• There are eight games on the docket for Friday night in the NBA, and it seems as if the league wanted to let you have a ‘bye day’ since the NCAA has taken over with March Madness. To put it simply, Friday’s slate of games are a bit rough.

    Now don’t get me wrong, in every game, there is potential for us to see entertaining basketball. I just don’t want to recommend a game that has a better chance of being a snoozer than being enjoyable.

    The Honorable Mentions: The Cavs take on the Magic and the Warriors go up against the struggling Mavericks.

    The Games To Avoid: The Thunder stay out East and take on the Sixers, the Suns face the Lakers and the Kings make their way down to the Motor City to take on the Pistons.

    After the ‘honorable mentions’ and the ‘games to avoid’, there is just one game remaining. So, without further ado, here is your ‘must watch’ game of the night.

    Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors

    Tip Time: 7:30 pm (est)

    Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON

    Player Matchup: Isaiah Thomas and Kyle Lowry

    The Celtics (39-29) enter this matchup looking to snap a three-game losing streak. The Celtics are struggling right now, trying to find ways to fill the void of the injured Jae Crowder.

    Head coach Brad Stevens has surpassed many expectations with how he has changed the culture of this young Boston team. However, one of the issues most critics have about Stevens is his lineup choices and how inconsistent they can be.

    In surprising fashion, Marcus Smart got the start on Wednesday at the small forward position. The second-year guard had his hands full matching up against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and so does everyone else in the NBA, but still — a 6’4″ guard starting at the forward position? It just doesn’t make sense.

    Boston has dropped four of their last five games and a big reason is that their defense has struggled to get stops. Over their last five outings, the team has given up an average of 110.2 points per game to their opponents. The lone bright spot has come from first year All-Star Isaiah Thomas. Over his last three games, Thomas has scored 30 points, 21 points and 29 points as he continues to try to break his team’s current three-game skid.

    “We gotta win,” Thomas said to Celtics.com following the loss to the Thunder. “The playoff picture – not saying we’re out of the playoffs, but – it’s close, so Toronto is another test for us. We gotta be mature about the situation and just try to get a win.”

    The Celtics are in desperate need of a win with the playoffs getting closer with each passing day. The team is currently in the midst of a three-team tie for the fourth, fifth and sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

    Former Toronto Raptor, Amir Johnson, spoke after Wednesday’s game about what his team will need to do to get the win against his old team.

    “First, you got to stop their two guys, which is Kyle Lowry and DeMar (DeRozan). Second, we definitely have to rebound and run,” Johnson said following the loss to the Thunder. “I think that’s where we excel when we run the floor and run through our offense.”

    The Raptors (46-21) enter on the second night of a back-to-back after beating the Indiana Pacers in overtime on Thursday night. Following the win, head coach Duane Casey became the first coach in franchise history to get 200 wins with the team.

    Though the Raptors were able to sneak away with the win in Indiana, the team played sloppy. Coach Casey spoke earlier this week about resting his players as the playoffs drew closer. Kyle Lowry had eight turnovers on Thursday and being that this is the second game of a back-to-back, and it is following a game that needed overtime, it wouldn’t surprise me if the nine-year veteran gets the night off.

    Coming up big in Thursday’s contest was center Bismack Biyombo. Filling in for the injured Jonas Valanciunas, Biyombo was a monster on the glass grabbing a career-high 25 rebounds. Not only was Biyombo a force on the glass, but his defensive energy was a huge spark for the Raptors to get a win.

    “You can’t put a number, analytics, on his spirit,” Casey said about Biyombo’s play on Thursday. “25 rebounds, setting screens, getting people open, 16 points and made some of his free throws. But his spirit just willed us to a win when everybody else was struggling.”

    Valanciunas is day-to-day with a hand contusion and should be considered questionable for Friday’s affair with the Celtics. If he is to miss another game, Biyombo would once again be in line for some huge minutes.

    (Be sure to stay close to Hoop Ball for updates on the status of these two players before tip-off.)

    Toronto and Boston have met twice already this season, and the Raptors came away from both of those games victorious. DeMar DeRozan was a big contributor to the team’s previous two wins, averaging 28.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and six assists.  Through the month of March, DeRozan has averaged 29.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

Fantasy News

  • Stephen Curry
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    Stephen Curry was limited to just five games in the 2019-20 season because of a left hand fracture.

    Curry was a consensus first-round pick and was set to post some crazy numbers without Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson soaking up shots, but an unfortunate injury destroyed the plans for the Warriors and fantasy GMs everywhere. He finished as a top-25/30 per-game player, while his total value landed him around the top-390 mark. Expect Curry to come off draft boards in the first round again next season despite this lost campaign.

  • Marquese Chriss
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    Marquese Chriss revived his career with the Warriors in 2019-20, averaging 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.1 blocks in 20.3 mpg on .545 shooting.

    Chriss flashed strong fantasy potential when he was being given minutes as a potential core player for the Suns, but he's been an afterthought since. The injury-riddled Warriors provided Chriss a great proving ground and he may have played his way into their future plans. Following the trade of Willie Cauley-Stein and the perpetual absences for Draymond Green, Chriss was able to string together a handful of weeks as a top-60 option. He might not reach those heights again but there should be no complaints about a top-135 campaign from a player who looked to be on his way out of the league entirely just a year ago.

