• The NBA has your weekend starting right with nine games on the slate for Friday night. It has been a long week and you’ve worked hard. You shouldn’t have to go through the frustrating task of trying to figure out what games could be good or bad. Let Hoop Ball help you out by giving you a list of games that should more than satisfy your NBA watching needs.

    The Honorable Mentions: The Wolves take on the Wizards, the Hornets face the Pistons, the Magic play the Heat and the Bucks look to take down the Hawks.

    Now for what you have been dying for me to get to, here is your ‘must watch’ game for Friday night.

    Toronto Raptors vs. Houston Rockets

    Tip Time: 8 pm (est)

    Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

    Player Matchup: DeMar DeRozan and James Harden

    The Raptors (48-22) have found themselves just two games back from the Cavs for the one seed in the Eastern Conference. While passing Cleveland in the standings is something that the Raptors are fighting to achieve, their mindset is all about staying healthy and being prepared for the playoffs.

    “Health is more important,” head coach Duane Casey said. “I think we are all fighting for it, but if it comes between a guy fighting a sore ankle, a sore calf, a sore knee or whatever fighting for that spot. My team’s health is more important than putting him out there and further damaging him.”

    Casey has been stating that he would be resting his guys down the stretch for the past week. He kept true to his word by resting his point guard Kyle Lowry with a sore elbow on Wednesday night. The nine-year veteran (Lowry) – who was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week –  has had himself an amazing, All-Star season averaging 21.9 points, five rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. Lowry is a big component of the Raptors’ offense and that was put on display Wednesday night as the team was held to a season-low 79 points.

    “I think it’s tougher in Kyle’s position because he’s your point guard, he’s your starting point guard. He’s also one of our best three-point shooters and last night our offense was our issue,” Casey said. “When you take him out not only do you lose a guy who’s organizing everything and is a floor general, you’re also losing one of your best three-point shooters.”

    (Lowry is expected to return on Friday, but be sure to stay close to Hoop Ball for updates on his status before tip-off.)

    DeMar DeRozan has also been having a great year averaging 23.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.  Through the month of March, DeRozan has been unstoppable averaging 27 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

    The Rockets (35-37) enter Friday’s game looking to snap their current three-game losing streak. Houston has been playing ugly basketball, but yet they still find themselves right in the mix to make the playoffs. However, if they want to secure the eighth seed the team needs to start finding ways to finish games.

    “The season is not over,” Rockets’ head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We’re in a position where, we take care of business we can still get into the playoffs. But we’ve got to take care of business. There’s no more excuses.”

    As usual, the Rockets must continue leaning on their star James Harden and hope his offense can lead them into the playoffs. In the last meeting against the Raptors, Harden blew up for 40 points and also racked up 14 assists while seeing 43 minutes of action.

    Houston is 5-7 through the month of March.  Without question the reason for their struggles has been the team’s inability to stop opponents on the defensive side of the floor. Over the Rockets’ last five games they have given up 108 points per game.

    The Rockets are playing playoff-or-bust basketball and as of late it has been bust. This six-game stretch for Houston is arguably the make it or break it point for their playoff hopes. With five out of the next six teams each with winning records the Rockets have to start finding ways to win games and fast.

     

Fantasy News

  • Furkan Korkmaz
    SG, Philadelphia Sixers

    After an injury-plagued sophomore campaign for the Sixers, Furkan Korkmaz knows this season will be crucial for his future and he is hoping to make big strides this year.

    The one thing Korkmaz has going for him is his shooting ability and that is something the Sixers could surely utilize on this roster. It did not click last season, but Korkmaz will get another chance to prove his worth at some point this season. Still, it is hard to picture him coming out of the gate with a big role on opening night.

    Source: Sixers.com

  • Nikola Mirotic
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    On Sunday, Nikola Mirotic dropped 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting for Barcelona.

    Mirotic's opening appearance for his new EuroLeague club, Barcelona, resulted in a victory, and he did not have to work too hard for most of his buckets at the Supercopa Endesa versus Valencia. Mirotic should find quick success during his return to European basketball, but NBA fantasy players will surely be missing his presence stateside.

    Source: Eurohoops

  • Bruce Brown
    SG, Detroit Pistons

    Coach Dwane Casey spoke highly of Bruce Brown’s defensive play, calling him an ‘elite defender.’

    Brown remains in contention for a starting spot with the Pistons, but he is not a high-usage player, and the Pistons have stocked up with offensive threats such as Derrick Rose and the immortal Joe Johnson. It will be tough for Brown to rack up enough touches or minutes this season.

