• Leading up to the Portland Trail Blazers’ season-opener against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at Moda Center on October 18, HoopBall is profiling the team’s 15 players with guaranteed contracts, in reverse order of price.

    Prior entries: Wade BaldwinAnfernee SimonsCaleb SwaniganNik StauskasJake LaymanGary Trent, Jr.

    Player: Seth Curry

    2018-19 salary: $2,795,000

    Position: guard

    Age, experience: 28, sixth year

    Measureables: 6-foot-2, 185 pounds (6-foot-4 wingspan)

    Strengths: 3-point shooting, pick-and-roll ball handling, defensive instincts

    Weaknesses: strength, defensive versatility, quickness

    Swing factor: health

    Likely role: third guard

    It’s all about health for Seth Curry. In 2016-17, after proving himself a viable NBA player the previous season with the Sacramento Kings, Curry finally found the blend of fit and opportunity that allowed him to step out of his older brother’s shadow. The former second-round pick and G-League standout averaged 12.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.0 minutes per game for the Dallas Mavericks, shooting 52.8 percent on two-pointers and 42.5 percent from beyond the arc. He wasn’t just a standstill shooter, either, emerging as a highly effective pick-and-roll ball handler under Rick Carlisle, to an extent suggesting his playmaking skills should have been cultivated from the very beginning.

    Dead-eye shooters with high-level ball-handling chops don’t come cheap. The only reason the Portland Trail Blazers, still cash-strapped after the summer of 2016’s reckless spending bonanza, had the financial wiggle room to bring Curry in is because he missed the entirety of 2017-18 under troubling injury circumstances. Despite first being sidelined by a stress reaction in his left leg during preseason play, an injury initially deemed of the mild variety, Curry didn’t go under the knife until February. He was only cleared for full basketball activities in mid June.

    There’s no guarantee, basically, that Curry will live up to the modest expectations normally associated with a one-year deal worth half the tax-payer’s mid-level exception. Getting re-acclimated to the speed of the game following injury is one thing; doing so after a full season removed from the league is another one entirely. But even if Curry is somewhat limited by that reality, perhaps a half step slower than he was with the Mavericks, his stroke should be unaffected, and the natural court sense honed after a life spent around the league will surely re-materialize in time. Once it does, there’s every reason to believe he’ll eventually become Portland’s most consequential acquisition of the offseason.

    That’s part of the problem, unfortunately. Neil Olshey never had the necessary team-building capital to make good on his hopes of adding an experienced, high-impact wing. The Blazers split their most valuable spending chip between Curry and guaranteed money for Gary Trent, Jr., a 19-year-old marksman drafted in the second round who connected on just 30 percent of his 3-point attempts in Summer League. The one player who was supposed to change the composition of Portland’s roster, modernizing it to help the team compete at a higher level in the playoffs, never came, and was never going to come.

    If the Blazers are going to be better in 2018-19 than they were a season ago, it will be due to improvement on the margins, which is where Curry’s skill set looms so large. Shabazz Napier, an objectively pleasant surprise in Portland, wasn’t a consistent enough shooter to keep defenses honest – both when spotting up away from the ball as Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum probed, and relieving them of playmaking duties as a high-usage creator. Curry, on the other hand, made a solid 40.8 percent of his spot-up threes with the Mavericks, and 44.9 percent of his pull-up tries, the second-best mark in basketball.

    The potential significance of putting another imminently-threatening guard next to McCollum when Lillard goes to the bench can’t be overstated. His true shooting percentage dipped well below league average without Lillard last season, per NBA.com/stats, and the Blazers team-wide offensive rating cratered. In a down season individually, McCollum wasn’t close to good enough to keep Portland afloat on offense by himself. Whether or not that’s the new normal was tough to tell given the inconsistencies of Napier, but Curry should provide enough stability as Terry Stotts’ third guard to know for sure one way or the other, a realization that could help decide the overall direction of this franchise going forward.

    Curry’s import won’t come anywhere near such a level, though, if he’s a physical shell of the player he was two seasons ago. Athleticism was never Curry’s strong suit, but his quickness was underrated and he fought like hell defensively, allowing him to make up for lackluster tools on both sides of the ball with instincts and cunning. What if he’s just a stationary shooter now? Or he’s the defensive liability everyone thought he was early in his career?

    That’s the risk forced on Portland by its financial constraints. Either way, Curry won’t be the wholesale panacea Olshey thought would be his team’s biggest free-agency signing, but could nevertheless become one of the summer’s best bargain-bin pickups. More likely? That his play falls somewhere in between, serving as a referendum on the Blazers’ awkward place between contending and rebuilding.