  • Ky Bowman
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    Ky Bowman took advantage of a wave of injuries in Golden State, surpassing all expectations en route to top-225/250 fantasy value (8/9-cat).

    Bowman made 45 appearances and 12 starts, largely because so many other Warriors were sidelined. He had a few flirtations with standard-league value when he was the last PG standing but Bowman really didn't do much more than chip in assists. He shot .417 from the field and .308 from deep to go along with 7.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.7 triples in 22.6 mpg.If Bowman is this fantasy-relevant next year, it'll mean that things have once again gone awry for the Warriors.

  • Chasson Randle
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    Chasson Randle made three appearances in the 2019-20 season, averaging 13.5 mpg while on a 10-day contract with the depleted Warriors.

    Randle has bounced around the fringes of the league for the last three seasons, and we're expecting to see him pop up in the offseason as a training camp signing next year. He managed top-420/400 value (8/9-cat) thanks to 1.7 assists and 0.7 steals per contest, so needless to say Randle shouldn't be a fantasy target going forward.

  • Kevon Looney
    PF-C, Golden State Warriors

    In what amounted to a lost season for the Warriors (but not if you factor in the high lottery selection that comes with it), they received little from the likes of Kevon Looney and Draymond Green in the front court.

    Looney was never healthy in 2019-20, managing just 20 games and ending with meager averages of 3.4 points and 3.3 boards per contest. It was a similar story with Draymond, as the Warriors finished their season with the worst winning percentage in the league. Looney is on the Warriors' books for one more season in 2020-21, the end of a three-year pact he signed prior to the 2018-19 season. He's going to cost them about $5 million and a trade or a buyout is possible, especially if the Warriors opt to select a big man in the draft. Looney's days of fantasy relevance have come and gone, as he ranked 360th in 9-cat on a per-game basis.

  • Juan Toscano-Anderson
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    Juan Toscano-Anderson made his NBA debut this season for the Warriors after much of their depth was traded to the T-Wolves prior to the deadline in February.

    Toscano-Anderson unfortunately sprained his ankle during the Warriors' final game of the season on March 10, but prior to that he had played significant minutes for the team in February and March. He spent most of the season in the G League with Santa Cruz. There's no telling whether or not he will be on the Warriors in 2020-21, but he has no fantasy appeal moving forward, wherever that may be.

  • Draymond Green
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green battled through an injury-plagued season in 2019-20, managing 43 games and finishing with per-game averages of 8.0 PTS, 6.2 REB, 6.2 AST, 1.4 STL and 0.8 BLK in 28.4 MPG.

    Green's heart, which everyone knows is a key part of his game, simply wasn't in it this year in the wake of yearlong injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and the departure of superstar Kevin Durant to the Nets. He put up Draymond-like numbers when he was on the floor, but head coach Steve Kerr opted to sit him any chance he got as Green dealt with a multitude of injuries of his own. On the fantasy side, Green finished 78th in 8-cat and should regain most of his old form when the Warriors' depleted roster is replenished for 2020-21. Look for him to get back to 100 percent as his extended layoff continues.

  • Dragan Bender
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    Dragan Bender played 16 games for the Warriors in 2019-20 prior to the league wide shutdown and performed quite well (averaging 9.0 points, 5.9 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.2 threes in his nine most recent outings) in the absence of both Draymond Green and Kevon Looney.

    This solid play included a 23-point, seven rebound effort in what turned out to be the Warriors' final game of the season on March 10, a 131-107 drubbing at the hands of the Clippers. Blowout losses like that were a common sight for the Warriors this year, as they closed out the season with the worst record in the NBA. Bender was in the middle of a second 10-day deal with the Warriors when the COVID-19 pandemic paused the sports world, so it remains to be seen if he is in their plans for 2020-21. Conventional wisdom would lead one to believe it is unlikely the Warriors bring back Bender, but crazier things have happened and it is impossible to forecast the Warriors' 2020-21 roster at this juncture.

  • Jordan Poole
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    Rookie guard Jordan Poole played 57 games for the Warriors this season, averaging 8.8 PTS, 2.1 REB, 2.4 AST and 1.3 threes in 22.3 minutes per contest.

    This is more NBA action than the Warriors would have liked Poole to get during his rookie year and they probably hoped he'd be able to get more run in the G League with the Santa Cruz Warriors. That's still a possibility, as the return of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry and the extensions of fellow guards Damion Lee and Mychal Mulder make it likely that Poole will see time with Santa Cruz in 2020-21. Poole was a late first-round pick of the Warriors out of Michigan just last summer.

  • Alen Smailagic
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    19-year-old Serbian rookie Alen Smailagic (6-foot-10, 215 pounds) played 14 games during his rookie season, averaging 4.2 points and 1.9 boards in 9.9 minutes per game.

    The production from the young Serbian this season (383rd in 9-cat) wasn't important to the Warriors for development reasons and he spent the majority of the season in the G League with the Santa Cruz Warriors anyway. The Warriors will definitely play it slow with Smailagic, but his name is one to know moving forward.