• Many teams are looking forward to the All-Star break. It’s a time for the players to let themselves unwind a bit, take the pressures of the season off their shoulders for a few short days. The Timberwolves are especially feeling the weight of their season and could use some down time.

    After such a scorching hot streak through half of December and January, the Wolves have limped their way through February.

    With coach Thibs’ style wearing guys down, the heightened expectations getting even more dramatic after the terrific start and the general wear-and-tear that goes with the long season all factoring in, many guys will be ready to kick their feet up, presumably.

    There is one last game the team has to get through first, and while on paper it may seem like a nice way to coast into the break, it would be a mistake to overlook the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Despite their record of 23-32, the Lakers have been playing some pretty good basketball of late. Over their last 18 games they have a record of 12-6 and have been playing some tough defense (though their last two games have been extremely rough).

    Conversely, over that same span, the Wolves’ defense has utterly collapsed after they managed to put together a solid unit for a few weeks. The offense has still been elite.

    This will make for an interesting matchup. The Lakers are an interior team that relies on transition baskets for their offense. They own the fastest pace in the NBA, loving to generate turnovers and push the pace. They also look ahead on missed shots often as well.

    They’re not a good 3-point shooting team, with only one player averaging over 2.0 makes per game. They did add Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye, two major deep threats, and they have a number of players capable of making deep shots, but they typically don’t incorporate it into their game.

    Typically the Wolves don’t mind going up against teams that play inside the arc as opposed to outside, as they’re able to out-score most teams from the interior anyway. They run into trouble when teams get hot from the outside, like the Houston matchup. When that happens, the Wolves have trouble keeping pace.

    In the past meeting between these teams on Christmas Day, the Wolves didn’t employ many tricks or wrinkles. They kept the Lakers right on their season averages for 3-point attempts, 2-point attempts, turnovers and free throws.

    They didn’t necessarily slow their pace down because they didn’t have to. The Wolves simply got a few stops at some key moments, while their offense took care of business.

    This time around it will be interesting to see what the young Lakers do to adjust, and how their new additions influence their team game. If they look to trade some “two’s” for “three’s” while improving their defense, it could make for a much closer matchup than last time, where the Wolves won by 17.

    Key Matchups:

    – Taj Gibson vs. Julius Randle

    – Nemanja Bjelica vs. Kyle Kuzma

    – Jamal Crawford vs. Isaiah Thomas

    In addition to being an interior, transition based team, the Lakers are very active on the offensive glass. They rank fifth in offensive rebounding on the season, and Randle is one of their best inside, ranking first with Larry Nance Jr. traded away. In the last meeting alone Randle grabbed four total and the Lakers had 13 as a team.

    The Wolves are, somehow, among one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the NBA. They remarkably rank in the middle of the pack in opponents’ second chance points, though.

    It’s a fine line the Wolves toe, and they’ll have to continue to work that into their favor against a Lakers’ team that generates the second-most second chance points in the NBA.

    Meanwhile off the bench is where things may get dicey for the Wolves. The Lakers have brought Kyle Kuzma off the bench of late, allowing his proficiencies to shine, and to hide his deficiencies.

    Defensively Kuzma is not the strongest player, typically getting beat by post-up bigs and longer power forwards. Taj Gibson made for a tough assignment for Kuzma.

    Offensively, though, Kuzma is a nightmare for the same types of players. He torched the Wolves last time out, and may even have a bigger game in this one without having to worry as much about Gibson.

    Kuzma is a solid deep-shooting threat, but also willing to take it off the dribble and score at the rim. Bjelica is not great with closing out and staying with players, and size-wise doesn’t disrupt Kuzma like Gibson does.

    Thomas may also prove to be a tough cover for the Wolves as well. It’s likely Tyus Jones spends most of the time on IT, but Jamal Crawford is well-known to be a dear friend, and mentor, to Thomas. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if they decide to matchup with one another and have a one-on-one battle, for better or worse.

    Containing the potent Laker bench will be the biggest key for the Wolves winning this game.

    Lineups:

    Jeff Teague – PG

    Jimmy Butler – SG

    Andrew Wiggins – SF

    Taj Gibson – PF

    Karl-Anthony Towns – C

    vs.

    Josh Hart – PG

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – SG

    Brandon Ingram – SF

    Julius Randle – PF

    Brook Lopez – C

    Injuries:

    Marcus Georges-Hunt (illness) – QUESTIONABLE

    Lonzo Ball (knee) – OUT

    Channing Fry (personal) – OUT

    Where to Watch:

    9:00 ET/8:00 CT on TNT

Fantasy News

  • Kyle Kuzma
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kyle Kuzma (sore left ankle) will not take part in the FIBA World Cup as Team USA announces its final roster.

