This is the time of year when I’m curled up in a dark cave, with a sliver of light protruding from a tiny hole in the wall that illuminates the ground like the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, marking the wall with chalk one day at a time. Water is dripping down….plop…..plop…..plop. I count them like a shepherd counts his sheep, writhing in anticipation for the start of this new hoops season. Each iteration of the Top X brings us one week closer to glory. Last week, I wrote up the Top 10. This week, I’m going into players 11 to 25. 

THIS IS NOT A RANKINGS PIECE. The order I have players is based on my projections and overall value for category leagues. Where I’d draft a player depends on ADP, categorical need, and roster construction. Keep that in mind when going through all my Top X pieces and when choosing who to draft in your leagues. The FG and FT numbers are weighted for volume.

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I’m the big, fat loser this year in our 9-cat league’s championship game. Am I happy I made it this far in a totally insane season? Yep. Am I upset I lost? It always stings, but one week can make or break you and I don’t feel bad losing to a team I lost to the only time I faced them in the regular season. It feels like the right team won.

All that said, this season was completely wackadoodle and probably the most benefit you’ll get from reading these words is this introduction where I’m going to attempt to break down my thinking on the season and how we all got here.

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An overtime thriller last night saw Russ tie the Big O, Oscar Robertson, for the all-time triple-double list, but also had the Wizards pick up their 32nd win and tiebreaker over the Indiana Pacers which allowed them to leapfrog the Hoosiers and find themselves in the ninth seed of the Eastern Conference. 

Starting with that man Russell Westbrook of course, who posted yet again another triple-double of 33 points, 19 rebounds, and 15 assists. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest Westbrook fan, but I’ll also admit that what this man is doing right now is absolutely historic and legendary. At some point down the line, after Russ is long retired, we will all look back and realize how truly underappreciated he is and what he does on the court each night. Like Russ himself says, if it were easy, anyone would do it. Bradley Beal had a phenomenal performance with a 50 piece on 19-for-31 shooting which included only three triples. Russ and Beal seem to be picking it up at the right time. The Wizards also got solid minutes from Alex Len who flirted with a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds. 

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As of April 28, LaMelo Ball remains Vegas’ heavy favorite (-350) to take home Rookie of the Year honors. I don’t really have much quarrel with that, especially since the rookie of consequence I drafted this season wasn’t Ball or Anthony Edwards but James Wiseman. Whoops! Who’s the wise man? Not me. Despite missing some time, Ball will be a deserving winner if the oddsmakers in the desert prove to be correct. Of the top three picks, I feel like Edwards is the one who gets the least amount of shine despite being the no. 1 selection. Flying under the radar makes sense, especially when considering that he doesn’t hail from a(n) (in)famous family, his team has been in the postseason one time since 2005 and has been out of contention since November, and he’s not trying to integrate his game into the dying dreams of decaying dynasty. If you didn’t go looking for it (or if you didn’t draft him), Edwards’ fine first year could pass by more or less unremarked on.

Or dude could throw out a 40-burger and make himself the lede of my final Wednesday recap of the season like freakin’ boss.

Anthony Edwards

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
42 6 7 1 1 8 17/22 0/1 3

On the year, Ant is a top-100-ish player, a ranking that is weighed down by the 41% shooting from the floor. There have definitely been some clunkers over the course of the season and I generally have not been very quiet about them. That said, he’s been a top-50 guy over the final month, a top-35 player over the last two weeks, and a top-25 player the last week. The FG% has ticked up over that same span too, from 46% to 49% to 58%! Too late to put a dent in LaMelo’s case for the hardware, but definitely the kind of growth you love to see out of a young player. Keep eating, Ant! We’ll see you next year.

Here’s what else I saw on the penultimate Wednesday of the regular season…

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Yet another set of lopsided Friday night matchups as teams look to assert their dominance heading into the playoffs. With ten or so games left before the Play-In tournament, the landscape of the NBA is set where every team qualifies as one of the following: A set playoff team jockeying for position, a Play-In team holding on for dear life, or a team playing spoiler. No matter where your favorite team sits in the standings, each game matters down this final homestretch of the regular season. This Friday night we got blowouts, a historic comeback, and the return of LeBron James! The final two-three weeks of the NBA regular have more at stake than ever before as teams all look to close the season on some kind of positive note. With that being said, let’s take a look at all of the Primetime Players from Friday night’s slate of games in the race to the 2021 Playoffs!

