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Week 13 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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Stephen Curry's ankle has been sitting there all year in the back of our heads, like a ticking time bomb we were hoping would never detonate. Curry was finally beginning to live up to his considerable potential as a starting point guard, and what's more, finally appeared to be fully healthy following offseason surgery on his ankle.

Enter: Festus Ezeli's foot. Curry landed on Ezeli during practice last week and is reportedly "out indefinitely", as the team is taking every precaution with the injury. It is just a sprain, as far as we know, but the Warriors' training staff is obviously going to exercise extreme caution with Curry after he missed 40 games last season due to injuries in the same foot.

One player who should benefit from Curry's woes in Week 13 (Jan. 21-27) is Jarrett Jack, the backup point guard whose play so far this season has vaulted him into Sixth Man of the Year consideration. He will be asked to carry the offense in Curry's absence, and it sounds like Curry might end up missing much, if not all, of Week 13. Given his increased role, Jack is my choice for Start of the Week this scoring period.

Jack has been terrific all season long, and the only thing keeping him from being a solid starting Fantasy option (as he was last season) has been somewhat limited minutes. Jack is averaging 15.4 points and 6.6 assists per-36 minutes on the season, however he has been limited to just 27.8 minutes per game on the season while shuttling between the backup spot at both guard positions. He should get extended run as the Warriors' lone option at the point guard spot, and could be in for a nice week with four games coming up against the Clippers, Thunder, Bulls and Bucks.

Guards

Start 'Em

Eric Bledsoe, Clippers (@GS, OKC, @PHO, @POR, POR): I have been bullish on Bledsoe's viability as a Fantasy option this season, owing almost exclusively to his role on the team. As long as Chris Paul is around, Bledsoe is limited to acting as a spark plug off the bench and little more. Still, there are times when he can be a useful Fantasy option, especially with Paul still nursing a knee injury. Paul will likely be returning at some point during Week 13, but with a pair of back-to-backs on the schedule among their five games, it would not be at all surprising to see Bledsoe continue to see a larger role this scoring period. Paul's injury has opened up the chance for Bledsoe to see more minutes, and that trend will likely continue in the coming week.

Luke Ridnour, Timberwolves (@ATL, BKN, @WAS, @CHA): The Timberwolves moved Ricky Rubio back to the starting lineup last week, which allowed Ridnour to slide over and play the shooting guard position. Despite being a bit undersized, Ridnour's game lends itself more readily to playing off the ball next to Rubio, as shown by his season-best 21-point effort in Rubio's first game in the starting lineup. Ridnour's assists might go down while playing off the ball, but he is still a smart enough passer to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Ridnour's efficiency should improve in his new role, and with four games on the schedule, he has a good chance to be productive.

Sleeper Alert: Beno Udrih, Bucks (PHI, @CLE, GS): The dismissal of coach Scott Skiles seems to have been a plus for Udrih, who is playing some solid basketball since Jim Boylan took over as the head coach. Udrih is being asked to do more playmaking with the second unit, and has seen his assists increase to 5.4 per game in the five contests under Boylan, as compared to just 3.2 per game under Skiles. Udrih has also increased his scoring to 8.8 per game, while playing 21.0 minutes per game. Only one of the Bucks' Week 13 opponents ranks above league average in defense, and both Cleveland and Golden State rank in the bottom-10 in points allowed.

Sit 'Em

Ben Gordon, Bobcats (HOU, ATL, MIN): The Bobcats seem to have reached a point where only three of their four guards can play well at any given point, and it is Gordon's turn as the odd man out. After scoring in double figures in nine games in a row, the bottom has fallen out for Gordon. He has played 15 minutes or fewer in the last two games, and has scored just 13 points combined over the two contests. Gordon's nine-game double-figure scoring streak coincided with a 2-7 run for the Bobcats, so obviously his increased role was not helping the bottom line. When Gordon is on and getting opportunities to play, he can be useful as a provider of empty scoring totals; when his minutes disappear, he belongs at the bottom of your bench.

Rodney Stuckey, Pistons (ORL, @CHI, @MIA, @ORL): The schedule has not been kind to Fantasy owners who rely on Pistons players, as they have played just three times over the last two scoring periods combined thanks to a trip to play the Knicks in London. Detroit does get to play four times this week, however each of their opponents ranks either at or above the league average in points allowed per game. The bigger issue for Stuckey is not the schedule, however; he has been losing playing time in big chunks recently, and there is no sign that this trend is reversing itself. Stuckey is averaging just 10.0 points and 2.4 assists in 24.8 minutes per game in the month of January, ever since returning from an ankle injury. He has played more than 24 minutes just once in that time, and is not worth getting into the starting lineup until his play turns around.

Bust Alert: Alexey Shved, Timberwolves (@ATL, BKN, @WAS, @CHA): Ridnour's aforementioned move up the positional ladder did not come without casualties, as it forced Shved back to a reserve role Thursday. That move was coming for a few weeks, as the rookie seemed to hit a wall, shooting just 31.6 percent from the field in the month of January. Exacerbating the move to the bench is the fact that Shved suffered an ankle injury at the end of Thursday's loss to the Clippers, an injury that could limit him in Week 13. Shved has shown clear upside as a combo-guard in the early days of his career, but he should be reserved until his role increases again.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Martell Webster, Wizards (@POR, @UTA, MIN, CHI): The Wizards are proof of the value of point guard play, as they have actually looked good offensively since John Wall's return. One of the beneficiaries of that has been Webster, who continues his upward trend. Over the last five games, Webster is averaging 13.0 points, with 1.6 three-pointers made per game. Webster is getting open looks in the flow of the offense, and is having little trouble converting them. The Wizards face a pair of bottom-12 defenses to start Week 13, and the quickly-fading Timberwolves make up one of the next two games. Given his solid production and a favorable slate of games, Fantasy owners can consider getting Webster active.