    Kuzma sat out Team USA's final tuneup against Australia on Saturday as Marc Stein reports that he is flying back to Los Angeles to get treatment. We should still expect him to be ready for training and congrats to Mason Plumlee for making the team as many speculated that he would be the final cut.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Kemba Walker scored 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting with four rebounds with two assists as USA Basketball had it's 78-game winning streak in tournament and exhibition games snapped on Saturday.

    Walker continues to assert himself as the team's best player but USA losing to Australia was the much bigger story in this one. Harrison Barnes also played well as he chipped in 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds. USA will take on Canada on Monday in their last exhibition before taking on the Czech Republic in the first official match of the tournament on September 1.

    Source: USAB.com

  • Derrick White
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Derrick White left Saturday’s game after tripping and hitting his head on the floor.

    White left without help but there is no word yet on whether he is dealing with a concussion. He finished with eight points, hitting 6-of-7 three throws in nine minutes with another update sure to come. The third-year guard put up top-125 per-game value, playing 25.8 minutes in his second season. Even with the return of Dejounte Murray, White should still be worth a roster spot in most standard leagues.

    Source: Jeff Garcia on Twitter

  • Marcus Smart
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Marcus Smart, sidelined for almost three weeks with calf tightness, returned to action on Saturday as USA lost to Australia in their exhibition.

    Smart only played nine minutes in this one but still managed to score 7 points with three assists days after being named one of the team’s co-captains. Coming off an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, he produced top-100 per game fantasy value as it seems he may have finally fixed his shot after shooting under 40 percent from the field in his first four seasons. He also produced a career-high in both steals and triples with 1.8 and 1.6 respectively as his career seems to be on the up and up.

    Source: USAB.com

  • Patty Mills
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Patty Mills went off in the fourth quarter and finished with 30 points as Australia beat USA 98-94.

    Although it was only an exhibition, it was still a huge moment for Mills and the Australian team in front of a huge crowd as they handed the US team their first loss since 2006. Mills was serenaded with MVP chants as Joe Ingles also played well with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds and seven assists while Andrew Bogut came off the bench for 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists in 20 minutes, shooting 7-of-8 from the field.

    Source: USAB.com

  • Kyle Kuzma
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kyle Kuzma is out for Team USA's tuneup up game vs. Australia with a sore left ankle.

    Kuzma is being held out of this one for precautionary reasons. There's clearly no need for USA Basketball to risk him further injuring the sore ankle. This does not sound like a serious injury and should not affect his fantasy ADP on draft day.

    Source: USA Basketball on Twitter

  • Dwight Howard
    C, Memphis Grizzlies

    Dwight Howard has agreed with the Grizzlies on a buyout, and will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers.

    The Lakers are giving Howard an opportunity to be fantasy relevant. When given minutes, Dwight can produce double-doubles with the best of them, but he has been changing teams for years now. He will be worth a gamble at the end of your draft if camp with the Lakers goes well, but this is a non-guaranteed deal, and he only played nine games last season.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Marcus Derrickson
    PF, Atlanta Hawks

    The Hawks signed Marcus Derrickson to an Exhibit 10 contract on Friday.

    It looks like Derrickson will be a G-League option for the Hawks, so there's nothing to see here. At one point he was competing for the last roster spot on the team. We don't need to keep of track of every computer-generated player.

    Source: Chris Vivlamore on Twitter

  • Marreese Speights
    C, Free Agent

    Marreese Speights will work out for the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype.

    Speights spent last year playing in China and will attempt his NBA comeback with the Lakers. who are in desperate need of an additional center. He is among three centers the Lakers are looking into, the others being Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah. Of those three, Speights unquestionably has the best floor spacing ability, which would be his strongest bet to eke out those other two for the job.

    Source: Alex Kennedy on Twitter

  • Trevor Booker
    PF, International

    Trevor Booker has worked out for the Nuggets and has workouts planned with the Bucks and Clippers, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.

    Booker was out of the NBA in 2018-19, spending the season in China after he didn't get any offers in free agency. He did return to the US to undergo a procedure on his foot but is apparently fully recovered. The last time we saw Booker he split 68 games between the Nets, Sixers and Pacers in 2017-18. If he does make a successful comeback he'll have no fantasy relevance.

    Source: Alex Kennedy on Twitter