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Week 20 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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When Steve Nash left this offseason for the bright lights of Los Angeles, the Suns were left with a choice; tear the roster apart and try to find a new foundational player to replace Nash, or attempt to remain relevant in a Western Conference that never seems to get any easier. The Suns opted for the latter choice, making a half-hearted attempt to remain competitive by building around unwanted veterans and questionably talented young guys.

The result has been a 22-41 record so far, with an expensive and aging roster that has little of the depth that generally comes from being expensive and aging. They have felt the sting of their lack of depth recently, as center Jermaine O'Neal left the team for an indefinite amount of time just a few days before Marcin Gortat went down with a possibly season-ending foot injury. With both centers on the roster incapacitated for what could be at least the next few games, the team will be forced to ride undersized forward Luis Scola heavily.

The decline that began last year for Scola has continued in his first season since being amnestied by the Rockets, as Scola is averaging just 12.6 points per game, his lowest total since he was a rookie in 2007-08. He has lost much of his Fantasy relevance, but remains productive when given the appropriate minutes; in the 25 games in which Scola has received at least 30 minutes of floor time, he is averaging 16.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

At power forward, Scola can find himself buried at times at a position where the team has plenty of redundancy, but he will almost surely be forced to carry a big load for the Suns as one of the few active players on the roster with anything resembling the size to play center. Scola put up 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists Friday in his first start at center.

With his increased role and a favorable schedule that features two bottom-six defensive teams and four games overall, Scola has enough upside to be my Start of the Week for Week 20 (March 11-17). The Suns play the Nuggets, Rockets, Hawks and Wizards this week, four teams he has faced just twice collectively this season. With the Suns looking to rely on him more than they ever have this season, Scola is worth getting active; especially with the possibility that he could earn center eligibility by week's end.

Guards

Start 'Em

Devin Harris, Hawks (@MIA, LAL, PHO, @BKN): It has been tough to get a read on Harris' value this season, as he continues to shuffle in and out of the starting lineup. The Hawks seem to change their starting lineup based on matchups more than any team in the league, rarely going with the same starting five for more than a few games. Over the last 10 games, Harris has started four times, but has never been on the bench for more than three straight games. In that stretch, Harris is averaging 11.7 points, 3.1 assists and 1.6 three-pointers per game, while shaking off a season-long trend of putting up less impressive performances off the bench. In seven games against his Week 20 opponents, Harris is averaging 11.0 points and 3.7 assists per game, so consider him a useful Fantasy option.

Avery Bradley, Celtics (@CHA, TOR, CHA): Admittedly, I did not expect much from Bradley after Rajon Rondo's season-ending knee injury. His style of play is so drastically different from Rondo's, I did not see how the Celtics would survive with him as the lead point guard. I was right that the Celtics would not be able to replace Rondo with Bradley, but they have thrived regardless, with Bradley playing a different, but still quite large role. Bradley is averaging 13.2 points and 3.8 assists per game over the last five, with much of the ball-handling duty shifting to veteran Paul Pierce. Bradley is doing a solid job within his role, and is certainly worth getting active in a week in which the Celtics face Charlotte's pitiful defense twice.

Sleeper Alert: Ben Gordon, Bobcats (BOS, @TOR, @BOS): Gordon became persona non grata in Charlotte for a few weeks, after a feud with coach Mike Dunlap about playing time that earned him a few days off at the end of February. He averaged a season-low 7.7 points per game in that month, and seemed to be completely out of the team's plans. An injury to Ramon Sessions and the Bobcats' extended losing streak has changed things a bit, as they have actually had to give Gordon some minutes, especially late in recent blowouts. As of Saturday's game, Gordon has reached double figures in four games in a row, something he had not done since the end of January. At this point, Fantasy owners should be able to rely on Gordon yet again as a low-end option for empty scoring.

Sit 'Em

Nate Robinson, Bulls (@SAC, @GS): Robinson has filled in admirably for the Bulls with Kirk Hinrich dealing with a multitude of injuries, but it has always felt like the bottom was getting ready fall out any minute. Robinson has never been the best decision maker in the league, and it seems like it is catching up to him in recent weeks. Robinson is averaging 9.8 points per game over the last 10, but is shooting just 30.8 percent from the field in that span. Robinson can be useful for Fantasy owners, but it would be best to avoid him with his current level of play.

Marcus Thornton, Kings (CHI, LAL): Thornton has been able to resurrect his season in recent weeks, after a slow start that had him pegged as one of the biggest Fantasy disappointments in the league. Thornton has been getting buckets recently, averaging 19.9 points per game over the last 10 games, while shooting an absurd 54.8 percent from the field. Fantasy owners should be relying on Thornton while he is hot, but Week 20 could be a source of disappointment. The Kings are slated to play just two games in the scoring period, including one against a Bulls team that still features one of the league's toughest defenses. With the playoffs looming, Fantasy owners might not want to take the risk of having Thornton in the lineup.

Bust Alert: Jamal Crawford, Clippers (MEM, NY): Crawford has been hot all season long, but he is dealing with an ankle injury that could slow him down over the next few days. He has scored 20-plus points in each of the last four games, so an injury is certainly not what we want to see. With the Clippers also set to play just twice in Week 20 -- with one game against a top-notch defense -- Crawford might not be worth the risk. Crawford could go off for a pair of 30-point games with 11 three-pointers made between them; he could also sit out a game with an injury, or manage a stinker or two.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Marreese Speights, Cavaliers (WAS, @DAL, @SA): Speights seems to still be developing his relationship with Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, who has been unwilling to move him into the starting lineup despite Speights clearly outplaying Tyler Zeller. From the standpoint that Zeller is younger and the team has more invested in his development, it makes sense that things remain that way, but Speights continues to post solid numbers in his limited minutes. Speights enters Week 20 averaging 13.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in his previous five games, despite playing just 23.2 minutes per game. The Cavs do not give Speights a ton of playing time, but he is getting plenty of opportunities to put shots up while on the floor; Speights is averaging a career-high 16.4 field-goal attempts per-36 minutes since joining the Cavs. Cleveland plays two top-10 defenses in Week 20, but also has a porous Dallas defense on the way, so Speights should put up fine numbers.

Dorell Wright, 76ers (BKN, MIA, IND): Wright fell off badly in the month of February, averaging just 6.0 points per game on 38.6 percent shooting from the field. Fortunately, injuries have opened up a spot in the rotation for him once more. Wright is averaging 14.4 points in 26.8 minutes per game in five March games so far, as he has taken Nick Young's spot in the rotation due to an ankle injury. Wright is doing much of his damage from three-point range in that span, something that should continue at least in the team's game against the Heat, who allows the 10th most three-pointers in the league. He is averaging 12.3 points and 2.3 three-pointers per game this season against his Week 20 opponents.

Sleeper Alert: Marcus Morris, Suns (DEN, @HOU, @ATL, @WAS): Morris has quickly endeared himself to his new coaches in Phoenix, landing in the starting lineup just six games after joining the team via trade. He has scored in double figures in four of his last five games, averaging 12.0 points per game in that stretch on 52.3 percent shooting. The Suns have some excellent matchups on the way, starting with a pair of games that promise to be high-scoring affairs against the Nuggets and Rockets, who rank among the league's six worst defenses. He is enjoying great success next to his twin brother in the starting lineup and can be considered a worthwhile option.

Sit 'Em

Danny Granger, Pacers (MIN, LAL, @PHI): Fantasy owners waited so long for Granger to return from his knee injury, but we almost wish he hadn't at this point. Granger came back for five largely uninspiring performances before being shut down last week due to lingering soreness. Granger has a chance to come back sometime during Week 20, but at this point, Fantasy owners should simply not expect to see the former All-Star in peak shape this season. Lower your expectations, and let whatever positives he might end up bringing down the road surprise you.

Gerald Wallace, Nets (@PHI, NO, ATL): The most surprising thing about Wallace's season is not that he struggled to get acclimated to working with a slew of new teammates as a fourth option on offense. The surprise has been how he has consistently gotten worse as the season has gone on. Wallace is averaging just 6.8 points per game over the last five on 30.5 percent shooting from the floor, with just 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game as well. Wallace faces a pair of above average defenses in Week 20 and is not worth relying on, despite still being owned in 77 percent of CBSSports.com leagues.

