• Perhaps the Wolves aren’t quite ready to be anointed among the other major players in the Western Conference. It’s only one matchup of four so far but the Rockets aren’t impressed.

    It was an ugly game throughout for the Wolves. The Rockets started out cold from beyond the arc, opening the first quarter going 2-of-12 from beyond the arc. The Wolves were only able to build a one-point lead at 15-14.

    The player of the game then took the floor and erased all of that. Gordon scored nine points in the final minute of the quarter, going 2-of-2 beyond the arc and converting a 3-point play.

    From there the Rockets hit 15-of-27 from beyond the arc and really controlled the rest of the game. The Wolves tried to climb back into it at times, getting to within 10 points a few times but Houston just doesn’t let up from beyond the arc.

    Against a team like the Wolves, who will not win any 3-point shooting contests, it makes it tough to hang around. Of course the Rockets and Warriors, two of the three teams ahead of the Wolves, are both in the top-five in 3-point makes as a team so perhaps the Wolves need to make some sort of change.

    The aforementioned Gordon finished the game with 30 points and seven 3-pointers off the bench for the Rockets. Chris Paul was excellent as well with 19 points, nine assists, six rebounds, three steals and four 3-pointers on 6-of-12 shooting.

    He won the point guard battle running away, dominating Jeff Teague who finished with just six points on 3-of-8 shooting with five rebounds and three assists. Teague struggled to run the offense and couldn’t get by Paul whatsoever.

    The Wolves offense as a whole just never got anything consistent going. Karl-Anthony Towns came to play but lacked much support. He finished with 22 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, two steals, five blocks and one 3-pointer on 10-of-19 shooting. He only shot 1-of-7 from beyond the arc though.

    Jimmy Butler finished with 23 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block shooting 8-of-15 form the field. Outside of him and Towns it was a rough night.

    Andrew Wiggins made three 3-pointers but generally wasn’t involved in the offense. Taj Gibson couldn’t get anything going. The Wolves’ bench struggled with Jamal Crawford going 0-of-6 from the field, Dieng quiet and Bjelica not being able to beat Ryan Anderson. Tyus was energetic as usual but hasn’t earned Thibs’ good graces just yet.

    The Wolves generally rely on great individual offense from their starting unit. They have enough deep threats that teams have to honor the outside shots and it allows the offense to operate. The bench heavily relies on Jamal Crawford’s ability to space the floor and to an extend Bjelica and whoever is playing the wing, whether it be Butler, Wiggins or Bjelica.

    Of course on nights like tonight when Crawford doesn’t have it the Wolves do become a bit easier to defend in spurts. As a team they only shot 33 percent, 8-of-24, overall. The Wolves don’t really have a true guy they can run a few plays for to get some quick 3-pointers. Crawford is a career 34.9 percent deep shooter, and is at 34.1 this season.

    This upcoming trade deadline perhaps the biggest add for the Wolves is someone as simple as Marco Belinelli, a career 37.8 percent 3-point shooter, including 38.7 this season.

    Being able to bring Belinelli off the bench at the wing and stretch the floor, and being able to keep up with these teams that keep bombing from deep, could be a key difference in the stretch run and perhaps the playoffs.

    Of course when examining Thibs’ rotation the problem always comes back to where the minutes will come from. It’s unlikely that Butler sees any decrease. Crawford recently complained openly and saw his minutes stabilize as a result. Teague is oddly secure. Does that mean Wiggins and Jones are the main losers in a hypothetical move?

    The Wolves have some ammo for this deadline but it remains to be seen of they use it. Tonight’s game against the short-handed Rockets shows that the up-and-coming Wolves are still a ways off and can improve many areas.

    For now the Wolves return home for another tough matchup with the Toronto Raptors before heading back out on the road for a west-coast trip.

Fantasy News

  • Jontay Porter
    C, Memphis Grizzlies

    Taylor Jenkins confirmed that Jontay Porter has been a full participant at practice.

    Porter was set to miss his entire rookie season to rehab a knee problem that cost him his last college campaign, but he's getting some practice reps in and might see spot minutes in scrimmages. The athletic center could be a solid source of blocks down the line but fantasy players can track his progress from afar for now. The fact that Memphis can get a better sense of Porter's game from their time in the bubble is probably the most important development here.

    Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter

  • Grayson Allen
    SG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Grayson Allen (left hip) has been a full participant in recent Grizzlies practices.

    Allen looks ready to go after a hip problem shut him down in February. While he may be healthy enough to play, earning minutes in the rotation is another matter entirely. Allen has done little to flash fantasy upside through his first two seasons, so anyone playing fantasy games during the Orlando bubble can leave him be, far from your lineups.

    Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    Giannis Antetokounmpo was solid but failed to meet his lofty ADP in the 2019-20 fantasy season.

    He would end up ranked 14/20 in 8/9-cat formats. Antetokounmpo had an absurd ADP of 1.3 on ESPN and 3.9 on Yahoo, which is simply far too high for a player that is a huge drag on free throw percentage. The Greek Freak was one of the biggest negatives at the charity stripe this season, shooting an atrocious .633 from the line on 10 attempts per game. The rest of his numbers were more in line with expectations, but decreases in key stats offset other notable gains. Giannis established career-highs with 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 1.5 threes per contest, but also had that counteracted by five-year lows in steals and blocks, which both sunk to 1.0 per game. Antetokounmpo is an elite NBA player but the cracks in his fantasy game were apparent. If the defensive numbers can rebound it'll ease the pain of those free throws, but it's going to be tough for him to meet such high expectations with that one glaring hole in his game. Some market correction may be in order this offseason.

  • Eric Bledsoe
    PG, Milwaukee Bucks

    Eric Bledsoe slipped down the fantasy rankings in 2019-20, ending up as a top-65/80 (8/9-cat) player mostly because of a decline in steals.

    Bledsoe has previously been a steady top-60 type, but this year his steals fell from 1.5 to just 0.9 per game. All of his other numbers are right in line with expectations, but it goes to show how valuable those cash counter stats are. Bledsoe is settling in as a 15 ppg guy for the Bucks and isn't tasked with offensive heavy lifting, but that's not really what he's drafted for in fantasy anyway. Bledsoe is still an efficient scoring guard, even if he's not a great 3-point shooter, and a correction in the theft department would boost him back to more familiar heights.

  • Nikola Jokic
    C, Denver Nuggets

    Nikola Jokic has arrived in Orlando but will not participate in Tuesday's practice.

    Jokic has cleared quarantine, which is the biggest step after he tested positive for COVID-19 in Serbia, but still needs results of other physical testing before getting back on the court. Assuming Jokic returns without any further hitches, he'll be one of the top players on the board for any fantasy games.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Michael Beasley
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    According to multiple reports, Michael Beasley has left the Orlando bubble after testing positive for COVID-19.

    Beasley was initially signed as a replacement player for the thinned-out Nets, but his place on the roster is now in question. Brooklyn needs bodies, and Beasley, who already is facing a five-game suspension, may not be able to get up to speed in time between his departure, quarantine, return and re-quarantine. Details are limited at this point but if Beasley tested positive after getting to Disney World, it should be of major concern to the NBA.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Donte DiVincenzo
    SG, Milwaukee Bucks

    Donte DiVincenzo authored a low-key breakout season with averages of 9.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers in 23.1 mpg.

    DiVincenzo did that while hitting at a .462 clip from the floor, which was good for top-115/100 (8/9-cat) value. He never really got the props that he deserved from the fantasy community, but DiVincenzo became a valued member of the Milwaukee rotation and was able to provide some excellent ROI for any GMs that hopped on board the train early. This was a big step forward after injuries limited him to 27 games as a rookie, and it's entirely possible that DiVincenzo keeps a similar role going forward. Fantasy players just have to hope that the efficiency and steals stick, as those numbers weren't exactly expected given his track record.

  • Lance Thomas
    SF, Free Agent

    The Nets have officially signed Lance Thomas as a Substitute Player ahead of the NBA restart.

    Thomas finds himself back in the NBA after sitting playing his last game in the 2018-19 campaign with the Knicks. He averaged 4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.5 threes in 17.0 mpg across 46 contests. He would normally just be a depth piece, but with the Nets depleted of talent for the league resumption, there is a possibility that he will play a decent chunk of minutes off the bench.

    Source: Brian Lewis on Twitter

  • Harrison Barnes
    SF, Sacramento Kings

    Harrison Barnes revealed that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

    Barnes is going through quarantine and hopes to join his teammates in Orlando soon. He adds that he's largely asymptomatic, which is good news. He's the fourth member of the Kings to test positive.

    Source: Harrison Barnes on Twitter

  • Marvin Williams
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    Marvin Williams took a big step back in 2019-20, largely due to a big decline in playing time.

    Williams finished the season averaging 19.4 mpg overall with minimal difference between his Hornets and Bucks figures (19.7 vs. 18.5). Charlotte was focused on developing its younger players, while there were no expectations that Williams would hold a big role after being bought out and signing with the league's best team. The veteran has always had a 9-cat game that ticks multiple boxes, and that was still present even if the volume wasn't: 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.0 threes per game. He was able to manage top-250/215 value (8/9-cat), but unfortunately it seems unlikely that he'll come back into big minutes going forward.

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