• One Big Thing: Routine in Rio

    I’m generally a fan of the Olympics.

    Any time you can get the best people in the world at something to go head to head I’ll pretty much watch it. Chess. Cooking shows. Sometimes even the weird arm wrestling stuff they put on ESPN2 when there’s nothing else on at three in the morning.

    Point being, there’s something satisfying about watching top level performers go to work. They say that people watch sports, or most things really, to see something that they can’t get anywhere else; to watch people whose skills are so far and away above their own that it becomes a spectacle. If that’s the appeal for normal competition, think about what the Olympics should be.

    For many events, it is.

    Basketball, on the other hand, has grown droll. It’s like watching a movie that’s already been spoiled for you. There’s fun in seeing immensely talented American squads put up videogame numbers but eventually it gets a little boring. Not to mention the fact that basic human decency kicks in and you can’t help but feel bad for whatever overmatched country happens to be on the menu that day.

    Predicting the medalists is almost a sure thing. Even if you don’t get all three, your incorrect pick probably finished fourth or *gasp*…. Fifth. It’d take a major upset for the pecking order to really reshuffle.

    Add it all up, and it makes for Olympic tournaments that have been mostly devoid of drama since the Redeem Team joined forces.

    Basketball is growing around the world, and that’s obviously a good thing. It just so happens that the talent gulf is still remarkably wide. More and more people are getting into the game but we won’t see the results of that until years down the road. Like I said, that’s good. It just doesn’t do anything to pique interest for the upcoming Rio Games.

    The Rio Olympics are set to be a major debacle. Between the corruption, political unrest, displacement of the poor, widening wealth gap, unsanitary conditions and serious health concerns, there’s going to be a whole lot that goes wrong. If you thought people were picking on Sochi in 2014, buckle up.

    All that turmoil might do some good in the theater regard thanks to all kinds of player withdrawals but anything other than gold would be a massive disappointment for the US. It probably helps out USA Basketball in the end too; they now get the chance to look at a swath of players who would never appear on this stage if not for all the typical players who have chosen to sit this one out.

    Good for the point guards. Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry both deserve their spots on this team. If not for all the dropouts, neither would have made it in front of Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook or John Wall. Hell, Lowry wasn’t even on the preliminary roster: he was behind Mike Conley and Damian Lillard in the pecking order too.

    The same goes for Harrison Barnes. Probably DeMar DeRozan and maybe even Jimmy Butler too. If LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard wanted to play, they’d be there instead. There’s also a case to be made for James Harden taking one of those spots too.

    Up front the injuries to Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge almost assuredly opened up spots. DeMarcus Cousins is going to be a treat to watch and he might not have made it if not for Blake Griffin’s injury troubles or Aldridge’s desire to proceed with caution. Anthony Davis’ boneitis will give DeAndre Jordan a platform to shine as well.

    The US might have household names like Kevin Durant, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Klay Thompson in attendance but it’s a far cry from the roster that they would assemble in a perfect world.

    Again, that’s good. It’s a fresh coat of paint for a team whose dominance approaches the mundane. They’re still the favorites by a sizable margin but at least there are some nice stories floating around the roster.

    Their exhibition dismantling of both China and Argentina speaks to the fact that it’s looking like the US will only run into one, maybe two dangerous games. Exhibition results shouldn’t mean too much but it’s hard to envision either giving the US a run for their money when the games are for real.

    Short of just sending over the USA Select Team, it doesn’t look like it’ll be a fair fight barring some kind of epic collapse. That’s happened before, yes. It just hardly seems plausible this go around.

    For better or worse, Olympic basketball has an excitement problem. When one team is just too stacked, the tournament feels like a formality.

Fantasy News

  • Joe Ingles
    SF, Utah Jazz

    Joe Ingles scored 11 points (4-of-7 shooting) and chipped in two rebounds and eight assists on Wednesday.

