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Week 12 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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From the outside looking in, it is often difficult to tell why coaches make the decisions they make. Fantasy owners (and writers, natch) like to yell about the rotation decisions some coaches make, but we viewers do not get to see how players work when the cameras are off and have only the coach to impress. The players we selfishly want to see play more often may not put the work in during practice, or they may be struggling to grasp the team's philosophy on both sides of the ball.

Having considered all those possibilities, it still makes no sense how much Kings' coach Keith Smart has buried guard Isaiah Thomas at times this season. Thomas made the Kings look like geniuses a year ago, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting after being the last player selected in the draft. This season, he has struggled to even earn consistent playing time, playing fewer than 20 minutes in 12 of the team's 35 games, while earning a handful of healthy scratches as well.

In Thomas' case, as it did in his rookie year, talent has eventually won out -- he has been back in the team's starting lineup over the last eight games. His renewed role in the offense and a solid string of matchups put Thomas in position to be my Start of the Week for Week 12 (Jan. 14-20). The diminutive sparkplug is averaging 13.5 points and 3.9 assists per game since returning to the starting lineup and the Kings have two of the seven worst defenses in the league this week on the schedule.

We would like to see Thomas do a bit more playmaking for the Kings, but they like to spread those duties around, limiting his potential for assists. Still, his recent play makes Thomas worth getting into the starting lineup in Week 12. And if he goes on a run like he did in the second half last season, Fantasy owners won't have to think about whether or not to put Thomas in the lineup.

Guards

Start 'Em

Ramon Sessions, Bobcats (@BOS, IND, @ORL, SAC): As the season has gone on, the Bobcats have been forced to accept the limitations of their front court and play a smaller brand of basketball. They are relying on their guards in a big way recently, especially given the recent loss of Byron Mullens, their only productive big man. As a result, Sessions has seen his responsibilities grow recently. Sessions is doing little play making for the Bobcats, but he has been a strong scorer, averaging 14.0 points per game over his last 10. The Bobcats have some tough matchups on the way in Week 12, and he does not have much experience against these teams this season. Still, Charlotte is giving him plenty of scoring responsibility, and he is rewarding them.

Alexey Shved, Timberwolves (@DAL, LAC, HOU): The Timberwolves seem to have angered some supernatural force this season, and it has caused them to lose roughly half of their relevant players to injury. Shved has been one of their most consistent pieces so far, despite being a relatively unheralded undrafted free agent out of Russia. The 23-year-old has been practically their only option at the shooting guard position, and is averaging 34.8 minutes per game over the last 10. Minnesota has some good matchups on the way, as they face three teams that rank in the top-10 in the NBA in pace. The Timberwolves themselves rank just outside of the top 10, so all three games could turn into track meets, with Shved leading many of the breaks. Shved has been productive for a while this season, and is worth getting into the starting lineup this week.

Sleeper Alert: Lance Stephenson, Pacers (@CHA, @ORL, HOU): Stephenson's improvement this season has largely come out of nowhere, as the 22-year-old looked completely lost at the NBA level in two seasons. He had scored just 143 total points in 54 games across those two seasons, a total he has already flown past in the first 34 games. Stephenson has become a starter for the Pacers, and is averaging 10.2 points per game over the last 10. Stephenson could take advantage of some good matchups this week, and might be worth a risk if you are in need of an upside

Sit 'Em

Garrett Temple, Wizards (ORL, @SAC, @DEN, @LAC): Temple has been asked to run the offense for the Wizards in recent weeks, and the results have not been pretty. Still, he is averaging 6.2 assists per game in the month of January, and has been a decent fill-in option in deeper Fantasy formats as a result. That is coming to an end with John Wall's return this weekend. While Wall might need a caddy for a few games while he gets back in shape, it should not be long before he dominates the point guard spot as in years past. Temple's time as even a moderate Fantasy option is likely done.

Jamaal Tinsley, Jazz (MIA, CLE): Similarly to Temple, Tinsley has seen his playing time and role increase recently due to an absence up the depth chart. Unlike, Temple, Tinsley is likely to remain in his current role moving forward, as Mo Williams is still out for the foreseeable future with a thumb injury. Tinsley lands here due to the Jazz's schedule in Week 12, which features just two games. His production makes for a decent low-end starter in deeper formats, but with just two games upcoming, he should not be relied upon.

Bust Alert: Evan Turner, 76rs (NOH, TOR): For most of the first two months of the season, it really looked like Turner was making the jump that his lofty draft status implied. On Dec. 21, Turner was averaging 15.3 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting, including a blistering 46.0 percent from three-point range. Things have come completely unraveled for Turner in the 10 games since, as his scoring has dropped to 10.0, with just a 35.9 percent mark from the field. His talent shows through in spurts still, but Turner is clearly still learning how to be consistent at the NBA level. With just two games on the slate in Week 12, Fantasy owners might want to give Turner a rest.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Derrick Williams, Timberwolves (@DAL, LAC, HOU): Unlike the last time he was given an expanded role in Kevin Love's absence, Williams is taking advantage of his opportunity right now. Williams has scored in double figures in three of four games, averaging 14.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in that stretch. His minutes have not increased as much as we would have liked with Love out, but they are slowly beginning to creep up. The Timberwolves have some solid matchups in Week 12, with three games against teams that rank in the top-10 in pace. Williams could take advantage of his athleticism on the break in these games, and is worth getting active.

Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks (@LAL, @PHX, @POR): It is still early, but it appears as if the coaching change in Milwaukee will end up working out pretty well for Ilyasova. Ilyasova was in the starting lineup for each of the first three games under Jim Boylan, and he played at least 26 minutes in each contest. His play is still somewhat up and down at this point, but Boylan is going to give him the chance to get back to the level we saw in his breakout 2011-12 campaign. Ilyasova has put up 11.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in the first three games, and has a solid week ahead of him, with three games against three teams that rank in the bottom-10 in defensive efficiency. With a coach who trusts him again, Ilyasova is worth the risk this week.

Sleeper Alert: Alan Anderson, Raptors (@BKN, CHI, @PHI, LAL): Anderson has become a dynamic bench scorer for the Raptors this season, an unlikely outcome, given the path his career has taken so far. Anderson was out of the NBA from 2007-2011, and is now ranked fourth on his team in per-game scoring on the season. He is pouring in 14.3 points per game over the last 10, and is carrying a heavy load as a sixth man. The Raptors have some tough matchups in Week 12, but a four-game schedule should help make up for any potentially bad games.

Sit 'Em

Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks (@DET): There are a lot of factors pointing to Stoudemire being an unworthy Fantasy option at this time, not least of which is the fact the Knicks play just one game this week, due to a trip to London. Even if Stoudemire as looking at a full slate of games, however, it would be tough to recommend him as a starting Fantasy option right now. Stoudemire's surgically-repaired knee is clearly not at the level it needs to be right now, and his performance has predictably suffered. He is averaging just 9.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game since returning from the injury, and he simply lacks the explosiveness he needs to produce on either side of the court. The Knicks have been forced to limit his minutes due to the lingering effects of the injury. Stoudemire is too important to the Knicks' long-term prospects to not become a difference maker down the stretch, but he should be avoided in all Fantasy formats for this scoring period.

Derrick Favors, Jazz (MIA, CLE): Fantasy owners are rightly holding on to Favors, given the immense upside he has shown in his part-time role with the Jazz over the last two seasons. They have to be losing patience right now, though, as the 21-year-old is averaging just 8.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game over the last 10. He has low-end starting value when things are going well; he ranks just 64th among forwards in Fantasy scoring over the last four weeks of play right now. With just two games on the schedule, Favors is clearly not worthy using this in Week 12.

Bust Alert: Gerald Wallace, Nets (TOR, @ATL, ATL): Even before suffering what could have been a serious injury Friday, Wallace was starting to edge back into “Fantasy reserve” category. Much as he did early in the season, Wallace has been struggling to get going under new coach P.J. Carlisemo. Over the last five games, Wallace is averaging 6.4 points per game, while reaching double figures just once. Even if Wallace ends up playing through a rib injury, he has a top-six Hawks' defense awaiting him, not to mention the vastly improved Raptors. The injury simply seals his status as a sit-worthy player.

Centers

Start 'Em

Andray Blatche, Nets (TOR, @ATL, ATL): After appearing to fall out of the rotation upon Brook Lopez's return to the floor, Blatche has been revitalized by the addition of a new head coach. While Avery Johnson seemed adamant about not using Lopez and Blatche together on the floor, Carlisemo has shown more willingness to do so since taking over as the head coach. Lopez and Blatche are averaging 51.4 minutes per game combined over the last five games, indicating at least some shared time on the floor. Blatche has thrived under new management, averaging 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, while being used at times as the focal point of the offense. His value took a big hit before Johnson's firing, but he is worth using once again in Week 12, despite a tough schedule.

Sleeper Alert: Robert Sacre, Lakers (MIL, MIA, @TOR): It has really come to this for the Lakers. Literally every single other option they have at center is currently hurt, which has forced Sacre up from the D-League and into a prominent role recently. Pau Gasol is expected back at some point this week, but Sacre is still going to be needed with Jordan Hill and Dwight Howard out. Sacre has looked outclassed at the NBA level in his limited minutes so far, but at the very least, there is a chance he will put up a random double-digit scoring game, as he did in his first start. If you are truly desperate for help at center, Sacre might be worth the risk.

Sit 'Em

Chris Kaman, Mavericks (MIN, HOU, OKC, ORL): Kaman has spent the last year and a half showing flashes of his former All-Star form, but he has been unable to put together consistent production. His numbers for the season (13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds) are solid, however he has taken a hit with Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup and playing a large role. Kaman is averaging just 23.2 minutes per game over the last five, and he is struggling to figure out how to work next to Nowitzki. Kaman is shooting just 38.0 percent from the field on 10.0 attempts per game, leading to an average of 9.4 points per game over the last five. Dallas plays four times this week, but his inability to work thrive with Nowitzki playing such a large role makes relying on him a risky proposition while Kaman is cold.

Bust Alert: Tyson Chandler, Knicks (@DET): Chandler has been a model of consistency this season, averaging between 11.8 and 13.8 points per game in each month of the season, while adding consistently excellent rebounding numbers overall. He has been passable as a low-end No. 1 center, and is a killer option as your second center. Most weeks, Chandler is worth starting in almost all Fantasy formats, as his production relies very little on the quality of opponent faced; he gets much of his points and rebounds purely on effort, and few big men out work him. Unfortunately, the Knicks head to London this week and have a plethora of travel days to get used to the time difference. With just one game on the schedule, it is hard to recommend relying on Chandler, though this is just a one-time issue.

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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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