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Week 6 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Senior Fantasy Writer
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This will be the second time I cover Rockets third-year forward Patrick Patterson in the last week, as he was also discussed in my waiver-wire column Friday. In all honesty, his recent play probably demands even more talk than that, as he has been in the midst of a major breakout over the last few weeks.

The former lottery pick out of the University of Kentucky is starting to live up to his potential, thanks in large part to the addition of two dynamic ball-handlers in Jeremy Lin and James Harden this offseason. Patterson has thrived thanks to the attention Lin and Harden draw, and it is not hard to see why once you dig into his numbers.

The Rockets' fast-paced offense (94.9 possessions per game; No. 1 in the league) puts Patterson in great position to succeed on a regular basis. He is scoring the majority of his points in transition, on off-ball cuts, offensive rebounds and as the screener in the pick-and-roll game. Patterson has attempted 82 of his 168 field goals in those specific type of plays, according to MySynergySports.com, and he is shooting 64.6 percent on those attempts.

The Rockets are getting him the ball in spots where he can score efficiently, and their fast pace leads to a ton of opportunities. As a result, he is averaging a career high 14.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. The Rockets play three times in Week 6 (Dec. 3-9) with games against the Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks. Each team ranks among the seven fastest teams in the league, so the Rockets should be involved in some track meets. Patterson could continue scoring rather effortlessly in the coming scoring period.

Guards

Start 'Em

Ben Gordon, Bobcats (POR, NY, @MIL, SA): Gordon's scoring has been in decline for the last few years, but he seems to be regaining his touch in Charlotte. It helps that the Bobcats are playing at a furious pace this season, which allows each of their three score-first guards to get the opportunities they need. Gordon has scored at least 19 points in three of the last four games and faces a pretty easy schedule in Week 6. With the exception of a Wednesday matchup against a grind-it-out Knicks defense, the Bobcats face three teams that either struggle to defend or like to play at a fast tempo as well. He is scoring 13.9 points per game and played at least 25 minutes in five of the last six games, so expect his scoring to hold up.

Gary Neal, Spurs (TOR, HOU, @CHA): Spurs role players are an inherently volatile commodity, as coach Gregg Popovich has a proven track record of being unpredictable with his rotations. Neal played 30 minutes or more just once in the team's first eight games; in seven games since, he is averaging 28.6 minutes per game. He has seen his scoring increase along with his minutes, averaging 11.2 per game over that span. The Spurs face three teams in Week 6 that rank in the bottom 10 in defense, which could mean plenty of opportunities for Neal and the Spurs' second team as they will try to jump out to big leads early.

Sleeper Alert: Doron Lamb, Bucks (@NO, @SA, CHA, @BKN): Lamb might have gotten a boost Friday night after Bucks backup point guard Beno Udrih suffered a sprained ankle and was forced from the game. Lamb has seen more minutes over the past week already, and an injury to Udrih would only open chances up. Lamb has played 15 minutes or more in three games in a row and has already produced his three best scoring games as a result. Granted, he is averaging just 7.3 points in those games, but you can see the raw scoring ability already. Milwaukee faces three subpar defenses in a row to begin the week, so if Lamb's minutes increase, he could provide a scoring boost.

Sit 'Em

Andre Miller, Nuggets (TOR, @ATL, @IND, @NY): Miller has been a paragon of consistency in the NBA throughout his career, but the 36-year-old seems to be reaching the end of the road. Miller is averaging a career low 8.3 points and 5.1 assists per game, and his production has cratered recently. Miller has scored in double figures in just one of the last five games and has been limited to just 4.0 assists per game. The Nuggets face three top-10 defenses to finish the week, and all three like to slow down the pace. That bodes poorly for a player who derives much of his value from racking up assists in bulk.

Eric Bledsoe, Clippers (@UTA, DAL, PHO, TOR): The internet continues to plead with Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro to give Bledsoe more playing time, but he still remains a bit player. Bledsoe has been a per-minute terror this season, averaging 9.7 points in just 18.5 minutes per game, but he does not look likely to see an increased role moving forward. If anything, the return of Chauncey Billups on Wednesday will likely lead to even fewer minutes for Bledsoe, as Billups gives them a more reliable option than previous starter Willie Green. The Clippers have some decent matchups on the way, but Bledsoe is likely to be stuck in a reserve role.

Bust Alert: Darren Collison, Mavericks (@LAC, @PHO, @HOU): Collison got off to a monstrous start this season and made the Pacers look foolish for picking George Hill over him this offseason. He has slowed down in a major way recently, falling so far that he was actually benched for Dominique Jones before suffering a sprained finger. Collison's injury is not considered serious, but his up-and-down play this season prompted the Mavericks to add Derek Fisher this week, reportedly with the intention of starting him. Collison should be able to prove his worth over Fisher before long, but the reduced role should leave Fantasy owners wary of relying on him in the short term.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Jason Thompson, Kings (TOR, ORL, @POR): The Kings signed Thompson to a big extension this offseason, but they also managed to get even younger and presumably more talented in the frontcourt with the selection of Thomas Robinson in the draft. We assumed that Thompson's role would slip as a result, however he has surprisingly seen an increase in his minutes played. Thompson is averaging 31.1 minutes per game, the second-highest total of his career. As a result, he is contributing 11.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. The Kings face a trio of subpar defensive front courts in Week 6, so Thompson should be able to continue his resurgence.

Jeff Taylor, Bobcats (POR, NY, @MIL, SA): Taylor has surprisingly made a name for himself on a shockingly competent Bobcats team, after being a second-round selection out of Vanderbilt. Taylor has shown off a solid three-point stroke and has gone supernova over the last week; after going 2 of 4 Friday from long range, he is shooting 57.9 percent over his last five games. He is averaging 12.0 points per game in that span, while playing 30.8 minutes. The Bobcats have just one tough matchup this week, so consider utilizing him, even if his shot regresses a bit.

Sleeper Alert: Steve Novak, Knicks (@CHA, @MIA, @CHI, DEN): There aren't many one-trick ponies with a trick as reliable as Novak's. He has made just seven two-pointers on the season, but he drains 2.3 three-pointers per game at a 42.6 percent success rate. He won't give you much across the stat sheet, but Novak has a chance to fill up the three-point column in Week 6. With the exception of Chicago, each of New York's upcoming opponents ranks in the top six in the league in three-pointers allowed.

Sit 'Em

Dorell Wright, 76ers (MIN, BOS, @BOS): Philadelphia seemed like a perfect opportunity for Wright, a dead-eye three-point shooter on a team that was going to build their offense from the perimeter in without Andrew Bynum. Unfortunately, he seems to have lost out in the battle for minutes, having been limited to fewer than 20 in seven of the last eight games. Wright's shot has been nonexistent, which hurts any potential value he can bring. With matchups looming against a top-10 defense in Minnesota and a pair against an always-tough Boston team, don't plan on relying on Wright.

Elton Brand, Mavericks (@LAC, @PHO, @HOU): In years past, the only thing that could stop Brand were the chronic injuries that hampered him throughout his Philadelphia career. In his first year in Dallas, however, he has been a shell of his former self, despite being healthy. Brand is rebounding the ball well, but has been unable to figure things out offensively, scoring 93 points on 93 attempts. He has lost his place in the starting lineup over the last week and is averaging just 6.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in 19.2 minutes over the last five games. The usually-reliable big man might be reaching the end of the road after a long NBA career, and is not worth starting until he turns things around.

Bust Alert: Caron Butler, Clippers (@UTA, DAL, PHO, TOR): A 33-point explosion against the Hornets Monday has obscured an extended stretch in which Butler has been practically invisible. Butler has scored 84 points over the last 10 games, with 33 coming in that one night; he is averaging 5.7 points per game otherwise. Butler has seen his shots and minutes fall off in his second year as a Clipper as the team has grown deeper. Butler has scored in double figures just once in the past six games, so Fantasy owners should not take the chance on an ice-cold player.

Centers

Start 'Em

Andray Blatche, Nets (OKC, GS, MIL): Blatche has gone from being dismissed by the woeful Wizards for being out of shape to playing a key role on a likely top-four playoff seed, a transformation that only the most optimistic Nets fans likely saw coming. He is averaging 9.4 points per game and did a solid job filling in for Brook Lopez Wednesday and Friday as he dealt with a foot sprain. Lopez might not be back in time for the entirety of Week 6, so Fantasy owners might want to use Blatche as an injury fill in.

Sleeper Alert: Andre Drummond, Pistons (CLE, GS, CHI, @CLE): We knew the lottery pick was going to be raw offensively, so the fact that he is averaging just 5.4 points in 20.2 minutes per game over the last five games comes as little surprise. What has been nice to see has been the way Drummond has attacked the glass and found other ways to get his name in the box score. Drummond earned a reputation as a player with a motor that came and went in college, so his aggression has been a welcome sight. Drummond has gone after boards with abandon recently, averaging 9.4 rebounds per game over the last five, despite limited minutes. If you can live with a poor scorer in the lineup, Drummond has found other ways to be productive.

Sit 'Em

Spencer Hawes, 76ers (MIN, BOS, @BOS): Hawes has been so bad this season that he has reached the point where he is only worth using against good matchups. He has been slowed by some knee soreness, but that hardly explains why he has scored in double figures just twice in the last 10 games. Even though Andrew Bynum might not play until after the All-Star break (if he does at all -- nobody really knows), Hawes needs to be reserved against tougher opposing front lines. Minnesota and Boston would qualify, as Minnesota has taken a big leap forward defensively and Boston gave Hawes fits a year ago. He averaged just 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in nine games against the Celtics a year ago, so two matchups on back-to-back nights certainly do not seem favorable for Hawes.

Bust Alert: Javale McGee, Nuggets (TOR, @ATL, @IND, @NY): McGee is still being started in 41 percent of CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues, and at this point it's not entirely merit based. While he has scored in double-figures in three straight games, he is still averaging just 9.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game over the last five. Nobody can deny McGee's raw physical abilities, but his lack of awareness on the floor continually dooms him to fewer minutes than he might otherwise deserve. He has struggled to stay on the floor for Denver, and Week 6 does not look like a good opportunity for him to break this pattern. After a warm-up against the hapless Raptors, McGee faces three top-10 defenses in a row. His lagging production is not worthy keeping in the lineup against tougher opponents.

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) 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
(1:04 pm ET) 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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