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Week 10 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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With the All-Star break past us now, the second half of the NBA season officially begins with Week 10 (Feb. 27-Mar. 4), and the push for the playoffs starts now. Your league's trade deadline is probably coming up, so the chances to shore up parts of your roster that are lacking are running out.

With this in mind, it's more important than ever that you start the right guys every week, and for Week 10 the one player you'll want to trust for sure is Kings' guard Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas, the last player taken in the 2011 NBA Draft, was only inserted into the starting lineup for the Kings just last week. In his four games at the helm of the offense, he has brought some semblance of order to one of the league's messiest offenses.

Thomas has led the Kings above the 100-point mark in three of four games and, more importantly for Fantasy owners, has taken on a big part of the scoring and play-making load. Thomas is averaging 19.5 points and 6.5 assists per game in his four starts while making more than half of his shots from the field.

At just 5-foot-9, there are some concerns about whether Thomas will be able to continue taking on 35-plus minutes per game; however, he has shown the ability to bring together the talented but inconsistent pieces of the Kings' offense and as long as he keeps doing that, the playing time will be there.

In Week 10, the Kings face Utah and Phoenix, two bottom-10 defenses, as well as the Clippers, a below-average one, and the Lakers. With how well he's been playing, Thomas looks like an extremely useful Fantasy play. There's no reason to expect it not to continue this week.

Guards

Sleepers for Week 10
Player % Started
1. Matt Bonner, F, Spurs 13
2. Jason Richardson, G, Magic 32
3. Greivis Vasquez, G, Hornets 47
4. Jamal Crawford, G, Trail Blazers 47
5. Thaddeus Young, F, 76ers 53
6. Derrick Favors, F, Jazz 0
7. Marreese Speights, F, Grizzlies 29
8. Jason Thompson, F, Kings 21
9. Amir Johnson, F, Raptors 23
10. Samuel Dalembert, C, Rockets 42

Start 'Em

Mo Williams, Clippers (MIN, @SAC, @PHO, @HOU): Williams has actually been struggling with his shot quite a bit in the month of February, hitting just 35.2 percent of his attempts from the field. Normally that would be a cause for concern, but with five days off between games and, more importantly, four games against teams that rank no better than 17th in the NBA in defense, I like his chances to begin to bounce back in the second half. He has seen his minutes increase to just over 30 per game in the month, so he'll still have his chances to put up numbers. Count on the sharpshooter to figure things out.

Leandro Barbosa, Raptors (@HOU, @NO, MEM, GS): Toronto has been a Fantasy nightmare ever since Andrea Bargnani got hurt. It seems like every night a new player steps up to try to fill the scoring load left in Bargnani's wake. Barbosa has been part of that rotating cast of fill-ins all year, going for 15-plus about as often as he has gone for single digits. It's been somewhat maddening trying to figure them out, but with matchups against a couple of lower-end defenses, Barbosa's got a shot to put up a couple of nice lines, as he put up double-digit points in four of five games prior to the break.

Sleeper Alert: Vince Carter, Mavericks (NJ, @MEM, @NO, UTA): More Man than Amazing at this point, the former superstar has actually transitioned somewhat nicely into a much smaller role for the Mavericks than he been accustomed to. The 35-year old is displaying a career-best three-point stroke and is putting up his best shooting percentage from the field since 2007-08. His skills fit what Dallas likes to do, and he's still capable of showing flashes of his old self, as he did in a 20-point game against the Lakers before the break. The days of nightly excellence are long gone, but against teams like New Jersey and Utah with poor defenses, Carter can still be useful.

Sit 'Em

Stephen Jackson, Bucks (WAS, @BOS, @ATL, @ORL): Jackson has battled injuries some this year, most recently a hamstring issue that cost him the last two games prior to the All-Star break. However the bigger issue derailing Jackson's season is just a bad fit in Milwaukee with coach Scott Skiles. Skiles wasn't keen on Corey Maggette last season, and he seems to have lost interest in Jackson in much the same way. Jackson is averaging just 19.1 minutes per game in February and there is no indication that he and Skiles have patched things up.