Bust Alert: Zach Randolph, Grizzlies (@POR, @LAC, @DEN, @UTA): Randolph missed three games due to an ankle injury in Week 19, and it certainly looks like this injury is going to follow him into the upcoming scoring period. He told the Memphis Commercial Appeal Friday that the ankle "doesn't feel right," and he has been walking with a noticeable limp through the weekend. The Grizzlies play four times in Week 20, so there could be enough time for him to get healthy and return to the floor, but that is not assured. The Grizzlies' four games come on a pair of back to backs, meaning that even if Randolph is able to return, the team might be unwilling to let him play on consecutive nights with a balky ankle. This doesn't seem like a long-term issue, but it could cause Randolph to disappoint in this scoring period.

Centers

Start 'Em

Tiago Splitter, Spurs (OKC, @MIN, DAL, CLE): Splitter's development has been a quiet development for the Spurs that has helped them yet again avoid what now does not seem like an inevitable decline. Splitter has averaged double figures in scoring in each month since December, and has become a key cog for the Spurs' efficient offense. Splitter is averaging 9.6 points per game over the last five games, despite attempting just 6.8 shots per game in that span. He is adding 8.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in that span as well. The Spurs face two of the 10 worst defenses in the league among their four games in this scoring period, so expect him to continue to be a worthy starter.

Sleeper Alert: Ed Davis, Grizzlies (@POR, @LAC, @DEN, @UTA): With Randolph likely to miss some time this week, expect Davis to make his presence felt. Davis proved that he has the ability to be a useful Fantasy option when given the minutes back in Toronto, but he was buried after being traded to Memphis. We did not need a reminder of Davis' ability, but he has given us one anyways, averaging 9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.0 steals per game over the last four. As long as Randolph remains out, Davis should be considered a worthwhile starting option with his center eligibility.

Sit 'Em

DeAndre Jordan, Clippers (MEM, NY): At this point in his career, Jordan should have been a starting caliber Fantasy option in almost all formats. That is what his career arc suggested after the first four years, as he made consistent progress yearly. Unfortunately, despite putting up far and away the best per-minute numbers of his career, Jordan's minutes have fallen to their lowest level since his second season in the league. Jordan is a useful Fantasy option in the right matchups, but the schedule has not been kind to his Fantasy owners, as the Clippers already have four separate weeks with just two games played. Jordan simply does not do enough on a daily basis to be worth starting with just two games on the schedule.

Bust Alert: Enes Kanter, Jazz (DET, @OKC, MEM): With Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson dealing with injuries over the last 10 days, Kanter has had an opportunity to show the ability that made him a top-five talent back in the 2011 draft. He is averaging 15.7 points 9.8 rebounds per game over the last five games, proving that he could be a high-end Fantasy center if given a full-time role. Unfortunately, Jefferson returned Saturday, which will likely return him to his role deep on the bench. Kanter is a tremendous talent for the long term, but his short-term value is entirely tied to the health of other players. I would not take the risk of him being buried on the bench this week with a spot in the Fantasy playoffs possibly on he line.

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Player News
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. 


Jrue Holiday cleared for contact ahead of camp
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was able to participate in full-contact offseason drills last week, the first time he has done so since undergoing season-ending surgery last January.

"Getting out playing has been a joy," Holiday told The Times-Picayune. "I've been running and jumping and stuff, but getting my rhythm back on the court is definitely a big thing right now for me."

The Pelicans open training camp Sept. 30, and Holiday is not expected to have any limitations as the team prepares for the start of the season. Holiday averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season prior to the injury.


Kent Bazemore focused on conditioning in recovery
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Newly signed Hawks guard Kent Bazemore did not pick up a basketball until August, preferring to focus on conditioning in his recovery from foot surgery in April.

"I think the injury was definitely a blessing," he told the Daily Press, "because I was able to step away from the game of basketball. I took myself out of my element all summer. I did stuff I'm not used to doing."

Bazemore signed a two-year deal with the Hawks this offseason, and is expected to compete for playing time on the wing immediately, as he is fully recovered from the surgery. 


 
 
 
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