• As a quick note, this marks our last edition of One Big Thing while the NBA is in action. I’ll be around finding Big Things to write about in the offseason, including free agency, the draft, Summer League and the Olympics to tide us over into next season. It’s been a pleasure to join the Hoop Ball team this year, and I safely speak for everyone involved in saying that we’re glad to have you fine folks along for the ride going forward.

    Hoop Ball, at least to me, is a place to celebrate and learn about basketball. For you, that could involve a variety of things: scanning the news wire, picking up a new fantasy strategy, perusing prospect and draft coverage, or reading opinion columns that cover large scope issues (*cough cough*). We’re all here because we love the game, and I assume the same goes for you too.

    With that said, best way to learn about anything is to engage in a conversation. I’m of the belief that any interaction affords you an opportunity to learn something new, so I’m going to open the floor up because I want to know what you want to talk about. Leave a comment, tweet at me @Mike_Pandador or us @HoopBallTweets, hashtag #OneBigThing and I’ll try my best to get to it. Writing shouldn’t be an isolationist gig so let me know if there’s a topic or idea you’d like to read about.

    Anyway, One Big Thing.

    I like to play chess. I’d venture to say that I love chess, but I’m actually both a mediocre chess player and afraid of commitment. Chess is great for teaching you to think ahead and prepare for multiple outcomes, which seems like a fine lesson to carry over to many things, basketball included.

    When you start a fresh game, one of the first things you want to do is develop your pieces. The basic tenets of development are getting your pieces towards the center of the board to control game flow and getting your pieces to advantageous squares. ‘Advantageous’ holds different meanings for each piece, but basically you want to get them into spots with lots of options. Once there are multiple avenues of attack, they become far more dangerous to your opponent.

    Take, for example, the knight. The horse, for newcomers. From a corner square a knight can only be moved to two squares. If you choose to develop your knight, i.e. get it out towards the center of the board, it can attack up to eight different squares. In the wrong spot, it’s entirely useless. In the right spot, you present up to eight choices for your opponent to think about. Having someone juggle eight different outcomes hinging on just one piece is a good way to tilt the scales in your favor.

    It’s also important to know what each piece can do for you. A knight, while moving in nifty little ‘L’ shapes, can attack eight strangely-arranged squares. It can get to just about anywhere on the board, but it’s not going to get from end to end quickly.

    Harrison Barnes is a knight. It’s pretty hard to get beaten by a knight on its own, but as a complementary piece a knight can be pretty dangerous. The Cavs have been giving Barnes the Tony Allen treatment as of late, all but ignoring him on the perimeter and daring him to shoot. Barnes has done his part to make the strategy work with a series of truly awful shooting nights. If you can take out an opponent’s queen and rooks, you’re probably going to win. That’s easier said than done, but we’ve seen Cleveland do a pretty good job of keeping Golden State’s best players from going truly bananas.

    A bishop is a more valuable piece than the knight. Despite only being able to attack half the squares on the board, a bishop can travel end to end with relative ease. Context matters, of course, but in most games you’d rather sacrifice a knight than a bishop.

    Kevin Love is a bishop. He’s an accomplished scorer and rebounder. His defensive warts have been discussed at length, but he’s still a guy that you should want on your team in most scenarios. For reasons beyond my comprehension, Cleveland insists on turning him into a knight. Shoving Love in the corner and making him a catch and shoot guy is a disservice to everyone involved. They’re handicapping him by not putting him in a spot where he can attack in multiple ways.

    Love is a tremendous threat as a pick and pop guy and can work over smaller players in the post. While Tristan Thompson’s presence clogs the paint in exchange for valuable rebounding, there are still opportunities to get Love the ball while backing down a smaller player. That’s not even to say that he’s a bad catch and shoot guy, he’s just having the tools taken out of his toolbox. If he’s in the corner, he’s going to rise and fire or pass again. Unless someone gets burned by a pump fake, he’s not going to drive into the paint.

    Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that the Cavs have been using Love above the break at the start of games only to completely move away from it as the game goes on. I’m not sure what persuades Ty Lue to whittle down Love’s participation, but it’s curious that Love’s activity is a first quarter phenomenon. Love fell victim to foul trouble in Game 6 and maybe the Cavs didn’t want to move away from what was working by the time he returned to the floor. Maybe Lue wanted his best group of defenders out there to avoid any surge from the Warriors in the game’s final quarter. Both are reasonable but don’t really excuse the rest of the series.

    Whatever the cause, Love’s value has dropped tremendously this postseason. His next team would be wise to play him to his strengths.

Fantasy News

  • Luke Kornet
    PF-C, Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls have officially announced the signings of Luke Kornet and Shaquille Harrison.

