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Week 17 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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Fantasy owners have written off forward Metta World Peace as a viable Fantasy option since the end of his first season in Los Angeles; over the last two seasons, he has averaged 8.5 and 7.2 points per game while shooting below 40.0 percent from the field and is owned in just 15 percent of all CBSSports.com leagues.

Sleepers for Week 17
Player % Started
1. Nate Robinson, G, Warriors 26
2. Donald Sloan, G, Cavaliers 4
3. Michael Beasley, F, Timberwolves 30
4. Gerald Green, G, Nets 16
5. Jan Vesely, F, Wizards 1
6. Avery Bradley, G, Celtics 6
7. Nikola Vucevic, C, 76ers 3
8. James Singleton, F, Wizards 1
9. J.R. Smith, G, Knicks 21
10. Sebastian Telfair, G, Suns 1

Known more, at this point, for his on the court defensive toughness (as well as his off-the-court personality,) the 12-year veteran had been left for dead in Fantasy leagues for the first three months of the season, which makes his recent play one of the more surprising developments of the season.

World Peace has played eight games in April as of Saturday, and has put together arguably his best stretch in three years, as he is averaging 14.6 points on 52.4 percent shooting, while looking more like the terrific all-around player that used to be considered one of the best in the league. Part of his resurrection has been the absence of Kobe Bryant, which has forced the Lakers to shift their offensive responsibilities around.

The Lakers play just five times in Week 17 (April 16-26), however with Bryant's status still murky at best, World Peace is a solid bet to provide Fantasy owners with nice value here at the end of the season. He is certainly not an elite option anymore, however given his recent play and the Lakers' need for scoring from him he is our choice for Start of the Week for the season's final scoring period.

Guards

Start 'Em

Lester Hudson, Cavaliers (@DET, PHI, NYK, @SAS, @MEM, WAS, @CHI): One of the truly great things about the end of the NBA season is watching guys on 10-day contracts make a name for themselves and earn longer looks based solely on the merit of their play. Hudson has become this season's poster boy for that, as he has gone on some kind of run since the beginning of April, scoring in double figures in five of seven games and averaging 17.3 points per game on the month. He may not be a particularly efficient scoring, however he has provided the Cavs with a huge boost off the bench and is not at all afraid of the moment. With the Cavs still dealing with plenty of injuries and with nothing to play for, Hudson is going to keep having opportunities to put up numbers.

Eric Gordon, Hornets (@CHA, @MEM, HOU, LAC, GSW, @HOU): Gordon has proven that he is a phenomenal offensive player when healthy, however that has been his main problem for the fourth-year guard this season. Gordon is averaging 20.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game on the season, numbers that would make him an absolute must-start Fantasy option in all formats if he could sustain it. The problem here is that Gordon has played just six times this season as he has dealt with a number of injuries. Luckily for those Fantasy owners who have held on to him, he looks healthy now and should be able to put up huge numbers of the last scoring period, as he plays just two teams that have above-average defenses on the season. Owners disappointed with his injury-plagued season should at least end up happy if he can give them this late season boost.

Sleeper Alert: Gerald Henderson, Bobcats (NOH, CHI, MEM, SAC, @WAS, @ORL, NYK): This season has been an abject failure for the Bobcats, who are on a historically terrible pace and have an outside shot to finish with the worst winning percent in NBA history. One bright spot, however, has been the emergence of Gerald Henderson as a scoring option, as the former lottery pick is averaging 14.3 points per game on the year. With Corey Maggette suffering a season-ending Achilles' injury last week, Henderson should find scoring opportunities even more plentiful than before in the season's waning moments, so Fantasy owners should be willing to rely on him.

Sit 'Em

Stephen Jackson, Spurs (@GSW, @LAL, @SAC, LAL, CLE, POR, @PHX, @GSW): There was some hope that Jackson would experience a resurgence when the Spurs re-acquired him at the deadline this season, however that has not come to pass, as his struggles have continued and even worsened since the Spurs acquired him. Jackson's scoring has gone down to just 8.2 per game since joining the Spurs, and it is not showing signs of improving. Despite the Spurs playing eight times I the week, more than any team in the NBA, don't expect Jackson to find his way at the end of the season. When he was asked how he thought coach Gregg Popovich would manage his minutes over the last two weeks, Jackson summed it up perfectly: "You never know what Obi-Wan is going to do.”

