February 14, 2018, 12:22 pm
OPPONENT: Golden State Warriors
RECORD: 44-13 (22-6 on road, 7-3 last 10 games)
MEASUREABLES: 113.8 offensive rating (first), 103.4 defensive rating (fifth), +10.4 net rating (first)
WHEN, WHERE, HOW TO WATCH: 10:30 EST, Moda Center (Portland), ESPN
Steve Kerr didn’t coach the Golden State Warriors in their 129-83 thrashing of the Phoenix Suns on Monday. Instead, the fastest-winning coach in NBA history left the all-day duties normally undertaken by he and his staff to the players.
“It had to do with me trying to reach my team and I have not reached them the last month,” Kerr said of his justification for letting Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and others run the team from shootaround on Monday morning until the final buzzer sounded later that night. “They’re tired of my voice. I’m tired of my voice. I wasn’t reaching them so we figured this was a good night to pull something out of the hat and do something different.”
“Just having to count on each other and not having to hear my voice – and this sort of sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, parents, whoever’s voice that is – at this point, that’s what I sound like to them,” he continued. “They needed a different voice.”
It’s indicative of Golden State’s ironclad place atop the NBA that Kerr felt the need to think so far outside the box with his team on a 63-win pace. But even a former player who understands the unique mental rigors of competing for a championship on a season-by-season basis better than most was clearly fed up with the Warriors’ midseason malaise, and perhaps rightfully so.
Golden State is 8-4 since January 13, when Steph Curry returned from a two-game absence to get his balky right ankle some much-needed rest, with road losses to the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets, plus a loss at Oracle Arena to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Those teams are very good, obviously, and only getting better. The Warriors’ recent losses, in a vacuum, aren’t anything to be concerned about. Process matters to every team in the NBA, though, and especially one hoping to reach its fourth straight NBA Finals, fighting the lethargy of another 82-game grind before their real season begins in April.
Losing 129-99 to Utah matters more than a regular loss, then, just like the 125-105 defeat at hand of Oklahoma City does. Golden State’s defensive rating since Curry came back for good is 105.4, per NBA.com/stats, comfortably above its fifth-ranked season-long mark, but hardly cause for alarm. What could be, and certainly seems to register as such for Kerr, is his team’s 115.4 defensive rating in losses over the same stretch of play. The Phoenix Suns have the league’s worst defensive rating, at 110.6.
The Warriors, at full-strength, know they can count on outscoring the opposition to win games, a reality that’s reared its ugly head more over the past month of play than perhaps any other time since Kerr took the reins in 2014. Will taking a step back and allowing the players to coach themselves squash that tendency before it becomes an actual problem? Unfortunately for the Portland Trail Blazers, they’re the ones tasked with finding out first.
If Golden State has a weakness Portland doesn’t, it’s bench play. The Warriors are famously last in 3-pointers made by reserves this season, and haven’t received the type of nightly contributions they’ve come to expect from Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, nor the development they wanted from Patrick McCaw. Kerr recently hasn’t been able to rely on dynamic rookie big man Jordan Bell, who suffered a nasty sprained ankle last month, to give his team a jolt when needed, either. Terry Stotts’ bench is more volatile, but needs to be at its best on Wednesday for the Blazers to defend home court.
The scheduling circumstances could benefit Portland. Golden State is sending four players to Los Angeles for this weekend’s All-Star festivities, while not even Zach Collins, eligible for the Rising Stars Challenge as a rookie, is joining Damian Lillard in Southern California. The Blazers need this game, too, while the Warriors are virtually assured of finishing with one of the league’s two best records. Might those contrasts play in Portland’s on the court? It’s possible, but Kerr’s gambit is likely to have his team focused before it resumes the chase for a third championship in four years after the All-Star break.
