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.
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.