• Jake Layman almost completely ignored the soaring finger roll that began the most scintillating stretch of his NBA career.

    Coming off the bench for the first time in five games with Moe Harkless healthy, Layman spent the entirety of the first quarter on the bench Friday night, watching the Blazers go back and forth with the team that swept them out of the playoffs last spring. His first two shots, three-point attempts that came in the first 90 seconds of the second quarter, were off the mark. Moments later, Layman showed off the length and leaping ability that make him one of Portland’s most tantalizing young players – and was almost avoided altogether, offset by his nagging penchant for a lack of aggression.

    See where Layman is on the floor when he turns toward the rim? This dribble hand-off action is a staple of the Blazers’ offense, normally used to promote player movement and swing the ball quickly from side to side. But with the Pelicans’ Frank Jackson trailing several feet behind the play, a red sea of paint opens for Layman the moment he receives the ball from Zach Collins. A player always in attack mode would have noticed immediately. Layman, on the other hand, with his eyes looking at the weak side, needed a full dribble before realizing his mistake and atoning for it with highlight-reel hops in the blink of an eye.

    Fortunately for the Blazers, he abandoned his passive natural instincts from that point forward, blowing a competitive game wide open in the process.

    Layman scored 20 points, without missing a shot, during a six-minute, 27-second stretch of the second quarter. He drained four high-arcing threes and threw down a pair of thunderous dunks, playing with the supreme confidence that can sometimes so easily bring his rare athletic gifts to bear. The hot hand accounted for Layman’s breakout more than anything else, obviously, and can’t be counted on going forward. But for a player who was so readily overlooked while starting the first 19 games of the season, it was still encouraging to watch Layman, feeding off the crowd, both hunt heat-check three-point opportunities and celebrate with passion by the time his frantic sequence was finished.

    Layman, whose only points came during that ridiculous barrage, was the catalyst behind the Blazers extending their lead, but he didn’t beat the Pelicans all by himself. Al-Farouq Aminu was instrumental to Portland’s effort on both ends, serving as Anthony Davis‘ primary defender and connecting on 3-of-6 from beyond the arc – with each make coming off high ball-screen action, after New Orleans committed two defenders to Damian Lillard.

    Blazers fans will never forget that embarrassing first-round sweep, but what’s been lost in the haze of memory since and went under-noticed at the time is that Aminu shot 43.3 percent from beyond the arc against the Pelicans. He made the same shots on Friday that New Orleans was begging him to take in April. The difference this time is that Portland, rather than forcing the issue or settling for open jumpers from streaky shooters, pinged the ball all over the floor en route to 30 total assists. Layman’s explosion and the Blazers’ 18 offensive rebounds, a season-high, certainly contributed to their impressive offensive output, too.

    Harkless’ play deserves more than a passing mention. He scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting in 21 minutes, never showing any rust that could have built up since his previous appearance on January 7, and even exhibiting the activity and athleticism that makes him one of Portland’s most versatile players. Three of his four baskets were dunks, and he also blocked a dunk attempt by Julius Randle. Does this look like a guy suffering from persistent knee pain that’s caused him to miss the last five games?

    It’s still too early to expect a positive impact from Layman on a nightly basis, and there’s no telling how Harkless’ knee will hold up over the season’s second half. Despite Layman’s hot hand and Harkless’ career-best percentage last season, neither is a knockdown three-point shooter, either. But if both can consistently replicate just some aspects of their play against New Orleans going forward, Terry Stotts will suddenly possess more legitimate options on the wing than he’s ever had before.

    Davis scored 27 points and shot over 50 percent from the field, but was hardly the dominant force that’s caused the Blazers so many problems in the recent past. One reason for his relatively pedestrian showing was Portland consistently double-teaming him in the post, whether he was being checked by Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic, or a perimeter player after a switch. The Blazers brought an extra defender Davis’ direction from the top, from the baseline, and from the opposite wing, ostensibly doubling off the Pelicans’ least-threatening player in the context of live action.

    Portland, for the most part, did well rotating behind the double-team, too. On this sequence in the second quarter, two additional defenders converge on Davis on the left block, leaving Layman and Lillard to deal with four offensive players all by their lonesome. But Layman and Lillard are in perfect help position on the double, and able to quickly close-out on potential shooters as the ball moves, leaving enough time for McCollum to get all the way to the weak corner for a potential contest.