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During draft season, I joked with the other Razz writers that, according to my extremely unscientific research, 100% of LA guys were in on LaMelo Ball. The echo chamber and hype bubble were too well-constructed for this not to be the case (also I didn’t really do much research and threw out evidence that didn’t support my theory. I’m Mister Hooper, not Doctor.) LaVar’s greatest creation was not the trio of ballers he sired (or those ugly shoes), but the machine he constructed to discuss them ad infinitum. Put off the Ball family brashness, I was lukewarm on LaMelo when drafting and missed out on an extremely fun and productive rookie year. The hype will be hot again next season, I assume, especially if the Hornets show some fight against one of the beasts of the East, so I’ll probably miss him next year too. But perhaps there’s a backdoor to one of these Balls. While little bro is taking up all the shine, Lonzo Ball has taken another step forward, especially as a shot maker. The vision and passing has always been legit (even my hater-ass was quick to concede that after watching him at Summer League) but the stroke has been sanded down and his 3-point percentage now creeps towards 40%. Still shy of 24-years-old, he’s putting it together.

Last night, playing in the aptly named Ball Arena in Denver, Lonzo consistently got where he wanted to go on the floor and then dimed up his teammates once he cracked the Denver defense open. The highlight package below isn’t spectacular, but if you want to watch a dude move to the exact spots  where he’s most dangerous, then I have the clip for you.

Lonzo Ball

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
16 12 12 4 2 4 6/14 0/0 4

It was another busy Wednesday in professional hoops. Here’s what else stood out:

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The ridiculous and predictably bad “condensed” NBA schedule has finally reared its ugly head. The injuries are rolling in faster than me when they say there’s free cake in the break room, and fantasy teams everywhere are hurting. Hopefully you have multiple IL spots. I have two in the league I run usually, but we upped it to three midseason.

If your commissioner didn’t have such foresight, RIP. But there’s good news: You don’t have to hurt anymore.

When players go out, that means other players step up to fill the void. So who should we be grabbing for the week? Who is going to win us our fantasy playoff matches?

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I used to hate blowing up inflatables. Basically anything and everything that the kids bring to the pool. Breath iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin. Bllloooooooooooooooooooow. Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin. Blllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow. Good thing I don’t smoke anymore. Iiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. Cough. Wheeze. Cough. Blloow. The worst would be blowing up the sex do…..Uh, nevermind. The pumps for inflatable beds are the best. Press a button, listen to the whirrrr, and watch the bed rise, like yeast in the oven. So. Cool. That’s what it was like watching Jusuf Nurkic last season, in the Bubble ironically. He played his first game on July 31st and inflated for 17.6 points, 10.3 boards, four dimes, 1.4 steals, and two blocks in 31.6 minutes. In the playoffs, he averaged 32.3 minutes and put up 14.2 points, 10.4 boards, 3.6 dimes, 1.4 steals. and 0.2 blocks. Then the Bubble popped, both literally and figuratively. He played 12 games to start this season then proceeded to miss the next 32 games. Upon his return, he played 10 games and averaged only 21.4 minutes. Over the last two games, though, he played 29 minutes in each. He’s slowly been inflating. Yesterday, he played 29 minutes again and….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
16 19 5 1 2 2 0 6/13 4/5

Top 25 player over the last three games. He’s inflating at the right time as the Blazers are sitting at 7th in the Western Conference and could make some noise in the playoffs if everyone is healthy.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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An extremely encouraging pattern is beginning to emerge with my every-other-week recapping of the Wednesday night games: Happy returns that are highlighted in the lede. You see, it was my distinct pleasure to highlight KAT’s return from his early season wrist + Covid absence, and I was the one who placed Kevin Durant in this place of prominence when he came back from the extended hammy vacation. Now, I’m due up for the recap on the night Jaren Jackson Jr. returned and you know damn well that I’m going to make him the lede. Welcome back, Jar—

Ah. Actually not. Sorry JJJ, I’m breaking up the welcome party and going with the 40 piece instead. We’ll see you later in the recap, because this lede (and maybe all of the Western world) belongs to…

Julius Randle

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
40 11 6 1 0 6 11/21 12/13 4

This is second time in the last week that Julius has gone 40+/10+/6+ with 6 made threes. Wut. That’s just unspeakable heat from New York’s Caesar, who led the Knicks to an OT win against the Hawks last night. Woe to those of you having wrestle this monster in head-to-head playoffs. It might be better just to simply bend the knee when Randle is going like this.

Here’s what else stood out on another busy Wednesday in the Association…

Please, blog, may I have some more?