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Week 9 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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Coming back from an injury is a rough process for any NBA player, and it is usually best to avoid using them right away in your Fantasy lineups. Some players, like Blake Griffin, can undergo two separate knee operations and never miss a beat, while others need time to get back into the swing of things.

With that caveat noted, I am going to go ahead and tap Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard as the Start of the Week for Week 9 (Dec.24-30), despite having watched him play just one game in about a month due to quad tendinitis. Leonard made his return to the floor Friday against the Hornets, scoring eight points and filling up the box score in just 20 minutes off the bench.

Prior to his injury, Leonard was filling the stat sheet every night, averaging 10.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.0 three-pointers per game, while building off an already solid rookie season. The Spurs have the luxury of easing Leonard back into the rotation thanks to their depth, but they will not keep the franchise's supposed future centerpiece in the awnings for long. San Antonio has a nice schedule for Leonard in his first full week back from injury, as they face Toronto, Houston and Dallas on alternating days. Each of those three teams ranks in the bottom 10 in the NBA in points allowed per game, with Toronto setting the pace at 100.7 points per game, the seventh-highest mark in the league.

Leonard's youth (he is just 21) and the nature of the injury bode well for him making a return to full-time minutes quickly, as he was not dealing with a joint issue or something that might prove to be degenerative if he takes too much of a pounding. The Spurs have no back-to-backs this week, so the temptation to rest him is not great. He could return to being a viable starting Fantasy option.

Guards

Start 'Em

Marco Belinelli, Bulls (HOU, @IND, WAS): Belinelli has played a solid role for the offense-starved Bulls, scoring 15.9 points per game in his first nine games in the starting lineup since Richard Hamilton's injury. Belinelli does not give much else in the box score beyond his scoring, but he has reached the point where he is certainly worth starting in more than the 35 percent of CBSSports.com leagues he is starting in. The Bulls play against the league's second-worst scoring defense to begin Week 9, so Belinelli should have no problem keeping his strong production up.

Jason Kidd, Knicks (@LAL, @PHX, @SAC): Kidd's shooting stroke has been nonexistent in recent games, and yet he has still managed to not be a total non-factor for Fantasy owners. He is playing at the kind of level where, even if he shoots just 22.9 percent and averages 5.2 points per game over a five-game stretch, he still has plenty of value. That is because Kidd is also adding 6.2 points, 4.8 assists, 1.4 three-pointers and 1.6 steals per game in that time. Kidd can really hurt you in Rotisserie formats right now with his shooting, but his overall production remains useful. Especially heading into a week against three teams that rank in the bottom 11 in the NBA in points allowed per game.

Sleeper Alert: Isaiah Thomas, Kings (@POR, NYK, BOS): Thomas has been a major disappointment this season, as he has fallen victim to coach Keith Smart's questionable lineup decisions. The diminutive second-year guard might be forcing the issue for Smart with his recent play however, as he has scored in double figures in three of the last four games heading into Friday's game against the Clippers. Thomas' play last season should have earned him a longer leash than the eight starts Smart gave him, but he is averaging 13.8 points in just 19.0 minutes per game over the last five, and is making it harder for Smart to leave him on the bench. The upside in starting Thomas is considerable, as his back-to-back 20-point games last Friday and Sunday showed, however there is considerable risk involved due to Smart's rotations. However, two of the Kings' Week 9 opponents rank below the league average in points allowed per game, so take the risk on him.

Sit 'Em

Danny Green, Spurs (TOR, HOU, @DAL): Green has struggled recently, scoring in double figures just once in the last four games entering Friday's play, while averaging 8.9 points per game overall in the month of December. He is unlikely to see his play improve moving forward, as the Spurs welcomed Leonard back Friday. Green will likely remain in the starting lineup upon Leonard's return, but he will likely see a reduced role, as Leonard remains the better long-term bet for the team at small forward. The Spurs have some nice matchups in Week 9, but implementing Leonard back into the starting lineup may end up proving costly for Green, at least in the short term.

Jerryd Bayless, Grizzlies (PHI, DEN): Bayless continues to be a disappointment, as his production has completely cratered in the month of December. Instead of playing the combo-guard role many envisioned of him in his first year in Memphis, Bayless has been relegated almost exclusively to a backup point-guard role. He is averaging just 3.8 points and 3.7 assists in 16.2 minutes in the month of December. With just two games on the schedule for the Grizzlies, Bayless should be taken out of the starting lineup in all formats for Week 9.

