• It’s a busy day in the NBA with 12 games on the slate for Wednesday night. Now trust me I get it.  It’s the middle of the week, your boss is probably giving you grief about something you apparently have done wrong, and all you want to do is go home and watch some good basketball. We here at Hoop Ball sympathize with you and we want to make your day a little easier by giving you a list of games that should satisfy your NBA watching needs.

    The Honorable Mentions: The Bucks face the Cavs, the Hawks take on the Wizards, the Raptors go up against the Celtics and the Clippers look to serve the Warriors their eighth loss of the season.

    I know what your thinking, how can the Clippers and Warriors game not be on the list of ‘must watch’ games? On any other night, this game would be on the list. But playoff implications carry the day so without further delay here are your ‘must watch’ games of the night.

    Utah Jazz vs. Houston Rockets

    Tip Time: 8 pm (est)

    Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

    Player Matchup: Gordon Hayward and James Harden

    Separated by just half a game, the Jazz and the Rockets are fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Let’s just say whoever wins this game may be a little more confident about their playoff chances moving forward.

    Houston (35-36), who is looking to avoid a three-game losing streak, is coming home on the second night of a back-to-back after falling short to the Thunder on Tuesday. James Harden did not seem limited playing through his ankle injury, finishing Tuesday’s contest with 24 points, seven rebounds and a career-high 16 assists.

    “I had to be out there. For us, every game counts,” Harden said. “I had to put whatever I’ve got going on to the side and just try to go out there and get the win.”

    In the previous game against the Jazz, Harden was unstoppable.  He got to the line 10 times and finished the game with 42 points, five rebounds and four assists.

    Utah’s Gordon Hayward is also playing through injury as he fights to keep his team’s playoffs hopes alive. Since returning from a two-game absence due to plantar fasciitis, Hayward has seen over 30 minutes of playing time during the team’s past two games.

    “(My foot) is fine,” Hayward said. “It is going to be sore the rest of the season. That is the nature of that injury. But it is fine”

    Luckily for Hayward, his teammates have stepped in and have taken their games to another level, especially point guard Shelvin Mack. Mack, who was acquired by the Jazz at the trade deadline, has been on a tear over his last 10 games averaging 13.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game.

    The Jazz (34-36) are not the greatest offensive team in the league. Over the team’s last three games, they have only averaged 96 points per contest. Defensively, however, is where they gets their wins. Over the past three games, Utah has only given up an average of 80.6 points to their opponents.

    Houston is the complete opposite. The Rockets look to outscore their opponents and try to make the game as fast-paced as possible. Over their last three games, the team has scored an average of 106.6 points per game, while surrendering 110.3 points per game to their opponents.

    With how much is at stake for both teams, this is without a doubt a ‘must watch’ game.

    Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trail Blazers

    Tip Time: 10 pm (est)

    Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR

    Player Matchup: Deron Williams and Damian Lillard

    The Mavericks (35-35) and the Blazers (36-35) are also separated by just half a game in the standings and they play for possession of the six slot tonight.  The Mavs took Round 1 of this home-and-home set on Sunday and scored 132 points in the process.

    The ageless veteran, Dirk Nowitzki, was dominant in that game as he put up 40 points, eight rebounds and four assists. The 37-year old is on a tear this month, averaging 24.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

    Head coach Rick Carlisle has been experimenting with lineups and with Chandler Parsons likely to undergo season-ending knee surgery, he will need to be even more creative.

    “We just got to make it work with the guys we got available,” Carlisle said. “We got 13 active guys and these are the guys we are going to war with for the last 12 games.”

    Deron Williams came up big in Sunday’s game on a 30-point, 16-assist night. If Parsons is indeed out for the remainder of the season, Williams will be asked to take on a bigger role on the offensive side of the floor.

    Damian Lillard has been doing all he can to keep his team from falling into the three-way battle for the seventh and eighth seed. Through the month of March, Lillard has been averaging 27.8 points, four rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. He led the Blazers in scoring on Sunday and had a chance to win the game in regulation, but a poorly-conceived shot didn’t go and the Mavs were able to pull away in overtime.

    “I shot a shot that I’m really comfortable shooting and it just didn’t go in,” Lillard said. “I was kind of disappointed I couldn’t end the game right there. Going into overtime on the road against a pretty good team is tough.”

    If Portland loses and Houston wins, the Blazers would move from the sixth seed down to the eighth seed.

Fantasy News

  • Tahjere McCall
    F, Atlanta Hawks

    The Hawks signed Tahjere McCall from their Summer League team.

