• 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

  • Paul Millsap
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are all candidates for "load management" next season, according to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic

    This is pure speculation by Kosmider, but this does hold some weight after the Nuggets' playoff run last season and the league-wide popularity of resting players. Millsap would seem to be at the most significant risk to get rested due to his age and quality of depth behind him. Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee would be the biggest beneficiaries should Jokic or Millsap miss time.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Thabo Sefolosha
    SF, Utah Jazz

    Thabo Sefolosha is among the attendees at Rockets minicamp in Las Vegas with a host of other notable free agents this week.

    Sefolosha will be joined by the likes of Nick Young, Luc Mbah a Moute, Raymond Felton, Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer. The odds of someone making the Rockets' roster increased with Iman Shumpert declining an offer sheet from the team.

    Source: Kelly Iko on Twitter

  • Iman Shumpert
    SG, Free Agent

    Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Iman Shumpert has decided to decline the contract offer from the Rockets and will not attend team minicamp in Las Vegas this week.

    It'll be back to the drawing board for Shumpert. It's unsure exactly where he'll end up now, or if he and the Rockets will come to a new agreement in the future. Shump can get steals and threes, but otherwise isn't much of a fantasy asset, unless he finds himself in an ideal situation.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    After an extraordinary summer of 2019, which saw a cavalcade of stars change teams, executives around the league expect that this year’s transaction wires will be dominated by the trade market.

    “We’ve been getting calls all summer,” one general manager said. “I think if you look at the market, there is going to be a very robust trade market this winter for a few reasons.” The big driver figures to be the open, empty crater that the 2020 free-agent class has become. Teams hoping to make significant changes in their direction won’t have free agency to lean on and trades will be the only way to go. If you enjoyed the twist and turns that came with the very busy NBA free-agency period this summer, then buckle up as the trade market means more could be on the way this season.

    Source: Sean Deveney on Twitter

  • Michael Beasley
    PF, Free Agent

    The Shanxi Loongs of the Chinese Basketball Association are trying to bring Michael Beasley back to China.

    Beasley agreed to terms with the Pistons last month but he never officially signed with them as the team opted to go with Joe Johnson instead. Beasley has already played in China with Shanghai, Shandong and last year with Guangdong averaging 22.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

    Source: Sportando

  • Justin Simon
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Former St. John’s guard Justin Simon has signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Bulls.

    Simon is 6’5” and went undrafted out of St. John’s, where he averaged 10.4 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, while also being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The Bulls currently have 14 players on guaranteed contracts with guard Shaquille Harrison all but locked in to the 15th and final one, so that means Simon is likely headed to the Windy City Bulls of the G League.

    Source: Adam Zagora on Twitter

  • Mychal Mulder
    PG, Miami Heat

    The Heat have announced the signing of guard Mychal Mulder.

    Mulder played last season with the Windy City Bulls of the G-League and averaged 8.8 points in Summer League this year. He has good range but is unlikely to contribute much at the NBA level in 2019-20.

    Source: Miami Heat

  • Vincent Poirier
    C, Boston Celtics

    Nicolas Batum praised the play of Celtics center Vincent Poirier at the FIBA World Cup.

    According to Batum, Poirier "is a center that can block shots and control the paint." A native of France, Poirier has performed well over six seasons in Europe. Nevertheless, he should only be a depth option for the Celtics with Enes Kanter starting.

    Source: NBC Sports Boston

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Zach LaVine has been fine tuning his playmaking skills in the offseason, according to an interview with FanSided.

    LaVine enjoyed the best field goal percentage of his career for the Bulls last season. He also scored a career best 23.7 points per game. However, LaVine averaged 3.4 turnovers and his fantasy value will increase if he can take better care of the ball.

    Source: FanSided

  • Tyler Herro
    PG, Miami Heat

    According to Ira Winderman, rookie Tyler Herro is unlikely to start for the Heat at the beginning of the season.

    The Heat drafted Herro out of Kentucky with the 13th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. Dion Waiters should be the primary shooting guard at the outset. However, expect Herro to get plenty of opportunities to contribute.

    Source: Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel