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Week 18 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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The trade deadline came and went without much of the movement we expected -- and hoped for -- so we head into the final six weeks of the season with a very similar league as the one we had before. Potential late-season breakout candidates like Eric Bledsoe and Derrick Favors will instead spend the final months of the season stuck in their reserve roles.

One team that was relatively busy was the Magic, as they shipped out a handful of rotation players in their continued rebuilding attempt. Those moves opened up some room in the rotation for younger players to continue their development, and forward Andrew Nicholson could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of their dealings. Nicholson has already been playing a larger role in Glen Davis' absence, and the additional burden he is set to take on is enough to earn him my Start of the Week for Week 18 (Feb. 25-March 3).

Nicholson plays a completely different position than J.J. Redick, the biggest piece the Magic shipped away, and he should see an increased offensive role with Redick out of the way. Redick, a floor-spacing and ball-handling wing, brings an entirely different set of skills than Nicholson, but Nicholson seems to be a pretty big part of the Magic's plans, averaging 26.7 minutes per game since Davis went down with an injury.

In that span, Nicholson is doing much of his work close to the basket, with 45 of 85 shot attempts coming within nine feet while shooting 60.0 percent on those attempts. However, he has been effective all over the floor, shooting 45.0 percent on all other attempts, showing a varied offensive game that should prove useful moving forward.

The Magic have a decent schedule coming this week, as they face just one top-five defense in Memphis, while also taking on the two worst scoring defenses in the league -- Houston and Sacramento. The fourth game on the schedule takes place in Philadelphia, against a 76ers team that allowed Nicholson to score 11 points with six rebounds in a previous game. With those matchups on the way, and his recent success, Nicholson is worth getting into your starting lineup.

Guards

Start 'Em

Vince Carter, Mavericks (MIL, @MEM, @BKN, @HOU): Carter continues his fine season, and has even stepped his performance up recently, showing he still has plenty left in the tank at 36 years old. Carter has been on fire from three-point range in the month of February, nailing 20 three-pointers in six games, while shooting 55.6 percent from distance. Carter has transitioned nicely from superstar to role player, and the Mavericks have relied heavily on his particular set of skills. Carter is averaging 15.7 points, 2.8 assists and 3.3 three-pointers in 24.3 minutes per game in six February games. The Mavericks don't have the best matchups in Week 18, however two of their four opponents do rank below the league average in points allowed, so expect him to keep his recent strong play up.

E'Twaun Moore, Magic (@PHI, SAC, HOU, MEM): Another Magic player who might be in line for a big increase in his role in Orlando is Moore, however the trade is not the only reason for this. The Magic, whose depth was decimated by the trade, might head into Week 18 without the services of starting point guard Jameer Nelson, leaving them with just three healthy guards with any NBA experience. When Moore has been pressed into starting duty this season, he is averaging 12.5 points and 4.4 assists per game in 10 games. With the Magic likely to lean on him, Moore might be a sneaky-good start.

Sleeper Alert: Will Bynum, Pistons (ATL, @WAS, @NOH, @SAS): Bynum has been a decent enough sparkplug for the Pistons this season, and his role has not diminished as much as we might have expected since the acquisition of Jose Calderon. Bynum is still playing his usual role off the bench, and is averaging 11.1 points and 5.3 assists in just 21.8 minutes per game over the last 10 contests. Bynum could see an increased role in Week 18, with Brandon Knight expected to undergo an MRI on his right knee after being diagnosed with a hyperextension. An extra minutes load could help make up for a somewhat underwhelming four-game schedule.

Sit 'Em

Jordan Crawford, Celtics (@UTA, GSW): Crawford has been a popular choice for a post-trade breakout, having emerged as the fifth-most added player in all CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues in the days after his trade to Boston. Crawford had fallen completely out of favor with the Wizards before the trade, appearing in just six of their previous 10 games, so he probably has nowhere to go but up with his Fantasy value at this time. Still, Crawford is an inefficient chucker, and a pretty redundant one for the Celtics, who have a number of combo guards currently on the roster. He had some success earlier in the season when asked to run the point for the Wizards, averaging 16.3 points and 5.8 assists per game in 12 starts, however the Wizards were also absolutely dreadful during that stretch. I do not expect a Celtics team fighting desperately to make the playoffs to risk relying too heavily on Crawford. With just two games on the schedule, Fantasy owners will want to avoid being too overzealous.

