• One Big Thing: Accepting the Clippers

    You’ve read at length about the Warriors going from golden boys to major villains thanks to their jacked up death crew that can torch anything in sight. A wide range of reasons, with an equally wide range of validity, have been thrown about in an effort to justify the abrupt end to America’s most recent basketball love affair.

    That’s great. Stories demand a villain and we’ve been gifted a fantastic foil for someone to rise up against. The Warriors already started rubbing people the wrong way by the end of last season as they outlasted purists’ choice San Antonio and toppled underdog Oklahoma City before losing a lead of some particular magnitude on the way to LeBron James’ hometown coronation.

    Now there’s no safety net. On paper, they’re just too good. There’s no chasing the Bulls’ record in the backdrop to provide a historical context that we should root for. If they break history, it’ll be their own from just a single year ago. And quite frankly, they probably won’t. More frankly, it doesn’t matter because there’s almost nobody outside of the Bay Area that’s pulling for them this time around. If they somehow complete their quest for vengeance they’ll only fuel the fire of people who are mourning the NBA’s competitive balance.

    Golden State has executed a glorious heel turn. But every heel needs a face. A villain without heroes hardly makes for a story worth telling. The NBA needs someone to rise up and embrace the role of reluctant champion of the peoples’ cause. There just happen to be minimal contenders vying for the role.

    The Thunder and Russell Westbrook, bless his heart, are completely outgunned. They’re out. Westbrook will raise hell on the way but it’s a battle he just can’t win. He and Durant together were always the bridesmaid but never the bride, coming so very close to climbing the mountain but coming up just short at every opportunity. They were close to earning the neutral public’s undying adoration as a sort of lifetime achievement accolade, but that’s all gone now.

    The Spurs are without Tim Duncan this time around and for as impressive as they are, their consistent excellence makes it hard for people to rally around them. They can always work up an old school vs. new school debate but San Antonio doesn’t scream ‘big fight feel.’ In keeping with the Spurs’ ethos of being a boring, gently murmuring basketball machine, they just aren’t the most inspiring candidate for the role. Not to say they can’t win- they definitely could. Plus, watching Kawhi Leonard try (and maybe possibly succeed?) to defend Golden State’s best three or four players would be immeasurably fun. It’s just not exactly the outfit that people think of when they call for a new hot team to take down the Dubs.

    Cleveland could make the grade, though there’s a sizable chunk of people who will always talk down LeBron’s greatness. There’s also the idea that Cleveland’s had their turn at the top; them winning again, even if it means taking down the Warriors, only establishes two teams that everyone is sort of sick of. They’re probably the best positioned to get the job done, aided by a weak conference and the secret weapon of ‘Finally Trusting Kevin Love 100%” plus the pretty good move of acquiring Channing Frye for a song and dance last trade deadline. They’ve got it all in place, but it just doesn’t feel right.

    In a dramatic twist, the team perhaps best positioned to become the new sentimental favorite is the one that we’ve all hated for the last handful of years.

    The Los Angeles Clippers are who we’re looking for.

    It feels dirty, doesn’t it? The group that everyone detests could become our next bandwagon effort. The Clippers budding ascension from most-hated to leaders of The Cause will be a slow burn affair, but they’re in the best spot to win over a lot of fans.

    There are many reasons that people don’t like the Clippers currently, but a lot of the sentiment seems to be a nebulous brand of ‘I just don’t like them’ reasoning. Maybe it was their premature anointment as the next great team when they acquired Chris Paul. Lob City was fun at first and seems more a victim of sheer overexposure than anything else.

    Perhaps the most common complaint is that the Clippers are a group of incessant whiners. They complain about the hacking strategy. They flail and flop around and make normal body contact look like a shotgun blast. The Clippers spend more time than anyone lobbying to the officials and often seem intent on turning the refs into a second opponent on the floor. Every call results in an exchange. It’s infuriating, but it might become a good thing if they match up with the Warriors.

    Who cares if the Clippers complain about everything? Golden State is already super overpowered, so you gotta do what you gotta do. The sheer talent that the Dubs possess gives everyone else some major leniency when it comes to grinding for any advantage they can get. When you’re up against public enemy number one people tend to overlook some flaws.

    It’s a matchup we were robbed of last year, and it’s obviously extremely early to fantasize about such things, but the way that LA has played to this point makes it seem like that’s where we’re heading.

    If we’re going for some mythmaking the journey to likability makes for a good redemption story but beyond that the Clippers are just a damn good basketball team with a nice mix of ingredients to pull off an upset. The fact that there’s a real rivalry and some shifting public perceptions around it all makes it that much better.

    We (the Royal ‘We’) need someone to support in the face of basketball Goliath. There are certainly more likable alternatives out there than Los Angeles, but hitching your wagon to a team that’s destined to get eviscerated doesn’t give you a great ROI. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and friends actually have a shot. They can do it, and they’ll revel in the chaos if they actually do.

    Maybe none of it matters. Maybe the Clippers are destined to lose just like everyone else. That shouldn’t take away from the fact that this season is beckoning for a new cult hero. Give it time and enough people will come around.

    I’m ready to root for the Clippers, and you should be too.

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