• Over the weekend, the Portland Trail Blazers’ marquee free-agent acquisition played five-on-five for the first time in 10 months. The video Seth Curry posted on Instagram is more a collection of successful possessions in a pickup game than an eye-popping highlight reel displaying his enviable package of offensive skills. Barely considered an average athlete by NBA standards, the montage almost makes unintentional mockery of Curry’s lack of explosiveness, with a simple right-handed layup – uncontested and in transition, mind you – slowed down for dramatic effect.

    Progress is progress by any measure, no matter how small. That Curry is healthy enough to play competitive pickup basketball again for the first time since going under the knife in February to repair a stress fracture in his lower left leg is cause for celebration all by itself. He was originally slated to be available for the Dallas Mavericks’ season opener last fall after suffering a stress reaction early in preseason play, and was then scheduled to resume full basketball activities only three months after surgery. After almost a year away from the game, Curry finally seems on track toward being ready to play.

    Counting on significant contributions from a player so recently encumbered by injury is a risk, but one the Trail Blazers were forced to take out of necessity. They didn’t have nearly enough cap space to back up Neil Olshey’s hollow talk of adding a playoff-caliber wing this summer, and only had the opportunity to sign a player of Curry’s caliber using half the taxpayer’s mid-level exception due to the distinct possibility his health issues linger into the regular season. There’s still no guarantee he’ll be suiting up against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on October 18, let alone reach the esteemed level of play he did with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016-17 – whether by the season opener or over the ensuing six months. But for Portland to defy expectations and overcome an offseason that did little to strengthen its standing in an increasingly loaded Western Conference, Curry will need to do just that, and sooner rather than later.

    Last season, lineups featuring Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Shabazz Napier posted a net rating of +21.9, per NBA.com/stats, an easy team-high among the 60 Blazers trios that shared the floor for at least 200 minutes. Sample size matters here. Opposing teams surely would have been better equipped dealing with that three-guard look if Terry Stotts had employed it on a nightly basis, and statistics gleaned from a configuration that played less than five minutes per game always lend themselves to random variance. Anyone who watched Portland regularly in 2017-18, though, understands all too well that the team was routinely at its best and most exciting putting Napier next to Lillard and McCollum, pushing the pace, fighting like hell defensively and letting its star guards focus on doing doing what they do best: getting buckets.

    The Blazers played at a pace of 103.14 with Lillard, McCollum and Napier on the court together last season, higher than the New Orleans Pelicans’ league-leading mark. Opponents turned the ball over on 15.6 percent of their possessions, a team-high among triumvirates, owed to the natural pressures of tempo and ability of Portland’s guards to play bigger than their size suggests defensively. Both Lillard and McCollum posted true shooting percentages well north of 60.0 playing with Napier, too, major efficiency upticks accounted for by increase sin assisted 3-pointers and free throw attempts, according to NBA.com/stats.

    The notion that Lillard and McCollum would thrive next to another playmaker is what prompted Olshey to give Evan Turner a four-year, $70 million contract in the ill-fated summer of 2016. But not all reserve ball handlers are created equal. Napier has his inherent faults, certainly, and failed to sustain the hot long-range shooting over the full 82-game grind that made him such a pleasant early-season surprise, yet nonetheless proved a far more dynamic fit beside his star teammates than Turner. A third guard who isn’t quick enough to consistently beat his man off the dribble, derives most of his individual offense from schemed post-ups and can be left alone beyond the arc away from the ball is only capable of changing the equation so much. The last thing Lillard and McCollum need is a perimeter partner who stops the ball and shrinks the floor.

    Curry does neither. He shot a solid 41.1 percent on catch-and-shoot triples two years ago, and led the league by making 44.9 percent of his pull-up 3-pointers, a weaponized threat Lillard and McCollum exploit time and again to bring two to the ball in pick-and-roll play and create a numbers advantage behind the point of attack. He also shot a tidy 50.0 percent from the field in ball-screen situations, third-best behind Tony Parker and LeBron James. Still, Curry won’t do the lion’s share of ball handling in Portland’s updated three-guard lineups. Its best allocation of resources means Lillard and McCollum setting the table while Curry spots up off the ball, keeping defenses honest to an extent none of the Blazers’ role players could last season. His ability to create efficient offense out of ball screens looms large regardless, though. Lillard and McCollum are tough enough to stop as primary creators; just imagine what they could do on second side pick-and-rolls and dribble hand-offs, as the defense scrambles back into position after initially accounting for the prospect of Curry knocking down pull-up threes.

