• 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)

    PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Stephen Curry, SG Klay Thompson, SF Kevin Durant, PF Draymond Green, C Zaza Pachulia

    INJURIES, ABSENCES: Green (probable – finger), Patrick McCaw (doubtful – wrist), Jordan Bell (out – ankle)

    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.

Fantasy News

  • Nikola Vucevic
    C, Orlando Magic

    In an interview Wednesday, Magic head coach Steve Clifford said he could see Nikola Vucevic improving across all areas of his game, and echoing his player's belief that he is in his prime.

    One of the areas Clifford thought Vucevic could improve upon was his 3-point shooting percentage, and also seemed to indicate that he could contonue to up his play on defense. He's unquestionably solidified himself as the anchor of this team, and the Magic as a whole are likely eyeing to improve upon their momentum as a rising young playoff team in an Eastern Conference that looks pretty weak after the top four to five teams. Expect Vucevic to produce safe second-round value this season.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Deandre Ayton
    C, Phoenix Suns

    Suns General Manager James Jones said in a recent interview that Deandre Ayton is capable of playing PF if needed.

    One could chalk this up to either Ayton continuing his development in becoming a more dynamic offensive player, or the Suns covering up for the lack of depth on their roster at PF. In reality it's likley a mix of both, and is a positive for Ayton's value heading into this season. If he does end up spending meaningful time at the four, it would not bode well for the value of Dario Saric, who is already barely going at the end of drafts in 9-cat leagues.

    Source: NBA.com

  • DeMarcus Cousins
    C, Los Angeles Lakers

    The Lakers have been granted a $1.75 million Disabled Player Exception for DeMarcus Cousins (torn left ACL).

    This now officially rules DeMarcus Cousins out for the season. The Lakers will now have the ability to go out and acquire a player that will in all likelihood occupy the end of their bench. Because they signed Dwight Howard, using this cap space on a center isn't necessarily as big a priority as it once was when Cousins initially went down.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Mohamed Bamba
    C, Orlando Magic

    Mo Bamba will enter training camp second on the depth chart behind Nikola Vučević.

    Head coach of the Magic, Steve Clifford, told a reporter that he plans on having Bamba as his primary backup center while Khem Birch will be third on the depth chart. The Magic also have Vučević, who was re-signed in the offseason to a four-year, $100M contract. As long as Bamba is backing up Vučević, his fantasy ceiling is capped outside of standard redraft leagues.

    Source: NBA

  • Nerlens Noel
    C, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Brett Dawson of The Athletic believes that Nerlens Noel could see a slight bump in minutes if the Thunder limit Steven Adams' usage.

    Noel is a great per-minute producer of steals and blocks but only appeared in 13.7 minutes per contest last season. Additional playing time would make him more useful in deeper leagues.

    Source: Brett Dawson of The Athletic

  • Joel Embiid
    C, Philadelphia Sixers

    In a video, Joel Embiid announced that he lost about 25 pounds over the summer.

    Embiid is one of the best fantasy players around but has struggled at times with conditioning. The Sixers will gladly accept any improvements from last season's averages of 27.5 points and 13.6 rebounds.

    Source: NBC Sports

  • TJ Warren
    SF, Indiana Pacers

    According to Pacers beat writer Scott Agness, Pacers forward T.J. Warren has no injury worries heading into the season.

    Warren has missed 56 games during the last two seasons, but he hopes to stay healthy for all of 2019-20. Warren is likely to start for the Pacers and could hold top-100 value if he can stay on the court.

    Source: Scott Agness on Twitter

  • Damian Lillard
    PG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard expects to play for Team USA during next year's Summer Olympics.

    Lillard skipped this year's World Cup but is planning to play in Tokyo. He should be a late first-round or early second-round fantasy pick this year.

    Source: news.com.au

  • Stephen Curry
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    Warriors guard Stephen Curry expects to play at next year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

    Curry will have a busy year ahead of him. Still, it's no surprise that many potential members of Team USA skipped this year's FIBA World Cup in favor of an Olympics appearance. Curry will be a popular early first-round pick in fantasy drafts.

    Source: ESPN

  • Isaiah Thomas
    PG, Washington Wizards

    Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left thumb.

    This is rough news for the Wizards, who already have John Wall on the shelf. Thomas was a candidate to start at point guard, but instead he'll have to recover from yet another injury. Thomas averaged 8.1 points and 1.9 assists in limited action for the Nuggets last campaign.

    Source: Washington Wizards on Twitter