• OPPONENT: Utah Jazz

    RECORD: 30-28 (18-9 at home, on 11-game winning streak)

    MEASUREABLES: 106.0 offensive rating (13th), 103.9 defensive rating (sixth), 2.0 net rating (10th)

    PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Ricky Rubio, SG Donovan Mitchell, SF Joe Ingles, PF Derrick Favors, C Rudy Gobert

    INJURIES: Dante Exum (out indefinitely – shoulder surgery), Thabo Sefolosha (out for season – knee surgery)

    WHEN, WHERE, HOW TO WATCH: 9:00 EST, Vivint Smart Home Arena (Salt Lake City), NBC Sports Northwest/AT&T SportsNet

    The Utah Jazz boast a net rating comfortably better than the Portland Trail Blazers’. Friday’s game marks the beginning of a four-game homestand for Utah, which has the league’s ninth-easiet remaining schedule – compared to Portland’s sixth-hardest. The numbers geniuses at FiveThirtyEight give the Jazz, currently 10th-place in the Western Conference, an 87 percent chance of making the playoffs, 22 percent higher than they do the Blazers. Utah, winner of 11 straight, is just one and-a-half games behind the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans and two games behind seventh-place Portland.

    Friday’s game in Salt Lake City, needless to say, is the most important one the Blazers have played all season. Some will suggest that distinction could apply to each of Portland’s 24 remaining regular-season games, a tired trope that still applies given the overcrowded nature of the Western Conference middle class. Only two and-a-half games separate fifth from tenth in the standings, and the San Antonio Spurs, tied for third with the Minnesota Timberwolves, could perhaps be joining that capacity crowd given the season-long absence of Kawhi Leonard. The Blazers, 32-26, are just a single game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for ninth place despite going 16-10 – a 50-win pace over 82 games – since they fell to .500 on December 22. No team outside the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets is safe in the West.

    Utah should certainly be feeling good about their playoff chances, though, especially after waxing Portland 115-96 at Moda Center on February 11, both teams’ penultimate game before the All-Star break. The Jazz scored a whopping 72 points in the second half of that matchup, getting literally whatever they wanted or needed against the Blazers after intermission. They made 9-of-16 3-pointers and 17-of-19 from the free-throw line,  grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and had 12 fast-break points. Joe Ingles went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc in the second half, when Donovan Mitchell scored 21 of his 27 points – including 10 straight as Portland made a last-gasp comeback effort in the game’s final minutes.

    An inability to keep the ball out of the paint is what doomed the Blazers most during Utah’s utterly dominant second half. Ingles frustrated any defender that guarded him with ultra-patient probes, taking full advantage of Portland playing him for the pass by getting extra deep into the paint before kicking the ball out to the perimeter, where the Jazz kept moving it until they found an open shot. Mitchell and Royce O’Neale gave the Blazers similar issues, with the latter doing most of his playmaking damage by finding Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors for easy dump-offs in the paint.

    High hand-off action killed Portland. Gobert is both an excellent screen-setter and roll man, and forced rotations from weak-side helpers that yielded high-value looks like these.

    Most striking about the Jazz’s play on the other end was their comfort leaving Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu and Evan Turner beyond the 3-point line away from the ball. With Gobert , or even Ekpe Udoh, manning the middle and a plethora of long, active perimeter defenders, they’re hard enough to score on when forced to play “normal” help defense. But when Utah can get away with clogging the paint by having weak-side helpers cheating an extra two steps toward the ball, offense is even harder to come by for its opponents – especially Portland, a team so reliant on the dribble penetration of and overall offensive production of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

    The Jazz are at home, they’re rolling and they, at least over the past three weeks, have been a much better team than the Blazers. Can Lillard and company rise to the stakes and steal a crucial win on the road, steeling themselves for a frantic push toward the playoffs? We’ll find out tonight.

Fantasy News

  • Marcus Derrickson
    PF, Atlanta Hawks

    The Hawks signed Marcus Derrickson to an Exhibit 10 contract on Friday.

    It looks like Derrickson will be a G-League option for the Hawks, so there's nothing to see here. At one point he was competing for the last roster spot on the team. We don't need to keep of track of every computer-generated player.

    Source: Chris Vivlamore on Twitter

  • Marreese Speights
    C, Free Agent

    Marreese Speights will work out for the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype.

    Speights spent last year playing in China and will attempt his NBA comeback with the Lakers. who are in desperate need of an additional center. He is among three centers the Lakers are looking into, the others being Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah. Of those three, Speights unquestionably has the best floor spacing ability, which would be his strongest bet to eke out those other two for the job.

    Source: Alex Kennedy on Twitter

  • Trevor Booker
    PF, International

    Trevor Booker has worked out for the Nuggets and has workouts planned with the Bucks and Clippers, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.

    Booker was out of the NBA in 2018-19, spending the season in China after he didn't get any offers in free agency. He did return to the US to undergo a procedure on his foot but is apparently fully recovered. The last time we saw Booker he split 68 games between the Nets, Sixers and Pacers in 2017-18. If he does make a successful comeback he'll have no fantasy relevance.

    Source: Alex Kennedy on Twitter

  • John Henson
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    In a recent Q & A on Cleveland.com, beat writer Chris Fedor said that the Cavs are "excited" to have a healthy John Henson.

    Henson underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist last November and missed the rest of the season. He was limited to 14 games with Milwaukee before getting traded to the Cavs, averaging 5.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 13.4 minutes per game. The Cavs do have a crowded rotation at center with Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. all candidates to see minutes, but Henson gives them an element of rim protection and could factor in. He's a name to remember for deep-league owners hunting blocks.

    Source: Cleveland.com

  • Robert Covington
    SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Robert Covington (right knee bone bruise) will reportedly be "good to go" for the start of training camp in October.

    Well, this is good news that we didn't hope we would need. Covington played 35 games last year and couldn't get over the bone bruise injury that kept him out for a majority of the year. We expected him to be ready to go, and the fact that we're even discussing this is slightly less than ideal.

    Source: Dane Moore on Twitter

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Team USA has named Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and Donovan Mitchell as captains for the FIBA World Cup.

    Congratulations to Mitchell, Walker and Smart on the tremendous honor of being named captains for the USA men's team. This won't have any impact on their upcoming fantasy seasons, but it is a major accomplishment nonetheless. Team USA has an exhibition rematch against Team Australia on Saturday.

    Source: Boston.com Celtics News on Twitter

  • Isaiah Canaan
    PG, International

    Isaiah Canaan has signed a contract with the Shangdong Heroes of the Chinese Basketball Association.

    The veteran journeyman played for the Suns, Wolves and Bucks last season, appearing in 30 games total. Canaan will be looking at a more prominent role and payday overseas as he attempts to build his value back up before trying to latch on to a team towards the end of the year. Canaan is off the fantasy radar.

    Source: Zhang Duo on Twitter

  • Patty Mills
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Patty Mills put up 19 points, three assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers in Thursday's international exhibition between Team Australia and Team USA.

    The Boomers figure to be one of the chief threats to the Americans in the World Cup and put forth a competitive effort in today's exhibition. Mills has typically been a steady, late-round fantasy option for deep-league play but that may change this season as the Spurs will need to mix in both Derrick White and Dejounte Murray in the backcourt. Chris Goulding tied for the team lead in points, also scoring 19 while hitting four 3-pointers in 22 minutes off the bench.

  • Myles Turner
    C, Indiana Pacers

    Myles Turner put up 15 points and 14 rebounds in Thursday's exhibition win over Team Australia, shooting 6-of-8 from the floor with a 3-pointer.

    Turner didn't get any blocks but we know that last year's league-leader can rack those up in a hurry, whether he's getting them in international competition or not. Look for another early-middle round season out of the talented big man. Kemba Walker led Team USA with 23 points in the 102-86 win.

  • Trevon Bluiett
    PF, Utah Jazz

    Trevon Bluiett and Juwan Morgan sign with the Jazz in the hopes of one day playing in an NBA game.

    Bluiett was on a two-way contract with the Pelicans last season while Juwan Morgan played for the Jazz in the 2019 Summer League. They will both compete for a roster spot in training camp but neither is a guarantee to make the final roster. They both have yet to see the court in an NBA game and can be ignored from a fantasy perspective until that day comes.

    Source: Tony Jones on Twitter