These teams know each other well. The Warriors will readily switch to prevent Lillard, scorching hot of late, and C.J. McCollum from getting space, and cheat an extra step off inconsistent shooters as the game’s intensity increases. The Blazers will use a similar strategy to keep Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant in check, walling off the paint and sprinting to the arc to goad mid-range jumpers. Golden State will try to push the pace, and Portland will try to slow it down.
This would be a massive win for the Blazers – the kind that could reignite any momentum still lingering from their impressive span of seven wins in eight games to finish January. But the Warriors aren’t the Suns, Dallas Mavericks or even Minnesota Timberwolves. They’re a different animal than any team in basketball, and Kerr very well might have them inspired heading into Wednesday night.
For Portland’s sake, let’s hope not.
July 11, 2020, 5:19 pmPJ TuckerSF, Houston Rockets
P.J. Tucker managed top-125/105 value (8/9-cat) in 2019-20, but found a new position over the course of the season.
Tucker was unable to repeat the middle-round success of 2018-19, largely because his 3-pointers fell from 1.8 to 1.5 per game and his steals plummeted from 1.6 to 1.1, but he did regain some juice as Houston's small-ball center of choice. Tucker hit the skids in the winter and was outside the top-200 for a stretch, but was able to rebound by finishing around the top-100 in the month of February. Though PJT will never be an offensive focal point, he did snag a career-high 6.9 rebounds per contest and offers up enough cash counters to keep fantasy GMs happy.
July 11, 2020, 5:15 pmDanuel HousePF, Houston Rockets
Danuel House averaged 10.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.9 3-pointers in 30.0 mpg on his way to top-135/105 (8/9-cat) value in 2019-20.
House was a solid contributor for the injured Rockets in 2018-19 but ended up wasting away in the G League down the stretch due to contract issues. There were no such problems this year and House was able to emerge as one of the trusted few in Mike D'Antoni's rotation. Minutes are plentiful on a team that plays as few as eight players on a given night, and House clearly has the stat set to pump out late-middle round value thanks to the steady flow of cash counters. He has the looks of a nice glue guy in fantasy going forward, and shouldn't cost you much in terms of ADP. House cemented his place in the NBA, and on fantasy rosters, with a breakout campaign.
July 11, 2020, 5:09 pmEric GordonSG, Houston Rockets
Eric Gordon had a nightmare season in 2019-20, shooting poorly out of the gate and then missing almost two months due to knee surgery.
When the fantasy season stopped Gordon was averaging 14.5 points and 2.7 threes (good) on .370 from the field and .319 from deep (horrid). While Houston's play style will always put Gordon on the map as a points and threes specialist, his stat set can't weather many setbacks. Gordon fell from 3.2 3-pointers per game in each of the previous two seasons, and he ended up as a top-235 fantasy option. When you only contribute in two fantasy categories, you're on thin ice from the start. Gordon figures to be a key player for the Rockets in Orlando, and hopefully the time off has helped him get back to full strength. Gordon will likely be a late-round selection in next season's fantasy drafts but this ugly output is a reminder of what can happen when a few things go wrong with such a thin fantasy profile.
July 11, 2020, 4:25 pmBen McLemoreSG, Houston Rockets
Ben McLemore surprised in 2019-20, posting top-220/200 (8/9-cat) fantasy value and becoming a solid member of the Rockets' rotation.
McLemore looked to be on his way out of the league but took full advantage of his opportunity in Houston. He stepped up when the Rockets were missing players and managed 9.8 points, 0.6 steals and 2.4 triples in 22.8 mpg, shooting a respectable .445 from the field. His value going forward will hinge on that percentage, as McLemore had never shot better than .430 in a season until this year. McLemore should always have juice as a 3-point streamer in Houston, but in terms of full-season appeal he's still only a deep-league option going forward.
July 11, 2020, 4:22 pmKelly Oubre Jr.SF, Phoenix Suns
While Kelly Oubre (torn right meniscus) has been doing "a little" of the on-court work in Orlando, most of his efforts have been on rehab efforts.
