Saturday’s scrimmage schedule was quite busy, with their being six games on the slate. There was also plenty of news away from the court, as Lou Williams returned to Orlando after leaving to attend to a personal matter and Pat Connaughton made his first appearance. Both will be in quarantine before they’re allowed to join their respective teams, and the hope is that they’ll be available once the seeding games begin next week. Also the Knicks finally filled their head coaching vacancy, with Tom Thibodeau returning to Madison Square Garden (he was a Knicks assistant from 1996 to 2004). Below is a look at all that happened in the NBA on Saturday.
Each team had to deal with an injury during the first scrimmage of the day, with both Anthony Davis and Magic wing Wesley Iwundu leaving prematurely. Davis was inadvertently poked in the eye during the first half and did not return, playing nine minutes and finishing with nine points, 10 rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot. He was fine, even joining his teammates on the bench after being attended to in the locker room. Davis should be good to go for the Lakers’ seeding game opener against the Clippers July 30.
As for Iwundu, he took a hard fall after completing a dunk, suffering a laceration above his left eye that required four stitches. In addition to the cut there are likely concussion concerns to be addressed, so consider him questionable for Orlando’s final scrimmage. His exit freed up minutes for Melvin Frazier Jr., who played 19 minutes and finished with three points, three rebounds and one assist. Neither he nor Iwundu, when healthy, are worth considering as possible pickups when the season officially resumes.
Kyle Kuzma was the star in this one, as he shot 10-of-13 from the field and scored a game-high 25 points to go along with seven rebounds, one assist and five 3-pointers. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also played well, shooting 7-of-8 from the field and finishing with 17 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and one 3-pointer. With Rajon Rondo (injury) and Avery Bradley (family) not available, KCP will figure more prominently in the Lakers rotation than he did prior to the stoppage. The same can be said for Alex Caruso, who played 11 minutes before fouling out in his Orlando debut. He was held out of the opener due to a back issue, and more will be needed from him once the games truly count. I’d favor KCP over any of the remaining guards when it comes to filling out DFS rosters, although Dion Waiters (12 points, three rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers) has played well thus far.
D.J. Augustin, starting in place of Markelle Fultz, led the way for Orlando with a line of 21 points, two rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers in 20 minutes of action. He shot 6-of-7 from the field and 7-of-7 from the foul line, successfully getting to his spots to either score himself or set up teammates. Even when Fultz returns Augustin is worth considering to fill out a roster, as his place within the rotation is secure either way.
Terrence Ross and Michael Carter-Williams combined to score 27 points off the bench, but they did so while shooting 6-of-25 from the field. Carter-Williams was responsible for 7.2 points per game prior to the stoppage, his highest scoring average since the 2015-16 season, so expecting him to return to the double-digit scoring days immediately may be a bit much. As for Ross he can be a bit hot and cold offensively, going off one game only to struggle mightily with his shot the next. Ross is the better fantasy play of the two, but his “stock” can be a bit volatile. Nikola Vucevic (10/6/2/2/1) and Aaron Gordon (14 points, one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers) also scored in double figures, with the former being a must-have in fantasy.
This game wasn’t as close as the final score would lead one to believe, as the Kings reserves managed to make things reasonably competitive during the second half. Kyle Korver (22 points, six rebounds and five 3-pointers) and Brook Lopez (21/4/0/2/5 with four 3-pointers) combined to shoot 9-of-14 from distance, with Giannis Antetokounmpo (15/9/6/2/1) and Donte DiVincenzo (13/3/1/3 with two 3-pointers) contributing in multiple areas. DiVincenzo is holding down the fort until Eric Bledsoe is cleared to play, and that could be sooner rather than later.
Bledsoe took part in Friday’s practice, and the question now is whether or not he will play in the Bucks’ final scrimmage on Monday. And given how far ahead of the pack the Bucks are in the East, they can afford to exercise caution when it comes to working Bledsoe back into the rotation. Milwaukee’s rotation will be whole soon, as Pat Connaughton has finally arrived in Orlando. More on his eventual addition to the group can be found below.
For Sacramento, De’Aaron Fox made his Orlando debut after missing time due to a sprained left ankle. He didn’t put up the best stat line, finishing with seven points, two rebounds, six assists and two turnovers, but Fox did not appear to be impacted negatively by the ankle injury. He was still able to push the pace, and the assist total should have been higher as teammates failed to cash in on some quality looks. Fox’s return pushes Cory Joseph back to the second unit, and he was solid coming off the bench Saturday. Ten points, two rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes, but it isn’t enough to maintain Joseph’s fantasy value.
Buddy Hield scored 19 points and Kent Bazemore 16, with the former doing so on 18 shot attempts. In 44 starts Hield averaged 17.6 field goal attempts per game, with that number dropping down to 14.4 attempts per in his 20 games as a reserve. In Sacramento’s two scrimmages he’s attempted a total of 34 shots, closer to his output as a starter. It’s worth noting that the Kings are still without Harrison Barnes, which has moved Bazemore into the starting lineup. Once Barnes returns and the rotation is back to its original state, will Hield be able to fire away as he has in the two scrimmages? Either way he’s worth using, especially if Hield can produce some rebounds/assists/steals (he had two of each Saturday).
What will also have an impact is the return of Richaun Holmes, who has some work to do conditioning-wise after finishing up his return to quarantine. He did not suit up Saturday, which meant another start for Harry Giles, whose fantasy value will take a significant hit once Holmes can play. Giles played 20 minutes, accounting for seven points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal. There’s little reason to use him at this point in the season.
Jazz 101, Heat 99
Miami made a change to its starting lineup for this one, with Kendrick Nunn taking over the spot left vacant by Jimmy Butler (rest) in what was his Orlando debut. Nunn played 17 minutes in the two-point loss, shooting 2-of-7 from the field and finishing with five points, two rebounds, three assists and one 3-pointer. When Butler returns, most likely for the Heat’s final scrimmage, it will be Tyler Herro who joins the second unit. And if this was the rookie’s last start he made the most of it, knocking down eight of his 16 shot attempts and finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one 3-pointer in 30 minutes.
Kelly Olynyk picked up the slack for Meyers Leonard in what was an off day for Miami’s starting center, posting a line of 27 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes off the bench. He, Herro and Goran Dragic are all worth considering as cheap options once the season resumes, while Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala and Solomon Hill are veterans whose individual values to the Heat exceed what they could potentially provide fantasy-wise. Bam Adebayo, who like Nunn practiced for the first time on Friday, was not made available but the team’s next two practices are of far greater importance when it comes to getting him ready for the seeding games. I’d expect Adebayo to get some minutes in Miami’s final scrimmage if everything goes well in those practices.
Utah stuck with its same starting five from the field scrimmage, with Joe Ingles filling the spot left vacant by the injured Bojan Bogdanovic. While Ingles wasn’t aggressive Saturday in putting up shots himself, as he missed all three of his attempts from the field, he did manage to dish out a team-high six assists. His ability as a playmaker gives Mike Conley more freedom to score himself, but that’s still a balance that the Jazz appear to be working on. Conley scored 17 points while also accounting for six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one 3-pointer in 24 minutes.
Donovan Mitchell (8/2/4 with two 3-pointers) had a quiet afternoon but Jordan Clarkson picked up the slack with 17 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and four 3-pointers off the bench. All nine of his shot attempts were from beyond the arc, quite the departure for Clarkson as 45.4% of his field goal attempts since joining the Jazz were threes prior to the stoppage. The 3-point shooting of Clarkson and Georges Niang (12 points, six rebounds and four 3-pointers) is something to keep an eye on as the Jazz work to account for the loss of Bogdanovic, who shot 41.4% from deep and led the Jazz in both makes and attempts per game. It may wind up being Clarkson and Niang who pick up the slack in that department, rather than a starter such as Ingles.
Rudy Gobert was the standout for Utah, leading the way with 21 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. He completely took Leonard out of the game, which (combined with Olynyk’s excellence) was why Miami’s starting center played just 13 minutes.
Nets 124, Spurs 119
Caris LeVert put up another 17 field goal attempts Saturday, making eight and finishing with a game-high 27 points. He was also responsible for two rebounds, three assists, three steals and three 3-pointers, so the new focal point of the Nets attack isn’t just looking to score. He’s one of the most popular options as players gear up for DFS competitions, and with good reason. Joe Harris made his Orlando debut after sitting out the opener and played 22 minutes, posting a line of 12 points, two rebounds, one assist, two blocks and two 3-pointers. How many open looks Harris gets given how depleted the Nets rotation is remains to be seen, but he’ll knock down his share regardless of the defense.
Harris, LeVert and Jarrett Allen (10/11/2/2) are the starters worth using at this point, but keep an eye on Chris Chiozza. He isn’t a prolific scorer but the point guard is good at setting up his teammates, as he racked up seven assists on Saturday. And he also contributed seven rebounds and a steal, making up for his 1-of-6 day from the field. The Brooklyn bench had a couple noteworthy performance, especially from a fantasy standpoint.
Rodions Kurucs once again played backup center minutes but looked more comfortable doing so this time around, and he posted a line of 17/4/2/1 with three 3-pointers in 24 minutes. Whether or not the Nets can get away with that look when playing against teams with more mobile centers is something to ponder, but Kurucs will be in that role at times due to the team’s lack of depth. Donta Hall being cleared to play would give the Nets some more size to call upon in certain matchups. Also worth noting was the play of Tyler Johnson, who went off for 17 points (7-of-11 FGs), two rebounds and three 3-pointers in 18 minutes. He played well enough to merit another opportunity, and there could be times when he’s used alongside LeVert. Both are capable of playing either on or off the ball, and that setup could help the Nets account for their lack of depth at the point.