    This is just a depth signing for the Hawks. He shouldn't see much court time on the NBA floor if he makes the main roster out of camp

    Source: Kevin Chouinard on Twitter

  • Thabo Sefolosha
    SF, Houston Rockets

    Marc Stein is reporting that the Rockets will sign Thabo Sefolosha.

    Sefolosha was among the names at a recent mini camp, and he should make for a nice fit as a defensive stopper off the bench. The Rockets have a pretty thin group of reserves so we'd expect Sefolosha to be a regular rotation player, which puts him on the board as a steals specialist in deep leagues.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Tyler Zeller
    C, Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have signed C Tyler Zeller to the training camp roster on Thursday.

    Zeller played all of six games last season with the Hawks and Grizzlies. Zeller will try to latch on as a third-string C for the Nuggets' deep frontcourt. Zeller is off the fantasy radar.

    Source: Chris Dempsey on Twitter

  • Luke Kennard
    SG, Detroit Pistons

    Coach Dwane Casey said that he is not sure if he will start Luke Kennard or have him run a lot of the second-team offense.

    In addition, Casey mentioned that Kennard dealt with some knee tendinitis earlier this summer. Kennard is likely competing with Bruce Brown Jr. for the starting two-guard spot. We'll see how the rotation starts to shape in the preseason, but both players will get minutes either way.

    Source: NBA

  • Blake Griffin
    PF, Detroit Pistons

    Coach Dwane Casey revealed that although the team's training staff is easing him into things, Blake Griffin (knee) is back on the court and playing.

    Coach Casey added that the team expects Griffin to be at 100% with "no lingering effects." It looks like Griffin is progressing nicely in his return and should be all systems go for the start of the season. With Griffin's extensive injury history, the team may manage him more this year. Coming off a career year, he's expected to be an early middle-round selection.

    Source: NBA

  • Victor Oladipo
    SG, Indiana Pacers

    Coach Nate McMillan said that Victor Oladipo (knee) probably wouldn't play on opening night.

    Videos have surfaced this summer of Oladipo doing on-court work, and by all accounts, he is progressing well. Coach McMillan said that Oladipo isn't playing live yet and it would seem he still has hurdles to climb. Even when Oladipo does return, he will likely be facing minute restrictions and frequent days off, at least initially. Jeremy Lamb figures to be the biggest beneficiary of Oladipo's absence.

    Source: NBA

  • Nikola Vucevic
    C, Orlando Magic

    In an interview Wednesday, Magic head coach Steve Clifford said he could see Nikola Vucevic improving across all areas of his game, and echoing his player's belief that he is in his prime.

    One of the areas Clifford thought Vucevic could improve upon was his 3-point shooting percentage, and also seemed to indicate that he could contonue to up his play on defense. He's unquestionably solidified himself as the anchor of this team, and the Magic as a whole are likely eyeing to improve upon their momentum as a rising young playoff team in an Eastern Conference that looks pretty weak after the top four to five teams. Expect Vucevic to produce safe second-round value this season.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Deandre Ayton
    C, Phoenix Suns

    Suns General Manager James Jones said in a recent interview that Deandre Ayton is capable of playing PF if needed.

    One could chalk this up to either Ayton continuing his development in becoming a more dynamic offensive player, or the Suns covering up for the lack of depth on their roster at PF. In reality it's likley a mix of both, and is a positive for Ayton's value heading into this season. If he does end up spending meaningful time at the four, it would not bode well for the value of Dario Saric, who is already barely going at the end of drafts in 9-cat leagues.

    Source: NBA.com

  • DeMarcus Cousins
    C, Los Angeles Lakers

    The Lakers have been granted a $1.75 million Disabled Player Exception for DeMarcus Cousins (torn left ACL).

    This now officially rules DeMarcus Cousins out for the season. The Lakers will now have the ability to go out and acquire a player that will in all likelihood occupy the end of their bench. Because they signed Dwight Howard, using this cap space on a center isn't necessarily as big a priority as it once was when Cousins initially went down.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Mohamed Bamba
    C, Orlando Magic

    Mo Bamba will enter training camp second on the depth chart behind Nikola Vučević.

    Head coach of the Magic, Steve Clifford, told a reporter that he plans on having Bamba as his primary backup center while Khem Birch will be third on the depth chart. The Magic also have Vučević, who was re-signed in the offseason to a four-year, $100M contract. As long as Bamba is backing up Vučević, his fantasy ceiling is capped outside of standard redraft leagues.

    Source: NBA