February 26, 2018, 3:26 pm
With 19 games left to go in the season, the Wolves continue to hang onto their playoff spot by a slim margin. As of now only 3.5 games separate the Wolves from playing deep into April or getting an early start to their summer festivities.
As such, each and every game matters from here on out. All the tie breakers the Wolves managed to wrap up early in the season, when they were playing at their peak levels, are looking more attractive by the day. On this road trip alone the Wolves can seal up two more advantages with wins over the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers.
First off, though, they can’t overlook the Sacramento Kings. This can be a trap game, of sorts, with two division rivals looming and a chance to get some wiggle room in the standings. It would be a mistake for the Wolves to take anything for granted against the Kings, despite the circumstances.
The Kings are one of six teams with just 18 wins on the season. They are in the chase for the best position in the draft lottery and have been among the worst teams in the NBA this season, ranking 29th in defensive rating and 30th in offensive rating.
Given all of that, these Kings took the Wolves down to the wire in Minneapolis just before the break. This time around without Jimmy Butler and on the road, things likely won’t be any easier.
Now that the Kings are relatively healthy, they seem committed to playing their young pieces more often and easing off a veteran player, or two, per night. Typically, depending on the veteran Head Coach Dave Joerger decides to sit, the Kings are a bit better off anyway with their young guys running the show.
Bogdan Bogdanovic proved to the basketball world that he is a player to be focused on after a spectacular performance in the Rising Stars over the All-Star break. Buddy Hield reminded everyone of his shooting prowess in that same game as well.
Willie Cauley-Stein has been a good defender all season and is beginning to come around offensively, while De’Aaron Fox shows flashes of his huge potential. Skal Labissiere is healthy now as well and has the tools to become a solid piece.
Many young teams struggle with typical growing pains and simple, correctable errors, and the Kings are no different. Even without Butler and on the road, the Wolves have a number of advantages around the court to be able to come out on top in the end. It will just be a matter of keeping their focus and some consistent defense.
Two gunners off the bench who play defense when it suits them, this matchup has the potential for some fireworks. Each team needs their sixth-man to provide major lifts off the bench and prop up the second unit scoring.
With Butler out and Bjelica shifting into the starting lineup, the Wolves’ bench loses some firepower, giving Crawford more free-roam to let it fly. Last time out, the first game without Butler, Crawford attempted eight 3-pointers, double his season average. Over his last six games, Crawford is taking six per game and making them at a 43 percent clip.
The Wolves need every bit of that offense as long as Butler remains out.
On the other side, the Kings look for Hield to give some punch to a second unit that relies more on an interior presence. Buddy is shooting 43.3 percent from 3-point range on the season, leading the team in both takes and makes.
He’s a talented scorer from all over the floor, but is particularly dangerous from deep. With Crawford likely drawing the assignment, it could mean another big game for Buddy Buckets. The Wolves have struggled with these types of players coming off the bench and torching them, from Lou Williams, to Wayne Ellington and Troy Daniels, among others.
If Hield’s shooting is a factor throughout the game, and the Kings manage to keep it close late, the task could turn to Andrew Wiggins to slow down Buddy. Wigs was able to slow down LaVine the other night, and will have to fill Butler’s shoes in becoming the defensive stopper going forward.
Jeff Teague – PG
Andrew Wiggins – SG
Nemanja Bjelica – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
De’Aaron Fox – PG
Bogdan Bogdanovic – SG
Justin Jackson – SF
Skal Labissiere – PF
Willie Cauley-Stein – C
Jimmy Butler (knee) – OUT
Harry Giles (rehab) – OUT
Iman Shumpert (knee) – OUT
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
When: 10:00 ET/9:00 CT
How: Fox Sports North
July 3, 2020, 4:35 pmDarius MillerSF, New Orleans Pelicans
Darius Miller is unsure if he will be able to play in Orlando, as he continues to recover from a torn a ruptured right Achillies.
Due to the lockdown, Miller has been unable to participate in any live-action, or else he would have played in 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 by now. At this point, it would be surprising for the Pelicans to risk his health by pushing for him to participate in the eight-game regular season.
Source: Will Guillory on Twitter
July 3, 2020, 4:26 pmJJ RedickSG, New Orleans Pelicans
J.J. Redick has intentionally lost 10 pounds since the quarantine began.
Redick's goal was to get back to his playing weight during his college days at Duke, and it's not a surprise that one of the most dedicated workers in the league was able to drop weight during the coronavirus pandemic. Redick's shooting will be sorely needed when the Pelicans try to chase down the Grizzlies for a playoff spot, but if he does not come out of the gates making an impact the Pelicans are likely to shift to another hot hand on their deep roster. Redick has only seen 26.4 minutes per game this season, and that is going to limit his impact to strictly 3-pointers (2.9 per game).
