Earlier in the year when the NBA released its schedule for the 2015/2016 season, one of the very first things I did was flip forward to December 25th. I was really stoked to see five games, neatly stacked one after the other, for our holiday viewing pleasure. The excitement continued to grow right up until the games went live and we quickly learned that putting the ball through the hoop is, apparently, quite a bit more difficult on Christmas.

Anthony Davis in South Beach for a noon eastern tip-off against the Heat. What a great way to kick off the afternoon after tossing back a few coffee & Baileys, scarfing down some cinnamon buns, and opening some presents, right? Yeah…  no. They needed overtime and the Pelicans still couldn’t hit the 90-point mark. Brow was nice (29/15/4/4/3), as was Chris Bosh, but the game was not pretty. At all.

So I says to myself, I says: “Self, one stinker does not a bad day make. We just got the ugly one outta the way early. This will not be a harbinger of things to come. No, sir, it will not.” Next up we got the weirdly entertaining (and enigmatic) Bulls visiting the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook & Kevin Durant in front of an always raucous Oklahoma City crowd. Well, Chicago doubled up OKC in the third quarter (32-16) to quiet the crowd and pulled away as nobody other than the Thunder’s two stars bothered to show up. The league’s second most efficient team on offense couldn’t crack the century mark and fell 105-96.

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Congratulations to Dirk Nowitzki. He passed Shaquille O’Neal for number 6 on the all-time NBA scoring list.

While Kobe Bryant gains the headlines in his last season, Dirk and Tim Duncan have quietly shown how to adapt their game for the team’s sake, taking less money and adding more wins to their already impressive résumés.

At 37, Dirk isn’t the same fantasy monster that he used to be, but is still valuable. He’s scored 20+ points in three straight games and so far has posted better overall numbers than last season. His game is much different than Kobe’s, with much less wear and tear on his body, allowing him to remain relatively healthy later in his career. Personally, I don’t see any reason why Dirk has to tie the sneakers up anytime soon.

In addition to passing Shaqtus, Dirk hit the game winner in the Mavericks’ overtime win over the Nets. He finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Not bad for a 37-year-old.

Overtime basketball is free basketball and it usually means great stat lines for everyone involved:

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So I’m watching the Bulls and Clip last night, Blake Griffin starts hot, then sorta melds into his normal role.  BORING!  Virtually 20/10 every night, and after scoring 6 early, it looked like your typical BG evening – as plain and simple as a Kia.  With his line at 18/11/2/0/2, Blake was like, “aight, time to either get a Razzball mention for 5-6 blocks, or swing tryin’!”  He became a medieval dentist swinging at Taj Gibson, getting this flagrant 2 for a hit that would make Holly Holm proud.  I’m not the biggest Taj fan, but he mouths “I’m OK” even though he easily could’ve lost 4 teeth.  Can’t keep him down!  Should’ve been cast in Creed…  Even with the premature exit, Griffin’s line was solid and we’re seeing some microscopic improvements to his game that could make 2015-16 a career year.  But when you’re right at career-norms and performing right at draft day value, it’s tough to get a lot of attention unless you pop someone right in the weasel.  And with the comradery helping Taj up and you could make the argument it was a legit block attempt, he’s certainly not missing any games due to a suspension.  So ride your boring, reliable ol’ Kia and enjoy consistency.  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy basketball:

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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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After a tough loss in Detroit, it’s safe to say things have yet to take flight for this year’s Houston Rockets. While many came into the season thinking Houston’s out-of-this-world lineup had the potential to challenge the incumbent Golden State Warriors for the title as best team in the West, those dreams came crashing back to earth weeks ago (and Kevin McHale is still searching through the wreckage for the cause of the incident). Last night’s struggles are just another indication of this season’s overall trend: the Houston Rockets are looking more like Team Rocket when they step on the court.

