Detroit's rookie Andre Drummond entered the league with perhaps more question marks surrounding his game than any other player in the draft class. Drummond's physical abilities rated off the charts throughout the draft process, but major questions persisted due to his underwhelming freshman season at the University of Connecticut.
It has taken plenty of hard work on his part, but Drummond has essentially put to rest any doubts about his ability halfway through his first season. Drummond has emerged as an overwhelming per-minute force despite behind one of the handful of youngest players in the league, and he is only improving. Over the last month, Drummond is averaging 10.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, despite playing fewer than 23 minutes per contest in that time. Drummond's rapid development has helped him emerge as a viable Fantasy option, despite his putrid 46.2 percent rate on free throws.
The Pistons play four times in Week 14 (Jan. 28-Feb. 3), with the Bucks, Pacers, Cavaliers and Lakers on the schedule, and that could spell big things for the big man. Both Cleveland and Los Angeles rank among the seven worst defenses in the league this season, and only the Pacers rank among the league's best among this slate of games. Drummond's explosive potential at the center position makes him my pick for Start of the Week.
With the exception of the Pacers, who stand as one of the NBA's most complete defenses, Drummond has a chance to take advantage of specific weaknesses in each of his Week 14 opponents. Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Cleveland all play at above-average paces, and they all rank among the bottom half of teams in the NBA when it comes to cleaning up the defensive glass. Los Angeles' 72.9 percent rate on defensive rebounds leads the way, at 16th in the NBA. Drummond finishes almost 40 percent of his possessions in transition or on offensive rebounds, so expect him to feast on weaker competition this week.
Kyle Korver, Hawks (TOR, CHI): Korver has been written about a lot here in recent days, as his role on the team has grown in a big way since Lou Williams' injury. Korver has been a big part of the Hawks' plans for much of the season and is averaging 38.0 minutes per game since Williams' season-ending knee injury. Korver has seen his scoring increase in a big way over the last four games, as he is averaging 16.3 points per game on an absurd 64.8 percent shooting. He will obviously cool down at some point, but there is little reason to expect the injury-ravaged Hawks to not rely heavily on him for offense. The Hawks are playing just twice in Week 14 and one of those games comes against the tough Bulls defense. Despite that, Korver's recent play makes him worth keeping in the starting lineup.
Richard Hamilton, Bulls (CHA, @MIL, @BKN, @ATL): Hamilton has been able to keep his scoring up this season, and most importantly, has stayed mostly healthy. He missed a few weeks earlier in the season, but has already surpassed his games played total from a year ago. Hamilton has scored in double figures in four of the last five games, averaging 12.8 points in that span heading into a four-game week. The Bulls have faced their Week 14 opponents five times this season and Hamilton is averaging 15.0 points per game combined, including an 18.7-per-game mark against the Bucks. With four games to work with, Hamilton goes from a fringe Fantasy option to a decent start.
Sleeper Alert: Randy Foye, Jazz (HOU, NOH, POR, @POR): Foye continues a trend of shoot-first guards in the start section, and like the other two he is currently riding a nice streak. Foye is averaging 11.3 points per game on the season, but has been hot over the last five, putting up 16.6 points per game. When his shot is going, Foye can be a formidable offensive presence, despite his lack of secondary skills. Week 14 has some good opportunities for him to continue his solid run, as the Jazz face three below-average scoring defenses.
Devin Harris, Hawks (TOR, CHI): Like seemingly everyone on the Hawks roster right now, Harris is currently dealing with an injury, which has forced him to miss the last two games, as of Thursday night. Harris is expected to return from this ankle injury sometime this weekend, but it is difficult to say what his role will be, with Lou Williams out. Harris had been playing well prior to the injury and is expected to work as the team's primary backup at the point guard position. He could have more success in that role, as opposed to when he was asked to work next to Jeff Teague as the shooting guard. Still, Harris has been tough to rely on this season, and a lingering injury only serves to raise more questions. Don't take the risk on him with just two games on the schedule.
Kevin Martin, Thunder, (MEM, @CLE): Martin has taken to his sixth-man role well in Oklahoma City this season, as he has seen an uptick in his scoring efficiency. His true-shooting and effective field-goal percentages, both of which attempt to give a more accurate portrayal of shooting efficiency than regular field-goal percentage, are both career highs right now. Despite that, he is posting his lowest scoring total since 2005-06, as the Thunder have simply relied on him less than any of his previous teams have. That was to be expected, with the Thunder already featuring a pair of ball-dominating superstars. Martin has been a useful Fantasy option for much of the season, but he is pretty much providing only scoring at this point. His less-than-robust overall production makes him worth benching for better options with just two games on the schedule.
Bust Alert: Marcus Thornton, Kings (@WAS, @BOS, @PHI, @NYK): Thornton has seen a pretty dramatic drop in his production this season and it has led to him almost falling out of the rotation. Thornton, who was averaging 18.7 points per game a year ago, is averaging just 12.0 points per game this season, a disappointing number that is actually inflated by his early season play. In eight games during the month of January, Thornton is averaging just 7.6 points per game, the third month in a row his average has fallen. Thornton is still chucking up 7.6 shots in 17.3 minutes per game in the month, but has hit rock bottom with his shooting, converting just 37.7 percent of his tries. The Kings play four times in Week 14, but a few tough matchups loom, so don't expect Thornton to snap out of his funk.
Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks (@DET, CHI, @NYK, ORL): A week ago, I was ready to bury Ilyasova, after a run of games in which he had reached double figures in scoring just once in five games as a starter. He responded with his two best games of the season, scoring 27 points on back-to-back nights, while grabbing 30 total rebounds. At the risk of being too reactionary, I will drop Ilyasova back into the starting category, albeit very tentatively. Interim head coach Jim Boylan has expressed his belief that Ilyasova can be a difference maker. And when he is on it is clear to see why -- Ilyasova brings a rare blend of three-point shooting and top-notch rebounding to the floor, at least in theory. In practice, his play this season has left much to be desired. Still, he did enough to differentiate himself from the rest of the Bucks' power forward options in the last week to be worthy of getting into the starting lineup, despite a trio of games against top-10 defenses.
Gordon Hayward, Jazz (HOU, NOH, POR, @POR): This has been a strange season for Hayward, who has taken off since being benched, a move that can sometimes have disastrous effects on a player's confidence. Hayward has responded well and is on his way to the best season of his career. He has improved his play in the month of January, averaging a season-high 14.6 points and 2.8 assists per game, despite just a modest increase in minutes. The Jazz face a trio of subpar scoring defenses in Week 14 and Hayward has already faced two of them this season, averaging 15.7 points in three games. Given the matchups on the way, Hayward should have no problem continuing his recent strong play.
Sleeper Alert: Jimmy Butler, Bulls (CHA, @MIL, @BKN, @ATL): Butler has seen a big increase in playing time recently, due to Luol Deng's lingering hamstring injury. The question moving forward will be whether Butler has earned himself additional playing time even when Deng returns, and I think that is a fair assumption. Butler has seen his playing time increase consistently over the course of the season, to a season-high 22.4 minutes per game in the month of January. It is not clear when Deng will return from his injury, as the Bulls are notoriously tight-lipped about the injury status of their players. If Deng misses time in Week 14, Butler's value will shoot up, but it might be worthy making an upside play with the fast-improving youngster.
Kawhi Leonard, Spurs (CHA, WAS): Leonard has not made the kind of jump we expected in his second season in the league, and it looks like a knee injury clearly slowed his development. Leonard averaged 10.6 points per game prior to the injury, but just 8.4 since. He still knows how to fill up the box score due to his defensive contributions, but Leonard has not developed into the Fantasy contributor we expected this season. Leonard is more of a low-end starter in most Fantasy formats at this point, and with two games on the schedule he is worth leaving out of the lineup this week.
Alonzo Gee, Cavaliers (GSW, @DET, OKC): Gee has very quietly built on his breakout season from a year ago, though we expected more, knowing he signed a big contract this offseason. Gee has seen his role in the offense shrink recently, as C.J. Miles and Dion Waiters have taken on a larger responsibility. Gee is averaging just 9.5 points per game over the last 10, while adding just 3.8 rebounds. Gee is still playing close to 30 minutes per game in this span, so we cannot even look at that as a reason for this drop -- the Cavs are simply looking his way less often. Gee has scored in double figures in just four of the last 10 games, so don't expect much from him this week.
Bust Alert: Serge Ibaka, Thunder (MEM, @CLE): Ibaka has clearly taken a step forward in his production this season, but his play has been slipping just a bit recently. Since returning from a chest injury two weeks ago, his scoring is down to 12.2 per game over the last five. That is still quite solid production, but it takes him out of the "must-start" category he was occupying, especially in Head-to-Head Fantasy formats. Over the last two weeks, Ibaka ranks 65th among all forwards in standard Fantasy scoring, behind such luminaries as Elton Brand and Lamar Odom. With just two games on the schedule, Fantasy owners might want to ride with better options.
Emeka Okafor, Wizards (SAC, @PHI, @MEM, @SAS): Okafor has improved his play recently and it is difficult not to give a lot of the credit to the return of John Wall from a knee injury. Okafor is averaging a double-double since Wall's return to the lineup Jan. 12, with 10.0 points and 11.1 rebounds in eight games. One-fifth of Okafor's offensive possessions end as the roll man in pick and rolls, so it is no surprise that the addition of a competent point guard has improved his offensive play. The Wizards play four times in Week 14 and though they don't have the best matchups, it looks like Okafor is re-emerging as a viable Fantasy starter.
Sleeper Alert: Greg Stiemsma, Timberwolves (LAC, LAL, NOH): Stiemsma brings essentially one above-average skill to the table, as he remains one of the league's best per-minute shot blockers. He has swatted away 1.2 per game in just 12.5 minutes on the season. He has been pressed into starting duty recently and has provided rare moments of production, as with his 11-point effort against the Hawks last Monday. Fantasy owners should not expect a ton from Stiemsma. However, with the Timberwolves still expected to lean on him, he might be worth some risk in deeper Fantasy formats as an injury replacement.
Javale McGee, Nuggets (IND, HOU, NOH): I wanted very badly for McGee to breakout this season, as he seems to be a perfect fit for the fast-paced style of basketball. Unfortunately, he has consistently drawn the ire of head coach George Karl for his lacking awareness. The effort is there and the skills are obvious, but Karl seems to be growing frustrated with McGee's consistent inability to execute. That has led to a reduction in minutes recently, as he is averaging just 17.8 minutes per game in 12 January contests. His production has slipped to 8.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in that span. The Nuggets should be involved in a track meet with Houston in one game this week while each of the other two contests feature strong frontcourts. You just can't count on McGee right now.
Bust Alert: Andray Blatche, Nets (ORL, MIA, CHI): Blatche has been arguably the most pleasant surprise in the league this year, emerging as a contributor for the contending Nets after being out of shape in his final season in Washington. Unfortunately, he seems to be playing a smaller role in recent weeks, with his playing time dropping dramatically over the last five games. Blatche is averaging just 9.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game over the last five, with his minutes played dropping to 18.0 on average. The Nets face two above-average defensive teams in Week 14, so Blatche's recent slide comes at a bad time for Fantasy owners.