Baron Davis, Knicks (CLE, @BOS): In the wake of the crazy run Jeremy Lin is on, it's funny to think back to the middle of January, when the Knicks were biding their time, waiting patiently for Davis to come rescue them. Well, he's back. And he has made one shot out of 12 attempts in his first three games back. Some Fantasy owners might have been holding out hope Davis could provide their roster with a mid-season boost, but early returns look terrible so far. With just two games on the schedule, the chances for a return to his Golden State heyday are extremely slim in Week 10.

Bust Alert: Joe Johnson, Hawks (GS, MIL, OKC): A knee injury forced Johnson to miss the last two games before the All-Star break, plus all of the festivities during the weekend. And while his absence from the All-Star game is considered more of a precautionary measure than anything else, Fantasy owners might not want to rely on Johnson, especially because the Hawks play a back-to-back. Coach Larry Drew hasn't shied away from resting players if they aren't 100 percent this season, so Johnson could miss a game during this scoring period, which would definitely limit his value.

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Forwards

Start 'Em

Grant Hill, Suns (MIN, LAC, SAC): The Suns offense hasn't been nearly as potent this season as in season's past, and a large part of that has to be the result of Hill finally playing his age for long stretches. The 39-year old had managed to play better than expected in his previous years in Phoenix, however he has seemed to hit a wall this season, connecting on a career-low 41.6 percent of his shots. He is starting to turn things around recently, scoring 13.6 points per game over his last five, and in Week 10 the Suns get to face some opponents that will likely try to keep up with their fast-paced offense. Hill seems to be getting back to his age-defying ways, making him a useful Fantasy start once again.

Danny Green, Spurs (CHI, CHA, DEN): The Spurs have been gone from home so long (last played there Feb. 4,) they probably won't even mind that they have to host the Bulls in the first game back. And if the Bulls spoil their homecoming, they've got the third and second-worst defensive teams in the NBA by points allowed waiting for them afterwards. This bodes well for Green, who appeared to be peaking prior to the break, scoring 16 in back-to-back contests, including one against this same Denver team he faces in Week 10. He also put up a season-high 24 in the first meeting against Denver this season, so expect him to continue his strong run.

Sleeper Alert: Bismack Biyombo, Bobcats (@DET, @SA, NJ): Biyombo is still incredibly raw offensively, as expected, however he is starting to showcase the elite shot-blocking and rebounding skills that convinced the Bobcats to use the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft on him. The Bobcats moved him to the starting lineup nine games ago and in that span, Biyombo is averaging 5.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in just 26.7 minutes. At this point, Biyombo only really holds value in Rotisserie formats because of his shot blocking and rebounding, but if you're lacking in those categories, look his way.

Sit 'Em

Tyler Hansbrough, Pacers (GS, @NO): The former first-round pick showed signs of living up to some of the hype last season, however he has regressed badly this year and is showing little signs of turning things around. Hansbrough is shooting just 41.6 percent from the field in February, yet he somehow managed to raise his field goal percentage in that time. His minutes are getting more and more rare, and if it were not for a 22-point outburst in a blowout win before the All-Star break, his numbers would be even worse. Some Fantasy owners are still relying on the former UNC star, but with just two games in this scoring period, they simply shouldn't expect much.

Michael Beasley, Timberwolves (@LAC, @LAL, @PHO, @POR): Beasley is still an undeniably talented scorer, the kind who can put up points in any number of ways but prefers to operate in isolation and create for himself. On last year's Wolves team, the one that was headed nowhere but the lottery, that was fine. But this year, the Wolves have a purpose and a plan, and Beasley seemingly has yet to figure out where he fits. He has been moved to the bench, and has put up a handful of big games, however he has failed to top double-digits in any of the team's last five. Beasley's spot in the rotation is not secure right now, so Fantasy owners cannot rely on him in the immediate future.

