Getting through a fantasy basketball season can sometimes feel like everyone in the building is against you. Like you’re John McClane. Once you get into April, you finally have a bajillion options helping you, but your feet are bleeding and your shirt is burnt off! Perils of April basketball. If you’re in a H2H league and your championship stretches until game 82, it’s time to change your league settings! Maybe it’s just sour grapes since it’s looking like we’re gonna come up short in the Yahoo Friends & Family championship. Slim could blame me too, because he wanted to welcome Norman Powell to the Razzball party. Welcome to the party, Powell!

As with a lot of these April guys, Powell is putting up some surprising stats. But he’s been getting better and better when given the opportunity, with an absolutely crazy Friday night with the Raps regulars DNPed going 27/6/4/1/0, but on only 11 shots and 5 – FIVE! – field goals made. He hit 3 treys, and apparently bought all the refs dinner before the game, going 14-19 from the FT line. 19 free throws, after 0 trips to the stripe the two games before it. WTF, mate?! Then promptly left the party last night, playing only 21 minutes for 2/1/1/1/0 in a scrubby game as the starting SF, and you guessed it, yet again 0 FTA. What in the wide world of sports?!

I’ve seen a few comments asking about Powell’s keepability for 16-17, and I just don’t know. He’s 6’4 and definitely a SG (even though he was listed as a SF last night), so you’d imagine they’d have to push DeMar DeRozan to the 3. That wouldn’t be outlandish or anything, but remember we saw a couple huge flashes from Terrence Ross before he turned into a Holiday Armadillo. And I’m lazy and didn’t want to rewrite those last couple sentences – I totally forgot about DeMarre Carroll! He’s signed through 2018-19, so it’s really hard seeing much happen for Powell out of the gate next year. And even for the final two Raps games tomorrow and Wednesday, it’s hard to give him a starting nod unless we know the Raps are resting peeps. With Toronto still alive to sneak into the #1 spot, I don’t see that happening if the Cavs beat Atlanta tonight and lock the first seed. Here’s what else went down in fantasy hoops action over the weekend:

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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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(Yes, this is one of the only Beasley pics in a Rockets uniform)

Welcome back to the league!  There has never really been any question that Beasley has talent…  Hopefully, he’s matured during his time away.  At any rate, he’s dominating on a Houston team that has no real PF depth, and no playmakers outside of Harden.  Luckily for Houston, Beasley is a point forward that can provide playmaking and scoring off the bench.  I’m not ready to say he’s must-own by any stretch, but the talent is there, the playing time is there, and it’s hard to see how he won’t be productive.

Here are your playoff pickups!

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Wassup Razzballians!!

We’ve finally hit the stretch run in fantasy basketball!  This is the point where you need every player on your team to be productive.  Now, I promised the key to winning, in the title, so I suppose I should give some kind of helpful advice…

The key to all fantasy sports is to not be attached to your players.  You can build a juggernaut with this philosophy: Everyone is available for the right price.  When it comes to playoff time, it is important to cut injured and unproductive players.  I don’t care who they are or how high you drafted them.  At this point, it’s all about minutes and production.  Sure, you may get unlucky, and the player breaks out of his slump as soon as you drop him.  Thankfully, this isn’t that likely.

If you’re in a competitive league, cruising to a title is highly unlikely.  I’ve learned this through years of experience.  Even if your team appears to be stacked, it is very important to not take anything for granted.  If you can cut a player to guarantee yourself a win in the current round, then do it. It’s time to put the pedal to the metal and make the ballsy move.

With that in mind, this week’s edition of RazzWired will feature players who are poised for big minutes and solid roles down the stretch.

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Shelvin Mack has finally been reunited with Gordon Hayward, and the Jazz definitely feel so good about it. (If you don’t remember their heroic run with Butler to the championship game against Duke, then I feel very sorry for you.) Mack immediately becomes a must own after leapfrogging the rest of the dismal PG depth. Shelvin has always been a versatile guard, but he really lacked a true playmaker’s skill-set during his early years. Fortunately, he really adapted to that point guard role, during his time with the Hawks. Don’t get too carried away with projections though, he’s likely to average points in the low teens, 4 or 5 assists, and probably over a 3. Odds are, he won’t produce a lot of defensive stats, but on the plus side, he won’t turn the ball over much. (Ignore the 6 TO outlier last game, since he’s been fairly consistent career wise.) He is likely to be impacted by the return of Alec Burks, so that’s another thing to keep an eye on. Overall though, he needs to be owned for now, and we’ll deal with Burks when he gets back.

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What’s up Razzball nation??? This past week had some pretty spectacular performances from unexpected players. Keeping that in mind, I’d like to recognize Lou Williams, Otto Porter, and J.R. Smith for breaking into the top 20 ranks for the week! All of them are owned in under 80% of Yahoo leagues, so if you’re lucky, one of them may be floating around on your wire! Probably not in any RCLs, but in the personal leagues with your buddies that don’t pay attention, you might score big!

RazzWired All-Star Nominations!

In the spirit of All-Star weekend coming up, we need some nominations for pickup of the first half so far! Also, I’ll try to put together the waiver all star team! So this week, nominate as many players as you want, in the comments section, that you think deserve to be on the RazzWired All-Star squad! Or, if you’re lazy, just comment that has been your best pickup or that you think was the best pickup so far. Next week, I’ll put the top nominees into a poll to decide who gets featured as the first half RazzWired MVP! If anyone needs clarification on the instructions, feel free to ask! I’m not quite sure how clear the instructions were, but yeah! Comment below!