Bust Alert: Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves (HOU, PHX): Rubio dazzled in his first game back from knee surgery, but reality set in shortly after. Rubio's court vision remains unparalleled despite the extensive layoff while recovering from a torn ACL, however he is clearly not 100 percent physically. The Timberwolves have stagnated on offense with Rubio on the floor, and he has just seven assists in his last two games, while shooting just 10.0 percent from the field. He should still be able to show flashes of the ability that made him such an exciting player before the injury as a rookie, but the road to being a consistently-reliably Fantasy option looks like it still may be a long one. With just two games on the schedule, Rubio's upside is not enough to make him worth starting for the upcoming period.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Amir Johnson, Raptors (@SAS, @NOH, @ORL): The Raptors are riding a five-game winning streak despite losing their opening day front court pairing of Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani to injuries. The play of Johnson has helped them roll through the injuries, as he has played at least 25 minutes in four of the last five games, all wins. Johnson's production in those games has not been stellar, averaging 8.8 points and 7.4 rebounds, however he is filling up the box score with 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals. With some more minutes opening up, Johnson has a chance to cement himself as a major part of the rotation. The Raptors don't have great matchups in Week 9, as none of their opponents rank in the bottom 10 in points allowed this season. Still, if he keeps seeing around 30 minutes per game, Johnson could be a useful Fantasy option.

Marcus Morris, Rockets (@CHI, @MIN, @SAS, OKC): Morris has also benefited from an injury to the starter ahead of him in the rotation, as he has started three games in a row since Patrick Patterson went down with a foot injury. Morris has scored in double figures in each of those three games, averaging 15.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in that span while playing 32.3 minutes per game. The Rockets have one of the league's best offenses, and they have been able to plug pieces in and out whenever the need has arisen. Houston plays at by far the fastest pace in the league, averaging 96.4 possessions per game, which gives Morris plenty of opportunities to put up solid numbers all around. Morris has put in the work to make himself a strong offensive option this season, shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 38.9 percent on 3.0 three-point attempts per game, so Fantasy owners should consider him a decent start why Patterson remains out.

Sleeper Alert: Gustavo Ayon, Magic (NOH, @WAS, TOR): It will be interesting to see what the Magic do without Glen Davis for the next month-plus, as Davis provided volume scoring at the power forward position, while ending up as a negative on the glass and defensive side of the ball. After the first game without Davis, who suffered a left shoulder strain and will likely miss at least a month of playing time, it looks like Gustavo Ayon would take on Davis' minutes, as he played 28 minutes against the Raptors Friday. The fact that Ayon had a double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds) in the game probably helped keep him on the floor, but it has been surprising that he has not been able to find more playing time this season. Ayon averaged 5.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game a year ago as a rookie with the Hornets, despite playing just 20 minutes per game. If Ayon can get close to 30 minutes per game, he might be able to get close to a double-double on a nightly basis, while adding solid totals on the defensive end. With three solid matchups, Ayon has some value as a desperation play for Davis owners.

Sit 'Em

Gordon Hayward, Jazz (GSW, LAC, @LAC): Hayward has improved his game this season, but he has not taken the big leap we were expecting. The third-year player out of Butler has seen his production fall in the month of December, as he is averaging just 12.1 points in 23.9 minutes per game. The Jazz are going with more big lineups this season, with Hayward ending up as the odd man out when Paul Millsap shifts to small forward. Hayward has scored in double figures just once in the last four games, with a high of 11 on 3 of 8 shooting last Saturday against the Grizzlies. He is an incredibly talented offensive player, but the 22-year-old is still looking for consistency in his game. While Golden State, Utah's first opponent, ranks in the bottom 10 in points allowed this season, the No. 4 Clippers' defense looms in back to back games. Hayward is useful when he is rolling, but don't plan on putting him to use this week.

Elton Brand, Mavericks (@OKC, DEN, SAS): Brand has fallen on hard times in a big way, as he seems to have completely tumbled off the cliff in his 14th NBA season. Brand is averaging just 6.8 points per game on the season, and he might be looking at a reduced role this week, as Dirk Nowitzki gets ready to return from knee surgery. Chris Kaman will likely remain in the starting lineup at center upon Nowitzki's return, which could push Brand to a full-time bench role. Brand is dealing with a groin injury heading into Week 9 as well, so keep him out of the starting lineup in all formats.

