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Week 16 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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This season has not gone how the Timberwolves would have hoped, and injuries are the primary reason why.

When healthy, the Wolves have looked like a playoff team for extended stretches, however things just keep getting worse for the team, especially in the backcourt. Luke Ridnour recently joined Ricky Rubio on the sidelines with an ankle injury, leaving oft-injured Jose Juan Barea as the team's primary (and for all intents and purposes, only) option to run the point.

This is bad news for the Wolves, who all of a sudden have absolutely no depth, however it is great news for any Fantasy owner who has room for Barea in the lineup, as the Wolves continue to be a high-octane offense that relies heavily on its point guards to create.

A few times already this year, Ridnour and Rubio have been featured here, so it is only right that the third and final point guard option on the team take his place as the Start of the Week for Week 16 (April 9-15), as he should have ample opportunities to put up solid numbers.

In his first start of the season on Wednesday, Barea showed what he can do in this larger role, as he put up 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds against the Warriors. Barea has dealt with his own injuries this season, however right now he is simply the healthiest option for the team.

Sleepers for Week 16
Player % Started
1. Glen Davis, F, Magic 9
2. Shannon Brown, G, Suns 11
3. Greivis Vasquez, G, Hornets 14
4. Jan Vesely, F, Wizards 1
5. Jason Smith, F, Hornets 8
6. Alec Burks, G, Jazz 1
7. Marreese Speights, F, Grizzlies 12
8. Mario Chalmers, G, Heat 28
9. Brandon Rush, F, Warriors 18
10. Ekpe Udoh, F, Bucks 9

Coach Rick Adelman's offense puts an emphasis on production from the point, which is why each of the Wolves' guards has been a valuable Fantasy option at some point this season. Barea is less of a true point guard than Ridnour or Rubio, however he does not lack for playmaking abilities, so as long as he is receiving big minutes, he should have little trouble keeping his production up.

The Wolves play four times in Week 16, with none of their games coming against top-10 NBA defenses. As long as Barea does not suffer any sort of setback from the thigh injury he has been dealing with, Fantasy owners should be able to rely on the pesky point guard.

Guards

Start 'Em

Kemba Walker, Bobcats (WAS, @CLE, DET, @MIA, BOS): The concerns about Walker's game translating to the professional game have not gone away through his first 50-plus games, however the Bobcats look like they are going to hand him the reins at point guard for the rest of the season anyways, as D.J. Augustin continues to deal with knee issues. Walker has not been great this season, however he is playing better recently, hitting 47.5 percent of his shots for 11.0 points and 5.4 assists per game over the last five games. With five more on the schedule for Week 16 and the chance to run the team consistently, Walker should put up better numbers.

Alonzo Gee, Cavaliers (CHA, IND, @IND, @WAS, ORL): Gee has been struggling with his shot for a while, however the Cavaliers are relying on two D-League call ups in their starting backcourt right now because of injuries, so Gee is going to continue to find opportunities to score. He is averaging 9.9 points per game over the last 10, barely acceptable for a low-end Fantasy option, however with the Cavaliers facing a five-game stretch this week without many other options, Gee has the ability to produce better numbers than that. We expect him to.

Sleeper Alert: Terrence Williams, Kings (@DAL, @NO, @OKC, POR): Williams, a former lottery pick who has spent time with three teams in his three years in the NBA, seems to have found some sort of comfort with the Kings, as he is averaging 9.6 points per game over the last 10. With Marcus Thornton dealing with a groin injury and Francisco Garcia suffering a concussion, Williams has been seeing more minutes recently as well, so the talented-but-inconsistent guard should continue to find playing time and scoring chances in Week 16.

Sit 'Em

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C.J. Watson, Bulls (NY, MIA, @DET): Watson deserves credit for helping to keep the Bulls more than afloat in Derrick Rose's extended absence. However Rose is expected to return to the floor from a groin injury by the time that Week 16 starts, which will move Watson back to the bench. Even if Rose wasn't returning and sending Watson back to a reserve role, it would be tough to recommend him with just three games on the schedule for Week 16, especially when all three teams rank above the league's average for points allowed.

