Putting on 10 pounds of muscle and getting in the best shape of one’s life is often a prerequisite for a cliché preseason fantasy basketball article, but the positive buzz for Tyler Herro this offseason appears real. In a drubbing of the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, the third-year guard became the first Miami Heat player with at least 25 points, five assists and five rebounds in 25 minutes or less in the past 20 years.
Even more impressively, Herro tallied this big line off the pine for Miami. Per Elias, the 42-point margin of victory tied the largest win ever in a season opener against a reigning NBA champion. It was also the Heat’s largest win against the Bucks in series history and their largest win in a season-opener in franchise history.
Still a free agent in more than a quarter of ESPN leagues, Herro’s path to a strong third season is clear given the team lost key complementary playmakers Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn in the offseason. It appears the opportunities to break out — like leading the Heat in shots last night — will be there for Herro.
Kyle Lowry, Miami Heat: 5 points (1-8 FG), 1 rebound, 6 assists
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks: 10 points (4-14 FG), 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 TO
The Warriors edged the Clippers, 115-113, on Thursday to start the season 2-0 against the city of Los Angeles, but the real story is that Curry finished the night with 45 points and 10 rebounds, becoming the oldest guard with a 45-point, 10-rebound game since Michael Jordan in 2001. He also became the oldest Warriors player with a 40-point game since Rick Barry on March 25, 1978 against the Knicks. The rest of the Golden State lineup was quiet in the win, while Curry’s bid to be the top player in fantasy hoops is off to a strong start.
Eric Bledsoe was impressive in his return to the Clippers with 22 points to go with three steals. Once an elite source of steals, Bledsoe could revive his fantasy stock this season in a high-usage role on a Clippers team in need of more scoring and defensive production from the point guard spot.
Kristaps Porzingis finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes for the Mavericks in a loss to the Hawks. Looking solely at the box score, you’d think this was more of the same from last season’s disappointing campaign for Porzingis, but he actually looked much better in regards to movement on offense and defensive activity around the rim. I’d be ready to buy, even if Porzingis has a few quiet nights to open the season.
DeAndre Hunter was really impressive on defense for Atlanta in downing Dallas, as his three combined steals and blocks signals some real defensive upside. Rostered in just a quarter of leagues, Hunter’s difference-making defensive contributions should see him play ahead of Danilo Gallinari and Cam Reddish in this deep Hawks rotation.
Injuries of note
Keep an eye on Terry Rozier‘s status heading into tonight’s matchup against the Cavaliers. Charlotte’s scoring guard missed the Hornets’ opener with an ankle injury and the team could adopt a conservative approach early in the campaign.
Analytics advantage for Friday
It’s only a one-game sample, but it’s already time to start to monitor the league’s player tracking database. The NBA uses an optical tracking system that leverages multiple cameras placed in the catwalks in all 29 NBA arenas in order to track player movement and production 25 times per second.
Some of the information, such as miles run per game, is merely fun to monitor, but there are also actionable statistics we can use to improve our fantasy rosters. One to watch early is rebounding chances, which tracks whenever a player is closest to the ball at any point in time between when the ball has crossed below the rim to when it is fully rebounded. It’s essentially a positioning statistic for players busy around the glass. One interesting name to note is Washington’s Kyle Kuzma, who currently ranks sixth in the league thanks to seeing 22 rebounding chances in the opener.
On a team without much size or established producers on the boards, it appears Kuzma could enjoy a big night — and season — on the boards.
Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder: The Aussie rookie played 28 minutes in his debut a few days ago and tonight faces a Houston team that should prove soft in perimeter defense. He can be found at reasonable price on all major formats and has real potential to compile big rebounding and assist numbers, so Giddey looks like a solid bottom-dollar option during a big 10-game slate.
Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers: While the price point is lofty, there’s not much in the way of another huge line for Sabonis this evening. As mentioned above, the Wizards don’t have much size or talent on the block, suggesting gobs of rebounds with a big scoring line are in the works for this double-double machine.
