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Week 17 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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The faces of some of the league's premiere franchises could change in Week 17 (Feb. 18-24), as the trade deadline looms large Thursday. A number of All-Star caliber players have been bandied about in trade rumors in the past few days, with Houston's All-Star weekend providing fertile grounds for trade rumors to grow.

Arguably the biggest name being mentioned in trade rumors is Celtics big man Kevin Garnett, who has been specifically linked to the Clippers by numerous media outlets in a trade that would reportedly also include center DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe. While Garnett has remained adamant that he will not waive his no-trade clause, the fact that the Celtics are even considering moving the player who revitalized their franchise over the last half decade says a lot about their plans moving forward.

Specifically, it seems to say that the team has a lot of faith in budding forward Jeff Green, who is finally coming into his own after signing a much-disparaged four-year contract this offseason. Green spent much of the early part of the season disappointing both Celtics fans and Fantasy owners who might have hoped for a breakout, but his recent play has been very impressive, enough to earn him the Start of the Week for Week 17. I have been tough on Green at times this season, but his recent play makes it hard to criticize him.

Green is showing serious signs of life recently, averaging 14.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game over the last 10 games, and the potential for a Garnett trade could only open even more chances for him to prove himself over the final two games of the week. The schedule is also extremely favorable for Green to continue his strong play, as the Celtics play four times in Week 17. Each game comes against teams that all rank among the 10-worst defenses in the NBA, with an aggregate ranking of 23rd in points allowed per game.

Green could be in line for a huge increase in his role over the final two games of the week if Garnett is moved, as the Celtics play twice after the trade deadline. Even in his current role, however, Green is more than worthy of a spot in your starting lineup this week.

Guards

Start 'Em

Jason Terry, Celtics (@DEN, @LAL, @PHO, @POR): Much like Green, it took a while for Terry to live up to expectations after signing with the Celtics, but he is finally starting to do so. Since Rajon Rondo went down with a torn ACL Jan. 25, Terry has filled in admirably for the Celtics, playing 29.4 minutes per game and helping them to an 8-1 overall record. Terry has found his jumper and it has helped him up his scoring to 13.0 per game, with 18 three-pointers made in nine games. The Celtics' schedule is pitifully weak this week, so it would be a surprise if Terry was not able to keep his offensive production up.

Kyle Korver, Hawks (MIA, SAC, @MIL): Korver is another name that has quietly come up in trade discussions, but his contract is small enough that it would not be a surprise if the Hawks ended up holding on to him through the deadline. Korver has been a big part of the Hawks' plans this season, averaging 31.3 minutes per game on the season, his highest total since 2005-06. Korver has faced two of his Week 17 opponents -- the Heat and Kings -- this season, and put up 33 points and eight three-pointers made over the course of two combined games. Both teams rank in the top 10 in the league in three-pointers allowed, so Fantasy owners can expect a nice performance from Korver, who has surprisingly emerged as a top-50 Fantasy guard this season.

Sleeper Alert: Alec Burks, Jazz (GS, @LAC): The Jazz only play twice in Week 17, but this second-year guard has been playing well enough recently that he might be worth getting into the starting lineup for desperate Fantasy owners. Burks showed some really solid skills at times as a rookie, but was unable to break into the rotation until recently, due to a number of injuries in the backcourt. Surprisingly, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard has seen his role increase recently thanks to his ability to fill in at the point guard spot for the shorthanded Jazz. His play-making skills leave plenty to be desired overall with 23 assists to 19 turnovers in eight games during the month of February, but he is averaging 10.0 points per game in that span while tossing in 1.0 three-pointers per game. Fantasy owners who need an injury replacement might want to take a risk that his increased role continues.

