Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry reacts after a turnover in the second half against the Brooklyn Nets in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Barclays Center in New York City on April 27, 2014. The Raptors defeated the Nets 87-79 and tied the series at 2-2. UPI/John Angelillo

Draft season is now truly upon us with all sites having listed their official rankings for the fanatics, but how accurate those rankings are will well and truly depend on the structure of your league. One of the many attractions to the fantasy sport of basketball is the many different strategies that can play out, and of course the variety of settings and types of leagues that can be afforded to those that take the time to be commissioner of one of our favorite past times.

One of the big minefields that I spend scrupulous hours changing my ranks is trying to balance the variety of categories. The biggest minefield for me is turnovers.

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Lady and Gents!  The time is here!  Time for me to expose myself to the ridicule of the internet by laying out my somewhat conservatively outrageous predictions for the 2016-2017 NBA season! All positive input would be greatly appreciated.  All disagreements will result in heated comment debates with no one actually being right, since the season hasn’t even started yet…

Last preseason, I had some solid predictions that were quite controversial!  Namely, that Isaiah Thomas would break out, and that Greg Monroe would be a complete bust.  Ironically, the uncontested predictions were the ones that didn’t fare so well… Primarily due to injury, but what can you do about that?  Clearly, nothing, if you’re the Pelicans medical staff that is.

A little note before hand, my bold predictions will be made relative to the fantasy pros consensus projections.

Lets get this party rockin!

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Feb 8, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) smiles on the court in the game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Oklahoma City won 122- 106. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

I apologize for the click-bait title right away. However, the sentiment is correct, since Westbrook will go too high to be drafted by the savvy fantasy owner.

“Why is this??” You ask incredulously. Good question! I’ll tell you!

I absolutely love Westbrook in real life. He plays with a passion that rivals the likes of Bryant, Iverson, the original Isaiah Thomas, and many other greats. However, he will kill your fantasy team. I’m sure you can already guess why, but hear me out.

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Ahhh, the early mid-rounds. This is where you can really start zagging when owners want you to zig, or zig when they wanna zag, or just be a total Zags homer and draft Adam Morrison for the hell of it! Stupid Jordan picks…

So here we start vaulting into some of the bolder calls, where hopefully you don’t say “stupid JB picks”… I finally start going an island with a few calls, particularly some saucy PF-types. Choo choo! “Know what I’m SAYIN’!!!” Uh oh, I am starting to go delirious with the rankings already… I feel like Russell Crowe in that forest outhouse with magazine clippings everywhere. “What did Oladipo say in Slam Magazine about playing with Westbrook?!” Enough foreplay! You can check out the Top-10 and Top-25 though some clickage right there, and here’s the Top 50 for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season:

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2016-17 is so close, we can taste it!  Well, it’s not that close…  The season is gonna have a very pungent taste!

Speaking of pungent taste, you can take a look at how our ranks went last year.  Yeesh!  Here’s to turning over a new leaf, a fresh start, and well, screw you Kevin Durant!  My top-4 from the Way too Early Ranks were locked in, set in stone, easy-peezy…  Then you had to go ruin it!  I officially mirror all of Reggie Miller’s thoughts on him moving to Golden State.  Took a Golden State all over my ranks, that’s for sure!

Enough links, let’s get down to business!  As we do every year, our ranks will be put together in one master post that will include Slim’s 9-cat and MPG projections.  Plus be sure to listen and subscribe to the Razzball Basketball Podcast, where we will argue over these ranks incessantly.  Patrick Patterson top 50!  Here’s the Top 10 for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season:

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Finally, we’ve got some action to break down on the court! And what better venue than the Summer League, where raw NBA rooks and sophs go to strut their stuff and get fantasy basketballers needlessly excited. Remember all the Mario Hezonja hype last Summer League?! Hopefully I did pretty well to quash that! Wow, surprised I was right that “quash” was a word… I thought people were just saying squash too fast!

But one guy I definitely don’t want to squash/quash is second-year PG Cameron Payne. We were pretty big on this guy coming out of the draft last year, and he really surprised as a rookie overtaking D.J. Augustin as the backup to Russell Westbrook by going 14.6/4.4/5.6/1.9/0.3 in per-36 during 2015-16, with only 2.3 TO. He didn’t shoot particularly well (41%), but a lot of that was due to nearly 40% of his shots being treys. In his one start of 2015-16, he went 17/3/7 against the Spurs who shockingly weren’t resting anyone.

In the Orlando Summer League which wrapped a couple days ago, Payne led the league in scoring at 18.8 Pts a game, averaging 4 AST to only 2.5 TO. Not huge in the AST total, but that’s a ton of usage for a very few giveaways. The deep ball was still a little meh only going 4-14 from the perimeter, but he did have a 14-14 FT game in there. The Thunder squad (or quad, maybe?) went 4-0 in the games he played, and Payne looks primed for a bigger role with OKC.

With all the talk on Russell Westbrook being shopped (and even if he isn’t traded pre-season, a deadline deal would be very likely), a lot of focus has been on what newly acquired Victor Oladipo could do. No Westbrook and no other big-time creators would obviously be big for RainbOladipo. But lost in that noise is what it would mean for Cameron Payne. I think he’d all but certainly shift into the starting line-up (or at least near-starting minutes, if they still wanted to start Andre Roberson), and give a nice low-TO line with a handful of dimes and steals. The FG% might be lacking, but he would become a top-80ish asset in my mind. So while visions of sugarplums and rainbow lines for Oladipo might cloud your Christmas Eve dreams if Westy is traded, don’t forget about the huge opportunity it would give Major Payne. Here’s what else has caught my eye thus far during 2016’s Summer Ball:

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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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