When news broke Friday that Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard would miss up to two weeks as a result of tendinitis in his left knee, it had the effect of opening up close to 30 minutes per game in one of the league's most dangerous offenses. Fantasy owners know that whoever takes Leonard's minutes and role in the offense will see a big boost in value, so the question becomes who that player will be.
Smart money is on the Spurs turning to yet another veteran in the starting lineup, which is why the fifth-most viewed player in the hours after news broke in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues was Stephen Jackson. Jackson has had a limited and inconsistent role with the team so far this season, but he should be able to step up nicely in Leonard's absence, which is why he is the Start of the Week for Week 4 (Nov. 19-25).
San Antonio plays four times in Week 4, against the Clippers, Celtics, Pacers and Raptors. The first three teams rank among the better defenses in the league thus far, but the Spurs' offense is the type of well-oiled machine that should be able to keep running against any opponent. Jackson should be a big part of that, as he brings roughly similar skills to the table to Leonard, who was averaging 10.6 points per game.
Jackson is probably an even better scorer than Leonard at this point, even if his 8.3 points per game average on 37.5 percent shooting might not show that this season. Jackson is just two years removed from scoring 18.5 points per game, so Fantasy owners should not forget what kind of impact he could have. The Spurs won't need anything close to 18.5 points from Jackson with Leonard out, but he is still averaging 12.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per-36 minutes.
Jackson has an opportunity to show he still has something left in the tank in these next few weeks, so Fantasy owners should consider taking a chance on the veteran.
Alexey Shved, Timberwolves (DEN, @POR, @GSW): The Timberwolves have been absolutely decimated by injuries this season, with three of their top five options in the backcourt dealing with injuries of varying severity. As a result, they have been forced to rely on the 23-year-old from Russia for far more than they probably expected this early. Luckily, Shved's flashy playing style has been exactly what the Wolves have needed, as he has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games, including a career-best 22-point showing Friday. Shved, a veteran of European professional leagues as well as the Russian National team, is still prone to some bad passes and questionable decisions, but he has actually kept his turnovers surprisingly low at 1.8 per game. With Ricky Rubio, Jose Juan Barea and Brandon Roy still likely to miss time, Shved should continue to see 25-plus minutes per game between both guard positions, and he could get close to double-figures in most games against three poor defensive clubs.
Danny Green, Spurs (LAC, @BOS, @IND, @TOR): The other part of the equation when it comes to filling in for Leonard, Green has already done a good job of proving his offensive worth this season. He is averaging 11.3 points per game, thanks to a deadeye three-point shot that he is making two times per game at a 43.9 percent clip. Green is already playing roughly 30 minutes per game, so it is not clear how much more the Spurs will lean on him; he will likely see a few more shots each time out though. Green has been a perfect fit for the Spurs' offense, and will have plenty of opportunities to jack up three-pointers this week.
Sleeper Alert: Kyle Singler, Pistons (@ORL, TOR, @NYK): Singler was generally not considered NBA ready a year ago when the Pistons selected him with a second-round pick in the 2011 draft. A year of conditioning in Europe has been good for Singler's game, as he has acquitted himself very nicely through his first 10 games of NBA action. Singler has scored in double figures in two games in a row now, and has established himself as perhaps the only reliable shooter on Detroit's roster. Singler actually found himself moved into the starting lineup Friday against the Magic, and he ended up playing close to 30 minutes. Singler has a pair of easy matchups to start the week, so consider using him in deeper, category-based Fantasy formats.
Kirk Hinrich, Bulls (@HOU, @MIL): The Bulls play just twice this week, but that isn't why Hinrich is here. Even if Hinrich was playing five times against the five worst defenses in the league, I'm not sure he is someone I could recommend as a starting Fantasy option at this point. Hinrich is essentially only a game manager at this point, as he has been held below 10 points in all but one of his games so far this season. He is averaging just 5.3 points and 5.3 assists per game this season, on 32.6 percent shooting. The fact that he plays just twice this week just makes him that much worse of a start.
