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    Basketball is back. After a week long hiatus and much needed rest, the Wolves must be ready to dive head-long into the final stages of the season. With only a quarter of the schedule remaining and hanging onto the fourth seed by a thread, Minnesota can’t afford many slip ups.

    They will be tested right out of the gate with a tough matchup in Houston with the now fully-healthy Rockets. In the two prior meetings the Rockets were missing Trevor Ariza, and both James Harden and Chris Paul were recovering from various injuries, though still in the lineup.

    In both meetings, the Rockets won by 18 points and thoroughly dominated the Wolves’ from beyond the 3-point line. These offenses rank second and third in the league, but the Rockets have managed to make the Wolves look like a non-contender.

    The key to slowing down the Rockets is literally slowing down their pace. Their philosophy is a modified version of Paul Westhead’s style of basketball, an endless stream of threes and as quick as possible. The idea is the more you take the more you make.

    With Paul in the fold the Rockets slowed themselves down marginally, but they still launch 3-pointers at an unrelenting pace hoping to have the law of averages catch up in their favor.

    The Wolves were actually able to find some success in repressing the barrage of 3-pointers in the last meeting. Through the first half, the Wolves were on pace to hold the Rockets under their season average of 3-point attempts. Through the third quarter the Rockets started taking more but the Wolves avoided the quick strike and stayed in the game.

    Of course in the fourth quarter the dam broke and the Target Center flooded thanks to Ryan Anderson and Harden. Within two minutes the Wolves went from trailing by four points to 16 and there was nothing else they could do. The Rockets couldn’t miss afterwards.

    The Wolves nearly managed to make a contest out of the Rockets on their own floor but couldn’t sustain it, now that they’re going on the road that task seems even more daunting. Minnesota has lost 10-of-11 on the road and just looked terrible going into the break.

    Maybe the long layoff will help the team clear the air a bit and get back on track. As mentioned above, there’s not much time to figure out their road-woes. With 21 games to go, and 11 on the road, the time is now.

    Key Matchup

    Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Clint Capela

    The two All-Stars for the Wolves must assert their dominance tonight. Despite Capela being a terrific defender, Towns has proven to be able to handle the matchup with ease. There aren’t many players out there who can stop Towns, and Capela isn’t one of them.

    It will benefit the Wolves to get some easy baskets in the paint from Towns, or slow the game down at the free-throw line to allow their defense to set up in the half court and at least force the Rockets to chew up some clock before they start launching deep shots.

    It’s a fool’s task believing there’s a way to prevent the Rockets from taking 3-pointers, but it is certainly possible to slow it down. One way to do that is attention to detail on defense and being ready every possession as opposed to scrambling in transition.

    The best way to prevent transition is making close baskets. If the Wolves feed Towns and shy away from playing into the Rocket’s game of shooting 3-pointers, there’s at least a chance.

    Going back to the Paul Westhead offense, part of his goal as a coach was to speed up the other team to force the tempo that favored his “run-and-gun” offense. He would do this by implementing a full-court press so the other team would hurry up and create chaos.

    The Rockets won’t implement a press, but they do attempt to speed teams up in other ways. Namely they lock down the paint and coax teams into long shots, which lead to long rebounds and transition offense and a frenzied, unorganized defense.

    Towns is the tank buster for that. Feeding him early and often is their best, and perhaps only, option. That is unless the Wolves are uncharacteristically on fire from beyond the arc. The Rockets would still probably win that shooting contest though.

    Lineups

    Jeff Teague – PG

    Jimmy Butler – SG

    Andrew Wiggins – SF

    Taj Gibson – PF

    Karl-Anthony Towns – C

    vs.

    Chris Paul – PG

    James Harden – SG

    Trevor Ariza – SF

    P.J. Tucker – PF

    Clint Capela – C

    Injuries

    Marcus Georges-Hunt (illness) – PROBABLE

    Trevor Ariza (hamstring) – PROBABLE

    Eric Gordon (knee) – OUT

    Media

    Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

    When: 8:00 ET/7:00 CT

    How: Fox Sports North and ESPN

Fantasy News

  • PJ Tucker
    SF, 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.

  • Danuel House
    PF, 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.

  • Eric Gordon
    SG, 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.

  • Ben McLemore
    SG, 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.

  • Kelly 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

  • Austin Rivers
    PG, 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.

  • Jeff Green
    SF, 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.

  • David Nwaba
    SF, 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.

  • Isaiah Hartenstein
    PF, 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.

  • Thabo Sefolosha
    SF, 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.

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