The first round of the NBA Playoffs wrapped up on Sunday, with one awful Game 7 that I think everyone saw coming (I at least figured it was a blowout) and one fantastic Game 7 that seemed like a blowout early on, only to become a thriller.  Paul George isn’t elite!  Oh no, we’re STILL coming back to that one?!

While playoff hoops means very little to the fantasy discussion, there are some little nuggets (no, not Nate Robinson) that can help point us to some sneaky values in the subsequent season’s fantasy draft.  I’m thinking of Draymond Green in the 13-14 playoffs going 11.9/8.3/2.9/1.7/1.7 before his breakout, Otto Porter, etc.  But as we’ve progressed to a few games in the Second Round, there really ain’t that much going on anymore for fantasy purposes.  To be completely honest – and I know it might be sacrosanct – I don’t watch a ton of playoff hoops, especially early.  I’m not a fan of a team anymore, it’s not fantasy, and I admittedly get a little fatigued.  It’s a long season!  But ya know – overall – basketball is awesome!  And there were a few takeaways that I think could be applicable to 16-17.  Here’s a few interesting notes from NBA Playoffs so far:

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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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The Warriors needed overtime, but still continued their historic run to 73 wins. They have been a lot of fun to watch this season and are must watch basketball (if you’ve been hiding under a rock this season). It will probably be years, if ever, that any team comes this close to this historic of a streak. So enjoy it while you still can! Let’s just hope that the Warriors aren’t gassed when they inevitably play the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

Stephen Curry led the way with 31 points, including 6 straight points in OT. He knocked down 5-10 from downtown and added 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Draymond Green (13/8/6), Harrison Barnes (15/11), and Klay Thompson (18/4 and 3 threes) all saw around 40 minutes, as the Warriors continue their race for 73. Don’t worry about any of these getting benched down the stretch.

The Jazz kept it close and forced overtime, but the Warriors are just too good and improved to 6-0 in OT. Rudy Gobert grabbed 18 boards and scored 11 points, while Rodney Hood went for 20/6 with 3 threes. Gordon Hayward had a poor shooting night (7-20 FG, 4-8 FT), but still scored his usual 20 points with 4 rebounds and 3 steals. You have to hand it to the Jazz; they have definitely exceeded all expectations this season and should be playing postseason basketball.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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The precursor to the much-hyped Clippers and Warriors game was the game between the Bulls and Knicks. On paper, this wasn’t the best choice by ESPN, considering the Knicks are out of the playoffs and the Bulls are competing for the 8th spot.

However, it featured two of the best, youngest international stars. Rookie Kristaps Porzingis dunked and shot his way to 29 points and 10 rebounds. He may have hit the so-called “rookie wall,” but he still contributes enough in a variety of categories to matter in fantasy for the playoffs.

Nikola Mirotic almost single handedly brought the Bulls back in the 4th quarter. He knocked down 9-13 from downtown, on his way to 35 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. Can you name the last Bull to knock down 8 threes in a game? Ben Gordon did it in 2008-09. While Gordon had a serviceable career, I hope both Mirotic and Porzingis have better careers than Gordon. Based on Wednesday, their futures look very bright.

Now only the other nightly notables:

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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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I love Sports.  WORST CLICHE OPEN EVER!  But seriously, what makes sports awesome is you can have very little interest in one-particular game, then all the sudden you’re watching something unbelievable.  A great example was that 2013 Alabama Auburn game that I flipped on for the 4th quarter then the way short field goal ended up being an Auburn TD.  I had no stake in that game!  But sooooo glad I just happened to flip to it…  Then it happened again on Saturday night.

I know what you’re saying…  “But JB, it’s GSW and OKC, you weren’t planning your whole weekend around that matchup?!” Well, I have none of those guys on my favorite teams (who are we kidding, none on my REL team), and was out Saturday night anyway at my buddy’s house.  We kinda nonchalantly put it on in the background, then the next thing you know, Stephen Curry is running back out of the tunnel like a gladiator after his injury and we watched one of the best regular-season NBA games I’ve ever seen.  If not THE best.

In case you missed it during the depths of the offseason, I wrote a pretty lengthy rant on the awfulness that was Interstellar.  At some point during the movie, Anne Goaway says something like “Love is the ONE THING that can transcend time and space” or some crap expository dialogue…  Well, Christopher Nolan, looks like you need to do a 4-years-too-late re-write!  It should be “Stephen Curry’s jump shot is the ONE THING that can transcend time and space”!  I don’t think I need to transpose his numbers ever again; he just is the best at basketball.  And the game was a little bit of a microcosm of his career – started fine but not awesome, got a kankle, but persevered and was able to get back into the game, then was the best shooter the NBA has ever seen.  Cleaning house of awards and records like Mad Max: Fury Road last night!  To think he went to college less than a mile from my childhood house and I sat right behind him once at a Davidson College game!  I should’ve tried to nab his mouthguard when it was hanging out on a FT shot…  Here’s what else went down over the weekend of fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for Week 18:

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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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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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Capture

 

If you don’t get the title reference, it’s from the first episode of Bleacher Report’s “Game of Zones” series.  The clip is from a couple years ago, and that’s probably around when Wesley Johnson was relevant last… (Here’s the clip for a refresher.  I highly recommend watching the whole mini-series if you haven’t!)

Before I dive into why Wesley is featured, I’d like to make a few comments about this past Sunday.  As many of you know, a certain Carolina team was taken apart by one of the best defenses I’ve ever seen.  On top of shutting down one of the most outspoken and overrated QBs in the game, they also managed to drag the corpse of Peyton Manning to a Super Bowl title as well!  Now, I have nothing against Cam, and I’m sure he’ll be great in the future.  However, this is a good lesson to all players, (I’m looking at you Steph,) to let your game do the talking.  Sportswriters these days, tend to elevate current players to legendary status, based on a good season, or even one great performance.  On top of that, when these wild claims are questioned, the questions are categorized as “hate”.  This is absurd.  Guys like Cam, Steph, KD, Odell, Mike Trout, etc. are all incredible talents, and may very well become legendary players, but lets not jump 15+ years ahead of ourselves trying to immortalize them.  On that note, congrats to the Broncos defense on well deserved title.  They were just hungrier right now.  Now that Cam has had a taste, I’m sure he’ll be back, if he bounces back up and gives it 110%.

I apologize for the rant.  Feel free to leave your thoughts on that below!  Now lets get into the wire!

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With any All-Star list, it’s impossible to include everyone who is having a great year. There are only 12 roster spots and there will always be well-deserving candidates that just don’t fit on the roster. It’s what makes the All-Star selection so noteworthy.

With the All-Star Game this weekend, here is my list of valuable fantasy all-stars who just don’t receive as much love:

Eastern Conference:

Kemba Walker – The Hornets are right in the hunt for the 8th playoff seed in the east and that’s due to the play of Walker. Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (more on him later) have missed most of the season, while Nicolas Batum (11/6/5) has been in and out of the lineup. Walker produces night in and night out with whoever is playing alongside him. Walker scored 25 points with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals to lead the Hornets to another victory.

Nikola Vucevic – Vucci Mane has been the cornerstone of the Magic and has single-handedly won the game for them with a few recent game-winners. He did much of the same on Wednesday with 20 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks. He’s only 25 so there’s still time for him to make the roster one of these years.

Please, blog, may I have some more?