Source: Daniel Sallerson on Twitter
July 3, 2020, 4:14 pmTyler HerroPG, Miami Heat
Tyler Herro said the time off allowed his right ankle to fully recover.
Herro returned to action just before the shutdown due to COVID-19. With the ankle back to 100 percent, he will face no restrictions when play picks back up in Orlando. While Herro's scoring prowess caused some increased expectations for his rookie season, he's largely been an afterthought for the Heat. He can clearly shoot the rock (2.1 treys on .391 shooting), but the rest of his game is lacking, and the Heat do not have time to devote to rookie development when the season resumes.
Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter
July 3, 2020, 4:08 pmKent BazemoreSG, Sacramento Kings
Kent Bazemore, who has been a welcomed presence since joining the Kings in January, reiterated that he'd like to stay with the team.
Bazemore had a lot of opportunity before him when the Blazers were faltering due to injuries at the start of the season and he failed to take advantage. However, a change of scenery made a significant difference, as his field goal percentage leaped from .347 with the Blazers, to .426 with the Kings, and his scoring also increased from 7.9 points to 10.3 points per contest. He sounds locked in as the Kings prepare for the Orlando bubble, but a healthy Kings' roster could handicap his opportunity for playing time when things start back up.
Source: James Ham on Twitter
July 3, 2020, 3:57 pmVictor OladipoSG, Indiana Pacers
Shams Charania is reporting that Victor Oladipo will sit out the remainder of the Pacers' season.
Oladipo decided to exercise caution as his quad tendon is still susceptible to a relapse, and the circumstances of the Orlando bubble are anything but predictable. It's a big hit to the Pacers chances when play resumes, but Oladipo should be close to 100 percent next year as he continues his rehab and seeks to further strengthen his quad tendon. This season was a flop as he only appeared in 13 games, but Oladipo should be looking to return fully recovered and seeking early-round value next year. The Pacers will continue leaning on their depth to fill the void, and Malcolm Brogdon will continue to be the lead guard running the show in Indiana.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
July 3, 2020, 3:48 pmJimmy ButlerSG, Miami Heat
After a second member of the Heat tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, the team practice facilities have been closed to all activities, with an exception for testing.
Derrick Jones Jr. had tested positive earlier in the week, and it has not been reported who the latest player to test positive for the coronavirus is. This is a precautionary measure that many teams are undertaking as they prepare to shift operations to the Orlando bubble. The Heat will resume team activities there on July 8.
Source: Ethan J Skolnick on Twitter
July 3, 2020, 2:38 pmGordon HaywardSF, Boston Celtics
Both Gordon Hayward and Vincent Poirier plan to leave the NBA bubble in September, when their respective partners are set to give birth.
Both are expected to be given permission to leave the bubble and will be able to return after a four-day quarantine. If the league's plans play out, September will be right in the thick of the playoffs, so it's unfortunate timing for the team even though it's the right decision for Hayward. It's something to keep in mind if you're planning to play fantasy games through the postseason.
Source: The Athletic
July 2, 2020, 9:02 pmKawhi LeonardSF, Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers closed their practice facility in a precautionary move after a member of their Orlando traveling party tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
This seems like something that will continue to happen as we prepare to move teams into the Orlando bubble. We'll keep an eye on whether any specific player is infected and how that will impact the restart plans for this team.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
July 2, 2020, 4:49 pmStephen CurryPG, Golden State Warriors
According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, the NBA is close to signing off on a secondary bubble location in Chicago for the eight teams left out of the league resumption with a target date of September.
They went on to say that this bubble would allow those eight teams who were not invited to Orlando to have an opportunity to have mini-training camps as well as games. It has been reported throughout the last few months that the teams that were not invited should have an opportunity to prepare for next season. Many of the teams who were not included would benefit greatly from additional practice time and game reps as most of these teams have young players who need to continue to develop their skills. There will still be a lot of logistics that need to be ironed out so this a situation to monitor as we learn more.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
July 2, 2020, 4:01 pmMarvin Bagley IIIPF, Sacramento Kings
Marvin Bagley confirmed that he is "ready to go" for the NBA restart in Orlando after rehabbing from a left foot sprain.
It was previously reported in early July that the Kings' training staff believed that Bagley would be available for game action soon and this report confirms that Bagley will in fact be available for the league resumption. Bagley has yet to live up to the hype of the second overall pick in 2018 as he has only been able to play in 75 out of a possible 146 games (51.3 percent). It is unclear what role Bagley will have in Orlando but it appears that his injury woes are behind him and we will learn more about his ability during the league resumption. Bagley's return would likely cut into the playing time of Nemanja Bjelica, Harry Giles, Jabari Parker and Harrison Barnes.
Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter