those companies.  But there isn’t.  One final thing I would like to say is that I encourage everyone who enjoys and plays fantasy sports to contact their state rep and let them know how you feel.  Also feel free to comment or ask any questions below.  

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After a pretty quiet first week, we’re all the sudden getting ravaged by injuries and late DNP scratches.  LET STEROIDS BE ALLOWED AGAIN DAMMIT!  No one wants to see Austin Rivers start an NBA game…  And then to top it off, the Clippers started a backcourt with daddy’s boy Austin alongside Pablo Prigioni…  Who is certainly old enough to be Rivers’ daddy too…

But before that travesty in Phoenix, the Wolves decided to scratch Ricky Rubio after calling him probable.  To be fair, it was probable they were going to get bludgeoned by the Warriors, then again they played Golden State pretty close…  Mitchell probably thought this was a loss anyway, but who knows if Rubio would’ve made a difference over the Zach LaVine start and the out-of-nowhere minutes for Andre Miller.  Then to just make assists even more a lost cause for fantasy owners, Chris Paul was suddenly questionable then ruled out with his groin strain.  Maybe his groin injury is some sort of cosmic karma for punching Julius Hodge in the nuts when at Wake Forest…  Isn’t cosmic karma an ice cream flavor…?  Whatever, anything to keep me from saying groin again!  There isn’t much of a fantasy spin on these frustrating-as-hell DNPs, other than Rubio indeed looked like a massive sell-high after that opener and CP-3 needs to re-nicknamed CP-DNP.  Both will be managed and it will hurt their overall value, so if you can sell for per-start stats, I would.  And just like the trend we’re seeing in all the other major sports, players will be managed through minor bumps and bruises, especially injury-prone and older players.  LET STEROIDS BE ALLOWED AGAIN DAMMIT!  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy basketball action:

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After making history this weekend with arguably the best Halloween costume from an NBA player of all time, LeBron James made his way into the NBA record books becoming the youngest player to score 25,000 career points. Despite the record-breaking basket coming against the hapless Philadelphia 76ers, the feat nonetheless is one of the most impressive in recent memory. With all the scrutiny surrounding the potential decline of the Artist Formerly Known as King James, tonight’s performance was an instant reminder of how effectively he can impact the game not only on the hardwood, but the fantasy box score as well.

Registering 22 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks on 9-19 shooting, James had his most well-rounded performance of the season. Moving forward, James should begin to impact other areas of the box score (assists, rebounds, steals, and FG percentage) as the Cavs offense clicks.

As the Cavs begin to realize the full potential of their All-Pro floor spacer in Kevin Love, James ability to facilitate and control the pace of the game will open up his true fantasy potential. Pencil him in for at least 20 points, 8 boards, and 6 assists on .500+ shooting. All hail the King.

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Flashy player.  Ridiculous opportunity.  Buzzy preseason.  A lot of times it ends up fizzling out, sometimes it works out OK, and one time it’s C.J. McCollum.

C.J. went absolutely bonkers in his 15-16 debut, hitting 14-22 from the field including 6-9 3PTM for 37/6/1/1/0 and no TO.  Video game numbers!  So he’s a shooter, and he does what NBA shooters do – keeps draining em when they hot!  But I think we need to take a step back and consider a few things:  Other than massive Pts and treys it was fairly empty.  This was against the Pelicans, who without Brow, might look worse than the Sixers; they look horrific.  And the third thing that no one seemed to mention while anointing McCollum the next big thing in combo guards this preseason – he’s got a pretty extensive injury history.  He’s at the pinnacle of a sell high for me.  Do I think he’ll be hot garbage all the sudden?  Of course not.  But do I think he scores 37 again this year?  I don’t.  Well, unless they faced the Pelicans every night…  I’d shop around in the 40-50 range of ADP and see if you can get lucky.  As with all fantasy takeaways off one game, it’s always good to keep from overreacting.  Compared to fantasy football, we’re at the same point as about 9 minutes into the first quarter of week 1.  Still a long way to go.  Here’s what else went down during the first full slate of fantasy basketball action:

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Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.

(Yep, I just dropped a Chinese proverb, so y’all know this article is about to go next level…)

I’ve always found it fun to read – and write – some of the more unconventional or against-the-grain prognostications for the upcoming fantasy basketball season, and it can be a gas to revisit them at various points throughout the year to see if they’re gaining any traction or skidding wildly off the road. It probably goes without saying, but the bolder (see: nuttier) the prediction, the less likely it is to bear fruit. So the intent here is to provide an unpopular – but not unrealistic – take on a player that may actually help you during your fantasy draft. You’re likely to disagree with most (they’d be the consensus if you didn’t) but if I can hit on one akin to last year’s “take a late-round swing at Rudy Gobert and hold him until starter minutes come available,” it can be a season defining gamble. So pick your favorite(s) and let’s go diving for pearls together! (Man, that is without a doubt the least cool analogy I’ve ever come up with. But it’s a call-back to the opening line which I thought was kinda clever, so I’m gonna own it.)

Prepare the hot takes cannon as we fire off 30 bold fantasy basketball predictions (one for each NBA team) for the 2015/2016 season:

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