Eric Maynor, Trail Blazers (DEN, MIN): As with Crawford, there might be a desire by some Fantasy owners to take a flier on Maynor, as he gets removed from beneath the pile in Oklahoma City and joins arguably he league's shallowest bench unit. Maynor has shown flashes of being a solid point guard in the past, and the Blazers have hinted that he will spend some time playing next to Damian Lillard. It is not inconceivable that Maynor could emerge as a somewhat useful, albeit low-end, Fantasy option down he road. However, with limited practice time to get comfortable and only two games on the schedule for Week 18, Fantasy owners should continue to avoid him.

Bust Alert: Eric Gordon, Hornets (BKN, @OKC, DET): Gordon is technically scheduled to play three times this week, however it looks like he will only take to the court twice due to lingering concerns about his knee. Gordon has yet to be cleared to play in back to backs this season, so he will probably sit out either Tuesday or Wednesday's game. Generally, Gordon is a useful Fantasy option, however with just two games in the coming week to put up numbers, Fantasy owners might be disappointed with his production. As long as he remains limited by the injury, Fantasy might need to keep a close eye on the Hornets' schedule.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Carlos Delfino, Rockets (MIL, @ORL, DAL): The Rockets have experimented with some smaller lineups at times this season, and it looks like those experiments are going to get much more run in the coming games. The biggest beneficiary of that will likely be Delfino, who started at small forward Wednesday and Friday, with Chandler Parsons moving to the big forward spot. This lineup configuration helps the Rockets spread the floor incredibly well, which has proved fruitful for Delfino, as he nailed nine three-pointers in his first two games as a starter. The Rockets have defeated a pair of playoff-bound teams in those games, so they should be keen to keep using them, so feel confident in Delfino.

Carl Landry, Warriors (@IND, @NYK, @BOS, @PHI): Warriors center Andrew Bogut is out “indefinitely” with back spasms as of Friday, which should be music to the ears of owners who still have Landry. While Bogut was out with an ankle injury from Nov. 9 through Jan. 26, Landry played a much larger role for the team, averaging 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds. The Warriors have a very tough schedule for the week, facing three top-10 defenses, however that might actually be a blessing in disguise for Landry, a somewhat weak rebounder who should have tons of opportunities to clean up the glass. With a likely expansion in his role in score, Fantasy owners should like what Landry brings this week.

Sleeper Alert: Corey Brewer, Nuggets (LAL, @POR, OKC): Brewer remains a sparkplug for the Nuggets off the bench, using his impressive athleticism to get out on the break, keying the team's killer transition game. He can be an inconsistent scorer, and his jump shot has finally abandoned him after a hot start, but he is averaging 11.2 points per game over the last five anyways. He is not the most efficient scorer in the league, but there is no indication that the team is souring on him as a result. Brewer has a solid three-game schedule in Week 18, facing a pair of bottom-10 defenses. He has torched these three teams for 14.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in seven matchups this season, which bodes very well for him.

Sit 'Em

Tayshaun Prince, Grizzlies (DAL, @MIA, @ORL): Prince had some big shoes to fill for the Grizzlies when they acquired him in the Rudy Gay trade, but he has not yet been able to live up to that yet. Prince is averaging 30.3 minutes per game with the Grizzlies, just 2.1 less than he was in Detroit, but his role in the offense has been greatly reduced. Prince has improved his shooting to 46.3 percent from the field, but he is averaging just 9.2 points per game. His rebounding has also fallen off, a predictable result given the monstrous big men the Grizzlies feature down low. Prince has scored in double figures just twice since doing so in his first two games with the team, and is not worth using this week with just three games on the schedule.

Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks (GSW, @WAS, MIA): The Knicks were riding high when Stoudemire returned from his knee injury, a far cry from the downright dysfunctional unit they look like right now. The team is playing just .500 ball in 22 games with Stoudemire, and while it may be unfair to say that he is the reason for their slide, he hasn't helped. Stoudemire is still the same slow-footed defender as always, and the team is so desperate for big man help that they added Kenyon Martin in recent days. Stoudemire might not lose too much of his role to Martin, but the presence of a player who actually tries on defense might give coach Mike Woodson reason to pause when he goes to Stoudemire on his bench. With a possible reduction in his role coming, Stoudemire is hard to rely on. Especially given how pedestrian his production has been; Stoudemire is averaging just 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game over the last five, while shooting 45.5 percent from the field. Three games is not enough on the schedule to justify getting Stoudemire active.