Sit 'Em

Ray Allen, Heat (@ATL, @CHI, @PHI, CLE): One of the more shocking developments in recent weeks has been just how bad Allen has been for the Heat. In the early part of the season, he made Miami look brilliant for swiping him from conference rivals Boston this offseason, as he averaged 11.6 points on 47.3 percent shooting over the first 40 games of the season. Unfortunately, he has practically been invisible since. Over the last eight games, Allen has reached double figures in scoring just twice, while averaging 6.0 points per game. He is shooting just 27.5 percent from the field overall in that span, and his poor shooting has extended even longer. Allen is averaging single digits in scoring since Jan. 1, while shooting just 40.9 percent from the field. The Heat face three teams that rank in the top-7 in points per game allowed, and the Pistons fall just outside of the top-10 as well, so Allen could continue to struggle.

Lance Stephenson, Pacers (NY, DET, @DET): Stephenson has been intermittently useful this season, averaging 11.4 points per game in the month of February heading into the All-Star game. That is likely to come to an end once play resumes this week, as injured star Danny Granger is finally ready to return from a knee injury. Even if the Pacers bring Granger along slowly this week, Granger is almost certainly going to cut deeply into Stephenson's minutes. He was averaging 34.0 minutes per game in February, but that number should come way down. With just three games on the schedule, steer clear of Stephenson.

Bust Alert: Jared Dudley, Suns (@POR, @GS, BOS, SA): Dudley is another candidate for a trade this week, as he has begun to fall out of favor in the rotation. Dudley had a huge month of December, but has seen his role shrink ever since, especially once head coach Alvin Gentry stepped down Jan. 18. In 12 games since Gentry stepped down, Dudley has seen his scoring average fall to 9.5 points per game, while Michael Beasley has begun to take his place in the rotation. Dudley is averaging 29.3 minutes per game for the season, but has reached that total in none of the last six games. A trade could revitalize his season, but Dudley is not recommended in his current role.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Kawhi Leonard, Spurs (@SAC, @LAC, @GS, PHO): Leonard looks poised for a big second half, as he closed out the pre-All-Star break part of the season by averaging 14.4 points per game over the final 10 games. He shot 50.5 percent from the field and added 1.7 three-pointers, 6.9 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game in that span. Leonard is already a terrific Rotisserie Fantasy option, but if he can keep his recent play up, it would vault him into must-start territory. The Spurs' Week 17 competition features three bottom-10 defenses, with just the Clippers posing any real threat defensively. Leonard has a good chance to keep his strong play up, and is being started in just 55 percent of all CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues -- let's get that number higher.

Patrick Patterson, Rockets (OKC, @BKN, @WAS): It took Patterson a little while to get going after coming back from an injured right foot towards the end of December, and it took him most of the month of January to get going. Once he did, however, he has been difficult for opposing defenses to stop, having reached double-figures in scoring in 11 of 12 games back to Jan. 23. He is shooting a blistering 59.1 percent from the field in that span, while averaging 12.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Patterson continues to do a great job taking high percentage shots, with 36.2 percent of his field-goal attempts coming from within five feet of the hoop and another 17.1 percent on corner three-pointers. Patterson is thriving in the Rockets' fast-paced offensive system, and there is little reason to expect him to slow down in Week 17, despite some solid defenses looming.

Sleeper Alert: Andrew Nicholson, Magic (CHA, @DAL, @MEM, CLE): We seem to have found the winner of the "Who Will Replace Glen Davis" sweepstakes in Orlando, as Nicholson has taken on a larger role than fellow rookie Maurice Harkless. In the seven games since Davis suffered his injury, Nicholson is averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, in just 25.6 minutes per. Nicholson is a little old for a rookie at 23, but the Magic selected him with the 19th overall pick in the draft and are heavily invested in his development, so don't expect his role to diminish. He has been very productive when given the chance this season, and he should continue to have that chance in Week 17. Memphis still ranks second in the league in points per game allowed, but each of the Magic's other opponents this week ranks among the six-worst defenses in the league.

Sit 'Em

Gerald Wallace, Nets (MIL, @MIL, HOU, MEM): We knew Wallace would be asked to play a much bigger role in the Nets' defensive plans this season, but I don't think anybody saw the near-complete evaporation of his Fantasy value as a result. The Nets simply have too many pieces on offense to justify Wallace playing too large a role, and he attempted just 6.3 field goals per game in the 10 games prior to the All-Star break. He averaged just 8.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in that stretch, and that has been about par for the course this season. The Nets have some solid matchups on the way in Week 17, but Wallace is simply no longer a dependable Fantasy option.