Bonus: Throw out your favorite pickup lines in the comments as well, and I’ll either have a vote on the best or just feature my favorites! I was debating about it, but hey, this is Razzball! We can do whatever we want! (If I’m wrong, feel free to email JB, with all complaints…[editor’s note – don’t do that]) Anyway, have fun with it!

Ok, here’s the actual content for this week!

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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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Alright, truth be told I had that article title in my head before the early games even finished up. It looked like it was going to be a yawn-worthy evening of basketball… but then some cool stuff happened.

Kyle Lowry‘s 17/10/7 with a pair of threes was nice. As was DeMar DeRozan‘s 28/4/4 with two long balls of his own. Bismack Biyombo pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds in a winning effort and that gave me some warm & fuzzies. But dedicating a lead to “my team” when they barely hung on to beat a mostly disinterested Dallas squad didn’t feel quite right. And also, how many semi-legitimate opportunities am I going to have to write the word “Snoozeday”? (Answer: hopefully just this once.)

But Tuesday’s schedule, man. Come on now…

Grizzlies/76ers.

Pistons/Heat.

Mavericks/Raptors.

Lakers/Nuggets.

Outside of the local fan bases, who gives a smurf about any of those games? I was this close to watching Polar Express instead of the Raptors game since it looked like they were going to run away with it early (up 16 after the 1st Q). The game ended up being mildly entertaining as the Mavs’ second unit scratched & clawed their way to within one possession late in the 4th, but Kyle, DeMar & Bismack proved to be a bit too much.

I suppose if we broke things down a little more to the individual player level we could have gotten stoked for the Andre Drummond/Hassan Whiteside matchup in South Beach. Unfortunately, the two young centers failed to deliver the monstrous lines we’ve grown accustomed to seeing early this season. Drummond was just “ok” with 11/12/1/0/2, but shot only 4-12 from the field. Whiteside was markedly better with 16 & 16 plus four blocks and 7-13 FGs. Solid stuff, but it would’ve been pretty cool to see a pair of 20/20’s in the same game. (I wonder when was the last time that happened? Somebody else please check, I’m busy/lazy right now.)

Ultimately this proved to be the second (mostly) lackluster Tuesday in a row. However, if there is NBA basketball being played there are player performances to be discussed. So let’s get after it.

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On a weekend where elite guys did elite things – we got served more 40-burgers than a McDonalds – I’m going to open this Monday morning a little further down the bunnyhole.  It may be “rabbit” hole, but it sounded dirtier my way…

When Al Jefferson went down with his calf strain (he’s still out at least another 1-2 weeks), I clowned the Hornets for their “three-headed” monster for C minutes.  I joked it was a nice way of saying none were any good.  Kinda like saying the “three-headed monster” of good M. Night Shyamalan movies.  Especially Frank the Stank, as Michael Jordan’s never-ending conquest of building an NCAA dream team continues to keep the Charlotte franchise in the awful-to-mediocre range.  At least Spencer Hawes looks OK out there, putting up decent lines in 20+ minutes the past two Hornets games.  But watching the Hornets against the Bulls on Saturday – I was mad impressed by Cody Zeller.  Took the lion’s share of PT playing 32 minutes, and went 17/8/2/1/1 on 6-10 FG (5-7 FT) with no TO.  And it wasn’t a cupcake matchup either against Pau Gasol.  Although Gasol wouldn’t get that joke, let’s say “it wasn’t a flan matchup.”  Just at the eye level, he was cutting to the basket with great speed, finished strong at the rim with a few dunks, and took jumpers confidently.  I think the Hornets wanted someone to step up with Big Al down, and they’ve found their guy.  Now this would only be a medium-term pickup in 12ers, plus the schedule is going to be a crazy test.  Hornets get DET, MIA then @MEM the next three, so Zeller is going to have to D up Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, then Marc Gasol.  Eesh.  At least the Gasol one is more his player-type…  And it’s not like Hawes or Frank Kaminsky is going to play any better against those beasts…  So if you’re looking for a little help up front without the big blocks upside, Zeller is worth a look.  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, including The 7 Ahead for week 7:

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Maybe he didn’t call glass on his clutch three with 1:05 left in the 4th, but when you’re Dirk Nowitzki, a future hall of famer, who cares? I know fantasy owners don’t care whether it was a swish or a banked in three. All we care about are the final stats. And, boy, did Dirk deliver.

Down one going into the second half, Dirk took over for the Mavericks, leading them to a 10-point win against the Clippers. Dirk finished the game with 31 points and 11 rebounds on 11-14 shooting, including 5-6 from downtown. It was vintage Dirk.

Midway through the 3rd quarter he caught a Zaza Pachulia pass off of an offensive rebound and without squaring up, knocked down an one foot fade away jumper without hesitation. He knocked down threes with DeAndre Jordan in his grill. It was truly a great game.

As a fan of the game, it’s amazing to watch games like this, but as a fantasy owner, you have to realize that these games aren’t as common for the 37 year-old as they used to be. It was Dirk’s first 30-point game since December 28, 2014. In his 18th year in the NBA, Dirk is still a top 50 player when he plays, but just be aware his minutes are monitored more closely and he sits on back to backs, hurting his total overall value.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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