Bust Alert: Danny Granger, Pacers (GS, @NO): The Pacers have improved this season despite their best player taking a major step back. Granger is still averaging a solid 18.0 points per game, however he is shooting just 38.2 percent from the field on the year and isn't showing any signs of improvement, as he shot 37.8 in the month of February. With only two games on the schedule, Granger would have to seriously reverse this season-long trend to make him a high-end option for Week 10.

Centers

Start 'Em

DeJuan Blair, Spurs (@HOU, PHI): Blair is currently enjoying the finest season of his career, however it has not been without its ups and downs. He started off the season on fire, but hit a stretch of eight games at the end of January and beginning of February where he failed to score in double-digits. He is starting to turn that around recently, capping a four-game double-digit scoring streak by tying a career-high with 28 points in the last game before the break against Denver. Blair seems to have overcome that mid-season wall and the break can only help his balky knees. He might struggle against Chicago in the first game back, but a repeat matchup with the Nuggets looms, making him an attractive option.

Sleeper Alert: Zaza Pachulia, Hawks (GS, MIL, OKC): The Hawks have begun to lean on Pachulia more as the season has gone on, giving him 32.4 minutes per game over the last 10. Pachulia is never going to be a big scoring threat, however he is averaging 8.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, .9 blocks and 1.9 steals per game over that time span, making him a useful option in Rotisserie formats and a No. 2 Fantasy center in most others.

Sit 'Em

Brook Lopez, Nets (@DAL, @BOS, @CHA): I remain wary of relying on a big man who is returning from a major foot injury earlier than expected. Lopez is listed at 265 pounds; that's a lot of weight to be putting on a surgically-repair foot. Even if the risk of re-injury was not present, the foot is going to cause him problems moving forward. He was listed here last week, and I'm putting him back on because the same concerns that existed last week weren't settled by his two-game comeback. Fantasy owners are obviously hoping Lopez will provide a big playoff-run boost, but it's just too risky to rely on him right now, especially against tough matchups in Dallas and Boston.

Bust Alert: Nene, Nuggets (POR, @HOU, @SA): Nuggets coach George Karl told the Denver Post last week that he's not sure Nene will be able to get back to being his old self this season as he continues to deal with leg injuries. "His conditioning, being out this long, how we keep him in shape and how we get him to be a 35-minute player might not happen," Karl told the paper. Nene has been less effective than normal when healthy this year, shooting 52.0 percent from the field, well below his career rate of 56.1 percent. On top of that, he has missed one third of the team's games. He may be able to return from a lingering calf injury in Week 10 after the extended layoff, but it doesn't sound like he's going to be receiving full-time minutes anytime soon.

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Free-agent center Andray Blatche has signed a one-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers in China. Blatche's deal with pay him almost $2.5 million, and he'll be able to rejoin an NBA team in March, Yahoo! Sports reports.

Report: Kings add Ramon Sessions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) The Kings have agreed to a two-year, $4.2-million deal with free-agent guard Ramon Sessions , Yahoo! Sports reports.

The team is reportedly using its bi-annual exception provision to sign Sessions, who averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 83 games between two teams last season.


Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Last season was a rough one for Omer Asik, who had to deal with returning to a reserve role after really shining as a starter the previous year. He should be much happier with his role this season, as the Pelicans acquired him this offseason with the intention of installing him as the starting center.

The Pelicans should have a fearsome frontcourt with Asik starting next to Anthony Davis, and Davis' presence should free Asik up to do the kind of work he excels at. Asik isn't a great offensive player, but he can be a dominant offensive rebounder, and should have many chances to clean up the boards with teams keying in on Davis offensively. Among players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Asik is 22nd all-time in offensive rebounding percentage.