Moving over to San Antonio, the struggles in dealing with Kurucs does not mean that bigs Jakob Poeltl and Drew Eubanks had bad games. To the contrary both posted double-doubles, with Poeltl tallying 12 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and one block in 23 minutes and Eubanks adding 12 points, 14 boards, one assist and four blocks in 22 minutes. There was a brief overlap in their minutes, but nothing that lead one to believe that Gregg Popovich would use them together for extended periods. With LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles out for the remainder of the season both Poeltl and Eubanks will have opportunities to produce, with the former being the better option of the two fantasy-wise.
Derrick White (22/3/4/1/2 with four 3-pointers) turned the ball over four times, but the overall stat line overrides that to a certain extent. Lonnie Walker (14/2/2/1/1 with two 3-pointers) did a little bit of everything in his starting role, while Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli combined for 29 points and five 3-pointers off the bench. Forbes is the more valuable of the two when looking for 3-pointers, which tips the scales in his favor when it comes to fantasy value. Patty Mills did not play which ensure that rookie Keldon Johnson would get quality minutes, and he accounted for eight points, eight rebounds, two assists and one block in 17 minutes. Should the Spurs fall out of contention for the eight-seed early, I’d expect Johnson to take on a heavier workload with an eye towards next season.
Clippers 105, Wizards 100
While the Lou Williams situation grabbed the headlines, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both played for the second straight game. It’s possible that they’ll either get the third scrimmage off or have their minutes cut significantly, due to the combination of the Clippers’ limited rotation and how tight the standings are in the West. While the Lakers have a comfortable 5 1/2-game lead on the Clippers, seeds two through six are separated by four games. And with the two L.A. teams opening seeding play against each other on Thursday, Doc Rivers may prefer to ensure that his two stars are as fresh as they can be for that one.
Leonard and George played 24 minutes apiece Saturday, with Terance Mann (13/7/4/1 with two 3-pointers), Amir Coffey (13 points, one assist, two steals and one 3-pointers) and Rodney McGruder (13/5/2/1/2 with two 3-pointers) all playing between 23 and 27 minutes. Coffey is the player who will take the biggest hit once the seeding games begin (and Williams is cleared to return), but he’s shown why the Clippers decided to bring him into the bubble and not Mfiondu Kabengele. Coffey has the length and athleticism needed to contribute defensively, and he fills the role of a wing that the second unit currently lacks.
JaMychal Green started at center with Joakim Noah coming off the bench, a reversal of their roles in the first scrimmage, and the former tallied 13 points, four rebounds, one assist and one 3-pointer. Noah only scored one point but he did plenty, racking up six rebounds, five assists, one steal and five blocks in 22 minutes. The eventual returns of Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell make him a non-starter in fantasy, but Noah looks to be getting more comfortable with in the Clippers system. And his passing ability at the center spot gives the team a look that it doesn’t have with either Zubac or Harrell, even if Rivers doesn’t ask his bigs to do much in the way of facilitating.
With Troy Brown Jr. ruled out due to a sprained right thumb Jerome Robinson received the starting nod against his former team, accounting for 13 points, two rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers in 24 minutes. Robinson isn’t worth grabbing once the seeding games begin, even with the absence of Bradley Beal. Rui Hachimura and Isaac Bonga scored 15 points apiece and Thomas Bryant 13, with Hachimura (10 rebounds) and Bonga (12 rebounds) both posting double-doubles. And Bryant, who knocked down three 3-pointers, is the most dangerous perimeter shooter of the three. I’d rank them Hachimura, Bryant and Bonga when it comes to their fantasy prospects ahead of the restart.
Shabazz Napier once again started at the point, but the minutes split between he and Ish Smith was even (20 apiece). Smith is the more aggressive scorer, which he has to be with the second unit, which makes him the more attractive fantasy option of the two. Jerian Grant played 25 minutes and Admiral Schofield 22, but it’s difficult to envision a scenario outside of the Wizards being hit hard by injuries that would make either a worthwhile DFS option in the bubble.
Pelicans 119, Nuggets 104
Williams’ quarantine issue wasn’t the only head-scratching development to come out of Orlando Saturday. Why? Because Paul Millsap missed his daily COVID-19 test and was not available to play as a result. Denver’s jumbo lineup got a little smaller as a result, with Torrey Craig starting in what was his bubble debut. Under normal circumstances Craig would have been eased into the rotation, but with five players (Millsap, Will Barton, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.) all ruled out he logged 29 minutes. He finished with four points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal.