    Source: Pistons.com

  • Kevin Durant
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    There is some optimism in league circles about Kevin Durant's (Achilles) chances of playing this season, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

    Looking back on Durant's decision to return during the Finals, the Nets may want to exude caution when considering KD's return to action. However, Durant is pursuing his rehab with a sense of purpose, and it would be great to see him get back on the court this season. We'll keep you posted when a real timeline on Durant's rehab emerges. This news does not make him a target on draft day for standard leagues.

    Source: New York Post

  • Larry Nance Jr.
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Larry Nance Jr. is the presumed favorite to start at PF heading into training camp according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

    Fedor went on to speculate that Nance Jr. could see a lot of time at the four while Kevin Love starts at center and Tristan Thompson and John Henson compete for back up minutes behind those two. Any uptick in playing time would be a huge boost to the per-minute dynamo that Nance Jr is, and a starting role with a new coaching staff bodes well for that. He's trending in the right direction.

    Source: Cleveland.com

  • Kevin Knox
    SF, New York Knicks

    Coach Fizdale told the Knicks players that no starters have been determined and players had to earn their minutes.

    Kevin Knox will battle with veteran Marcus Morris for the starting small forward spot. Knox has been working on getting his body stronger to be able to take on more contact on drives to the basket. Last season as a rookie, he averaged 12.8 points on a putrid 37 percent from the field. Knox will look to get more looks closer to the basket and increase his field goal percentage to more respectable levels. Knox provided little else outside of points and rebounds last season and will need to improve his shooting and defense to be considered a standard-league player.

    Source: New York Post

  • Bol Bol
    C, Denver Nuggets

    According to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic, Bol Bol could spend his entire rookie season in the G-League.

    Bol Bol was not drafted to be an immediate impact player, but just fell too late fore the Nuggets liking. The 44th overall pick needs to bulk up and show that he could take the bumps and bruises before having his chance on the big stage.

    Source: Nick Kosmider of The Athletic

  • Kawhi Leonard
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    After speaking with Doc Rivers and Lawrence Frank, Dan Woike's takeaway is that Kawhi Leonard's "load management" will not be as strict as it was last year.

    It was reported in July that Kawhi said he wants to play all next season fully and approach load management on a game-to-game basis so this is further confirmation that he will most likely play more than the 60 games he played last year but surely won't play all 82 either. Kurt Helin of NBC Sports speculates that this could be for several reasons. One could be that Leonard can take on more now that he is a little healthier while he believes the Clippers might also limit his per-game minutes to help him play more games. The other idea is that because the Western Conference is so deep, the Clippers will not be able to get a good seed if Leonard sits too many games. Fantasy wise, Leonard finished last season seventh in per game value but 18th in total value since he played only 60 games. Near the top of the second round would be a great place to snag him if he plays around 70 games this season.

    Source: Dan Woike on Twitter

  • Malik Beasley
    SG, Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets want to extend Malik Beasley and Juan Hernagomez before the October 21 deadline.

    The Nuggets already locked up one of their 2016 first-round picks (Jamal Murray) to a long-term deal and now want to do the same with their other two 2016 first-round picks, Hernangomez and Beasley. If not, the two will likely become restricted free-agents at the end of the season. Both players saw stretches of big minutes last season due to injuries but at full health, Beasley was around 20 minutes per game while Hernangomez was at around 10. Fantasy wise, neither player puts up big defensive stats but Beasley is a very efficient shooter with low turnovers, knocking down 2.0 triples per game last year, putting him near top-150 value at only 23.2 minutes per game. Hernangomez is a decent rebounder and knocked down 0.9 triples per game but he would need closer to 30 minutes per game to be a factor in standard leagues.

    Source: Denver Post

  • OG Anunoby
    SF, Toronto Raptors

    Coach Nick Nurse intends to put OG Anunoby "back out there in a primary role."

    With Kawhi Leonard vacating the starting small forward spot, Anunoby is the leading candidate to take the role. Before the arrival of Leonard, Anunoby started 62 games in his rookie season. Last season he started 6 out of 67 games, and missed the entire playoffs due to an emergency appendectomy. He averaged 7.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks over 20.2 minutes per game, while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor, 33.2 percent from 3-point range and 58.1 percent from the free-throw line. He can be picked up as a late round flier in drafts.

    Source: The Athletic