Even a near triple double from James Harden (29 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) wasn’t enough for Houston to surmount a surprising Pistons squad. With Harden passing 40 minutes for the fourth straight game, it’s looking like the Rockets are going to be riding their thoroughbred until the saddle cracks. In fairness, a monster game from Harden is probably the best chance Houston has to win every night, but for fantasy owners, the team’s struggle bodes well for the Beard’s outlook. Harden is going to score in abundance while racking up rebounds, assists, 3s, and steals as Houston fights to stay in the playoff hunt early. I think these past five games are particularly telling for the current state of the team as well as Harden’s prospects for the next few weeks as they try to right the ship (or the rocket).

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Man, is it really Thanksgiving Day again? Seems like yesterday that I was thanking that the Wizards were a playoff team….

Paul Pierce is gone and now we got Kris Humphries and Jared Dudley thinking they can play the stretch four. And how has that worked out for us? A 17-point loss to the Pacers on Tuesday and another 14-point loss to the Hornets on Wednesday. The Wizards are looking closer to the Redskins everyday. At least one doesn’t have a racist name.

So rather than complain about my home team, let’s say thanks to all teams and players that have actually helped us on Wednesday – I can try to enjoy Marvin Williams (14 pts, 11 rebs, 2 3s), Nicolas Batum (16 pts, 11 asts, 7 rebs), and Jeremy Lamb (18 pts., 7 rebs., 3 asts.) putting up fantasy worthy numbers against my Wiz kids.

On the Wizards side, Marcin Gortat had a monster double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Gary Neal had 18 points off the bench. Neal is straight buckets off the bench, but consistency will be a problem. I’d suggest investing in Bradley Beal, while he’s getting back into the swing of things after missing a few.

Moving onto the rest of the games:

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Hoops fans were treated to a pretty entertaining six-game slate on Tuesday night, and those who were able to stay awake into the wee hours of Wednesday morning (for us East coasters anyways), saw history made at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors set a new benchmark for best record to start an NBA season by winning their sixteenth straight game to open the 2015-2016 campaign.

For all intents and purposes, the game between the Warriors and the visiting Lakers was over before it started. GSW entered the contest as 17-point favorites and it took them all of 10 and a half minutes to cover that number. The Dubs were up 34 after three quarters and LA had the look of a team that might as well have just stayed home – they walked in defeated. (Aside: Byron Scott needs to go. Awful, awful ball coach.)

Unfortunately the blowout factor was in full effect as none of the Warriors starters were needed in the fourth quarter, evidenced by Stephen Curry and Draymond Green playing a game-high 30 minutes each. However, in honor of this Golden State team destroying the league so far this season, here are the lines for each of their starters tonight:

  • Chef Curry – 24/4/9/2/0, four triples, zero TOs
  • Klay Thompson – 11/3/2/0/1, two triples, one TO
  • Harrison Barnes – 8/2/1/0/0, two triples, one TO
  • Draymond Green – 18/7/5/1/2, two triples, 7-11 FGs
  • Andrew Bogut – 8/7/2/0/2, 4-7 FGs, zero TOs

Those are pretty pedestrian numbers (relative to each player’s typical contributions this year), but these are the types of lines that we’ll occasionally see with a team as dominant as the Warriors. For season-long owners you just have to move on to the next game and hope it’s a more competitive affair. And for DFS players, you know for the future to fade GSW players on nights when they’re huge favorites as the main guys won’t be needed for the full 48. At some point we’ll also have to keep an eye out for DNP-Rest days, though I can’t imagine that will happen until Golden State loses their first game. (For the record, the teams standing in the way of a 28-0 Warriors team hosting the Cleveland LeBrons on Christmas Day are: Phoenix twice, Sacramento, Utah twice, Charlotte, Toronto, Brooklyn, Indiana, and Milwaukee twice. Seriously – who of those teams is scaring you if you’re the Dubs?)