Oubre was initially reported as out for the Orlando restart, though in the last few weeks the Suns have refused to close the door on him playing. The team has poor playoff odds but may see some benefits in getting their full roster some additional reps in, as well as a return simply acting as a reward for Oubre diligently completing a long rehab stint. Fantasy players might not want to make KO a priority in resumption drafts but it's hard to write him off completely until we know his official status. For what it's worth, Monty Williams says that Oubre has his bounce and looks great.
Source: Kellan Olson on Twitter
July 11, 2020, 4:01 pmAustin RiversPG, Houston Rockets
Austin Rivers delivered top-285/270 (8/9-cat) fantasy value in 2019-20, operating as one of the eight consistent members of Houston's rotation.
Rivers bounced back as a deep threat, hitting 35.8% of his long bombs this year after shooting 31.8% in 2018-19, but differences in volume meant his overall output stayed put at 1.4 triples per contest. While Rivers did manage a big season in his last with the Clippers, that was mostly a factor of the team's huge injury list. Two years removed from those favorable circumstances and it's clear that Rivers shouldn't be viewed as much more than a streaming option when Houston's big dogs aren't playing.
July 11, 2020, 3:41 pmJeff GreenSF, Houston Rockets
Jeff Green turned his season around after signing with the Rockets and ended up delivering top-275 fantasy value.
Green signed with the Jazz in the offseason but struggled mightily, shooting a ghastly .385 from the field, and eventually fell out of the rotation. He saw a quick renaissance in Houston, hitting an absurd 62.1% of his shots across 10 games, also chipping in 10.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.4 triples in 20.1 mpg. That's certainly more than should be expected moving forward but Green fits the Rockets as a capable defensive power forward who can shift down to center in their uber-small lineups. Green's season was a tale of two halves, certainly, but there shouldn't be much excitement about his fantasy potential in the coming years. When the percentages return to normal he'll struggle to keep afloat in 20-team formats.
July 11, 2020, 3:36 pmDavid NwabaSF, Houston Rockets
David Nwaba was a helpful member of the Nets' rotation before tearing his right Achilles in December.
Nwaba brings the sort of hard-nosed play that Kenny Atkinson liked to see, so it was no surprise that he earned regular playing time. Though he hasn't been much of a shooter throughout his career, Nwaba did knock down 0.6 triples per contest on .429 from deep, offering some promise going forward. Most of his fantasy value, top-310/290 (8/9-cat), was brought about by a .521 mark from the field plus 0.6 steals and 0.6 blocks in 13.4 mpg. Nwaba signed with the Rockets and should help lengthen their bench next season as a versatile defender. If he can get minutes in the teens, he'll be on the deep-league radar as a defensive specialist.
July 11, 2020, 3:19 pmIsaiah HartensteinPF, Houston Rockets
Isaiah Hartenstein couldn't gain traction at the NBA level, delivering fantasy value just outside top-300, despite another big campaign in the G League.
Hartenstein averaged 24.9 points, 14.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 threes while shooting .587 for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers but could only muster 11.6 mpg in 23 games with the Rockets. Even when Clint Capela went down with his heel injury Houston opted to run with no centers rather than elevate the young German. While Hartenstein was released in June, he shouldn't have a shortage of suitors. Deep dynasty GMs can keep tracking his progress, and a change of scenery might not be a bad thing for Hartenstein's prospects of playing time.
July 11, 2020, 3:15 pmThabo SefoloshaSF, Houston Rockets
Thabo Sefolosha closed the book on his 2019-20 season with top-375/355 value (8/9-cat).
Sefolosha will not be participating in the league's restart, so anyone playing fantasy games for the rest of this year can ignore him completely. The defensive stopper used to be a sneaky top-175 option because of his steals, blocks and rebounds, but Sefolosha is mostly emergency depth at this point in his career. He averaged 10.6 minutes in 41 games this season, though deep-league streamers may have found some utility in his 0.6 steals and 0.3 blocks. Sefolosha isn't a fantasy option to pursue going forward.