Woooo, bring on the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season, baby! I know what you’re thinking… “The 15-16 season isn’t even over yet, why are you putting out rankings today?!” Well, the early bird gets the Worm! Which I guess means I’m drafting Dennis Rodman next year… Sleeper alert!

As we do every off-season, we’ll be ranking 1-50 right as the previous season ends for some Way Too Early Rankings. Getting much past that opens Pandora’s Box to free agency, the NBA draft, the ever-important Summer League… Hey, I keed, but look what happened with Myles Turner! Gus Ayonin’! We’ll be getting through the top 50 by next week, and until then, let’s see some 73rd W history, Golden State! Here’s my Way Too Early Top 10 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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Perhaps no player since the great Oscar Robertson has felt like such a nightly threat to record a triple-double than Russell Westbrook. Lately, when the Thunder point guard takes the court on any given night, you’re expecting huge production. You can just tell how much he wants it. He is a special player with an unparalleled combination of aggression and talent…and it was on full display on Tuesday night.

For the third game in a row and the sixth time this month, Russell Westbrook poured in double-digit points, grabbed double-digit rebounds, and handed out double-digit assists. He finished Tuesday’s home win with 21, 13 & 15.

After Tuesday’s game, Westbrook now has March averages (11 games) of: 20.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 11.4 assists.

The remarkable thing though, is that Russ is ranked 54th for 9-category per-game fantasy value this month, due in large part to 4.7 turnovers per game and a high-volume .408 mark from the field. This is a perfect illustration of how eye-popping numbers can be misleading when gauging a player’s actual value to your team. In contrast, Kawhi Leonard is a full 50 ranking spots ahead of Westbrook this month with more modest averages of 22.7/7.4/2.9. But when you add in a .495 shooting percentage and only 1.6 TOs, the valuation swings wildly in his favor.

So while Russell Westbrook is posting trip-dub after trip-dub, it’s prudent for fantasy owners to keep in mind exactly what goes into the making of a star in the real world versus the fantasy world as this 2015-2016 season comes to an end.

Let’s take a look at some of the other note-worthy performers on a quiet four-game Tuesday night in the NBA…

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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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A matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers is Candyland for talented opposition and on Tuesday night it was Thaddeus Young‘s turn to feast. The injury-depleted Sixers couldn’t keep Thad off the glass as he collected a season-high 16 rebounds (four offensive). In addition to the board-fest, Young scored 14 points on 5-9 from the field and a perfect 4-4 mark from the foul line. He handed out a team-high four assists (with no turnovers), swiped the ball twice and rejected three Philly shots for an eight-category gem. The only disappointment for Thad’s owners on this night is that he fouled out, holding him to 33 minutes, or the line could have been even sweeter.

Thad has been a fourth round value on the season so big lines have popped up here and there, but monster outings like Tuesday’s illustrate just how favorable a matchup with Philadelphia can be. All told, the Nets hung 131 points on ’em (in regulation) and with the 76ers having now given up more than 110 points in twelve of their last fifteen games, it’s worth a look ahead to see who else might have an opportunity to post a season-best line at the expense of Philadelphia pride in the near future…

  • Thursday, March 17th vs Wizards – Look for Otto Porter to go big, especially if Bradley Beal can’t go.
  • Friday, March 18th vs Thunder – If you’ve ever wondered if Russell Westbrook can post a triple-double in less than 20 minutes, this might be the night we find out.
  • Sunday, March 20th vs Boston – Avery Bradley is due for a scoring outburst as he hasn’t had a 20+ point performance since February 22nd. Maybe he busts loose against the “defense” of Isaiah Canaan and Nik Stauskas.

Beyond that the ‘6ers head out on a four-game road trip with the last of those contests taking place at Oracle Arena against the Golden State Warriors…yikes.

Let’s take a game-by-game look at the studs, duds and noteworthy performers from a six-game Tuesday night.

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It’s unusual for teams to be clinching playoff spots this early in the season. The Warriors are on a historic pace to challenge the ’95-96 Bulls for the best single-season record in NBA history, at 72-10.

Because of this, the Spurs are flying under the radar, something that they seem to do every season. By beating the Pistons on Wednesday, the Spurs improved their home winning streak to 29 games and are now 51-9 on the season. That’s 17 straight 50+ win seasons. Absolutely incredible.

Marcus Morris (16 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists) the oldest Pistons’ starter was 8 years old when Tim Duncan (12 points and 8 rebounds) made his debut. And when Duncan is ready to call it a career, he has two young studs to continue the Spurs’ legacy: LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.

Just like David Robinson and Duncan, Aldridge has played nicely along with Duncan. He grabbed a double-double against the Pistons with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. Meanwhile, the reigning Finals’ MVP, Leonard, posted a 27/6/5 line with 2 steals.

While the Warriors have a shot at 72-10, both the Warriors and Spurs are still a ways away from matching the Bulls’ record of 44 straight wins at home.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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Like Radiohead’s Kid A album, we need to start off this morning with a reminder that even ThrAGNOFs can get Everything In Its Right Place treatment. Often ridiculed, thrown garbage at, excommunicated like lepers, they pretty much mope around like they’re listening to Radiohead… Even ThrAGNOFs are people too!

Just look at our conversation during the Pod yesterday. Slim hates on Mirza being a ThrAGNOF, I say he’s the only real consistent PF, and Slim has to begrudgingly agree. We say “Threes ain’t got no face” not because they have no existential meaning and are The Plague on Camus’s fantasy team, but because a player that hit 3s/scores/low TO are often overrated by the metrics. Last night, Mirza went 30/11/1/0/0, hitting 12-23 FG with 5 treys against his former Nets. Now, he didn’t have the normal low TO (4), but he grabs more boards than your typical wing ThrAGNOF, and brings it at an out-of-position PF spot. In the 4 games since the deadline, ThrAGNOFovic is 20.5/7.3/1.5 with 3.5 treys a game. He’s owned in all of my RCLs, but he’s still only 39% owned across the Yahoo-verse and still available in several leagues. Of course if you don’t need scoring and 3s, you’re not missing on too much, and his production is easily replaceable if he gets cold. But while hot, you gotta ride your ThrAGNOFs! Here’s what else went down in fantasy hoops action last night:

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Shelvin Mack has finally been reunited with Gordon Hayward, and the Jazz definitely feel so good about it. (If you don’t remember their heroic run with Butler to the championship game against Duke, then I feel very sorry for you.) Mack immediately becomes a must own after leapfrogging the rest of the dismal PG depth. Shelvin has always been a versatile guard, but he really lacked a true playmaker’s skill-set during his early years. Fortunately, he really adapted to that point guard role, during his time with the Hawks. Don’t get too carried away with projections though, he’s likely to average points in the low teens, 4 or 5 assists, and probably over a 3. Odds are, he won’t produce a lot of defensive stats, but on the plus side, he won’t turn the ball over much. (Ignore the 6 TO outlier last game, since he’s been fairly consistent career wise.) He is likely to be impacted by the return of Alec Burks, so that’s another thing to keep an eye on. Overall though, he needs to be owned for now, and we’ll deal with Burks when he gets back.

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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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