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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Wow, we certainly got polar opposite trade deadlines the past two years!

With shocking move after shocking move around 3:00 PM last year, 2016 was a nice afternoon siesta, putting the “dead” in Trade Deadline.  This is why it’s impossible to predict trades!  I might use this year’s deadline as a response to “who is most likely to be traded” quandaries.  Is there a shrug emoticon?!  Because in 2016, every NBA GM was too busy playing Candy Crush to make phone calls to other teams!

Really the biggest trade had very little fantasy impact too…  Markieff Morris comes to the Wizards, and just like Archie Goodwin‘s neck, he puts a stranglehold on the PF position.  Watch me whip!  Watch me Nene!  …watch me never play again 🙁  Even though Nene started last night over Jared Dudley (and had a decent game too), I think that’s more about having him be a placeholder to get ready for the new Wiz rotation once Kieff gets there.  I just think Wizards fans should be happy Gilbert Arenas isn’t still there, that locker room might get fiestier than in Memphis!  We’ll get to that later…  Kieff should’ve been owned in all leagues already, and you can happily drop Dudley in almost all leagues.  That was my first text to Slim!  Pssshhh, Slim arguing to hold Dudley…  On the flip side, Phoenix got trash and roster dumpage, with Kris Humphries mayyyyybe playing some backups kims.  I mean mins.  The big takeaway is Alex Len should be nabbed in all 12ers, and when the news broke, he was owned in only 30% of leagues (and still is at 30% apparently)…  He should get a nice boost in consistency, minutes wise.  Here’s what else went down over this snoozer of a deadline, plus the Daily Notes from last night:

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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.

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Not really sure why this story is hitting the newsstands now, but several outlets, including Fox Sports, are reporting that Giannis Antetokounmpo got tattle-taled on by Jabari Parker last April.

Apparently, Jabari – out the whole 2014-2015 season with a torn ACL – got kind of bored playing with his toys on the bench and decided to tell Daddy (Jason Kidd) that Giannis was being bad and not working hard enough.

So since Jabari went to Duke, where all the good little boys who never, ever do anything wrong go to school, Kidd knew that he was telling the truth, and decided to punish bad boy Giannis by benching him for a game.

In unison, Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Greg Monroe and a few other members of the youngest team in the league went “Aawwwwww! Giannis got in trouuuuuble!”

And Jabari can do this, despite having a very lackluster season, because he is known as a “diligent worker.” He needs to be “diligently working” on his jumper, while it seems the Alphabet has got it all together in his third year as a pro.

Since the start of the New Year, Antetokounmpo has vaulted onto the Boards-N-Blocks radar by becoming a threat to get double-digit boards every night. But over his last four he’s done way better than that, putting up dang near All-Pro numbers: 22.5 ppg, 12 rpg, 2.6 bpg and 3.5 apg while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

While Middleton has become a big-time scorer, MCW has shown major improvement as a starting PG and Monroe continues to be one of the league’s more consistent rebounders (more on that in a second), I think I like the Greek Freak best.

And I think that at the end of the day it’ll be Jabari – and quite possible J-Kidd – who will be in big trouble, not Antetokounmpo. I don’t think there’s enough shots to go around, and Jabari seems like the most moveable piece. That would leave more shots for Antetokounmpo, and if I were going for a fantasy title, he’s a guy I’d be targeting.

Let’s see what else is going on in Boards-N-Blocks …

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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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The Slayer got Slayed! Or something like that…

After showing up to Friday’s game against the Lakers in a Slayer shirt, Russell Westbrook is trying to show he’s heavy even though he looks like an outcast from an 80s version of Annie. Are those leggings?! And I guarantee whatever he’s listening to isn’t Reign in Blood… Westy is always trying to be fashion-y, but while he spent Friday night and Saturday cutting holes in some other band’s T-Shirt for his next statement, he overlooked the Blazers and The Omen! Damian Lillard just went mad ham on Westbrook, going 31/7/9/2/0 with 8 treys, including 5 down the stretch for a comeback win. This was after going rainbow on the Warriors Friday night for 40/3/10/2/2 and 6 treys. Hopefully these stats don’t lie, and the plantar fascia is healed up for Lillard to be healthy the rest of the way. However, it is a concern as the Blazers have shown caution holding him out so long and they’re obviously not a playoff team. Hell, they even sat C.J. McCollum with no injury at all! If you’re a top playoff team with great PG stats, I might ride this Omen streak a few more weeks then sell to try to minimize some risk. A big argument in my high Lillard rank was his durability, but with a lingering injury like plantar fascia, it could easily crop back up by late-March and April and cost us games. Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, and The 7 Ahead for week 12:

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Conventional basketball wisdom suggests that smaller lineups play at a faster pace and typically score more points. That wasn’t exactly the case in Chicago on Tuesday night. The Milwaukee Bucks rolled out their massive starting lineup that features five players who all measure between 6’6″ and 6’11”. The Bulls countered with considerable size of their own, as only Derrick Rose came in under 6’7″ among the first unit. Coming into this one, Chicago ranked 10th in the league in pace while Milwaukee was 24th, and both teams sat in the bottom third in offensive efficiency. On paper this looked like a matchup destined to be played in half court sets with plenty of contested late-in-the-shot-clock possessions. The opposite came to pass as all ten starters scored in double figures and we saw 223 combined points poured in.