Ray Allen, Celtics (@NYK, ORL, @ATL, MIA, MIL): Allen has been dealing with an ankle injury at different parts of this season, and most recently it has resulted in him losing his spot in the starting lineup with Avery Bradley's emergence. Allen has missed eight of the team's last 13 games, and while he is expected to return sometime during the final scoring period of the season, it is fair to assume that the team is going to do whatever it can to limit Allen's minutes here at the end of the season, now that they have the look of a contender in the postseason. Allen averaged 11.4 points per game in the five games he played in between the injury flaring up, so he has not been playing at a high level anyways. Fantasy owners should be wary of relying on the veteran right now.

Bust Alert: Kobe Bryant, Lakers (SAS, @GSW, @SAS, OKC, @SAC): Given his age and the fact that he has dealt with injuries of some sort for most of the season, the fact that Bryant is just now missing his first extended time this season is incredibly impressive. Still, the shin injury he is currently dealing with sounds pretty serious, as he has only been cleared to run at this time. It seems like he may be able to return before the playoffs, however it would be safe to assume that Bryant is going to miss at least some time in this final scoring period, making him a very risky start, especially if he is not 100 percent healthy.

Forwards

Start 'Em

J.J. Hickson, Trail Blazers (@PHX, UTA, @MEM, @SAS, @UTA): Hickson has already emerged as a consistently-useful Fantasy option in most leagues, however with the recent news of LaMarcus Aldridge's season-ending hip surgery, Hickson has to be considered almost a must-start Fantasy option. The 23-year old is averaging 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game over his last 10 games, however that has come in just 31.4 minutes per game. In the two games since Aldridge has been out, Hickson is averaging 40.5 minutes per game, and he has responded with a pair of double-doubles and an 18.0-point, 11.5-rebound per game average. He should be a nightly threat for a double-double and a starting Fantasy option in all formats.

Jason Smith, Hornets (@CHA, @MEM, HOU, @LAC, @GSW, @HOU): Ever since returning from a 20-game absence due to a concussion, Smith has been a huge part of the Hornets' efforts; the seven-footer is averaging 12.9 points per game over the last 13 games, while scoring in double figures in nine of them. He is also averaging 6.1 rebounds per game in that time span, while earning high praise from his coaches and a consistent spot in the starting lineup. Only Memphis and Los Angeles look to provide any sort of defensive resistance over the season's final six games, and with Smith playing for a role on next season's team, expect him to keep his strong play up.

Sleeper Alert: Anthony Randolph, Timberwolves (@IND, MEM, @DET, GSW, DEN): Anthony Randolph's late-season ascension to Fantasy relevance is starting to become a yearly tradition. With Kevin Love seemingly sideline for the remainder of the season with concussion issues and a strained neck, Randolph has seen a tremendous rise in his minutes recently, as he has topped 25 in each of his last three games. In those three games he is now averaging 22.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. One day Randolph is going to have to turn this late-season success into sustained production, however for Fantasy owners looking for a boost in the last scoring period, the talented, but inconsistent big man should be a good target.

Sit 'Em

Trevor Ariza, Hornets (@CHA, @MEM, HOU, @LAC, @GSW, @HOU): Ariza has dealt with some ankle issues recently, however he has been considered healthy for the last few games. Despite that, he has been unable to find the floor over the last three games, as Hornets coach Monty Williams has admitted to moving his focus towards the future. As a result, Ariza has been benched in favor of younger players, with Williams saying he already knows what Ariza can give him for the future. Ariza's role on the team next year seems safe, however his time as a productive Fantasy player this season seems over.