Marshon Brooks, Nets (PHI, @PHI, BOS): Brooks began the season as a pleasant rookie surprise, as he put up points in bunches and provided the Nets with a second option on the perimeter. However, given his recent performance (8.0 points on 35.0 percent shooting over the last 10 games) he has been harder and harder to count on for Fantasy owners. In most weeks he is a borderline-starting candidate, but with a brutal three-game stretch on the horizon in Week 16 against two of the league's top-three defensive teams, Fantasy owners should steer clear of the rookie.

Bust Alert: Jarrett Jack, Hornets (LAL, SAC, UTA, MEM): Jack has been a surprisingly excellent Fantasy option this season when healthy, as he averaging 15.6 points and 6.3 assists per game on solid shooting all-around. Unfortunately, health has been something of an issue with him this season, and he is now dealing with a foot and ankle injury that has cost him two games and puts his status for the immediate future in doubt. The Hornets have yet to see the Jack/Eric Gordon backcourt in action this season, so there is the added question mark of whether Gordon will negatively impact Jack's production. There are simply too many question marks surrounding Jack right now to rely on him.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Kevin Seraphin, Wizards (@CHA, ORL, @NY, CLE): Seraphin continues to be a revelation in the absence of both Nene and Trevor Booker for the Wizards. The second-year forward has now played in six straight games with at least 30 minutes and 14 points, stepping up in a big way in the starters' absences. He has also had at least seven rebounds in all but one of those games. The end of the season is often when team's find potential diamonds in the rough, and the Wizards appear to have one here. The same goes for Fantasy owners in Week 16, as he should remain in his role with the other two out.

Tayshaun Prince, Pistons (@ORL, @CHA, MIL, CHI): It took the veteran a while to get going, but he has found his shot in the second half of this season and he seems to keep getting better, an impressive feat given this hectic schedule. Prince is shooting 49.3 percent from the field over the last five games for 15.4 points per game. In Week 16, he faces off against two top-10 defenses and two bottom-10 defenses, so expect the veteran to keep riding high with his current production for the scoring period.

Sleeper Alert: Brandon Bass, Celtics (@MIA, ATL, @TOR, @NJ, @CHA): The Celtics start the week with a brutal back to back against two top defenses in Miami and Atlanta, so Bass may have to do most of his damage in the second half of the scoring period, when they face a trio of weak defensive squads. Bass has upped his played lately, averaging 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over the last five, and he has been getting to the free throw line often, putting in free points in bunches. The Celtics are rolling and Bass has been a big part of that, so don't expect it to end just yet.

Sit 'Em

Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks (@CHI, @MIL, WAS, MIA): On Sunday's nationally-televised matchup against the Bulls, footage was shown of Stoudemire warming up prior to the game and he looked pretty good. Maybe not his typically explosive self, but good enough that Fantasy owners may be willing to sneak him into the lineup on the optimistic notion that he will make it for his Friday prediction and give them a couple of solid games here at the end of the season. That is too risky a proposition, however, given the inconsistency Stoudemire has dealt with this season even when healthy. Even if his balky back is feeling better by Friday, there is no guarantee that the Knicks will play him right away. Don't be too overly optimistic about this situation; Stoudemire has a history of injuries, and it is better to be safe than risk getting nothing at all from him.

James Johnson, Raptors (@IND, PHI, BOS, ATL): Johnson has been one of a number of Raptors to contribute over the course of the season, however in a strange turn of events, coach Dwayne Casey has had him benched over the last two games heading into Sunday. At this point, there's not much in the way of concrete details to go on, but it is starting to look like Johnson has gotten in his coach's doghouse. This comes at a tough time for Johnson, as he had been averaging 10.6 points per game over the previous 10 games. At this point, we have no idea if Johnson is going to be brought back into the fold, and given this uncertainty you have to bench Johnson for this week.