    Kornet can provide threes and blocks as a backup big for the Bulls. He is currently behind Lauri Markkanen, Thaddeus Young and Wendell Carter Jr. but may be able to carve out some minutes for deep-league owners. Harrison will be fighting for minutes with the Bulls' plethora of point guards at the moment. If he can find some minutes during the season, he can be a source of steals as a player to stream or for deep leagues.

    Source: Bulls.com

  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
    SF, Toronto Raptors

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Raptors.

    Hollis-Jefferson's deal was originally reported as a minimum contract however it is now a $2.5 million contract which comes out of the Raptors' non-taxpayer mid-level. He will likely play some minutes behind Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. He is capable of defending multiple positions and might be able to provide some deep-league value in rebounds, steals and blocks.

    Source: Jeff Siegel on Twitter

  • Mike Muscala
    PF, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Mike Muscala has signed with the Thunder on a two-year, $4.31 million deal with a player option.

    Muscala could step in with the Thunder to be their stretch four behind Danilo Gallinari or back up Steven Adams. He could potentially earn some minutes especially with Jeremi Grant no longer on the team. He averaged around 20 mpg in his last two seasons with the Lakers and Hawks, providing threes and blocks that were useful to deep-league owners.

    Source: OKC Thunder Wire

  • Russell Westbrook
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Mike D'Antoni "would be disappointed" if Russell Westbrook didn't improve his 3-point percentage this season.

    D'Antoni added, "I think we can do that. I think that just by knowing that that's kind of how we play and him having the green light to (shoot) and not worry about it." Westbrook shot just 29.0 percent from deep last season and has been under 30.0 percent in four of his last five campaigns, so there is definite room for improvement. It's possible that Westbrook will find more catch-and-shoot looks available next to James Harden, and moving away from pull-up threes could help him improve his efficiency, but we won't be able to tell for sure until we see the duo take the court in preseason. Improving his deep shooting would definitely help, but there are serious questions about the rest of Westbrook's stat set. Rebounds and assists may not be as available in a system that isn't specifically tailored to him, and free throws and turnovers still look like problem areas. It's not a bad on-court fit but Westbrook seems unlikely to return to his former top-30 glory.

    Source: Salman Ali on Twitter

  • J.J. Barea
    PG, Dallas Mavericks

    J.J. Barea (torn right Achilles) will be cautious in his recovery and will not play for Puerto Rico at the upcoming FIBA World Cup.

    Barea expects to be ready for September's training camp but has decided that rushing back to play high-level international hoops would be a step too far. The tournament opens less than eight months after Barea sustained the injury, and he will instead focus his attention on getting ready for another season in Dallas. With the additions of Delon Wright and Seth Curry, it's unlikely that Barea plays enough to be worth your time in fantasy.

    Source: Tim MacMahon on Twitter

  • Matt Thomas
    PG, Toronto Raptors

    The Raptors have officially signed shooting guard Matt Thomas.

    Thomas will join the Raptors on a three-year deal after emerging as one of Europe's top shooters with Valencia last season. The Iowa State product hit 48.5 percent of his 3-pointers last season and is at a clean 47 percent in his two seasons in Spain. He should factor into the shooting guard rotation with Danny Green gone and is someone to monitor in deeper formats for his 3-point potential.

    Source: Toronto Raptors

  • Tyson Chandler
    C, Houston Rockets

    The Rockets have announced the signing of Tyson Chandler.

    Chandler is looking like the backup to Clint Capela and could be called on more in certain matchups, though he doesn't figure to play enough to support any worthwhile fantasy value. It's possible that Chandler holds appeal in deeper leagues as a rebounding specialist but that should be about it.

    Source: Houston Rockets

  • Kostas Antetokounmpo
    PF, Dallas Mavericks

    The Raptors are planning to claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers, per Eurohoops' Nikos Varlas.

    Blake Murphy of The Athletic reports that the Raptors were interested in adding Antetokounmpo last season, but had their plans dashed when Dallas took Antetokounmpo with the final pick in the draft. He's incredibly raw still, but has the physical build that the Raptors seem to love in their developmental projects.

    Source: Nikos Varlas on Twitter

  • B.J. Johnson
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    The Kings have waived B.J. Johnson.

    Johnson had a decent showing in Summer League but never seemed likely to last in Sacramento given the team's depth at forward. After making seven appearances on a pair of 10-day contracts with the Hawks last season, Johnson will look to find more concrete footing in the league this season.

    Source: Jason Jones on Twitter

  • Kostas Antetokounmpo
    PF, Dallas Mavericks

    The Mavs have waived Kostas Antetokounmpo, per Shams Charania.

    The youngest Antetokounmpo was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2018 draft but only appeared in two games with the Mavs last season. Dallas opens up a two-way contract slot and will likely find a more NBA-ready player on the market, while Antetokounmpo will look to latch on with another team for camp. Perhaps the 21-year-old can make it a family affair, with both of his older brothers playing in Milwaukee.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter