• When the Wolves traded for Jimmy Butler there was a contingent of Wolves’ fans who were sad to see LaVine go, wishing either for Wiggins to depart in his stead or for the Wolves to keep Zach over Butler all together.

    Tonight certainly gave that contingent some conflicting feelings.

    There was no way Wiggins was going to be involved, the Bulls weren’t about to pay Wiggins the max and there was no other way to get the trade done. LaVine even admitted in the past that the trio of KAT, Wiggins and himself knew one of them would likely have to move on given the tough business of the NBA.

    There were no hard feelings spent, just some classic tough love on the court. LaVine went out and torched his former team for 35 points, including the final 11 for Chicago, and came out on top 114-113.

    After recovering from an ACL tear LaVine was, as expected, rusty upon his return and not quite at the level of athleticism as the two-time Slam Dunk Champion was pre-injury. He had been showing signs of waking up heading into this game, but proceeded to blow the training wheels off all-together against his former comrades.

    It was a pleasure to watch Zach dice up the swiss-cheese defense the Wolves employed out there, throwing down a few dunks in the process and continuously beating Butler and Wiggins off the dribble.

    As mentioned above he closed out the game as well with the final 11 points. His final three were the most important. With 18.4 seconds left and down two points, LaVine went up for a 3-pointer and was hit on the elbow by Jimmy Butler and was awarded three free-throws. The replay didn’t show much contact, but Butler seemed to agree with the call.

    He sank all three to give the Bulls a one-point lead, which they would not relinquish, despite a couple of looks from the Wolves.

    It ends up as another tough road loss for the Wolves. They’re now 1-10 on the road since January 1 with losses in Brooklyn, Atlanta, Orlando and now Chicago, the bottom four teams in the East.

    It’s tough to win on the road, but the Wolves look like a completely different team most nights away from Target Center. They are still scoring at a high level but the defense has been absolutely atrocious. Their defensive rating is 115.3 on the road in 2018, worst in the NBA since then, compared to 101.2 at home, which is sixth best.

    The Wolves have 11 more road games left on the season. They absolutely have to turn things around and take care of business, or else they aren’t going anywhere in the playoffs. Even a marginal improvement would help, though it shouldn’t be difficult to beat 1-10 over the next 11.

    Zach LaVine’s night overshadowed Jimmy Butler’s return to Chicago. Butler put up 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, four steals and three 3-pointers on the night on 11-of-26 shooting and 13-of-15 from the line. It was a monster line, but he could have been better.

    The Wolves’ offense stagnated after blowing up in the second quarter. The Wolves built a 17-point lead and were looking to coast the rest of the way, but that mentality seemed to settle in too soon and suddenly the Wolves couldn’t get anything going on offense.

    Part of that was on Butler not moving the ball when he could have and forcing up some shots, though it’s unfair to pin it all on him. He was able to draw timely free throws, as usual, and get the Wolves into the bonus early in the fourth quarter.

    Butler also struggled defending LaVine, but there was also little secondary help for Butler, giving Zach a free lane to take advantage of.

    Taj Gibson’s return was quiet, scoring 10 points with five rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block.

    Also inexplicably quiet tonight was Karl-Anthony Towns, who scored only 14 points on eight shot attempts. Towns tied Jeff Teague for the fewest shot attempts among the starters, and through three quarters Towns had the fewest attempts on the team among the nine who played.

    Towns, who had made 10 3-pointers in a row coming into tonight, took only one attempt from deep and it came on the final play of the game. It was actually a nice play design and he had a good look, but it didn’t fall to win the game.

    Thibs rarely runs late game plays for KAT so it was a nice change of pace, but Towns has to somehow get more involved throughout the early portions of the game. His shots continue to decrease as the season goes on.

    There was a bit of comedy on the sidelines in the fourth between Town, Thibs and a referee. KAT was bullied out of a defensive rebound by Bobby Portis and then scored on. Thibs voiced his displeasure at Towns and clapped his hands, which drew a technical foul from the referee.

    The entire Wolves’ bench erupted, and Towns was pleading that Thibs was yelling at him, which he clearly was. Unfortunately it wasn’t so funny in the end as the difference in the game was the botched call.

    Despite another tough loss, the Wolves have at least been treated to some entertaining games of late between the Cavs loss and LaVine’s dominance. They return home on Sunday and they’ll face off with the Sacramento Kings where they hope to just come away with a boring victory.

Fantasy News

  • Anthony Tolliver
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Anthony Tolliver bounced around a bit in 2019-20, starting with the Blazers before being traded to the Kings and ultimately landing with the Grizzlies for a playoff run.

    Tolliver's stretch-four profile should help Memphis in a depth capacity, though he is only connecting on 32.2% of his threes this season. As a top-385 fantasy option, the veteran shouldn't be of great concern going forward. His greatest impact may come in the locker room for a young Memphis squad.

  • Yuta Watanabe
    PG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Yuta Watanabe's minutes declined, but he showed some improvement in several key statistics in his second NBA season.