Fantasy News

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Pacers GM Chad Buchanan declined to interview for the Bulls' top basketball operations position.

    Buchanan said he and his family are happy in Indianapolis and he is not interested in leaving. The Bulls are clearly moving fast with building their new front office after the announcement that GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson are expected to move to different roles in the organization. A change in the front office and coaching staff could only be positive for fantasy purposes as the Bulls rank 29th in offensive rating this season. Hopefully a change would bring a more fantasy-friendly system with an emphasis on developing the younger talent on the roster.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The NBA and ESPN are working together to televise a H-O-R-S-E competition with several high-profile players.

    Woj reported that the details of this competition are still being finalized, but it sounds like players will shoot in isolation, most likely in their home gyms. This would be a much needed source of entertainment for everyone who loves the NBA and, with bragging rights on the line, we would likely see some stellar performances from the NBA's best players.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Lauri Markkanen
    PF, Chicago Bulls

    According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Lauri Markkanen had been unhappy with the direction of the Bulls organization even before the league went on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Markkanen was so displeased, in fact, that he went on to state that if the situation were to remain unchanged, he'd prefer to be elsewhere. The Bulls power forward was a fantasy mess in 2019-20 and some of that could be attributed to the coach and some of it, to his injuries. Still, his statements put the team in a rough spot. considering Markkanen has been widely regarded as a core piece of their future plans. The Bulls are already shaking things up though, making moves towards freshening things up in the front office. The Markkanen-Bulls relationship is a must-watch storyline, especially given his potential in fantasy hoops.

    Source: Chicago Sun-Times.

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Speaking on ESPN on Friday, Brian Windhorst said that there has been increasing pessimism about the NBA season resuming.

    Windhorst noted that the league has begun to discuss the financial ramifications of shutting the league down, and we've seen reports about the league looking for players to take paycuts as a result of the season's uncertain future. The fact that the CBA in China was set to resume and then delayed again is an ominous sign with NBA markets nowhere near the apex of COVID-19.

    Source: ESPN

  • Kobe Bryant
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will be inducted into the 2020 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Formal announcements will be made on Saturday, but it appears to be a done deal. The three aforementioned players helped define and then redefine the sport during their primes, making the 2020 class one of the most star-studded since Michael Jordan was inducted. Bryant, especially, who was often compared to his "Airness" will be a bittersweet entrant as the NBA and the world is still dealing with his sudden passing.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Bulls have begun their search for a top executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions.

    Interviews will begin next week, with Toronto GM Bobby Webster and Denver GM Arturas Karnisovas on Chicago's wish list. Ownership will have discussions with current GM Gar Forman about his place in the organization moving forward, whlie VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson is expected to move to an advisory role with the franchise. The Bulls have been lost in the wilderness for some time now, and it's mildly surprising that it's taken them this long to hunt for someone to take the power out of GarPax's collective hands.

    Source: ESPN

  • Michael Porter Jr.
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Michael Porter Jr. said that his right ankle is now properly healed.

    Porter missed six games with a right ankle injury, and though he was able to play in nine of Denver's last 10 games (the absence was a DNP-CD) before the hiatus, he admitted that his ankle was still bothering him and he was playing through pain. MPJ flashed tremendous potential when given the appropriate minutes but it's going to be hard for him to hold fantasy value outside of deeper formats when the Nuggets are fully healthy — he topped 15 minutes just three times in those nine games. The silver lining of the league's suspension is that hurt and injured players are getting the chance to heal up, Porter included.

    Source: Denver Post

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Kemba Walker has been rehabbing his left knee while in quarantine, and says that it's "doing well."

    Walker actually played in the Celtics' last three games before the season was shut down but has missed a total of eight games this season (plus one in preseason) due to left knee soreness. It's clearly a chronic issue at this point, and fantasy GMs just have to hope that this lengthy layoff will help Walker get back to full strength if and when the season resumes.

    Source: MassLive.com

  • Meyers Leonard
    C, Miami Heat

    Meyers Leonard is still rehabbing his sprained left ankle and estimates that his recovery is at about 90%.

    Leonard shed his walking boot at the end of February but it's been slow going, as he's still not recovered despite getting hurt on February 3. The NBA hiatus might've saved Leonard's season, but even when healthy there won't be any fantasy appeal here despite some strong runs earlier in the campaign.

    Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter

  • Nikola Jokic
    C, Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have announced that the person who tested positive for COVID-19 is now symptom-free.

    The team never said who tested positive, only that it was a member of the organization. The Nuggets have completed their 14-day quarantine, so hopefully all involved are able to remain healthy moving forward.

    Source: Mark Medina on Twitter