Bust Alert: Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks (BKN, MIA, @DET): The bad Ilyasova is back, as his Jekyll-and-Hyde act continues. Ilyasova was a breakout Fantasy star a year ago for his ability to mix three-point proficiency with strong rebounding on both sides of the floor, however he has been just as big a disappointment this season as he was a surprise a year ago. Ilyasova is has failed to score in double figures in four games in a row as of Friday night, after topping double figures in five consecutive games prior. We were hoping Ilyasova would be able to build on his breakout performance from a year ago, but he has struggled with consistency all season long. At this point, he has become a player you only want to rely on during his hot streaks.

Centers

Start 'Em

Ed Davis, Raptors (@SAS, @NOH, @ORL): Davis was featured here last week as a forward, but his production is much more fitting at the center position, where he maintains dual eligibility. Davis is averaging 9.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game over the last 10 games, production more befitting a starting center than a forward. He has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games, and has seen at least 23 minutes of playing time in each of those games. He and Amir Johnson figure to make up the starting frontcourt for the Raptors for the time being, and both should be worth using this week, as detailed above. Toronto does not have many great matchups in Week 9, but the team's lack of depth should create opportunities for Davis' production to make up for that.

Sleeper Alert: Tyler Zeller, Cavaliers (@WAS, ATL, @BKN): Zeller has found himself in the starting lineup over the last two games, and, while he obviously cannot make up for Anderson Varejao's absence, the rookie has held his own. He has scored 32 points on 14 of 28 shooting over the two games, while snagging 10 rebounds. Varejao might be back in time for Week 9 from a knee injury that has cost him the last two games, however the floundering Cavaliers might not be in any hurry to bring him back until he is 100-percent healthy. If Varejao is forced to miss time during the week, Zeller has the ability to provide decent numbers as a desperation fill in.

Sit 'Em

Kevin Seraphin, Wizards (CLE, ORL, @CHI): Seraphin has been useful in stretches this season, however he seems to be taking a back seat in the team's offensive plans as Nene has gotten closer to full strength. The fact that Seraphin is mired in a slump recently has not helped his cause, as he is shooting just 38.2 percent over the last five games. As a result, he is scoring just 8.4 points on 11.0 shots per game, as his inability to get to the free-throw line continues to keep him from reaching his full offensive potential. The Wizards face a pair of top-six defenses in Week 9, so don't expect a matchup against the Cavaliers to prop his numbers up. Seraphin could struggle this week.

Bust Alert: DeMarcus Cousins, Kings (@POR, NYK, BOS): Cousins' attitude finally seemed to get the better of him this weekend, as he spent the entirety of the second half of a loss to the Clippers Friday in the locker room. Coach Keith Smart told reporters that he benched Cousins for "conduct detrimental to the team" and would not commit to played Cousins in the team's upcoming games despite Cousins' official apologies. Even if Cousins does play, it would not be a surprise to see Cousins keep him on a tight leash, as his play recently has not demanded big minutes anyways. Cousins is shooting just 31.6 percent from the field over the last five games, despite averaging 14.2 points per game. Cousins' considerable talent has trouble shining through due to his personality, and if the situation devolves, it might be time to keep him on the bench and avoid the risk.

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Player News
LeBron James dealing with some back soreness after scrimmage
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Cavaliers forward LeBron James is dealing with a bit of back soreness following the team's scrimmage Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Following the scrimmage, head coach David Blatt downplayed the issue. "I think overall [LeBron's] fine," Blatt said. "He’s got a little bit of back soreness and we’ll monitor that carefully." James scored 13 points during the scrimmage. 


Pelicans being 'smart' with Jrue Holiday's practice time
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) The Pelicans are being cautious with point guard Jrue Holiday, limiting his practice time as he returns from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his tibia, The Times-Picayune reports.

"We are trying to be smart with his comeback," coach Monty Williams said. "After about two weeks of this, it's time to ramp it up and get going."

Holiday said he came out of Tuesday's and Wednesday's practices feeling good if a bit sore. "I'm sore," Holiday said. "Again I don't think I have pushed my body this much for a long time. It's good. All of our trainers and Monty had to kick me off the court yesterday because I didn't want to stop. But I am glad he did because I am feeling it today. Again that's a part of me still learning how to take care of my body and come back strong these next days."

Holiday didn't play a game after Jan. 8 last season and ultimately underwent surgery in February. He averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 34 games.


Hornets center Al Jefferson looking to improve defensive presence
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Hornets center Al Jefferson said he is tired of being a defensive liability and is looking to make sure opposing teams don't target his pick-and-roll defense, according to The Charlotte Observer.