Jason Maxiell, Pistons (MEM, @CHA, @IND, IND): When Andre Drummond went down with a back injury, the safe assumption was that Maxiell would step up in his place. Maxiell has a similar-ish skill set to Drummond, even if he does bring about half the athleticism that Drummond does to the table. Unfortunately, Maxiell has barely seen a larger role in Drummond's absence, topping 25 minutes just once in six games since the injury. Maxiell has not topped double figures in scoring in any of the last 13 games, and is averaging just 23.5 minutes per game in the month of February. Charlie Villanueva has surprisingly seen a larger increase in his role in Drummond's absence, and we don't think that will change much moving forward. The Pistons have three games against the top two scoring defenses, so while there could be plenty of misses for Maxiell to clean up, don't expect him to have much of an impact.

Bust Alert: Larry Sanders, Bucks (@BKN, BKN, ATL): Sanders has emerged as a surprisingly-viable Fantasy option this season, but a recent back injury has derailed his promising season. Despite the All-Star break's timely arrival, the Journal Times has reported that Sanders may continue to sit out past the break, due to lingering soreness. At the very least, it would be a surprise to see Sanders play on back-to-back nights right away, with the Bucks set to take on the Nets Tuesday and Wednesday. With the possibility that he might miss at least one game, Sanders might not be worth the risk this week.

Centers

Start 'Em

Spencer Hawes, 76ers (@MIN, MIA, @NY): Hawes ranks 23rd among all centers in Fantasy scoring over the last 28 days, outscoring such Fantasy studs as Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan and Tyson Chandler in that span. For some reason, however, he has been unable to crack even the 50-percent starting plateau, as Fantasy owners remain unwilling to trust him. Hawes is averaging 12.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 blocks per game in that span, so Fantasy owners should just get over their qualms. The Week 17 schedule isn't great for him, but Hawes is playing too well to keep him on the bench at this point, as surprising as that may seem.

Sleeper Alert: Robin Lopez, Hornets (CHI, @CLE, DAL, SAC): At times, Lopez struggles to stand out in a pretty deep Hornets frontcourt that features a pair of players who are both younger and more talented than him. It is a testament to the improvements Lopez has made in his game that he has been able to fend them off and carve out a consistent role for himself. Over the last 10 games, Lopez is averaging 14.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while averaging 28.1 minutes. Three of his Week 17 opponents rank in the bottom-10 in points allowed per game, and he put up a solid 16-point, seven-rebound effort in his lone game against his other contestant, the Bulls, this season. Lopez is not a must-start Fantasy option, but you can roll with him while he is playing this well.

Sit 'Em

DeAndre Jordan, Clippers (SA, UTA): Jordan's entire schedule and outlook could shift if the rumored Garnett deal goes down, which adds an air of uncertainty to him until Thursday's deadline. Jordan is in a strange place with his role on the Clippers, as he has clearly improved his play, while seeing a consistently smaller allotment of minutes. Jordan has already attempted a career-high in field goals as the team has leaned on him more as an offensive player, despite averaging just 24.6 points per game, his lowest total since 2009-10. He has torched the Spurs in two prior games this season, putting up 16.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game against them, but they represent just one of his two games this week. Jordan could go off in one of the games, but his lack of consistency makes him difficult to rely on.

Bust Alert: Marcin Gortat, Suns (@POR, @GS, BOS, SA): We knew Gortat would take a step back in his development without pick-and-roll maestro Steve Nash at the helm of the offense, but his recent decline has been startling. Gortat is averaging just 25.8 minutes per game over the last five, while surprisingly ceding playing time to 34-year-old Jermaine O'Neal. Gortat is averaging 9.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game over the last five, numbers that O'Neal has actually been able to top. Gortat entered the All-Star break riding a three-game single-digit scoring streak, and his minutes decreased in each game. The Suns play four times in Week 17, but Gortat is simply too unreliable at this point.

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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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