    Watanabe averaged 11.6 mpg in 15 games for a shorthanded Grizzlies team down the stretch in 2018-19, but he slipped to 6.2 mpg in 16 games for a more competitive outfit this year. He did shoot .375 from deep, a vast improvement over last season's .125 mark, and his steals and blocks remained the same despite losing almost half of his playing time. Watanabe finished as a top-470 player in fantasy and there's no reason to track his game, despite the modest steps forward.

  • Jarrod Uthoff
    SF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Jarrod Uthoff was a top-490 fantasy player in 2019-20, playing in only four contests.

    Uthoff was on a 10-day deal with the Grizzlies so this isn't surprising. He's been around the NBA for a few years now but this was his first appearance at the top level since a 2017 stint with the Mavs. The fantasy appeal here is non-existent.

  • Gary Harris
    SG, Denver Nuggets

    Chris Haynes is reporting that Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr. and Torrey Craig did not travel to Disney World with the rest of the Nuggets.

    A number of healthy players have chosen to head to Orlando on their own time rather than go with their teams' traveling parties, but any absences are sure to generate speculation. Hopefully this is a case of the former, as Harris and Craig are critical to Denver's perimeter defense, while Mike Malone was talking Porter up as a potential member of the playoff rotation thanks to his rebounding, offensive touch and energy. This trio of Nuggets will be subject to quarantine whenever they do arrive in Orlando, assuming they're all still planning on making the trip at some point.

  • Shake Milton
    SG, Philadelphia Sixers

    Shake Milton has been starting at point guard in the Sixers' Orlando practices, with Ben Simmons working as a power forward.

    Simmons will still do a ton of playmaking, but the big news here is Milton's likely full-time promotion into the starting five. It shouldn't come as a surprise considering his outstanding play prior to the NBA shutdown. In 16 starts with the Sixers, Milton averaged 14.1 points, 2.2 3-pointers, 3.6 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals and was rolling along as a surprising standard-league asset. Feel free to upgrade Milton in any short-season fantasy games, though be aware that much of Milton's output came when the Sixers were missing important players. Simmons, Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson were all dinged up when Shake really broke out.

    Source: Keith Pompey on Twitter

  • Russell Westbrook
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Russell Westbrook has tested positive for COVID-19 and is quarantined.

    Westbrook had yet to join the Rockets in Orlando, though Mike D'Antoni has recently been optimistic that he can join the rest of the team shortly. Westbrook also said that he's feeling well, which is good news.

    Source: Russell Westbrook on Twitter

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker
    SG, New Orleans Pelicans

    Nickeil Alexander-Walker (right wrist fracture) will be able to play in the Pelicans' Orlando games.

    Whether or not he'll be in the rotation remains to be seen, but it's good to know that the rookie is healthy. Alexander-Walker generated plenty of hype with a strong Summer League but fell out of the rotation as the season progressed and ultimately ended up in the G League for a short stretch, which is where he suffered the injury. He might be a DFS target if the Pels rest a few regulars but we don't foresee him having a shot at serious fantasy value in the immediate future.

    Source: Christian Clark on Twitter

  • Bruno Caboclo
    SF, Houston Rockets

    Bruno Caboclo inadvertently broke quarantine and must now quarantine for another eight days in his hotel room before returning to team activities, per a report from ESPN.

    Caboclo is the first player who will have to undergo these steps — or at least the first that the public knows about. He's not a member of Houston's rotation, so this won't have a major effect on the basketball side of things, but it is a reminder of the protocols in place while the NBA tries to get going again. Hopefully it's enforced strictly.

    Source: Tim MacMahon on Twitter

  • Josh Jackson
    SF, Memphis Grizzlies

    After spending most of the year in the G-League, Josh Jackson averaged 10.4 points per game in 18 appearances off the bench for Memphis.

    Jackson's NBA struggles have been well documented and after two dismal seasons in Phoenix to start his career he landed with Memphis' G League affiliate to start the 2019-20 season. He made his debut for the big club in late January and appeared in the final 18 games of the season, averaging 10.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 19.8 minutes per game. It is worth mentioning that the majority of his production came in garbage time as he played over 20 minutes 11 times and only one of them came in a game that was decided by less than 10 points. Whether or not he can prove his worth as a former fourth overall pick remains to be seen but outside of deep-leagues he provides little-to-no fantasy value until further notice.

  • Brandon Clarke
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Brandon Clarke finished his rookie year averaging 12.0 points and 5.8 rebounds, landing him a 104/80 ranking in 8/9-cat leagues.

    While Ja Morant stole most of the headlines in Memphis, Clarke may have been the most surprising rookie for the squad. After an ADP in the tenth round, Clarke outperformed those expectations and nearly cracked the top-100 in both 8/9-cat, finishing the season ranked 104/80. His value was carried by his consistency and FG%, where he finished top-five in the NBA at 62.3%, the highest mark for any rookie with at least 300 FGA, ever. Before missing the the final two weeks of the season with hip and quad injuries, Clarke finished the season on a high note, averaging 13.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals on 60% shooting over his final 10 full games. He should sneak into the top-100 of drafts next season.

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