MRI shows no structural damage to knee of Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine
LaVine will be reevaluated early next week, the team said. LaVine did not travel with the team for its game Saturday night in Boston, and he will begin targeted therapy on his knee before the Bulls can offer a more definitive timeline.
“Well, obviously very optimistic and very grateful that it wasn’t something more,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “That’s why they wanted to do the MRI, so he’ll continue to get therapy and we’ll re-evaluate him after a period of time. I don’t think it’s something that’s long-term, which is a good thing. So the biggest thing is how does he respond to therapy, treatment, those kinds of things.
“I think once they see how he responds to the therapy there will be a clearer view of when a return date will be possible.”
LaVine landed awkwardly while grabbing an offensive rebound during the first quarter of Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. He took an intentional foul on the next play before taking himself out of the game.
The Bulls were optimistic after Friday’s game that LaVine had avoided a major injury, but wanted to proceed with caution considering LaVine tore the ACL in the same knee in 2017 while playing for the Timberwolves.
In 38 games for Chicago this season, LaVine is averaging 24.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 49% from the field.
In addition to LaVine, the Bulls will also be without Lonzo Ball on Saturday night as he is experiencing left knee soreness.
“(Saturday) morning when we met he still had some soreness in that joint and just wanted to rest him and have him sit out,” Donovan said. “I don’t want to say day-to-day … when I say day-to-day, it’s not like this game, and he’s back for Memphis. I think right now for the Memphis game he would be doubtful until he goes through treatment and therapy and see how he feels and if the soreness subsides and how quickly it subsides.”
Dallas Mavericks get Kristaps Porzingis, coach Jason Kidd back from health and safety protocols
DALLAS — Mavericks power forward/center Kristaps Porzingis has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols after missing the past seven games and is expected to play in Saturday night’s home game against the Orlando Magic.
Mavericks coach Jason Kidd also cleared the protocols.
Dallas won six of the seven games missed by Porzingis, who is averaging 20.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. The Mavs went 3-1 during Kidd’s absence, when defensive coordinator Sean Sweeney served as the acting head coach.
A source said Porzingis felt well in recent days and had been able to do individual workouts.
Porzingis’ clearance makes center Marquese Chriss ineligible to play for the Mavericks while he remains on a 10-day hardship deal that expires Thursday.
Sources said the Mavericks are considering their options to sign Chriss for the remainder of the season, which would require a move to create an open roster spot.
Chriss has played in 12 games over three 10-day deals with the Mavericks, averaging 6.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game while shooting 63% from the floor.
Chicago Bulls star guard Zach LaVine to have MRI on injured left knee
LaVine did not travel with the team to Boston for its matchup against the Celtics on Saturday night, and instead will remain in Chicago to receive an MRI. There’s initial confidence that he hasn’t suffered a serious injury, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
LaVine appeared to begin laboring after grabbing an offensive rebound with just under nine minutes remaining in the first quarter. On the next play, he took an intentional foul on Warriors guard Stephen Curry before taking himself out of the game.
He immediately walked toward the Bulls’ locker room with a team trainer, but LaVine was able to move under his own power.
“The MRI will tell a lot more once he gets that done,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “I don’t want to sit here and speculate … he kind of came down a little funny, and he’s got some discomfort there right now and they want to take a look. He didn’t feel like he could return.”
LaVine is averaging 25.6 points on 49% shooting (41% from 3), 4.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 37 games for the Bulls this season.
The Warriors took over following LaVine’s injury, closing the first half on a 64-37 run. The Bulls lost by 42 points on Friday after losing by 26 points to the Nets on Wednesday. It’s the first time a conference leader has lost consecutive games by an average of 30 points since the NBA went to two conferences in 1970, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
“These two games should be all the motivation that we need to step up, play hard, play for one another,” Bulls star DeMar DeRozan said. “It’s just another challenge that we got to face. We can’t complain about it. Can’t whine about it. Can’t look for no extra help. It’s on us.”
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