John Henson, Bucks (PHI, @CLE, GSW): It took Henson a while to earn Scott Skiles' trust, and he has had to work hard to earn Boylan's trust as well. Fortunately, Henson has been able to force his way onto the floor no matter who the coach is in Milwaukee. Henson is averaging 10.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in the month of January, despite averaging just 20.7 minutes per game. Henson is still not playing heavy minutes despite his success, but the rookie's upside makes him worth taking a risk on with a subpar schedule on the way.

Sleeper Alert: Al-Farouq Aminu, Hornets (SAC, @SA, HOU, @MEM): After falling completely out of the rotation in December, Aminu is back in the starting lineup and producing for the Hornets. Aminu got off to a fast start to the season and is starting to reach that level again, despite playing a smaller role. He remains a limited offensive player, shooting 42.9 percent and scoring 7.0 points per game in January, but he is finding other ways to contribute. Aminu is rebounding like a power forward over the last nine games, averaging 9.3 rebounds per contest. In his own unconventional way, Aminu is finding ways to contribute. With four games on the schedule this week, Aminu could be a worth a play.

Sit 'Em

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats (HOU, ATL, MIN): Kidd-Gilchrist has managed to succeed in his rookie season despite possessing very limited offensive skills, but his issues might be catching up to him. Kidd-Gilchrist's production has fallen off in a big way recently, as the 19-year-old is averaging just 6.8 points on 36.8 percent over the last five games. While MKG's offense was not the reason he had emerged as a useful Fantasy option in his first season, there is still a point where his inability to make a shot hurts, and he has probably reached it. Kidd-Gilchrist's other numbers have fallen off similarly to his scoring, as his rebounding is down to 5.8 per game over the last five, with just 1.0 assists and 0.4 blocks and steals. He might simply be hitting a rookie wall, having already played almost as many games as his lone season at the University of Kentucky. With just three games on the way, feel free to sit Kidd-Gilchrist this week.

Patrick Patterson, Rockets (@CHA, DEN, @NO, BKN): After missing extensive time with a foot injury, Patterson has been back in the starting lineup in recent games. Unfortunately, he has been unable to find the spark he showed when he seemed like a breakout candidate early in the season, averaging just 5.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game since returning the starting lineup last Tuesday. Patterson has now been held below double figures in scoring in each of the last seven games, and is looking more like the underwhelming player of his first two seasons. I like some of his matchups in Week 13, but Patterson's recent play makes him unworthy of relying on at this point.

Bust Alert: Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks (PHI, @CLE, GS): Ilyasova has been moved back into the starting lineup with the Bucks' coaching change, but you have to wonder how long that experiment is going to last. He scored 13 points in his first game as a starter, but has totaled just 27 points in four games since. The Bucks have a logjam at the power forward position, and it is hard to see what, exactly, Ilyasova brings to the table right now. He is shooting just 16.7 percent from three-point range over the last five games, and is contributing only 5.8 rebounds. We keep hoping that Ilyasova is going to turn the corner and show the skills that made him a breakout star a year ago, but it seems like we should stop looking for that. With just three games on the schedule, Ilyasova is best left inactive for Fantasy owners.

Centers

Start 'Em

DeAndre Jordan, Clippers (@GSW, OKC, @PHX, @POR, POR): Jordan got off to a fast start this season, averaging double digit points through the first month of the season, however his production has slowed since. Jordan's scoring has dropped in each of the last two months, down to 8.0 per game in nine January games. At this point, Jordan is mostly useful when facing good matchups, which Week 13 certainly provides. Jordan and the Clippers play five times in the upcoming scoring period, giving Jordan plenty of time to make up for his slumping per-game averages. Jordan may never end up breaking out as the big-time Fantasy scorer as expected, but he can be used in the right situations.

Sleeper Alert: Kevin Seraphin, Wizards (@POR, @UTA, MIN, CHI): Seraphin has seen his role grow as the season has gone on, and he is responding with his finest play of late. Seraphin is averaging 30.6 minutes per game over the last five games, compared to a season average of 25.7 minutes. His scoring has increased as a result -- to 15.8 points per game in that stretch -- while totaling at least 16 in four games. Seraphin is a strong scorer on a Wizards team that sometimes struggles, but he has also improved as the team itself has. With four games on the schedule, Seraphin should be able to provide value.

Sit 'Em

Javale McGee, Nuggets (@HOU, SAC): Nuggets coach George Karl held court on McGee's production and potential prior to Friday's game against the Wizards, and the key point Karl kept coming back to was McGee's inconsistency. "I think he tries to be spectacular. Basketball is a game of possession after possession of doing things the right way, doing your job and letting the spectacular happen," Karl told the Washington Post. When you watch McGee, you can certainly understand Karl's point, as McGee often tries to force outcomes, to his own detriment. McGee has struggled recently, scoring just 7.2 points per game over the last five, and Karl seems to be taking some of his playing time as a result. With just two games on the schedule, McGee's inconsistency is too risky to rely on.

Bust Alert: Roy Hibbert, Pacers (@MEM, @POR, @UTA): Hibbert has been arguably the biggest disappointment of any player in Fantasy this season, as he is averaging 9.7 points per game, lower than his career average. Things might not get easier for him this week, thanks to a schedule that includes some imposing front courts. While Portland and Utah don't feature strong defensive centers to throw at Hibbert, he might struggle on the boards and with his shot blocking, the two places he has somewhat made up for his lackluster scoring. Hibbert has still be able to hold on to low-end starting status this season, but it is probably best to stick with better options this week.

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Player News
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. 


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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