Bust Alert: Patrick Patterson, Kings (@MIA, @ORL, @SAS, CHA): As a stretch-four with an improving long-range game, Patterson might not have had a better possible situation than the one he just left in Houston. That he is going to Sacramento after last week's trade almost seems unfair, as the Kings are deep in the frontcourt and dysfunctional all over the organization. Sacramento has not been the place for big men to flourish in recent years, as DeMarcus Cousins and his lagging development can attest. A year ago, J.J. Hickson floundered in Sacramento as well, a victim of their nonsensical rotations and nonexistent scheme; now he is a nightly double-double threat. Patterson might have the talent to buck this trend and prove reliable even in Sacramento, but I would not stake my hopes on that happening during an important week leading up the playoffs.

Centers

Start 'Em

Jermaine O'Neal, Suns (MIN, @SAS, ATL): O'Neal legitimately looked finished as an NBA player over the last few seasons, as injuries and the miles of 900-plus NBA games seemed to catch up to him quickly. The wizards on the Suns' training staff have helped O'Neal stay on the floor for long stretches this season, and he has rewarded the team with some solid production. Recently, he has been able to take minutes from Marcin Gortat, who remains one of the most disappointing players in the league so far. O'Neal is averaging 21.6 minutes per game since returning from a heart issue, and is putting up 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. The center position does not have many options out there, so O'Neal is worth taking a flier on, even with three games on the schedule.

Sleeper Alert: Tyler Zeller, Cavaliers (@CHI, TOR, LAC): Zeller has been entrusted with a big role for the Cavs as a rookie, but his production has been difficult for Fantasy owners to rely on. He fluctuates between useful and useless seemingly every other week. He is on the upswing right now, and Fantasy owners who need a center to fill in this week could do worse; he is averaging 14.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game over the last three. The Cavaliers have some tough matchups on the way, but Zeller might be worth a risk.

Sit 'Em

Samuel Dalembert, Bucks (@DAL, @HOU, TOR): For a few games there, it really looked like Dalembert was enjoying a renaissance. Clearly, that was just an illusion, caused by the absence of breakout star Larry Sanders, who is now back from his back injury. In three games since Sanders returned the floor, Dalembert has totaled just 10 points and 12 rebounds. The Bucks have an excellent three-game schedule on the way this week, as they get set to face two of the four worst defenses in the league, but Dalembert is no longer worth owning, let alone starting.

Bust Alert: Lavoy Allen, 76ers (ORL, @CHI, GSW, @WAS): Similarly to Dalembert, Allen enjoyed a brief flirtation with relevance in recent weeks, due to an injury to Sixers forward Thaddeus Young. That is coming to an end this week, putting an end to Allen's low-end Fantasy utility. He was averaging 9.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in the team's five games prior to Saturday, but Young has told reporters he plans to return Sunday or Tuesday from his hamstring injury. Even with four games on the schedule, Allen in a reserve role is unworthy of your time.

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Player News
Pelicans being 'smart' with Jrue Holiday's practice time
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:46 pm ET) 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
(5:25 pm ET) 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
(5:14 pm ET) 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
(4:31 pm ET) 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
(4:24 pm ET) 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
(3:24 pm ET) 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
(2:34 pm ET) 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
(2:31 pm ET) 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
(2:24 pm ET) 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."


Norris Cole looking to become a scoring threat for Heat
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:43 pm ET) Heat guard Norris Cole said he wants to become more of a scoring threat this season, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

"We had so many playmakers [last year] that there were times I deferred to let those guys make the plays," Cole said. "They were great at it…. But I also I saw [plays] where I could have been more aggressive to attack."

The Heat are expected to have more balanced scoring in 2014-15 since LeBron James is no longer on the roster.

"He's gotten better individually for sure," guard Dwayne Wade said. "He had a hell of a summer working out and getting prepared. Defensively, he's a monster. The next wave for him is how to be effective as a point guard and effective as a scoring guard. He's going to have to figure out the perfect way to do that. It's not always easy for guys but if he can figure it out he can be very dangerous for us."


 
 
 
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