    Of course, Curry’s overall influence will depend on health and re-acclimation more than anything else. He still has utility as a standstill marksman, like fellow offseason signee Nik Stauskas, but will only impact the game like Portland needs him to if he regains the form that made him a breakout player for Dallas in 2016-17. All this optimistic analysis of the Blazers’ three-guard lineup won’t matter much unless Curry is physically prepared to do the dirty work inevitably associated with downsizing, too. Napier was, and Wade Baldwin always relishes the chance to prove his defensive chops. If Curry isn’t ready physically come mid October, maybe Baldwin jumps at the opportunity to replace Napier, adding a much-needed sense of athletic verve that changes the game for the positive on both sides of the ball.

    Baldwin’s growth into a viable rotation player would be a welcome development for the Blazers, but not what raises their ceiling highest. Curry is one full season and one vexing injury removed from emerging as one of the most efficient, role-playing guards in basketball. At his best, he’s a better player than anyone Portland brought off the bench last season, and has the skill set needed to make Stotts’ three-guard lineups even more dangerous than they’ve been in the past.

    Is the scope of Curry’s potential influence ideal for the Blazers? Hardly. A veteran team with limited flexibility, likely to be right in the middle of an ever-heated playoff race, would be best served not relying so much on a player who missed all of last season with injury, and is only just now getting in basketball shape. Variance is better than stasis for Portland, though, and Curry, at the very least, provides a hopeful dose of it. We’ll begin finding out whether he offers much more than that come October.

Fantasy News

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - Los Angeles Lakers

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Pelicans and Lakers will complete the Anthony Davis trade on July 6.

    July 6 is the first day that trades can be processed and it will drastically impact the Lakers' cap space. The Lakers would rather process the trade in late July, at least 30 days after the draft, so that they will have $32.5 million in cap rather than $23.4. Wojnarowski also reported that Davis is unlikely to waive his $4 million trade kicker which will also hamper LA's cap space. If the Lakers can't put together enough for a max contract player, it'll throw a big wrench into free agency. With this story constantly evolving, stay tuned for updates.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Clint Capela - C - Houston Rockets

    The Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets are considered to be the two main teams exploring trade scenarios for Clint Capela according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

    With the biggest trade chip of the summer in Anthony Davis off the table, Capela figures to be next in line to draw significant interest around the league. In the Celtics scenario, Capela could either play alongside Horford or become his replacement depending on what Horford decides on his player option. However, seeing how reluctant they were to include some of their big assets in the AD trade, the same could be the case here. For the Brooklyn side it would be tough to imagine them pulling off a deal for Capela that doesn't involve moving Jarrett Allen, as the two have too similar of games to really play them together. This is all obviously very much in the speculation stage, but it is worth keeping an eye on both of these teams in regards to the Rockets' big man as the summer's arms race heads into full swing.

    Source: Steve Kyler on Twitter

  • Jayson Tatum - F - Boston Celtics

    The Celtics were unwilling to include Jayson Tatum in negotiations for Anthony Davis according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.

    It appears that the Celtics were never truly players in the AD sweepstakes, as it's tough to imagine talk went very far without Tatum in the fold. In the wake of this deal, it is becoming more and more apparent that the Celtics are prepared to pivot to handing Tatum the keys to the franchise, especially considering their chances of resigning Kyrie Irving appear to be dwindling by the day. Tatum did not have the breakout campaign many were hoping for in his second year, but if he goes into next season as Boston's clear cut number one option perhaps he could be in line for said breakout in year three.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • David Griffin - Team - New Orleans Pelicans

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that multiple teams are already indicating significant interest in acquiring the No. 4 pick in next week's draft, which now belongs to the Pelicans.