    Help defense doesn’t get much better than that. To be fair, it’s not like the Blazers were at their absolute best defensively on Friday. New Orleans put up an offensive rating of 110.9 despite going just 8-of-25 from three. The road team briefly made it a game in the fourth quarter, too, whittling Portland’s 21-point lead to nine with 3:05 to play before Lillard hit his second and final triple.

    But the Pelicans, it bears reminding, have the third-best offensive rating in the league, behind the dynasty Golden State Warriors and James Harden‘s Houston Rockets. They actually underperformed offensively by the numbers, and didn’t do enough on the other end to make the Blazers uncomfortable offensively – a reality that was driven home by Layman’s second-quarter scoring binge, but was apparent from the opening tip of Friday’s game.

Fantasy News

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    PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jared Terrell has signed a contract with Israel's Hapoel Eilat.

    Terrell appeared in 14 games with the Wolves last season. Perhaps he'll surface on the mid-season market when his Israeli season ends.

    Source: Dane Moore on Twitter

  • J.J. Barea
    PG, Dallas Mavericks

    J.J. Barea (torn right Achilles) has been fully cleared for the start of training camp.

    Barea has also been participating in 5-on-5 work. He'll be in the mix for reserve PG minutes, though he'll be competing with Seth Curry and Jalen Brunson for primary backup work behind Delon Wright.

    Source: Brad Townsend on Twitter

  • Justise Winslow
    SF, Miami Heat

    Justise Winslow said that his plan is to play point guard this season.

    Winslow had a nice run as Miami's PG last season when Goran Dragic was out after bouncing around between positions for a few years. The Heat have already declared Dragic their starter, however, which means that Winslow might have to accept coming off the bench if he wants the bulk of his minutes to come as a point guard. When asked about that possibility, Winslow said, "It's just about winning, really. So that's how I approach it." While playing point guard would likely help Winslow's fantasy value, the decreased playing time would probably cancel that out.

    Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter

  • Aron Baynes
    C, Phoenix Suns

    Aron Baynes suffered a groin strain while playing for Australia at the World Cup.

    It's assumed that Baynes suffered the injury in Sunday's game, as he hadn't been hampered at all before then. It's tough timing with camp opening in two weeks but there won't be many minutes available to Baynes as Deandre Ayton's backup this year, so the fantasy impact is minimal. We'll update you when a timeline gets released.

    Source: Brian Windhorst on Twitter

  • Marc Gasol
    C, Toronto Raptors

    Marc Gasol did a little bit of everything in Spain's 95-75 win over Argentina in the FIBA World Cup Final, putting up 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals and three blocks in 25 minutes.

    Gasol caps off what is the most successful year of his career, helping Spain win the World Cup almost three months from the day of winning his first NBA championship. While an impressive career accomplishment, it also gives him more mileage than any NBA player over that same three month span, a fact worth considering when thinking about his outlook for this upcoming season. At 34 years old and with two other bigs that he has to compete with for playing time in Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka, the best of Gasol's fantasy days are likely behind him. He can still be a productive player, but he makes more sense towards the end drafts rather than in the middle of them.

  • Ricky Rubio
    PG, Phoenix Suns

    Ricky Rubio capped off an impressive tournament run with a gold medal for Spain and tournament MVP honors, culminating in a 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists performance in a win over Argentina.

    Rubio was dominant all tournament long serving as Spain's number one option on offense as well as being the main playmaker as well. Though he will likely be a bit gassed heading into training camp in a few weeks, one should view his performance this summer as a net positive. Keep him on your radar towards the ends of drafts.

  • Joe Ingles
    SF, Utah Jazz

    Joe Ingles was effective in Team Australia's loss against France, putting up 17 points (7-of-11 from the floor), five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a 3-pointer in 34 minutes.

    Ingles was an all-around statistical force throughout the tournament, and was the focal point of Australia's surprising 4th place finish. He is begging everyone to not overlook him in fantasy drafts this season as he continues to be taken near or outside of the top-100. His stat-set will make him a player worth owning even without a starting role for the Jazz.

  • Rudy Gobert
    C, Utah Jazz

    Rudy Gobert was very quiet in France's 67-59 win over Australia totaling just two points, four rebounds, three turnovers and four personal fouls in just over 19 minutes of action.

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  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Source: Fox Sports Wisconsin on Twitter

  • Tacko Fall
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    Source: Jared Weiss on Twitter