Denver only had eight players available, with four (Bol Bol, Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant and Noah Vonleh) playing at least 30 minutes. Bol posted a line of 15 points, three rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers in a team-high 35 minutes. While he did turn the ball over four times, a positive for Denver when it comes to the limited rotation is the fact that their second round pick is playing a lot more than he would if everyone were available. Bol is unlikely to figure prominently in the rotation once the seeding games begin, but these scrimmages are invaluable when it comes to his growth as a pro.
Plumlee (18/13/4/2) and Nikola Jokic (11/10/8/2/1) posted double-doubles, with the latter playing just 25 minutes, while Tyler Cook added 10 points and seven boards in his 28 minutes off the bench. Hopefully for Denver’s sake the players that were sidelined Saturday will be good to go next weekend.
For New Orleans, Derrick Favors played 12 minutes in his Orlando debut and finished with six points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal. Jaxson Hayes, who dropped down to the second unit as a result, still played the lion’s share of the minutes at center and finished with 13 points, six boards and one steal in 23 minutes. Favors’ workload will only increase once the season resumes, which makes it tough for Hayes to offer much in the way of fantasy value. None of the Pelicans’ five starters played more than 13 minutes (Jrue Holiday and Nicolo Melli), with reserves such as Hayes, Frank Jackson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kenrich Williams all playing at least 23 minutes.
Alexander-Walker filled the stat sheet with 21 points, four rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers, shooting 8-of-19 from the field, looking as good as he did during the Summer League in Las Vegas last July. I’m not expecting too much from him fantasy-wise once the season resumes, as the minutes of guards Holiday, Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick will only increase. The same can be said for Jackson, who tallied 16 points, one rebound, four assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes. Zion Williamson is expected to be ready for the Pelicans’ first seeding game July 30, and his return would move Melli back to the bench.
— Lou Williams returns to the bubble…amidst some controversy
Two days after leaving Orlando to attend to a personal matter (the passing of a loved one) in Atlanta, Williams was back in Florida. However, thanks to rapper Jack Harlow the NBA is now investigating his trip and has yet to determine how long he’ll have to quarantine. Harlow took a photo with Williams at the Magic City gentleman’s club and posted it on social media, only to delete it shortly thereafter. Harlow claimed that the photo was old, but no one was fooled.
Williams has said in the past that Magic City is his favorite dining establishment, and it is plausible that the restaurant was open (if deemed to be an essential business) while the “entertainment section” was closed due to COVID-19. That’s for NBA security to figure out. At minimum Williams is looking at a four-day quarantine period, but it could be longer (Richaun Holmes had to quarantine for 10 days after his food order mishap).
He’s a key piece to the Clippers rotation, especially with fellow reserve Montrezl Harrell also away from the team as he attends to a personal matter. Not having those two early in the eight-game seeding schedule wouldn’t be a major issue, even with there being a logjam of sorts from two through seven in the West. The key is having them back and at full strength when the postseason begins.
— Pat Connaughton (COVID-19) has arrived in Orlando
Connaughton, who did not travel to Orlando with his teammates due to his coming down with COVID-19, was finally cleared to make the trip this weekend. He arrived in Orlando Saturday evening, and will now begin the quarantine process before he’s allowed to join his teammates. At minimum he’s looking at a four-day wait, which removes the possibility of Connaughton being available for the team’s final scrimmage on Monday. When the season came to a halt in March he was averaging 5.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.7 3-pointers in 18.3 minutes per game.
Add in shooting percentages of 45.6% from the field, 32.1% from three and 75.0% from the foul line, and it’s clear that Connaughton’s value within the Bucks rotation exceeds his fantasy value. He’s another athletic body that Mike Budenholzer can call upon, but there won’t be a rush to work him back into the mix given how deep the Bucks are. Donte DiVincenzo has been starting at the point in place of Eric Bledsoe, who finished up his quarantine period on Friday and took part in practice. And there’s also backup George Hill, with guards such as Wesley Matthews and Sterling Brown available to back up starting two-guard Khris Middleton. Connaughton will play once he’s ready to go, but not enough to be worth the trouble fantasy-wise.
— The Knicks finally have their new head coach
There was NBA news outside of Orlando, as it was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Knicks have settled on Tom Thibodeau as the franchise’s next head coach. His deal will reportedly run five years, and Thibs was the choice ahead of candidates such as Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. He’s had success developing young talent in the past, most notably former MVP Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, and the hope is that Thibodeau will have similar success with the Knicks’ young talents.
Mitchell Robinson arguably possesses the most upside, but there’s also R.J. Barrett and whoever the team selects in this fall’s draft. Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina are also young players that could use a boost from a developmental standpoint. Some have expressed a concern for how much Thibodeau used his players at previous stops when it comes to minutes, as he isn’t a believer in “load management,” but it isn’t unrealistic to believe that he and team president Leon Rose will get together and determine what the best path for the franchise would be.