Al Harrington, Nuggets (@HOU, LAC, @PHX, ORL, @OKC, @MIN): Harrington revealed last week that he has suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and that he would keep trying to play through it, with the Nuggets still in the thick of a playoff hunt. He followed that revelation up with 11 and 18 points in his next two games, showing that he can still be effective with the tear as a scorer. However his rebounding took a major hit, and coach George Karl has made it clear that he expects to limit Harrington's minutes moving forward, so Fantasy owners might want to limit their expectations for him and go with a healthier option for the week.

Bust Alert: Drew Gooden, Bucks (@WAS, @IND, NJN, TOR, PHI, @BOS): There was a point this season when Gooden was a must-start Fantasy option, as he broke out in Andrew Bogut's absence. However, after suffering a back injury at the end of February, Gooden has struggled with consistency. That has especially been an issue recently, as the big man has failed to reach double-figures in scoring in 10 of the last 15 games. He is averaging just 10.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in just 20.7 minutes per game in the month of April. He is still capable of the occasional big game, however he has also had moments where he has been removed from games entirely due to ineffectiveness. He is too unreliable at this point to be started with how important the games are now.

Centers

Start 'Em

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Glen Davis, Magic (PHI, @BOS, @UTA, @DEN, CHA, @MEM): This has been an understandably frustrating season for Davis, who spent the first three months almost exclusively off the bench. However he has been released over the last few weeks, starting in the place of both Ryan Anderson and now Dwight Howard as they dealt with injuries. He has been downright dominant since entering the starting lineup, averaging 18.7 points and 11.4 rebounds in seven games in the month of April while trying desperately to keep the Magic afloat. He may not be helping them win too many games, Davis has shown the ability to carry your Fantasy team in this role.

Sleeper Alert: Greg Stiemsma, Celtics (@NYK, ORL, @ATL, MIA, MIL): Stiemsma has played professionally in Turkey, Korea, and the D-League prior to making his debut with the Celtics this season, so the fact that he is even in the league is pretty impressive, let alone that he is making an impact on a contender. The 26-year-old has emerged as a low-end Fantasy contributor in Rotisserie leagues, mostly for his ability to fill up the stat sheet. He almost never tops double-digits in scoring or rebounding, however as he did on Saturday, he does just enough everywhere to make him an OK option in a pinch – he finished the game with six points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Stiemsma is far from an elite contributor, however he has gone from a mere curiosity to a legitimate low-end option for the final scoring period.

Sit 'Em

DeJuan Blair, Spurs (@GSW, @LAL, @SAC, LAL, CLE, POR, @PHX, @GSW): The Spurs play the most games of anyone in this scoring period, as they have a back-to-back-to-back to start things off before playing five more games in the next nine days. Normally, that would be a sure-fire reason to play a borderline guy, however in Blair's case, it does not bode well. As discussed in Stephen Jackson's part, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is highly unpredictably when it comes to when he will give guys off and when he will lean on them heavily. And unfortunately for Blair, Popovich seems to have lost faith in him, as he has dropped his minutes to just 18.8 per game over the last 10. Blair has been replaced quite often by Boris Diaw, and with the schedule condensing at the end, he could see some extra time off before the playoffs.

Bust Alert: Dwight Howard, Magic (PHI, @BOS, @UTA, @DEN, CHA, @MEM): Prior to two weeks ago, Howard had missed just seven games in his entire seven-year NBA career, so you can excuse him for taking six of the last eight games off with a herniated disc in his back. Howard has been a model of consistency, but with news breaking on Sunday that he would miss at least the next 10 days, Fantasy owners simply cannot rely on him in this final scoring period. The best case scenario for him is that he returns for the last two games, however coach Stan Van Gundy is already preparing to head into the playoffs without him.

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Player News
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/22/2014) With one week before the start of training camp, the Lakers have signed five-year veteran guard Wayne Ellington to a contract, the team announced. Ellington is now with his fourth team since June, after failing to crack the rotation with the Mavericks in 2013.

Ellington averaged 3.2 points on 43.7 percent shooting from the field over 45 games for Dallas.

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. 


 
 
 
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