Let’s take a look at the non-Bay Area happenings on Tuesday night…

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Wow, how good is Russell Westbrook? Two nights after dropping 40 points and 14 assists against the Grizzlies, Westbrook scored 43 points, 8 assists, and 9 rebounds on Wednesday. The Thunder controlled the game, but never really put the game out of reach for the injury-riddled Pelicans. Whenever the Thunder needed a basket, Westbrook had no problem getting to the hoop or finding the open man. My only knock on Westbrook’s game is the turnovers, but when you’re posting near triple doubles every night, you’re allowed to turn the ball over as much as he does.

Now his stats are inflated a little because Kevin Durant has been sitting with a hamstring injury, but Westbrook is still a top 10 talent even with Durant in the lineup. Should Durant leave the Thunder next season (to go to, say, the Wizards!!!), Westbrook would enter my top three, along with Steph Curry and Anthony Davis.

Now onto the other notables from Wednesday night:

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How do you decide who is most deserving of the lead between these two stellar performances?:

  • Player A – 25 points, 18 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block, 10-15 FGs
  • Player B – 22 points, 14 rebounds, 10 blocks, 10-14 FGs

I’m going to give the nod to the player who posted his gaudy stats in a winning effort and that would be Player A, also known as Detroit center, Andre Drummond. The Pistons asked a lot from their franchise big man, and he responded with 39 minutes of terrific play that helped lead his team to a win over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers. Drummond was a +17 in a five point win, and even made the Cavs pay when they intentionally fouled him in the fourth quarter. After starting 1-4 from the line, AD made four of his last five to help seal the deal. It was a great overall performance and at this point the only thing fantasy owners need to fear is this heavy workload catching up to him later in the season. But at only 22 years old, there’s no reason why Drummond can’t make 2015-2016 his career campaign.

Player B is Miami Heat center, Hassan Whiteside. In just his 77th career game, Whiteside treated fantasy owners to his second points/boards/blocks triple-double. Unfortunately it was in a losing effort to the visiting Timberwolves, and was accompanied by four turnovers and a 2-9 mark from the charity stripe. Despite the sub-par free throw shooting (which was a bugaboo coming into the season), Hassan is providing first round returns and very likely earning himself a max contract when he hits free agency in the summer of 2016. Similar to Andre Drummond, there are no legitimate threats to Whiteside’s value other than injury, so it’s a “sit back and enjoy the ride” opportunity for his owners.

Honorable mention goes to Brooklyn’s pivot, Brook Lopez, who wasn’t too shabby himself on Tuesday night, dropping a 24/10/1/1/3 line in a two point win over the visiting Hawks. BroLo only turned the ball over once in 35 minutes and made 11-21 from the floor against a reasonably stout Atlanta front line. He may not be posting the monster lines like Whiteside and Drummond, but he’s chugging along as a third round per-game value in 9-cat leagues which is likely providing his owners with a solid return on their draft day investment.

Let’s take a look at what else shook down on a highly entertaining seven-game Tuesday evening…

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Maybe he didn’t call glass on his clutch three with 1:05 left in the 4th, but when you’re Dirk Nowitzki, a future hall of famer, who cares? I know fantasy owners don’t care whether it was a swish or a banked in three. All we care about are the final stats. And, boy, did Dirk deliver.

Down one going into the second half, Dirk took over for the Mavericks, leading them to a 10-point win against the Clippers. Dirk finished the game with 31 points and 11 rebounds on 11-14 shooting, including 5-6 from downtown. It was vintage Dirk.

Midway through the 3rd quarter he caught a Zaza Pachulia pass off of an offensive rebound and without squaring up, knocked down an one foot fade away jumper without hesitation. He knocked down threes with DeAndre Jordan in his grill. It was truly a great game.

As a fan of the game, it’s amazing to watch games like this, but as a fantasy owner, you have to realize that these games aren’t as common for the 37 year-old as they used to be. It was Dirk’s first 30-point game since December 28, 2014. In his 18th year in the NBA, Dirk is still a top 50 player when he plays, but just be aware his minutes are monitored more closely and he sits on back to backs, hurting his total overall value.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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