Devin Harris, Hawks (ORL, WAS, @CHA, LAC): Harris has some truly excellent matchups this week, but like Hinrich, he has been so bad in his new home that matchups don't really matter. The Hawks talked about running some dual point guard lineups this season, but Harris' play has been so poor so far that they essentially abandoned that idea after the first game of the season, with Harris moving to a reserve role from that point on. He is shooting just 38.2 percent from the field right now and has yet to reach double figures in scoring, so Fantasy owners should make sure the accomplished veteran is on the bench.
Bust Alert: Jason Terry, Celtics (SAS, OKC, @ORL): Terry was consistent for so many years, that we probably took his production for granted. A year ago, he scored 15.1 points per game and added 3.6 assists per game, his worst numbers in seven years. Fantasy owners are certainly missing that production right now, as Terry has been unable to find a comfort level in his new home. Terry is shooting the ball extremely well from all over the floor, but he is averaging just 10.7 points and 2.2 assists per game. We did not expect to see such a drastic drop off in his production, despite his advanced age, but Terry has yet to give many signs that he is turning it around. Terry ranks just 69th among guards in CBSSports.com standard scoring formats, so Fantasy owners should not rely on him with just three matchups on the way.
Harrison Barnes, Warriors (@DAL, BKN, @DEN, MIN): Barnes entered the league with a reputation out of college as a smooth scoring wing who struggled to stay consistent at times, and he has lived up to that billing so far. We are starting to see the good side of Barnes more often recently, as he scored 19 and 18 points in back to back games last week. He is shooting 48.6 percent from the field and has also been crashing the boards recently. Barnes is averaging 13.0 points on 6.6 rebounds in 30.6 minutes per game over the last five contests, so Fantasy owners should feel comfortable getting the rookie in the lineup.
Tayshaun Prince, Pistons (@ORL, TOR, @NYK ): The Pistons have been a mess offensively, but Prince has actually been a bright spot at times. Prince has scored in double figures in all but two games this season, providing a steadying influence on an offense that too often relies on inexperienced players who are still growing. Heading into Week 4, Prince has averaged 14.8 points with 5.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game over his last five contests. Only one of Detroit's Week 4 opponents looks likely to provide a tough defensive showing. Prince has remained pretty consistent over the years, and that should continue into this scoring period.
Sleeper Alert: Dante Cunningham, Timberwolves (DEN, @POR, @GSW): Cunningham is another Timberwolves player that has been forced into a larger role due to injury. He has been a decent role player in the past, but the Timberwolves are asking him to be more than that, and he is doing well so far. Over the last five games, Cunningham is averaging 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on 62.2 percent shooting, and the Wolves are still going to need him to play 25-plus minutes per game, with Nikola Pekovic dealing with an ankle injury and Kevin Love still out with a broken hand. Cunningham gives the Wolves good energy off the bench and has endeared himself to coach Rick Adelman quickly.
Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks (@CHA, @MIA, CHI): Fantasy owners are about to take to the streets to put up '"Wanted" ads out for Ilyasova, who seems to have forgotten how to play after signing a big extension this offseason. Ilyasova vowed in the offseason not to let the big contract affect his work ethic, but when player's scoring rate falls in half and he starts averaging 3.5 rebounds fewer per-36 minutes, it is hard t draw any other conclusions. Ilyasova was one of the breakout stars of last season due to his three-point shooting and rebounding prowess, but he has seen an across-the-board drop in his production so far. Both Miami and Charlotte rank in the top five in the league in three-pointers allowed, Fantasy owners have to consider Ilyasova too risky of a play at this point.