    In case you missed it, the Pelicans have agreed to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a package that includes the fourth selection in the 2019 draft, which the Pelicans may flip to get a quality roster player or another young asset. David Griffin stood firm in his requests on a Davis deal, and although he was unable to get Kyle Kuzma included in the trade, the Pelicans came away with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, two future first-rounders and the No. 4 pick in next week's draft, which could lead to more picks or additional players. Expect New Orleans to be at the center of plenty of rumors over the next few days.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - Los Angeles Lakers

    Despite being traded to one of his only preferred long-term destinations, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports is reporting that Anthony Davis will still enter free agency next summer.

    Davis could sign an extension this summer but he will play out the string and try to maximize his earnings. The Lakers have a year to sell Davis on remaining in Los Angeles, and one imagines that playing with LeBron James and whichever other stars that duo can lure to Staples Center is a pretty good pitch in and of itself. Davis has earned the right to test the market as one of the top players in the game but it would go down as a mild surprise if he didn't end up happy in the one place he's been clamoring for since the start of the saga. Not that unexpected things haven't happened in the NBA before, of course.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Josh Hart - G - New Orleans Pelicans

    Josh Hart will be traded to the Pelicans, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Hart gives the Pelicans a third young asset to go along with three first-round picks, joining Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram in the deal. He battled knee injuries throughout last season but proved to be one of the more versatile and effective players on a laughable Lakers roster. A jack of all trades and master of none, expect Hart to fill multiple roles off the bench for a Pelicans team that hasn't gotten consistent wing production in the recent past. It's a tough spot for fantasy value, however, as he's now blocked in the backcourt by Ball and Jrue Holiday.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Kemba Walker - G - Charlotte Hornets

    Following Saturday's blockbuster acquisition of Anthony Davis, Marc Stein is reporting that the Lakers will make Kemba Walker one of their top targets in free agency.

    It makes sense, as point guard is a major position of weakness on the roster with Lonzo Ball headed to New Orleans. Walker and Kyrie Irving are the top of the PG class, and though Charlotte can offer Kemba a boatload of money on a supermax deal, it's impossible to argue that they give him the same shot at winning that the Lakers do now.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Brandon Ingram - F - New Orleans Pelicans

    ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Brandon Ingram is included in Saturday's Anthony Davis trade.

    Ingram will step right into a prominent role for the Pelicans, who have struggled to find production out of the small forward slot in recent years. His fantasy game still has plenty of holes but he should make a decent late-round flier if you're hunting for someone who can bring some points, rebounds and the occasional defensive stat. Be wary of his percentages, but a young, rebuilding squad with an eye on the long-term future is a nice spot for Ingram to land. Keep in mind that Ingram's season was cut short by deep vein thrombosis in his right arm, though he is expected to be ready for next season.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Lonzo Ball - G - New Orleans Pelicans

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Lonzo Ball will be headed to the Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis trade.

    Ball will be joined by Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks. There were reports last season that the Ball camp doesn't feel New Orleans is the best basketball fit for his career, though a pairing of Ball and Jrue Holiday would provide elite defense. With Ball presumably headed to a roster that will actually build around him rather than make him a role player, it's possible that he turns in a big bounce-back fantasy season. His health looms over everything, but a healthy Ball in a featured role could still deliver on all his pre-draft hype.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - Los Angeles Lakers

    The Pelicans have agreed to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 selection in next week's draft, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    This is the big domino to fall in what's expected to be a crazy offseason, and Davis heading to the Lakers will have a ripple effect that changes things drastically for numerous other teams. A Davis-LeBron James duo is about as good as it gets, and the Lakers have to be considered title contenders as they shift their attention to filling out the rest of the roster. They've now become one of the most attractive destinations for free agents and have to feel good about retaining Davis long-term, all while retaining Kyle Kuzma. New Orleans can start fresh around presumed top pick Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday, and it's possible that they dangle the No. 4 pick in the draft to help acquire a player that can provide immediate help to the roster. Getting three young players and three first-rounders is nice business for a team dealing a player who was hammering away at their leverage.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter