• OPPONENT: Chicago Bulls

    RECORD: 18-32 (7-18 on road, 4-6 last 10 games)

    MEASURABLES: 101.6 offensive rating (29th), 107.8 defensive rating (24th), -6.1 net rating (28th)

    PROJECTED STARTERS: PG Jerian Grant, SG Zach LaVine, SF Justin Holiday, PF Nikola Mirotic, C Robin Lopez

    INJURIES: Mirotic (lower leg – questionable), Kris Dunn (concussion – out), Lauri Markkanen (personal reasons – out), Cameron Payne (right foot – out)

    WHEN, WHERE, HOW TO WATCH: 10:30 EST, Moda Center (Portland), NBC Sports Northwest/WGN-TV

    The Chicago Bulls team that takes the floor at Moda Center on Wednesday night will look much different than the one that took the league by storm last month.

    Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen have wildly outperformed expectations this season to emerge as the type of building blocks that give the Bulls optimism in year one of an arduous rebuild. Dunn is markedly improved as a sophomore, cementing his status as one of the league’s most disruptive young perimeter defenders while exhibiting far more confidence with the ball in his hands – whether as a shooter, penetrator or playmaker for others. Markkanen, with his lightning-quick release from deep and underrated off-dribble verve, has likewise been one of the keys to unlocking the innovative offensive principles that made Fred Hoiberg such a sought-after commodity before his disastrous first season in Chicago.

    Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo are gone, thankfully, but so are Dunn and Markkanen – or at least they will be on Wednesday. Their absence is a major boon for the Portland Trail Blazers, who have won six of seven following last night’s road victory over the depleted Los Angeles Clippers and are suddenly closer to garnering home-court advantage than falling out of the playoffs altogether. Portland enters Wednesday’s action at 28-22, sixth in the West, two games games behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for fourth and three games ahead of the ninth-place Clippers. Needless to say, a fourth straight win would be huge for the Blazers ahead of a brutal three-game road trip beginning on Friday that pits them against the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Blake Griffin‘s Detroit Pistons.

    Getting it, despite a late-night flight from southern California to northwest Oregon, shouldn’t be too tall a task for Portland. Jerian Grant is a solid defender at point guard with the size to bother Lillard, but is essentially a less dynamic version of Dunn on both ends of the floor. Zach LaVine, who just debuted earlier this month after ACL surgery a year ago, will be his team’s primary offensive option with Dunn and Markkanen sidelined, but has struggled mightily over the past two games, going 5-of-28 from the field while Hoiberg experimented with lineups that made him the Bulls’ lead ball handler.

    “When Jerian’s not on the floor, I had been trying to use Zach at point guard,” Hoiberg told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday. “But it’s hard to try to teach him two positions when he’s just coming back into the fold.”

    Unlike most teams, the Bulls don’t have a rangy wing who can punish Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum or Shabazz Napier in the post. This is a perfect game for Terry Stotts to rely more on his vaunted three-guard lineup than normal if circumstances of time and score deem doing so appropriate. Without Dunn, bulldog reserve guard David Nwaba is the only player Hoiberg can trust to make life hard on Lillard and McCollum. Expect the Blazers to test LaVine’s mettle as on off-ball defender early, running McCollum through a maze of screens in hopes of freeing him for easy looks. Denzel Valentine, who has really come into his own this season, is also overmatched checking Portland’s star guards. Lillard and McCollum could have a field day.

    Assuming Portland continues to play well offensively, a big game from Nikola Mirotic is probably the Bulls’ best means of pulling off an upset. But he’s questionable with a lower leg injury, and could be reeling mentally from Chicago’s attempt to trade him to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday – a deal that multiple sources once confirmed was finished. Mirotic isn’t quite setting nets ablaze like he did a month ago, either, just like Bobby Portis, the other half of the Bulls one-two punch that proved so impactful last month. The success of Mirotic and Portis against Zach Collins and Ed Davis, their reserve frontcourt counterparts, will prove instrumental to Chicago staying competitive.

    No game on the schedule can be checked off as a win in the NBA, and the pitfalls of the latter half of a back-to-back could certainly affect the Blazers on Wednesday night. But Chicago is extremely short-handed, while Portland, full-strength, is playing its best basketball of the season. A victory for the home team shouldn’t only be expected, but should come with ease that allows the Blazers some much-needed room to breathe before facing Toronto on Friday.

Fantasy News

  • Lonzo Ball
    PG, New Orleans Pelicans

    Lonzo Ball is likely to return to action on Saturday against the Heat.

    Brandon Ingram is set to get an MRI on his knee tomorrow and Lonzo Ball should make his return on Saturday. This pushes J.J. Redick to the bench and Ingram's results will have effects on Kenrich Williams,, Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor's fantasy value.

    Source: Andrew Lopez on Twitter

  • Harry Giles III
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    Luke Walton said Harry Giles won't have a minutes restriction on Tuesday.

    Keep in mind that this doesn't mean that Giles will suddenly get 30 minutes as he's never played over 23 minutes in a game in his career. With Marvin Bagley out, there's at least a chance that Giles will get regular minutes soon.

    Source: Lina Washington on Twitter

  • Paul George
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Doc Rivers said he doesn't know if Paul George (right rotator cuff and left labrum tear) will play on Wednesday.

    If George does not debut on Wednesday, he'll have another chance on Thursday. He's a must-start once he plays, but his minutes may start low and he could be resting often.

    Source: Mark Medina on Twitter

  • Daniel Theis
    PF, Boston Celtics

    Daniel Theis made 4-of-4 shots from the field on Monday for 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block.

    Theis should eventually see his minutes dip to below the 20-minute mark (22 tonight) as Enes Kanter works himself into mid-season form. Robert Williams was far less thrilling in fantasy tonight with six points, thre rebounds, one block and one assist in 17 minutes.

  • Marcus Smart
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Marcus Smart posted 17 points (6-of-9 FGs, 4-of-7 3-pointers), one rebound, six assists and one block in Monday's over the Mavs.

    Smart will be seeing extended run as a starter for the Celtics while Gordon Hayward (fractured hand) is on the mend. He's a strong source, of assists, steals and some threes, ticking most of the boxes you want out of your fantasy team's secondary point guard.

  • Troy Daniels
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Troy Daniels (left knee injury) is listed as questionable for Tuesday's game against the Suns after the results of his MRI came back negative.

    Daniels is considered day-to-day, so watch the news tomorrow if you happen to have Daniels in a very deep league.

    Source: Dave McMenamin on Twitter

  • Jaylen Brown
    SG, Boston Celtics

    Jaylen Brown scored 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting with 11 rebounds, three assists and two threes in Monday's win over the Mavs.

    Brown is picking up steam, with this gem following a 30-point outing on Saturday. He's someone who should see a nice uptick in the absence of Gordon Hayward (fractured left hand), so lines like this might be commonplace pretty soon.

  • Jayson Tatum
    SF, Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum was off his game on offense in Monday's 116-106 win over the Mavs, going 1-for-18 from the field to end the night with five points, eight rebounds, four assists and one steal.

    Tatum has been steady prior to this stinker and has earned enough trust for us to give him a pass. It's just variance. Nothing serious. Expect a better version of him taking the court in the next one.

  • Enes Kanter
    C, Boston Celtics

    Enes Kanter (left knee contusion) made his return on Monday and quietly put up two points and three rebounds in six minutes off the bench.

    Kanter is being brought back slowly, which is understandable. He should steadily ramp up his minutes and production as he gets his legs back and should settle into a top-100 big man for his points, rebounds, FG% and low TOs.

  • Luka Doncic
    PG-SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Luka Doncic provided another great performance in a 116-106 loss in Boston on Monday, putting up a game-high 34 points (11-for-21 FGs, 9-for-10 FTs), six rebounds, nine assists and three -3-pointers in 34 minutes.

    The Celtics were able to keep Kristaps Porzingis to just one field goal, but Doncic flourished even against tough defense on the road tonight. Luka is currently 4th/8th (8-cat/9-cat) on the player rater, which is a far cry from last season's 53/100.