As an ancient proverb goes – “I’d like to introduce you to an old friend and a new friend.”  Ok, so I made that up.  But it sounds good!

For an old friend I’ve mentioned a few times and pumped up in my last rankings update before the season started up, my boy Omri Casspi had another solid outing last night that probably was under the radar.  In 24 minutes, he went 7/8/5 with no turnovers, 2-4 from the field and 3-4 from the line.  He just looks awesome every time I see him play.  Did you know he was the first Israeli to play in the NBA?  He’s pretty much Chandler Parsons but with Chandler Parsons in his way.  After a ho-hum first two games, his past two have been fantastic – and this last one without hitting a three which is a big part of his game.  Not necessarily a must own in 12-teamers, but definitely worth a look, and needs to be grabbed in 14+.

Then my new friend - Gal Mekel on the Mavericks.  You’re like, “who the eff is Gal Mekel?  I thought this was NBA not WNBA!”  Mekel was signed to a three-year deal by the Mavs this offseason, and became the second Israeli to join the NBA.  Cut to Amar’e Stoudemire going, “Hey, I should count!”  With Shane Larkin dealing with an ankle injury, and no Devin Harris for a while, Mekel is getting full-on backup PG run and playing well doing it.  He got his 2nd 6 assist game last night going 9/4/6 and hitting a 3.  Sure some run was in junk time, but with the oft-injured Jose Calderon the only one ahead of him (hasn’t played in over 68 games since 2007), Mekel could find his way into starts.  Of course, now I’ve ruined my play on him in the REL League.  Let’s just hope no one in that league is reading!  Here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy hoops:

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Coming into this year, the fantasy freaks of the world had two guys on their radar as far as Phoenix Suns centers. Would it be one-time fantasy darling and all-the-time Polish Hammer Marcin Gortat, or lottery pick Alex Len, who could either end up as a modern-day Jon Koncak or a white Dwight Howard.

How about neither? Gortat was traded to the Washington Cheese Wiz in a very odd trade where the Suns ended up with a protected first-round pick and a frozen-in-Carbonite Emeka Okafor – which really isn’t that different than Emeka Okafor – while the ex-Bullets got Gortat and three guys they waived.

Len, meanwhile, is injured, and won’t be ready even when he’s ready, if that makes any sense.

And all of this is perfectly fine in the retirement capital of the world.

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Man, what a huge night it was across the NBA with nearly every team in action.  It obviously all starts with the shocker Philly put on the Heat, and Michael Carter-Williams‘ unreal debut.  I was following with my co-workers during the game and tweeted that if he got a triple-double in his first NBA game, the universe would implode.  Thankfully MCW was a steal short and we’re all still here.  His final line of 6-10 (4-6 3PTM 6-8 FT) 22 Pts 7 Rebs 12 Asts and 9 Stls might actually win some owners their matchups this week on its own.  Just preposterous.  Most steals in NBA history in a player’s debut.  Ok before we all go nutso, remember the Heat played without Dwayne Wade (rest), don’t have a PG, and had all their hands weighed down with new championship rings.  So that’s not really an excuse, but so what?!  The shooting efficiency was fantastic (the biggest knock on him coming into the year), plus he had only one turnover (his second main knock).  “Nice knockers!”  Thanks Young Frankenstein!  MCW indeed moves up a fair bit in value in my eyes, but this is likely his best line on the year.  MCW was wildly inconsistent in college and I don’t expect much consistency on a terrible 76ers team (I know they just beat the Heat, but c’mon).  Look for John Wall to lock him up on Friday and cool the hype.  Despite inconsistencies, it goes without saying that MCW should be owned in all leagues now (78% Yahoo, 59.4% ESPN), so if for some reason he’s available in your league, you gotta get him.  I’m not expecting MCW to be an elite player, but will continue to contribute even in down games.  Here’s what else I saw across Fantasy Basketball last night:

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Despite the two nationally telecast Opening Night games (with the Heat/Bulls starting at 8:00 PM EST), the season really started at 7:00 with the Magic against the Pacers.  Non-fantasy players probably didn’t know this game ever happened.  All the sudden in the second quarter, Andrew Nicholson just went off, going 8-9 in the first half with 18 points.  Next thing you know, ESPN Fantasy Basketball is down.  Why RCL is on Yahoo!  But despite the Magic losing the lead and the offense going stagnant early in the third, Nicholson only played another few minutes in the second half and got stuck at 18 points in 19 minutes, only taking one additional shot and going 8-10 on the night.  Womp womp.  I never thought too much of Nicholson and don’t think he’s a guy to go rush to the wire for (unlike ESPN fantasy players!), and don’t forget Tobias Harris sat out with the ailing ankle.  19 minutes sounds about right for Nicholson, and he’s obviously not going to be a 48 PPG scorer per 48.  But I hope the kid enjoyed the moment in the sun during that first half shooting spree.  You temporarily broke Fantasy!  He was like the Fantasy Basketball Kevin Ogletree.  Here’s what else went down last night in the NBA:

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It’s funny how hometown fans and media have a different perception of players compared to those outside of the area. This gap is more like a canyon in Philadelphia. The outside world saw Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid as a wildly successful QB and coach tandem. One racked up Pro Bowl appearances and 3,000-yard passing seasons. The other had the Eagles as the kings of the NFC East and even got the team to the Super Bowl. In Philly, both are regarded as utter failures who never connected with the fanbase.  Scott Rolen and Andre Iguodala were both viewed as multi-talented consummate professionals in their respective sports. They got killed in Philly for being aloof and coming up short.