"I refuse to continue getting picked on at the end of games. It’s not fun," Jefferson said. "Last year at the end of games teams always put me in high pick-and-rolls. I got sick of them thinking that was to their advantage, and it was to their advantage."

Coach Steve Clifford said he was happy that Jefferson brought up the subject of his defensive issues and saved the coaches from having to point it out.

"He’s working hard. His attitude is great. I sense more of a hunger than any kind of complacency," Clifford said. "He sees what the possibilities are for the group. He’s competitive and wants to win."


Pistons coach speaks highly of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy spoke highly Wednesday about second-year guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, according to the team's official website.

"You always look at players first to their strengths, where can a guy be great," Van Gundy said. "I think he can be an elite defender in this league at the two guard and we’ll look for that every night. I think he is a high-energy guy who can get up and down the floor and attack the basket in transition. Those two things have got to be his foundation."

Caldwell-Pope averaged 24 points per game in the Summer League. However, he's still not at the stage in his career where the Pistons are counting on him to be one of their top scorers.

"On the offensive end, he’s going to have to slow down a little bit, get under control, and like a lot of people it will come down to how many shots he can make, how efficient he can be shooting the ball, how consistent can you be," Van Gundy said. "But I think he’s got a great foundation with the defense and energy that will get him on the floor and give him a chance to develop in those other areas."


Lakers forward Ryan Kelly suffers hamstring strain
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Lakers forward Ryan Kelly suffered a moderate left hamstring strain Wednesday. The Lakers will have more information about the severity of his injury Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Pacers forward C.J. Miles not worried about calf strain
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Pacers forward C.J. Miles has been unable to complete a full practice at the start of training camp due to a calf strain, according to VigilantSports.com. However, Miles is not worried about the injury.

"It’s just a little strain, nothing crazy," he said Wednesday. "I’m pretty much healed. I’m doing everything just monitoring the contact a little bit just because of the wear and tear on it.

"It doesn’t make sense for me to be out with a strain for three weeks now when I could take a couple days just two get it all the way back, finish the month and be ready for the first game of the season. But I’m well past sitting out. Just monitoring it, that’s all."

Miles added he only sits out a portion of practice.

"I do everything throughout the whole practice until like just a little bit of the contact just towards the end," he explained. "Since the first practices are long, they don’t want me go through the wear and tear of the whole practice."


Jonas Jerebko will be part of Pistons' 10-man rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy indicated Wednesday forward Jonas Jerebko will be part of a 10-man rotation this season.

"We'll play at least nine on a nightly basis but probably 10 a lot, based on the way Jonas has played in September and in camp," Van Gundy said after Wednesday's morning practice, per the team's official website. "I've been really happy (with him). Nobody put more time in here this summer than Jonas did. Because of his play with the national team in years past, he's never really been able to devote as much time to his own development and his own game. He's gotten stronger. He's in tremendous shape.

"I think the key to Jonas -- and we talked about this early on -- is he has to get back to being the guy he was when he first came into the league, that hungry guy playing with incredible energy, trying to make his spot. What we've seen in September, he looks like a guy who is committed to being a high-energy guy."


D.J. Stephens added to Pelicans' training camp roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) The Pelicans added guard/forward D.J. Stephens to the training camp roster, according to The Times-Picayune. Stephens appeared in three games for the Bucks in 2013-14, averaging 2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds.

Josh McRoberts expects to be ready by Heat season opener
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Heat forward Josh McRoberts will not play in Wednesday's scrimmage due to a toe injury, according to the Sun-Sentinel. McRoberts, who had toe surgery in the offseason, said he has dealt with the issue for years.

"I've needed surgery for a couple years," McRoberts said. "We kind of figured out last year before the season started. I knew right when the playoffs ended, so it was something I had planned for."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat are just being cautious to avoid McRoberts aggravating the injury. However, McRoberts expects to be ready by the season opener in late October.

"I'm just kind of easing back into things," McRoberts said. "It takes time to recover from something like this. I'm just trying not to overdo it."


Heat forward Chris Andersen working on jump shot
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Heat forward Chris Andersen is spending extra time after practice during training camp to work on jumpers from the elbow and baseline, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Andersen is putting in the extra work because the Heat feel he can be used in more than just pick-and-roll situations.

"To step out and have that confidence to shoot the 15-footer, a lot of people haven't seen it or don't expect it," Andersen said. "This year, [coach Erik Spoelstra] says he's going to implement it into the game plan. I look forward to getting that opportunity."


 
 
 
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