Bismack Biyombo, Bobcats (MIL, TOR, ATL, @WAS): As a raw young big man, Biyombo was certainly expected to take a step forward this year after an uneven rookie campaign. With new coach Mike Dunlap putting an emphasis on defensive pressure and a higher pace, it was easy to assume that Biyombo would see a bigger chunk of playing time this season. Instead, he has topped 20 minutes just twice in seven games, including not at all in the last three. Biyombo's lack of offensive ability has really limited his chances this season, as he is the fourth big man in the rotation at this point. None of the Bobcats' Week 4 opponents looks like a defensive juggernaut, but that does not matter for Biyombo. He plays too few minutes to be worth putting in the lineup.
Bust Alert: Danilo Gallinari, Nuggets (LAC, @WAS, PHO, @MIL): It has been difficult to even watch Gallinari play this season, with how poorly he is shooting the ball. Gallinari is shooting just 22.2 percent from three-point range, while attempting more attempts than all but two players in the league. He has been marginally better on shots inside the arc, making 40.6 percent of them, but that is hardly anything to write home about. For a player with Gallinari's playmaking ability and athleticism, his precipitous decline at the age of 24 has been troubling. According to MySynergySports.com, Gallinari is shooting just 15.8 percent on 38 spot-up attempts this season. He is still scoring 13.9 points per game and adding 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, so there is some value for him in head-to-head scoring formats. But Gallinari is just killing you in the percentage categories in Rotisserie leagues, so wait until he finds his missing shot.
Nikola Vucevic, Magic (@ATL, DET, CLE, BOS): As a rookie, it took Vucevic 31 games to record his first double-double and 11 more for the second and final one of his campaign. Vucevic recorded his second double double in the Magic's third game, and as of Friday night he has five in eight games so far. Vucevic is averaging 11.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, while providing some bulk in what is otherwise a very undersized Magic frontcourt. Vucevic has avoided foul trouble, a key for a young big man, and is looking like a pretty decent cog for Orlando in the Dwight Howard trade. The Magic face some tough frontcourts in Week 4, but Vucevic has been productive against almost every team he has faced so far this season, so expect a couple of double-doubles out of the 22-year-old.
Sleeper Alert: Brendan Haywood, Bobcats (MIL, TOR, ATL, @WAS): A major part of the reason why Bismack Biyombo has been unable to find more of the floor this season is that the Bobcats like the stout presence Haywood provides them down low. He is not quite the rim protector Biyombo is, but he gives them a more reliable option on both sides of the. Haywood is enjoying a resurgence, posting 7.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in 28.5 minutes, his best production since the 2009-10 season. Each of the Bobcats' Week 4 opponents ranks in the bottom half of the league in terms of the proportion of their own missed shots that they are able to rebound, so Haywood should be active on the glass. He could post double figures in rebounding at least a few times.
Samuel Dalembert, Bucks (@CHA, @MIA, CHI): The Bucks acquired Dalembert this offseason, presumably with the intention of making him the centerpiece of a more effective defensive scheme. Milwaukee is a much-improved defensive team, however Dalembert can hardly take the credit for that transformation, seeing as he is ninth on the team in minutes played. Dalembert has been squeezed in the rotation by the emergence of Larry Sanders as a defensive force. As a result, Dalembert has yet to reach double-figures in rebounding, and has played more than 20 minutes in a game just once. Dalembert is averaging 6.3 points per game as well, and with some tough defensive matchups on the way, you should keep him in reserves.
Bust Alert: Spencer Hawes, 76ers (TOR, @CLE, OKC, PHX): After a stellar first game of the season, it really looked like Hawes was going to benefit in a big way from the absence of Andrew Bynum. While he has played at least 20 minutes in six of nine games so far, Hawes has really failed to make an impact recently. Most distressingly for Hawes' owners is that he has seen his minutes decrease in a big way since the return of Kwame Brown. Brown is nobody's idea of an answer at this point in his career, which seems to say a lot about how the Sixers view Hawes. The fact that he is shooting just 28.6 percent from the field over the last three games probably is not helping his cause, either. Hawes should be able to prove to the Sixers that he is a better option than Brown before long; if not, all hope may be lost. For now, his role makes it difficult to rely on him this week.