Ranks are hard! I almost changed the title to “Way Too Much Of A Headache Ranks” since 2016-17 is gonna be ridiculous on draft day! So many guys with upside, so many injury question marks, free agency is gonna explode, we still have rookies to mix in here… And I don’t feel like I have as many “on a limb” calls as the past few seasons. Everything seems to be nebulous, murky, jiggly-like-Raymond-Felton-running, “I guess this guy seems about right” kind of ranks filling out the top 50. If anyone thinks they’re more excited than I am for free agency and the NBA Draft, they would be sorely mistaken! I need some clarity out here, dammit! Hopefully with some signings and scouting the rookies, I can find some more bold calls when we get to the “real” ranks in August. Or maybe I’m gun shy after the Wiggins fiasco. That will go down as one of the biggest international scandals in history… Dammit, eh! Here’s my Way Too Early Top 50 (1-10 can be read here, 11-25 here) for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season (with 1-50 in a complete list below):

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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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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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[Editor’s Note – No podcast today due to a funny story of JB having to go to the ER, he’s fine though! We’ll be back with the Pod on Thursday]

As the biggest and most surprising player dealt before the Trade Deadline, Tobias Harris arguably has more eyes on him now in Detroit than ever before in Orlando. Brought in to fill the Rashard Lewis role of playmaking 4 in Stan Van Gundy’s quest to reincarnate the 2010 Magic, Harris development with the Pistons will be one of the most intriguing story lines over the rest of the season.

With 16 and 21 points respectively in his previous two outings, Harris has flashed potential in his roll off the bench as a playmaker capable of finding his own shot. Due to any injury to Anthony Tolliver, Harris found himself in the starting lineup at power forward, a potential glimpse into Detroit’s long-term future.

Scoring 14 points to compliment 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals, his debut may have lacked a flashy statline to pair with his status as one of Pistons new core pieces. However, Harris is undoubtedly in a better situation right now than his previous tenure in Orlando.

As a result, fantasy owners should be monitoring his value accordingly. While Detroit is in win-now mode to secure a playoff birth, Harris will be acclimating to his new role and teammates for the rest of the year. Not to temper expectations, but I don’t view his multi-cat impact materializing over the last 30 games.

There may be flashes of his potential, but the Harris move is about 2016 and beyond, not just the last two months of the season.

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What a return from the break!

It was an exceptional weekend of NBA action after the wayyyyyyy too long layoff for the break, highlighted by a huge upset by the Blazers.  Is anyone else getting annoyed by that Damian Lillard commercial on the NBA App?!  The one where he semi-raps, then says “thanks for the motivation” when asked about his haters?  Well, it’s kinda fitting now, with that performance after that All-Star snubbery!  Dame went Insame on the Warriors for a career-high 51 points, going 51/0/7/6/0, shooting 18-28 from the field.  But the crazier numbers were 9 treys, and not a single TO.  6 steals and no turnovers?!  That’s winning hoops right there!  He followed it up with a huge night last night as well, going 24/4/4 through 3 quarters before grandpa JB hit his bedtime.  Portland bested Golden State with a crushing 137-105 W in that Friday epic win, solidifying the Blazers as a playoff contender.  No one thought they would even be close, and as Slim and I talked on the Pod, Stotts deserves a ton of cred and maybe some Coach of the Year consideration.  If you told me in October the Blazers would make the playoffs, I woulda said you’re Insame!  Here’s what else went down over an exciting return to hoops over the weekend, plus The 7 Ahead for week 17:

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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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No, no, no, we never root for injuries. It’s terrible fantasy karma. But as one of the main cliches as fantasy lays out – injuries are the great equalizer. They end campaigns and create opportunities. Fortunately the torn ACL to Jarrett Jack isn’t going to end anyone’s campaign! But the opportunity for Shane Larkin is monumental.

Last Saturday night, we saw the dreaded non-contact knee buckle from Jack against the Celtics, and we got the somber news yesterday afternoon that he has a torn ACL and meniscus. “Wahhhhhh, I bet I never start a game again!” Meh, the Wahhhh gag just seems too mean right now… And if you listen to the Pod, you know I’m a Jack supporter and of course everyone in Razzball Nation wishes him a speedy recovery. But with the starting job open, Larkin-the-Herald-Angels-Sing immediately steps in as the no-question starter. While he’s looked mad impressive to me the few Nets games I’ve watched and he’s certainly a must-add, I’m not banking on top-50 value or anything. His skill set should make him more valuable than Jack as the starter with more 3s and STL, but I imagine he’ll have fewer AST with the same bad TO. Add Larkin everywhere, and if he starts absolutely gangbusters then sell high. I also could see Donald Sloan having a bigger role than most envision – after that nice run he had in Indy to start last year, I was really impressed with him as a player. Here’s what else went down over our first weekend of 2016, and The 7 Ahead for Week 11:

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Congratulations to Dirk Nowitzki. He passed Shaquille O’Neal for number 6 on the all-time NBA scoring list.

While Kobe Bryant gains the headlines in his last season, Dirk and Tim Duncan have quietly shown how to adapt their game for the team’s sake, taking less money and adding more wins to their already impressive résumés.

At 37, Dirk isn’t the same fantasy monster that he used to be, but is still valuable. He’s scored 20+ points in three straight games and so far has posted better overall numbers than last season. His game is much different than Kobe’s, with much less wear and tear on his body, allowing him to remain relatively healthy later in his career. Personally, I don’t see any reason why Dirk has to tie the sneakers up anytime soon.

In addition to passing Shaqtus, Dirk hit the game winner in the Mavericks’ overtime win over the Nets. He finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Not bad for a 37-year-old.

Overtime basketball is free basketball and it usually means great stat lines for everyone involved:

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