And most people on the planet Earth see 76ers center Spencer Hawes as a pretty solid center. They’ve seen 20 and 10 lines, they’ve seen seasons with 10 ppg and 7 rpg, and they’ve seen hustle plays and passion on highlights. But this guy is viewed as the poster child for the frustrating and ultimately squandered Doug Collins era. He’s starting for Philadelphia this year because the team is tanking to get Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 draft. This might be almost entirely true.

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A lot of things stood out in the 2013-2014 NBA Playoffs, and we’re not even talking about you, Mike Breen’s Weird Face.

They’ll be remembered as the coming out party for Mark Jackson’s upstart Golden State Warriors, who upended the Denver Nuggets in the first round. The Lakers got flattened and Dwight Howard got flushed out of the City of Angels. The Grizz took a step up, and OKC took a big step back. We saw Paul George go from boy to man, ABC, BBD, with the swish of a jumper and three big FTs. We saw Frank Vogel brain fart by removing Roy Hibbert and allowing LeBron James to win a game with a layup. And we saw a Finals Game 6 that packed a monumental Spurs collapse; a limp, pathetic white flag en masse by Heat fans; and an incredible Miami comeback capped by a Ray Allen three so deep in the corner that he coulda grabbed a Cinnabon from the concessions before coming back down to earth – BREATHE – all in one fourth quarter. Oh, and James’ dwindling horde of critics were served up another heaping helping of shutup-shuttin’-up.

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Continuing on with updated rankings after the top 10 and top 20, below rounds out my to 50.  Previous rankings are in parentheses next to these updated ranks, with up and down designations only for guys hopping up or down significant spots.  Have fun grilling these!

(22) 21. Nicolas Batum – A lot of commenters have wondered why he’s not in the top-20, and as I said in my previous 20-50 rankings, the declining FG% (45.1% to 42.3%) and 3PT% (39.1% to 37.2%) from 2011-12 to 12-13 gives me pause.  Despite playing over 8 more minutes a game in 11-12 to 12-13, his scoring average only went up 0.4 Pts a game and he only averaged 12 a game after the All-Star Break with his wrist injury.  He’s said the wrist is completely healed, and despite not needing surgery I would be worried with Batum as my second-rounder as the wrist could plague him again.  He’ll still be a multi-cat workhorse, but I see no way he chucks up 6.1 3′s a night with new acquisitions Mo Williams and C.J. McCollum also manning the perimeter.  Yeah their PT may not overlap too consistently, but I just don’t see the three point output mimicking last year.

(23) 22. LaMarcus Aldridge – Another big fantasy asset I’m slightly down on, the Blazers could very easily have another rough first half and look to trade their franchise big.  The rumors have been swirling for quite some time, and there’s virtually no destination where I think he would be a better fantasy player than in Portland.

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The period of free agency continues to shape the fantasy basketball-scape with fresh meat on terrible teams and players signing with contenders to be relegated to bench duty.  With baseball in full swing and the NFL getting half of the ESPN air time no matter what time of year it is, a lot of NBA moves have been made under the radar.  Look for every division to get a team-by-team breakdown and some early fantasy thoughts on the new faces in new places:

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This team led the league in blocked shots per game in three of the last four seasons, and was second in the one that it didn’t.

This team also finished in the Top 6 in rebounding in the last four years.

Who is this team? Without cheating and looking at a stats site you’d have to guess the Lakers, with Dwight Howard, or a defensively minded team like the Spurs, with Tim Duncan leading the block-n-board bash, or Da Bulls, with high-end Crafty Breuer Joakim Noah, his pony tail and the other dudes swatting shots and grabbing clankers.

Nope, nope and nope. It’s the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that – despite having blocks leader Serge Ibaka (3.0 bpg) in the hizzouse – just doesn’t pop into your mind as a team that would pile up a mound of boards and blocks. We see Kevin Durant blowing guys away on the break and rising up for those improbable three-ball makes, and we see Russell Westbrook somehow getting to the cup and somehow getting it to go.

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Some music fans believe the 1982 Fleetwood Mac album “Mirage” got its name because Lindsey, Stevie, Christine, John and Mick hated each other, were trying to pass off a dated band as relevant, recorded it while whacked out on assorted liquids and/or substances, or all of the above.

While any of this could be true, the opinion here is that “Mirage” is a criminally underrated album by an often derided band. Can they be as corny as Nick Young’s early 2012-2013 ’do? You bet ya. But here, without trying, they actually pull off a “mirage” that’s a good one and not one that, say, Spike in “Tom & Jerry” might have had where he mistook Tom for a giant hambone.

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