Bust Alert: Ryan Anderson, Magic (DET, @WAS, ATL, @CLE): Anderson has been a tremendously valuable Fantasy option all season long with his unique collection of talents: His combination of rebounding and three-point shooting is topped only by Kevin Love. However he has been unable to play for the last week after suffering an ankle injury last Sunday, and Glen Davis has stepped up in his absence in a big way; he is averaging 21.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game over the last four. While Anderson has a chance of returning by Monday in Week 16, he might be slowed by the injury and see his minutes limited with Davis' emergence, making him a risky start.

Centers

Start 'Em

Byron Mullens, Bobcats (WAS, @CLE, DET, @MIA, BOS): Mullens appeared here last week as a sleeper, but he was so phenomenal in Week 15, that he simply had to make a return appearance. The lanky big man continues to show a fantastic scoring touch, and he has been crashing the boards hard as well, putting up a pair of double-doubles in the first three games of the last scoring period. Mullens went off for the best game of his career on Friday as well, putting 31 points and 14 rebounds against the Bucks, and with a slew of injuries limiting the Bobcats' options, as well as five chances to put up numbers in Week 16, Fantasy owners should feel confident in his abilities.

Sleeper Alert: Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers (CHA, IND, @IND, @WAS, ORL): Despite moving into the starting lineup as a center, Thompson has not emerged as anything close to a must-start Fantasy option, as his production continues to be too inconsistent to rely on week in and week out. That being said, it is hard to look away from him during a scoring period when he plays five times, even if three of the games come against stout defensive frontlines. Thompson has emerged as a low-end Fantasy option, so if you have another player who won't have as many opportunities, Thompson could top them.

Sit 'Em

Zaza Pachulia, Hawks (@BOS, @ORL, TOR): Pachulia has played a big part in keeping the Hawks in contention since Al Horford's injury, and he has also broken out as a useful Fantasy player, especially when matcuups are right. However, his scoring has been slipping recently, as he is averaging only 5.2 points over the last five games. Combined that slip with a less-than-favorable schedule for the week, and Pachulia does not look like a good play. He'll be good for some rebounds and steals out of the center position, but not much more than that.

Bust Alert: Nene, Wizards (@CHA, ORL, @NY, CLE): Nene is part of the reason that Seraphin was listed earlier, as he continues to struggle with a bout of plantar fasciitis that has cost him five games in a row. The team has not indicated when they expect the veteran to return, however it seems unlikely that he will do so for all of Week 16, making him an incredibly risky start. He remains one of the most skilled big men in the league, and he has shown plenty of chemistry with John Wall in limited time in Washington, however with this lingering issue, Fantasy owners will want to keep him reserved.

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Player News
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. 


Jrue Holiday cleared for contact ahead of camp
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was able to participate in full-contact offseason drills last week, the first time he has done so since undergoing season-ending surgery last January.

"Getting out playing has been a joy," Holiday told The Times-Picayune. "I've been running and jumping and stuff, but getting my rhythm back on the court is definitely a big thing right now for me."

The Pelicans open training camp Sept. 30, and Holiday is not expected to have any limitations as the team prepares for the start of the season. Holiday averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season prior to the injury.


Kent Bazemore focused on conditioning in recovery
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Newly signed Hawks guard Kent Bazemore did not pick up a basketball until August, preferring to focus on conditioning in his recovery from foot surgery in April.

"I think the injury was definitely a blessing," he told the Daily Press, "because I was able to step away from the game of basketball. I took myself out of my element all summer. I did stuff I'm not used to doing."

Bazemore signed a two-year deal with the Hawks this offseason, and is expected to compete for playing time on the wing immediately, as he is fully recovered from the surgery. 


 
 
 
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