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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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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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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Do you believe in Love? Do you believe it’s Lue?

The answers to these two questions hold immense meaning whether you’re a fan of Huey Lewis and the News or the Cleveland Cavaliers or if you have a vested interest in the future of either man as the owner of a fantasy basketball team.

First, there’s Kevin Love. Who cares what he’s meant to the Cavaliers and whether he should be there going forward to help LeBron James win another title: The trade that brought him to Cleveland two seasons ago has to go down in one of the all-time biggest fantasy bummers.

He’s down 10 ppg off his career average, he’s hauling in a few boards less than usual and his FG percentage is down.

Whether that has more to do with the fact that David Blatt was a bad coach and didn’t know how to fit him in with Bron and Kyrie Irving and an ill-fitting supporting cast (60 percent blame in my opinion) or the fact that he was no longer the main guy and had to share shots with guys who needed to shoot (40 percent blame) is irrelevant. It happened, and it took Love off the table as a premier fantasy guy.

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PPPPPAAAANNNNTTTHHHHEEERRRRSSSS!!!!!  Aight, aight, this is fantasy hoops, we’ll just leave it at that.

On Friday morning, the Clippers shed one of their % drain players, giving the DNP-king [another] fresh start in Houston.  And what does Josh Smith do in his debut?!  Goes all J Smoove like you’d expect!  Goes 1-10 FG, 0-2 FT, for some reason took 4 treys and missed them all (what did you expect after bricking the first 3, Smoove?!), but still gets a rainbow line for 2/5/6/2/3.  Oh yeah, 2 TO in there too.  Smoove did bounce back last night after almost single-handedly costing the Rox a W in his debut, going 16/3/2/2/2 yesterday afternoon for back-to-back rainbows.  He apparently stole someone else’s talent ala Space Jam alien, because he shot 6-14 FG, 2-2 FT, and had only 1 TO.  “Talkin’ bout the Dream Team, we’re the Mean Team!”  Josh Smith is not a good 9-cat fantasy asset in any league, and even in 8-cat, he’s probably not ownable in 12ers for me.  That mean enough?!  But the real criminal aspect of the acquisition is of course their absolute hatred for Terrence Jones.  HE’S getting the full Mean Girls treatment – they’re feeding him Swedish weight gaining bars, JB Bickerstaff made out with his boyfriend, they’re turning his best friends against him…  That organization is an institutional bully – culminating in a whopping 10 minutes of action last night with Dwight Howard (kankle) still out.  I didn’t understand the McHale firing, I don’t understand this trade, I don’t understand the Ty Lawson signing…  They’re taking this off the rails faster than Lindsay Lohan’s Prius!  Or, well, Lawson’s Prius…  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for Week 14:

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I’m all for switching it up and trying something new to win. And while I think Hack-a-Shaq can work in the right situations, the Rockets took Hack-a-Whoever way too far. The Rockets fouled Andre Drummond repeatedly, giving him 36 free throws! At one point, K.J. McDaniels intentionally fouled Drummond 5 times in 9 seconds! (McDaniels finished the game with a very Jan Vesely-ish line of 1 minute, 5 fouls).

Drummond made only 13 of his 36 free throws, but it didn’t matter, as the Pistons still defeated the Rockets by 9. The 23 missed free throws was an NBA record for the most missed free throws in a game.

So you’re telling me the intentional fouling was effective in limiting the Pistons’ possessions, but somehow the Rockets still lost? How? The Rockets are definitely one of the biggest disappointments of the season and really need to turn it around if they’re going to make a splash in the playoffs.

While Drummond owners will be screwed in FT%, he still managed to post 17/11 with 1 steal and 1 block. Now onto the other highlights from Wednesday night’s games:

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Mmmmmm soup… I mean noodle soup! I mean soup! COME ON!

