A popular sleeper on draft day (well, made more popular by us!), Markieff Morris had been driving fantasy owners crazier than Joaquin Phoenix in The Master.

Through the first 10 games, Markieff had numbers eerily identical to what he did last year despite four more MPG.  His engine is on hybrid!  But for as atrocious as his previous 4 games were, broke out in a big way against the Celtics for 30/7/5/4/0 hitting 14-21 shots including a trey.  And only 1 TO!  Career-high scoring for Kieff, after four games in a row under 12 and three of those scoring single-digits.  “I found the beef, it’s Jeff Green‘s terrible D!”  While my Kieff teams are loaded with swagger after this big Monday, there is something slightly concerning with his stats.  Only 1-1 FT last night, and now is under half as many FT makes a game compared to last year, in nearly 5 more minutes a game (playing 39 bumped up his minutes finally!).  In 13-14, Kieff-er Sutherland was at 3.2-4.0 at the charity stripe, but is suddenly more like Donald Sutherland and not attacking the cup.  Less driving means fewer OREB (down from last year sinking his REB per-36), and his dimes have fallen a smidge as well.  None of these stats are major, but it seems he’s not creating and the Suns G-rotation is handling all the rock.  Another week of big stats with weak FT numbers and low-ish dimes – on top of Hornacek’s tendency to roll the hot hand, even the starters – and I’d actually sell high.  The steals and handful of blocks are nice, but not loving the lack of aggression and new role as more a spot-shooter, which could make him benchable to Horny a lot of games if he’s cold, something we’ve already seen a little of with the waffley minutes.  Where’s the beef?!  Let’s hope not in the waffles, but ya never know, that could be good!  Fried chicken n waffles is out of this world.  Here’s what else happened on an unusually busy Monday night of action:

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We start this week’s injury report with some good news. The 76ers welcomed back Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel to the court on Thursday night. MCW immediately contributed, posting a 19/8/5 line off the bench. It was good to see him play 30 minutes in his first game back, and I expect to see him starting soon.

Nerlens Noel came off the bench as well, after missing two games with a sprained ankle. Although the 76ers were glad to have them back, it really didn’t matter. The Mavericks destroyed the 76ers 123-70. The Mavericks scored more points in the first half (73) than the 76ers scored in the entire game!

Now for the bad news: Derrick Rose is hurt again. Rose left Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury late in the 4th quarter. His status for Saturday’s game is up in the air as we await more information. In the games he’s played, Rose looks like his old self. The problem is that he hasn’t played that many games. He’s missed four games already with a pair of sprained ankles. Even if the hamstring injury isn’t serious, expect to see him miss some games here and there. The Bulls are more concerned about Rose’s long term health and having him ready to go for the playoffs.

When Rose doesn’t dress, look for Aaron Brooks to provide value. He’s shown in the past that he can still produce when given the minutes. Brooks has averaged 16 ppg, 6 apg, and 2.75 spg in the four games that Rose has been out. The minutes won’t be consistent, but Brooks will have upside for starters’ minutes off the bench and is a great start in daily salary cap leagues whenever Rose is ailing.

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No Nicolas Batum, no problem!

The Blazers went nuts in the first half last night, putting up 84 on the hapless Nuggets through 24 minutes.  Indiana won last night at Miami scoring 81!  All your usual suspects had some good games, but who was the Keyser Soze?  The greatest trick bench players have ever pulled was convincing the fantasy basketball world they don’t matter!  But Chris Kaman is off yet another brilliant game, putting up 16/7/2/1/2 on 6-8 shooting (4-5 FT), and needs to be owned in virtually all leagues.  Was a little in junk time?  Sure.  Is he better than Robin Lopez?  Who isn’t?!  Will he start any time soon?  Well, no, but dude has grabbed at least 5 boards in every game and averaging over a block and a half a night.  The minutes are going to be there all year, as several NBA teams needing a starting big man have got to be mad they didn’t float Kaman a little offerewski.  And he’s a must add for RoLo fantasy owners, as while he had a good game last night scoring 19, zero blocks, only 5 boards, and most importantly only 21 minutes.  Blowout induced, yes, but topped 30 minutes only twice this year after averaging 32 a game last year.  He’s down 4 MPG from 2013-14 as Terry Stotts is utilizing the Blazers’ vastly improved bench, but thus far RoLo’s numbers are nearly identical from last year, and I don’t see that continuing with such lower PT.  So sell RoLo high!  And when other owners try to figure out why, tell em because you got high.  Here’s what else went down in fantasy action last night:

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After getting down as much as 23 points, I was going to pose the question – is Nicolas Batum the glue for the Blazers?

But then the Charlotte Hornets looked like the Kelly Tripucka Charlotte Hornets, hiked up their shorts, and got run out of Portland in the second half.  This is Damian Lillard‘s show!  29/4/7/2/0 hitting 5 treys and 12 of 21 shots for The Omen.

With Batum out last night (and is hopeful to miss only two more and returning next Monday – he likes the weekly league fantasy players!), a lot of minutes opened up for Blazers SF.  And of all the options, I don’t think anyone would’ve projected Allen Crabbe as the starter!  Play Chris Kaman at the 3!  I actually remember watching a few of Crabbe’s games at Cal when they were in the NCAA tourney and thought he was a good little player.  But dude had 4 combined minutes on the season!  And even the starting role did nothing for him, going 2/2/2/0/0 in 22 minutes shooting 1-4.  Allen Crabby, want more rock!  Crabbe has virtually no value, and Batum’s injury just means a few stats will trickle down through the Blazers starters and role players.