Asik had trouble staying healthy last season, but that was the first time he had ever missed a regular-season game in his career, so we can probably write that off as a fluke. He averaged a double-double with 1.1 blocks per game in 30.0 minutes per game two years ago, and should be capable of similar production as he returns to a starting role.

Asik should be viewed as a starting Fantasy option this season, though he may not have the upside of some other younger centers at this point. 


Tobias Harris' Fantasy value a mystery at this point
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Perception is a funny thing. Just ask Magic forward Tobias Harris, who enjoyed by far the most productive season of his career in 2013-14 but was somehow viewed as a Fantasy disappointment.

Part of that stemmed from Harris' issues with availability, as he missed 20 games and got off to a slow start to the season as a result. It really took until January for Harris to find his stride, but he averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Jan. 1 on, without missing a contest.

Harris was probably better than the general perception of him a year ago, but the power of expectations hurt him. And now he enters his fourth season as something of a career crossroads, and it is hard to say just how Fantasy owners should approach him this season.

The Magic added Channing Frye and Aaron Gordon to the roster this season, further confusing what was already one of the most crowded frontcourts in the league. Harris can play both forward spots, but he is probably best used as a small-ball power forward; the presence of Frye, one of the league's elite stretch-fours certainly complicates matters for Harris, then.

At just 22, Harris still has a world of potential ahead of him. However, he probably profiles best as a reserve Fantasy option heading into the season, given concerns about his role.   


Hype may be too high for Giannis Antetokounmpo
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) No matter what he accomplishes in his second NBA season, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to be a historical outlier, given his age. The question is, how much of a leap can the now-20-year-old take next season.

Only 15 players in NBA history have logged as many minutes in a single season as a teenager as Antetokounmpo's 1,897, so he is occupying fairly rarified air already. His age is a big part of why he is considered a big-time breakout prospect for Fantasy purposes, but he has a long way to go from a statistical standpoint.

Antetokounmpo was good for a 19-year-old rookie, but his season averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game left a lot to be desired. It is easy to dream about a Antetokounmpo taking a big step forward, but that next step is never guaranteed -- for every Anthony Davis there is a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist whose development follows a slower, less linear path. 

Antetokounmpo was very good -- for a 19-year-old. However, Fantasy owners don't get extra points, rebounds or assists if the degree of difficulty is higher, so you are betting on Giannis taking a huge step forward at the age of 20. Antetokounmpo has become something of an internet darling, and his play in Summer League and the FIBA World Cup dominated much of the offseason discussion, which only helped build the hype to potentially unsustainable levels. 

He is a lottery ticket, for sure, but he is one that might not be worth the cost at this point. 


Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the breakout season many expected from him a year ago, but there were still plenty of flaws apparent in his game as he finished his third NBA season. With a better team around him, Butler just might have enough help to vault him to stardom.

Butler's jump shot abandoned him last season, especially after a toe injury forced him to miss 11 games in November and December. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range prior to the injury, but connected on just 39.3 percent of his shots overall and 27.1 percent from three-point range from that point on.

We can blame Butler's season-long shooting slump on the injury or his increased offensive role, but he should have neither excuse available for him this season. Butler should be healthy, and the Bulls added plenty of offensive firepower this offseason, in the form of Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott, not to mention a hopefully healthy Derrick Rose. Butler took 154 shots off the dribble last season, per Stats.NBA.com, and made just 30.7 percent of them. With a better team around him, Butler should get many more opportunities to shoot with his feet set.

Butler has the skill set to be a tremendously efficient offensive player, given how often he bullies his way to the free-throw line. Last season, Butler filled up the box score extremely well, but his poor shooting limited his Fantasy value somewhat. If a new role helps his efficiency, he could be one of the very best guards in the league in category-based formats. 


Lance Stephenson set for bigger role in new setting
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Though there were fits and starts, Lance Stephenson finally began to live up to his considerable promise last season. Now in a new home in Charlotte, will Stephenson take another step forward in 2014-15?