After a long existence in the kitchen cabinet, Myles Turner finally got a chance to be mmmm, mmmm good going 25/7/2/1/2 on 11-13 shooting. He even had a third block called a goaltend with a verrrrry late whistle late in the game. Just like a fine batch of cream of broccoli, it just needed some time to age! I was a well-documented Turner-crazed ranker, but I think most would agree he’s been awesome when he’s on the court. Some nagging knee soreness limited his minutes early before breaking his thumb, but we finally got to see the potential I was so crazy for last night. Now, Ian Mmmmmmahinmmmmmmi was out with a sore heel which doesn’t sound too serious, so the minutes certainly aren’t assured. Turner’s 29 minutes were off the bench, with Vogel starting the inferior SC Apple Jordan Hill at the 5. Even with the depth the Pacers have at C, I gotta think this game has awarded Turner more consistent run. And if you aren’t sold yet, his per-36s are 17.1/8.9 with 2.2 BLK shooting 55% from the field (even though he’s a jump shooter). I was fortunate enough to add him in all 4 of my RCLs, so he’s likely out there in a lot of 12ers – I’d scoop him up as I think he’s the creamed corn of the crop of waiver bigs! Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, and The 7 Ahead for week 13:

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As many of you already know (or as my avatar may suggest), I’m a Canadian so I don’t really have a dog in the 2016 United States Presidential fight. I do, however, live close to the border and have enjoyed traveling throughout the United States (including the entire northeast, Florida, California, Colorado, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands) with my wife over the better part of the last ten years. So I have a keen interest in American politics as it indirectly impacts “my world.”

That leads me to my admission – I watched President Barack Obama’s eighth and final State of the Union address last night (and the subsequent analysis & reaction) instead of basketball. There was basketball to be watched up here, I just chose not to. But it gave me some perspective – it reminded me that a common sense approach to the big picture issues is never as simple as it should be, and that holds true in the NBA as well. Examples from some of the 16 teams in action on Tuesday alone:

  • The Timberwolves have a wealth of young talent to cultivate and yet they start Kevin Garnett & Tayshaun Prince?
  • The Suns have a cancerous presence in their locker room (Markieff Morris) and they can’t decide what to do about it – they give him multiple healthy DNPs in a row, and then they unleash him for 27 minutes, taking opportunity from someone like Jon Leuer (17 minutes) who could actually be a part of their future plans.
  • The Celtics and Knicks – both of whom are in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt – continue to run heavier-than-necessary rotations rather than identifying the best court combinations and maximizing their efficiency and output.
  • The Rockets have an extremely fragile, high-salaried starting center (Dwight Howard) who is prone to usage-related injuries and they run him for 38 minutes when they have a number of other very capable young frontcourt players to ease the burden.
  • The Bulls appear to embrace their future for a moment by giving a solid rotation spot to Bobby Portis, only to yank it out from under him (he played 4 minutes on Tuesday) once they’re back to full health.
  • The Pelicans offer center Omer Asik a massive contract in the offseason and even when he’s playing well (13 rebounds, a steal and a block, team-high +7 net rating), and they’re absent their best frontcourt player, he can’t get minutes (18).

Essentially what I’m saying is that there are a lot of things we, as fantasy owners, think should happen by any measure of common sense, but just don’t because of a number of factors beyond our control. We can go data mining until the cows come home and have an open & shut case to make why Player X deserves more minutes/opportunity, but it doesn’t matter. We can only do so much. There will always be someone on the other side who impacts that situation and we just have to make the best of it. Thankfully, the NBA has a long season and, unlike football, one or two bad weeks won’t spell doom for your campaign. I love that we get 82 games to try and figure out what the heck is going on. We’ll never be right 100% of the time, no matter that the stats or common sense says we maybe could be, but it sure doesn’t stop us from trying…

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I’M ON MY IIISSSSSHHHHHH, CALL IT!!!

I WATCH THESE HATERS TAKE THEY SHOTS LIKE THEY WERE ALCOHOLICS.

Now if Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ish Smith hasn’t selected a song for his lineup introduction, I highly recommend someone reach out to him to let him know I would like to speak to him. While there may be other reasons Childish Gambino has yet to endorse Smith, it has been a rough 2016 for the newly acquired guard until last night’s performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Smith finished with 21 points, 11 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals while leading Philadelphia to their fourth victory of the year. While the efficiency stats will not always be there, Smith rewarded fantasy owners last night with a 9-15 shooting performance from the field. As the new lead man in an up-tempo offense, expect lots of production in multiple statistical categories from Smith on a nightly basis. The 76ers are starved for capable ballhandlers, granting Smith the opportunity to rack up points and assists as he pounds the rock.

Although he’s most likely gone from the waiver wire in most leagues, I think it still might be possible to snag him in a quick trade.

Smith has been a beacon of hope for a horrendous 76ers team this year, but in assessing his fantasy value, he still leaves a little to be desired, avoiding 3-point shots and suffering from some abysmal shooting nights. Overall, I would love to have Smith on my team, and would encourage owners with a need at point guard to explore a trade before nights like this become too common.

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