The under-the-radar winner is Steve Blake, who nearly rainbowed for 5/4/2/2/1.  Season-high 25 minutes and he’s averaging over 3 dimes a game this year.  Your line-up is probably filled out tomorrow and Saturday for the next two Blazers games, but hey, if you have one streaming spot open and need a little PG love, don’t be afraid to turn to grown-up Dewey for help.  Here’s what else went down in fantasy hoops last night:

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Man, both NBA games last night were atrocious…  Even if the Rockets McDonald’s unis were effing awesome, love those 90s reds and yellows!

Gregg Popovich sat Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan (on top of Marco Belinelli and Tiago Splitter injured) that’s sure to get Adam Silver pitching a tent in his NBA-fines PJs.  With no Duncan or Splitter, the Spurs had to play Aron Baynes and Boris Diaw at C.  Wow.  And against an inconsistent-at-best post player in Dwight Howard!  But Dwight destroyed his “defenders” and looked like a 17 year old high school kid with college aspirations playing against middle schoolers.  Like watching Taco Fall play against other high school JV teams.  Man, Taco makes a basketball look like a grapefruit!

There’s really only one explanation to last night’s travesty – Pop owns Dwight on his fantasy team.  And well, let’s guess Kevin McHale drafted Tim Duncan and was against Pop this week.  Pop DOES NOT like to lose in fantasy basketball.  I’d imagine when he talks to his fantasy opponents it goes something like this.  “What’s more powerful than me winning every year?  Hope.  That I’d ever let anyone else win!”  Dwight for 32/16/0/1/2 shooting 12-18 from the field.  It was pretty bad out there, matchup wise.  He did his Dwight thing missing FT but ended up fine hitting 8-13.  I’m very steadfast in my anti-Dwight ways, so if you have Howard and have thought about trading, this is the game to be off of to do it.  Here’s what else went down in a light slate of Thursday action:

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Uh oh…  Brandon Knight had a good game…  JB’s gonna talk about his Brandon Knight infatuation all year now!  Great…

One of my big sleeper calls last year (which was, only, kindasorta right), I again came into this season with Knight well ahead of the consensus (six spots ahead of the next highest among 25 experts – the only one in green!).  And while his knight (womp womp) was still redonkulous, there was more to like than only the stat line.  Went 22/8/13/0/1 with 2 treys and 10-10 FT. But what’s to salivate over is he led the Bucks in minutes, clearly started the game as the PG, and both Kendall Marshall and Nate Wolters didn’t get off the bench.  Jerryd Bayless was the only backup PG to get off the pine for a measly 14 minutes.  I think a big hesitation for fantasy owners was if Knight was going to play more SG like he did down the stretch last year, having his dimes eaten away like Raymond Felton at a CiCis.  Certainly looks like that won’t be the case, and when I face opposing fantasy teams, Knight is going to be my Public Enemy #1.  Here’s what else went down in our first big slate of games for the 2014-15 season:

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With the full 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Rankings now complete, let’s take a look at the top 75.  Captain N is aboard!  Captain on the bridge!  The respect he garners trumps captain Russell Crowe with long hair… Captain Patrick Stewart with no hair… Captain N has a huge ass flat top!  And this captain is Nerlens Noel; double the N for twice the… nifty…?  Twice the… neat hair?  This captain will put non-believers 20,000 leagues under the sea!  Here’s my top 75 for the 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Season (based on 9-cat H2H):

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With the full 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Rankings now complete, let’s take a look at the top 50.  Through the top 20, we’ve already had 6 PGs taken off the board, but your third round is going to be more littered with 1s than Neo’s kung-fu program!  If you don’t have a PG through your first three rounds, you may as well turn into Brendan Fraser and live for 30 years with your dad Christopher Walken.  Or just scream in your draft lobby chat “WILLLLSSSOONNNNNN!”  …because you’ve been left behind, not because you’re drafting Wilson Chandler… “It’s not funny if you have to explain your joke, JB!”  Fine!  Probably the biggest change from the Way too Early Ranks is the catastrophic Isaiah Thomas falloff moving to Phoenix.  While he’s not in the top 50, I still think he’ll be a value.  More on that later!  Here’s my top 50 for the 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Season (based on 9-cat H2H):

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With the full 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Rankings now complete, let’s take a look at the top 20.  I’ve gotten really bored of Imagine Dragons… They were fine and it was good hearing decent music on the pop stations, but now I cringe almost as much as that friggin’ Fancy song.  I haven’t heard anything more talent-less since Ashlee Simpson!  And parallel-o-ly, or some real word that means that, I imagine some cringing for my sky high Goran Dragic rank.  I’m on the dragon wave!  Dragons are just as hot as vampires or zombies right now.  You got movies how to train them, hot blondes mothering them, Hobbits sneaking up on them in caves… I’m just swept in the fever.  And here’s to hoping I sweep you too! Here’s my top 20 for the 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Season (based on 9-cat H2H):

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As we head into August, now is a perfect time to take a look back at the free agency period for the upcoming 2014-15 NBA season.

While there is one big name yet to sign (Eric Bledsoe), a few less-intriguing options still on the market (Michael Beasley, Andray Blatche, Kent Bazemore, Jordan Crawford), and another who’s unsure whether he’ll play or retire (Ray Allen), most of the fantasy basketball world knows where guys will be playing this season.  Of course, that still doesn’t include the possibility of Kevin Love finding a new home by the end of the summer, but that could be the subject of an entirely different article.

There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that Love will land in Cleveland, which will make them a huge force in the Eastern Conference — and in the entire NBA.

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