By the end of last season, the Pacers were a mess, and Stephenson caught plenty of the blame for that. Still, he might have been arguably the team's most consistent player throughout the season, averaging between 25.8 and 29.7 Fantasy points per game from before and after the All-Star break as well as the playoffs. For as much of a mess as that team was, Stephenson emerged as something of a rock, at least for Fantasy purposes.

The Hornets are actually built in a somewhat similar way to the Pacers, so there wont' be much of a stylistic shift for Stephenson to get used to. Per MySynergySports.com, 11.8 percent of the then-Bobcats' possessions ended in post-ups, actually down from the 13.2 percent mark the Pacers' posted. Stephenson struggled at times with his post-entry passing, though his off-target feeds might find their mark more often when being lobbed in to the soft hands of Al Jefferson, as opposed to Roy Hibbert.

The Hornets might lean even more heavily on Stephenson than the Pacers did, since Indiana liked to spread the ball around with their starting five. The Hornets, on the other hand, look to be extremely top-heavy, and Stephenson will get plenty of chances to be the second or third option. We have him projected for 29.1 Fantasy points per game, and consider Stephenson a borderline top-50 Fantasy option for this season.  


Move to Houston won't alter Trevor Ariza's trajectory
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Trevor Ariza parlayed a career-year into a lucrative free-agency contract with the Rockets this offseason -- stop me if you've heard this story before.

Ariza was largely a disappointment in his first stint with the Rockets, though it did lead him to the best per-game numbers of his career. Still, Ariza was obviously miscast as a primary offensive option the last time he was in Houston, and that won't be a problem this time around.

Ariza joins a Rockets team with two established stars, and will likely spend much of his time trying to fill the departed Chandler Parsons' role. That should suit him nicely, as Ariza has just enough of an off-the-bounce game to serve as the team's third ballhandler when the shot clock gets deep. Ariza attempted 11.1 field-goal attempts per game last season, and should see a boost given Parsons' role; he attempted 13.3 shots per game.

Ariza's improved three-point shot seems legitimate, as he is shooting 38.6 percent from long range over 738 attempts since 2012. However, he will no longer have John Wall feeding him for juicy corner 3-pointers; Wall to Ariza was the league's most productive corner-three combination last season. His shooting numbers may take a hit with his move.

Even acknowledging the loss of Wall's help, we know the Houston offense is set up to get every player the most efficient shots possible, so Ariza shouldn't see much of a dip in his efficiency. His ability to fill up the box score makes him a perfect No. 2 option at forward in category-based leagues, especially now that he is a high-volume shooter. 


Despite new role, don't write off Isaiah Thomas entirely
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Suns guard Isaiah Thomas might see one of the biggest dropoffs in his Fantasy value from last season to this, as he joins the crowded Suns' backcourt.

The Suns might have three All-Star caliber guards in the backcourt now, with Thomas likely to backup Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe this season. That should put a serious dent in Thomas' value; Thomas finished 13th in Fantasy scoring among guards a year ago, but is projected to finish just 43rd this season.

Still, Thomas is definitely someone you'll want to add to your team when drafting, and almost certainly before the rest of the No. 4-type guards he is grouped with. Thomas is likely to see his numbers fall off from the 20.3 points and 6.3 assists he averaged a year ago, at least at first. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end up starting upwards of 25 games throughout the year, given Bledsoe's injury-proneness. Bledsoe has missed at least 25 games in two of the last three seasons for knee issues.

Thomas probably profiles as more of a bench option for Fantasy purposes next season, but you'll be targeting him much earlier than nearly any other reserve. His upside as a handcuff option for either Bledsoe or Dragic is sky-high, and will make him well worth your attention on Draft Day. 


Eric Gordon cleared for contact
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Eric Gordon has been cleared to take part in full-contact offseason drills ahead of training camp, The Times-Picayune reports.

Gordon underwent season-ending knee surgery last April, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. 


 
 
 
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