    The minutes in this contest were all over the place since the Jazz went up 14 after the first quarter and never looked back. Mike Conley saw 19 minutes off the bench and scored eight points on 4-of-10 from the floor, while Georges Niang saw 22 minutes and dropped 11 points of 4-of-7 shooting. For now, Ingles is still starting over Conley so he should be held onto until things change.

  • Andrew Wiggins
    SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Andrew Wiggins dished out nine assists on Wednesday to go with 25 points (10-of-19 from the field), five rebounds and four triples in a 117-110 loss to the Bulls.

    Wiggins shot 1-of-6 from the line and turned the ball over five times to put a damper on an otherwise good night. Wiggins has cooled off after his hot start to the season and is ranked just inside the top-100 on the season. His lack of supporting stats and poor percentages (.439 from the field and .733 from the line) hold back his upside. Wiggins should hover around top-100 value the rest of the way.

  • Donovan Mitchell
    SG, Utah Jazz

    Donovan Mitchell dropped 23 points (8-13 FG, 4-8 3PT) on Wednesday, while tacking on four rebounds, three assists and a steal.

    Mitchell did his damage in just 22 minutes as the game was blowout from the start. The scoring and triples were efficient and we can chalk up the lack of counters to game flow. Mitchell's value is hovering around the top-40 on the year.

  • Karl-Anthony Towns
    C, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Karl-Anthony Towns scored a season-high 40 points on 16-of-24 shooting with six rebounds and four 3-pointers in 31 minutes on Wednesday.

    Towns is back on track with 27 or more points in three of his four games since returning from injury. Towns will be a top-5 player moving forward and it is great to see him back to posting monster fantasy lines again.

  • Shabazz Napier
    PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Shabazz Napier scored 16 points with seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 31 minutes on Wednesday.

    Napier is locked in as the starting point guard with around 30 minutes a night now that Jeff Teague is in Atlanta. Napier may be traded, but he will be a standard-league player while he is in Minnesota.

  • Lonzo Ball
    PG, New Orleans Pelicans

    Lonzo Ball had a strong outing in Wednesday's 121-117 loss to the Spurs, finishing with 14 points (4-8 FG, 3-6 3PT), 12 assists and three steals.

    Ball has been a top-55 player over the last two weeks, and games like this will boost his stock. With Zion Williamson as another option for the young point guard to find, we imagine we'll see more double-digit assist games.

  • Jimmy Butler
    SG, Miami Heat

    Jimmy Butler got to the line 18 times on Wednesday and hit 16 of those attempts on his way to scoring 24 points with 10 assists and seven rebounds in 34 minutes.

    Butler did his damage at the line on Wednesday and provided a high-percentage, high-volume boost to free throw percentage for his fantasy owners. Butler has been on the fringe of first-round value all season and shouldn't fall outside the top-20 moving forward.

  • Derrick Favors
    PF, New Orleans Pelicans

    Derrick Favors double-doubled on Wednesday night, ending with 11 points, 10 rebounds and a single steal.

    Favors was able to make an impact in the game despite Zion Williamson entering the fray. The biggest loser here is Jaxson Hayes who saw 16 minutes and only put up nine points and three rebounds with a block.

  • Goran Dragic
    PG, Miami Heat

    Goran Dragic double-doubled on Wednesday with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 10 assists in 30 minutes.

    Dragic has held late-round value throughout the season for his points, assists and threes off the bench. His value is at his ceiling though because of the depth in Miami.

  • Brandon Ingram
    SF, New Orleans Pelicans

    Brandon Ingram shot 6-of-22 from the field on Wednesday but still managed 22 points to go with his three rebounds, two assists and a steal.

    Ingram probably tanked your field goal percentage today and didn't add many popcorn stats to make up for it. In his first game with Zion Williamson, Ingram still had plenty of opportunities but just couldn't convert. His usage might take a slight hit as Zion's minutes tick upwards, but there's not need to worry at this point.