Following his record breaking 40-point second half against that basketball team that plays in a country other than the United States, Jimmy Butler remained en fuego, scoring 20 first half points to give him an even 60 for that four quarter stretch. The man they call “Buckets” finished with a game-high 32 on 11-21 from the field, 2-4 from beyond the arc, and a perfect 8-8 on his freebies. Jimmy is every bit a first rounder this year regardless of whether or not the usage-sucking, possession-wasting Rose lines up next to him or not. (He did on Tuesday.) There aren’t ten players I’d rather have on my roster, especially considering the Bulls’ outstanding playoff schedule.

On the other side, Khris Middleton did his best to keep the Bucks in it, posting a stellar 26/4/7/1/0 line. The Duchess of Wisconsin did his damage on 10-21 shooting, pouring in five threes and only turning the ball over twice in 38 minutes. Middleton has been a top-20 nine category player over the last month and with Jason Kidd not around to mess with lineup & rotation consistency, there’s no reason to think Khris can’t keep this hot streak going.

Let’s have a little look-see at the rest of the notable fantasy lines from Tuesday night, shall we?

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Much has been written about Jimmy Butler and Bulls lately. Butler publicly criticized head coach Fred Hoiberg saying that the team needed to be coached harder. Reports then came out that there is growing tension in the locker room between Butler and his teammates. With Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose taking back seat roles this season, there are questions around Butler’s leadership. Just because he is paid well, doesn’t mean he’s the leader.

Leader or not, Butler willed the Bulls to victory over the Pacers in overtime. He scored 7 points in the final minute to force OT, before knocking down the game winner on an alley-oop tip in with 1.2 seconds remaining. The Pacers tried an alley-oop of their own on the ensuing inbounds, but Butler defended Paul George on the lob to preserve the Bulls’ win.

For the game, Butler finished with 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. This was a much needed game for Butler, as Rose was a game time scratch with right hamstring tendinitis. As long as Butler is producing, owners shouldn’t worry about the drama surrounding the team. These things usually get blown out of proportion when teams are playing below expectations.

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Earlier in the year when the NBA released its schedule for the 2015/2016 season, one of the very first things I did was flip forward to December 25th. I was really stoked to see five games, neatly stacked one after the other, for our holiday viewing pleasure. The excitement continued to grow right up until the games went live and we quickly learned that putting the ball through the hoop is, apparently, quite a bit more difficult on Christmas.

Anthony Davis in South Beach for a noon eastern tip-off against the Heat. What a great way to kick off the afternoon after tossing back a few coffee & Baileys, scarfing down some cinnamon buns, and opening some presents, right? Yeah…  no. They needed overtime and the Pelicans still couldn’t hit the 90-point mark. Brow was nice (29/15/4/4/3), as was Chris Bosh, but the game was not pretty. At all.

So I says to myself, I says: “Self, one stinker does not a bad day make. We just got the ugly one outta the way early. This will not be a harbinger of things to come. No, sir, it will not.” Next up we got the weirdly entertaining (and enigmatic) Bulls visiting the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook & Kevin Durant in front of an always raucous Oklahoma City crowd. Well, Chicago doubled up OKC in the third quarter (32-16) to quiet the crowd and pulled away as nobody other than the Thunder’s two stars bothered to show up. The league’s second most efficient team on offense couldn’t crack the century mark and fell 105-96.

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I hope everyone is having a nice Christmas with their families and stayed off Santa’s naughty list.  It wouldn’t be Christmas without the NBA.  We have a nice five game slate and since I am pressed for time let’s get on with it.

New Orleans Pelicans (8-19) at Miami Heat (16-11)  Spread: Mia  -6 O/U 200

Chicago Bulls (15-11) at Oklahoma City Thunder (19-9)   Spread: OKC -8 O/U 206

Cleveland Cavaliers (18-7) at Golden St. Warriors (26-1)  Spread: GSW -8 O/U 212

San Antonio Spurs (24-50) at Houston Rockets (15 -14)  Spread: SAS -8 O/U 204

L.A. Clippers (16-13) at L.A. Lakers (5-23)   Spread: LAC -11 O/U 207 ½

Please, blog, may I have some more?