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    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.

    Key Matchup:

    Jamal Crawford vs. Buddy Hield

    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.

    Lineups:

    Jeff Teague – PG

    Andrew Wiggins – SG

    Nemanja Bjelica – SF

    Taj Gibson – PF

    Karl-Anthony Towns – C

    vs.

    De’Aaron Fox – PG

    Bogdan Bogdanovic – SG

    Justin Jackson – SF

    Skal Labissiere – PF

    Willie Cauley-Stein – C

    Injuries:

    Jimmy Butler (knee) – OUT

    Harry Giles (rehab) – OUT

    Iman Shumpert (knee) – OUT

    Media:

    Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA

    When: 10:00 ET/9:00 CT

    How: Fox Sports North

Fantasy News

  • Paul Millsap
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are all candidates for "load management" next season, according to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic

    This is pure speculation by Kosmider, but this does hold some weight after the Nuggets' playoff run last season and the league-wide popularity of resting players. Millsap would seem to be at the most significant risk to get rested due to his age and quality of depth behind him. Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee would be the biggest beneficiaries should Jokic or Millsap miss time.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Thabo Sefolosha
    SF, Utah Jazz

    Thabo Sefolosha is among the attendees at Rockets minicamp in Las Vegas with a host of other notable free agents this week.

    Sefolosha will be joined by the likes of Nick Young, Luc Mbah a Moute, Raymond Felton, Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer. The odds of someone making the Rockets' roster increased with Iman Shumpert declining an offer sheet from the team.

    Source: Kelly Iko on Twitter

  • Iman Shumpert
    SG, Free Agent

    Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Iman Shumpert has decided to decline the contract offer from the Rockets and will not attend team minicamp in Las Vegas this week.

    It'll be back to the drawing board for Shumpert. It's unsure exactly where he'll end up now, or if he and the Rockets will come to a new agreement in the future. Shump can get steals and threes, but otherwise isn't much of a fantasy asset, unless he finds himself in an ideal situation.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    After an extraordinary summer of 2019, which saw a cavalcade of stars change teams, executives around the league expect that this year’s transaction wires will be dominated by the trade market.

    “We’ve been getting calls all summer,” one general manager said. “I think if you look at the market, there is going to be a very robust trade market this winter for a few reasons.” The big driver figures to be the open, empty crater that the 2020 free-agent class has become. Teams hoping to make significant changes in their direction won’t have free agency to lean on and trades will be the only way to go. If you enjoyed the twist and turns that came with the very busy NBA free-agency period this summer, then buckle up as the trade market means more could be on the way this season.

    Source: Sean Deveney on Twitter

  • Michael Beasley
    PF, Free Agent

    The Shanxi Loongs of the Chinese Basketball Association are trying to bring Michael Beasley back to China.

    Beasley agreed to terms with the Pistons last month but he never officially signed with them as the team opted to go with Joe Johnson instead. Beasley has already played in China with Shanghai, Shandong and last year with Guangdong averaging 22.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

    Source: Sportando

  • Justin Simon
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Former St. John’s guard Justin Simon has signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Bulls.

    Simon is 6’5” and went undrafted out of St. John’s, where he averaged 10.4 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, while also being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The Bulls currently have 14 players on guaranteed contracts with guard Shaquille Harrison all but locked in to the 15th and final one, so that means Simon is likely headed to the Windy City Bulls of the G League.

    Source: Adam Zagora on Twitter

  • Mychal Mulder
    PG, Miami Heat

    The Heat have announced the signing of guard Mychal Mulder.

    Mulder played last season with the Windy City Bulls of the G-League and averaged 8.8 points in Summer League this year. He has good range but is unlikely to contribute much at the NBA level in 2019-20.

    Source: Miami Heat

  • Vincent Poirier
    C, Boston Celtics

    Nicolas Batum praised the play of Celtics center Vincent Poirier at the FIBA World Cup.

    According to Batum, Poirier "is a center that can block shots and control the paint." A native of France, Poirier has performed well over six seasons in Europe. Nevertheless, he should only be a depth option for the Celtics with Enes Kanter starting.

    Source: NBC Sports Boston

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Zach LaVine has been fine tuning his playmaking skills in the offseason, according to an interview with FanSided.

    LaVine enjoyed the best field goal percentage of his career for the Bulls last season. He also scored a career best 23.7 points per game. However, LaVine averaged 3.4 turnovers and his fantasy value will increase if he can take better care of the ball.

    Source: FanSided

  • Tyler Herro
    PG, Miami Heat

    According to Ira Winderman, rookie Tyler Herro is unlikely to start for the Heat at the beginning of the season.

    The Heat drafted Herro out of Kentucky with the 13th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. Dion Waiters should be the primary shooting guard at the outset. However, expect Herro to get plenty of opportunities to contribute.

    Source: Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel