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Week 21 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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Fantasy owners have been waiting for months for Pau Gasol to come back from his torn plantar fascia and starting making up for what has been a very disappointing season. It looks like there is a great chance for that to happen in Week 21 (March 18-24), as Gasol has been able to participate in shootaround in recent days and could make his debut as early as Monday against the Suns.

Gasol was a major disappointment even before his injury, largely because most Fantasy owners who had him on their rosters had invested a draft pick in the early rounds expecting him to continue his run as one of the most dependable Fantasy options around. His numbers were still incredibly solid for most NBA players, as he was putting up 13.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, with 1.3 blocks and 3.6 assists per game as well.

Given his actual production, independent of expectations, Gasol still looks like someone who can provide a boost down the stretch for those Fantasy owners who were either patient enough to stash him or quick enough to grab him off waivers when his prognosis began improving. Gasol looks likely to be worth getting in your lineup very soon, but I am not sure Week 21 will be that time, even if he does return.

The Lakers play just twice in Week 21, and it looks like Gasol's expected Monday return might have to be pushed back a few days, after he complained of soreness Saturday after working out. If the Lakers opt to not have Gasol play Monday, his next opportunity to return to the floor would not come until Friday, leaving him with just one chance to put up numbers.

I highly recommend snagging Gasol in the eight percent of CBSports.com Fantasy leagues he is still available, but I have to slap him with a rare "Sit of the Week" tag for the coming scoring period. He could provide you with three weeks of production to end the season, but you will want to continue being patient and keep him out of the starting lineup this week.

Guards

Start 'Em

Mo Williams, Jazz (NYK, @HOU, @SAS, @DAL): Admittedly, this is a bit of a speculative addition to the list, as Williams has been downright dreadful since returning from a thumb injury. In five games heading into Saturday's tilt with the Grizzlies' league-best defense, Williams was averaging just 8.6 points per game, with only four more assists than turnovers overall. It was not the softest landing for Williams, who faced four above average defensive teams in his first six games, so I think Week 21 provides a good opportunity for him to bounce back. The Jazz face a much simpler task this week, as two of the leagues' five worst scoring defenses pop up this week. Williams was playing very well prior to the injury, and I think the matchups make him worth getting active this week.

Ray Allen, Heat (@BOS, @CLE, DET, CHA): Allen has been up and down this season for the Heat, which was to be expected in his first season as a true role player. Allen has been doing well recently, scoring in double figures in 13 of the last 16 games. Allen should be able to keep rolling in Week 21, against a slate of teams that he has had success against this season. Allen is averaging 13.6 points per game in seven games against his upcoming foes so far, a good sign for him moving forward. Allen could be particularly useful against his former mates in Boston Monday, as he has 40 points in two games, while averaging 34.5 minutes per game.

Sleeper Alert: Eric Maynor, Trail Blazers @PHI, @MIL, @CHI, @ATL, @OKC): In 37 games with the Thunder earlier in the season, Maynor totaled just 104 points and 73 assists. He has been much better since the trade, averaging 8.6 points and 4.2 assists per game total, while playing a much larger role. Maynor is still a borderline Fantasy option overall, but the Blazers play five times this week, including a pair of back to backs. The Blazers are severely lacking in depth, which might lead to them leaning on Maynor more off the bench with so many games in so few nights. I like Maynor as a fill in option this week, especially with the

Sit 'Em

Jarrett Jack, Warriors (@NOR, @SAS, WAS): Jack has fallen off recently, averaging 11.3 points on 11.7 field goal attempts per game over the last 10 games. He has just six more assists than turnovers, as he has gone from surprisingly effective to pretty dreadful in fairly short order. Warriors coach Mark Jackson gave Jack a vote of confidence Saturday when asked whether Jack might see a reduced role moving forward but Fantasy owners should be less confident at this point. Jack is suffering through his worst month since November, and is now much more of a borderline Fantasy option. With just three games on the schedule, I would not rely on Jack at this point in the season.

Mike Dunleavy, Bucks (POR, @ATL, @IND, ATL): For the most part, Dunleavy has been able to hold on to his role since the team's backcourt-crowding trade deadline deal for J.J. Redick. Unfortunately, he has been slipping a bit recently, posting consecutive scoreless games Wednesday and Friday of last week, with his minutes shrinking in each game. The Bucks open with a solid matchup against the Blazers' vulnerable defense, but face a trio of above-average defensive teams after that. Dunleavy might end up as the odd man out if the Bucks begin to shorten their rotation for the postseason, and he looks like a bad play this week.

Bust Alert: Brandon Knight, Pistons (BKN, @MIA, @CHA): The last week has not been kind to Knight, who suffered an ankle injury after being the victim of a devastating dunk by DeAndre Jordan. Knight was averaging 15.0 points per game in 10 appearances prior to the injury, and really appeared to be taking well to the off guard role. At this point, it looks like he might end up missing Monday's game against the Nets, and his status for the rest of the week is not at all guaranteed, so Fantasy owners might consider him a risky option.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Martell Webster, Wizards (@CHA, @PHX, @LAL, @GSW): I picked Webster for this column before his 34-point outburst against the Suns Saturday, but that performance certainly helps bolster my case. Webster has been able to take advantage of injuries in the Wizards backcourt rotation, first to Bradley Beal and then Trevor Ariza, and has been playing a huge role recently. Webster is averaging 21.8 points per game over the last five games, and has one of the best schedules of the season on the way. The best defense the Wizards face in Week 21 is Phoenix, who ranks just 21st in the league in points allowed. With four games on the way and Webster playing at he top of his game, get him active.

Metta World Peace, Lakers (@PHX, WAS): I felt pretty confident that World Peace would see a downturn in his Fantasy value in the second half of the season, but he has so far proven me wrong. World Peace's shot has returned after an extended cold streak, and he is now shooting 43.4 percent in the month of March. That is not great, but it has led to 14.3 points per game in eight games so far thanks to the plentiful opportunities the Lakers' offense provides him. The Lakers only play twice this week, but they may be forced to rely on him more than normal with Kobe Bryant nursing an ankle injury, so MWP might not be a bad play.

Sleeper Alert: Patrick Patterson, Kings (LAC, MIN, @DEN, PHI): The trade to Sacramento really hurt Patterson's Fantasy value, as he has dropped from 11.6 points with the Rockets to just 7.3 per game since the trade. Still, his role has slowly been increasing recently, as he is averaging 20.2 minutes per game over the last five. Patterson's skill set has not changed since joining the Kings, so it should be no surprise that he has bumped his scoring to 9.4 per game in this new role. With DeMarcus Cousins possible dealing with an injury that could limit him, Patterson should continue to see opportunities to score.

Sit 'Em

Luis Scola, Suns (LAL, WAS, MIN, BKN): I had Scola as my Start of the Week a week ago, as I expected the veteran to see a larger role in light of a slew of injuries to the Suns' frontcourt. Unfortunately for my reputation, that ended up being an unmitigated disaster, as Scola appears to have been robbed of his basketball abilities recently. Scola has been in a steepening decline, and the Suns appear to have moves on from using him as a primary option. Scola was benched this week and has not played more than 14 minutes in any of the team's last three games. He has a decent schedule in Week 21, but at this point, I think Scola might be done as a useful Fantasy option.

Andrei Kirilenko, Timberwolves (@MEM, @SAC, @PHX, CHI): The Timberwolves have just nine healthy players right now, which is causing some problems for the guys who are trying to get healthy. Kirilenko appears to be close to returning to the floor, but there appears to be a snag; the Timberwolves do not appear comfortable getting Kirilenko into a game without a practice, and the Wolves just don't have enough bodies to run a practice with their current schedule. The team plays back to back games Sunday and Monday, before having two days off. Kirilenko might get a chance to practice Wednesday, but that might not be enough to convince the team that he is ready to get back on the floor following a nine-game absence with a calf injury. He is too risky to put in your lineup at the beginning of the week.

Bust Alert: Maurice Harkless, Magic (@IND, @NYK, OKC): Harkless' development has hit some bumps in the road, as Tobias Harris has become the youngster du jour in Orlando recently. Harkless is still averaging 10.0 points per game in the month of March, but he has also topped out at 12 points in his last five games. Harkless looks like a solid long-term piece, but the touches are going to Harris, not Harkless right now. With all three of his Week 21 opponents ranking above the league average in scoring defense, Harkless could disappoint the Fantasy owners who have come to rely on him.

Centers

Start 'Em

Jermaine O'Neal, Suns (LAL, WAS, MIN, BKN): The only thing that has stopped O'Neal's return to prominence was a four-game absence due to family issues. O'Neal returned this week and picked up right where he left off, earning a starting role at Scola's expense to boot. O'Neal has scored in double figures in three straight games, averaging 14.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in that span. The Suns open the week with a vulnerable Lakers defense that O'Neal is averaging 12.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game against this season. O'Neal should probably be in your starting line with four games on the way.

Sleeper Alert: Greg Stiemsma (@MEM, @SAC, @PHX, CHI): Stiemsma has been little more than a defensive specialist in his season-plus in the league, but the Timberwolves' injuries have forced him into a larger role recently. And, surprisingly, he has answered the call well, reaching double figures in scoring in three of the last five games. Stiemsma is averaging 30.2 minutes per game in that stretch, but is also shooting 54.8 percent and averaging 9.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game as well. Stiemsma is taking advantage of his chances, and looks like a worthwhile injury replacement in the shallow center position.

Sit 'Em

Robin Lopez, Hornets (GSW, BOS, MEM): Lopez remains the very definition of a borderline starting Fantasy option, as he ranks right near the end of the No. 2 centers list. Given the right matchup (like last Tuesday's game against the slow-footed Nets), he can be a useful Fantasy option. Unfortunately, he sandwiched a 15-point, eight-rebound performance last week between two six-point efforts. Lopez faces two of the tougher defensive frontcourts in the league in Week 21, after a warmup outing against the soft Warriors. I would say this is one of those weeks where Lopez will not be the guy you want in your lineup.

Bust Alert: DeMarcus Cousins, Kings (LAC, MIN, @DEN, PHI): We expected Cousins to take a step forward this season, and on the surface he has. His scoring average is down a bit from last season, but he has been more efficient overall, including keeping his foul rate at an all-time low. Unfortunately, Cousins remains as unreliable as ever, falling to score in double figures in three of six games in the month of March, while also posting back to back 20-point games prior to suffering a thigh injury. The thigh kept him out of the team's last game Wednesday, and it could continue to bother him. Sitting Cousins could be risky given his immense talent and ability to go off for a huge line at any point, but there are plenty of question marks around him right now.

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Player News
Reggie Jackson becomes a must-start player with OKC injuries
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:49 pm ET) At the Fantasy Basketball Today blog, I evaluated the impact of Russell Westbrook's broken hand, to see what Fantasy ramifications might come from it. One obvious one is the likely emergence of Reggie Jackson as the team's go-to offensive option, a load he has never had to shoulder before. Here is what I wrote about Jackson at the blog:

"Jackson should be a Fantasy stud with Westbrook out, especially since he is basically the only reliable playmaker on the roster now. Jackson averaged 21.2 points and 6.8 assists per-36 minutes in 529 minutes without Westbrook and Durant on the floor last season, and posted a massive 32.6 percent usage rate, a mark that would have ranked third in the league for the whole season."

This is a Thunder team that is built around the talents of their two stars, and they have little experience playing without both of them. Jackson is the closest thing to an offensive star the team has left, and should put up huge numbers once he gets back from an ankle sprain. For the next month, he just may be a must-start Fantasy option. 


Nets C Brook Lopez suffers setback in recovery from foot injury
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:46 pm ET) Nets center Brook Lopez suffered a setback in his recovery from a soft tissue injury in his surgically repaired right foot, The Record reports Friday. As a result, Lopez will not play Saturday against Detroit and his status is becoming uncertain for Monday against Oklahoma City.

"I was optimistic every day," Hollins said. "When he doesn't come out and practice, I'm not optimistic any more. But he was doing part of the drills so I figured he was getting better. Now he didn't practice today so he's not going to play tomorrow."


Report: Spurs' Kawhi Leonard will be restricted free agent in 2015
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:42 pm ET) Extension talks between the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard are over and the 2014 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player is expected to explore restricted free agency at the end of the season, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports Friday. Leonard's agent, Brian Elfus, is seeking a max contract for the four-year forward.

"We feel Kawhi is deserving of a max contract, and we are disappointed that something couldn't get done," Elfus told Wojnarowski . "There’s no debating Kawhi's value. The market has been set. He's done everything the Spurs have asked of him, exceeded all of their expectations. Coach [Gregg] Popovich has gone out of his way to call Kawhi the future face of the franchise. We have great respect for the Spurs organization, but here, we simply agree to disagree."

The 23-year-old averaged 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last season.


Perry Jones now a must-add Fantasy option
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:41 pm ET) Over at the Fantasy Basketball Today blog, I took a look at the Thunder's Fantasy outlook in the wake of yet another crushing injury. Russell Westbrook will join Kevin Durant on the sidelines for up to a month, leaving a massive hole in the team's rotation, one Perry Jones filled more than capably Thursday night, and here is what I had to say about him at the blog:

"Jones looked fantastic against the Clippers and clearly deserves to be seen as a must-add Fantasy option, but he still needs to prove himself before we consider him a must-start player."

Jones made a slew of tough shots Thursday and looked very impressive, but he also made just 1 of his 9 field goal attempts in the season opener. He has the talent and might have the opportunity, but Fantasy owners probably still need to see more before penciling him into the starting lineup on a daily or weekly basis. 


Heat F Josh McRoberts practices in full Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:39 pm ET) Heat forward Josh McRoberts could be ready to make his debut on Saturday. He was a full participant in practice on Friday, just a day before Miami faces Philadelphia, according to the Associated Press. The team has not provided an update on his status for the game.

Nets C Brook Lopez to sit out second straight game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:25 pm ET) Nets coach Lionel Hollins told reporters that center Brook Lopez will not play Saturday against Detroit because he "still has pain" in his right foot, according to the Wall Street Journal. Mason Plumlee will start again in his place.

His next chance to return will come Monday against Oklahoma City.


Bulls G Jimmy Butler deemed a game-time decision Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:53 pm ET) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler went through morning shootaround and was deemed as a game-time decision for Friday's contest against the Cavaliers, according to the Chicago Tribune. Butler missed the season opener against the Knicks Wednesday because of a thumb injury and was able to participate in 4-on-4 drills Thursday.

Last season, he averaged 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists over 67 games.


Nets C Brook Lopez unable to practice Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:39 pm ET) Nets center Brook Lopez was unable to practice Friday, as his status remains uncertain for Saturday's game against the Pistons, per the New York Post. Lopez, who participated in non-contact practice earlier in the week, missed the season opener because of a foot injury. If Lopez is sidelined, Mason Plumlee will start again.

Report: Alec Burks signs four-year extension with Jazz
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:25 pm ET) Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports Friday that the Jazz have reached an agreement with guard Alec Burks on a four-year, $42 million extension. The 23-year-old now joins Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, who all received four-year extensions.

Last season, Burks averaged a career-high 14.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists over 70 games. He has combined for 33 points through the first two games of the season.  


Promising trio have options picked up by 76ers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:02 am ET) The 76ers have picked up the options on standouts Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Tony Wroten, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. All three will remain in the fold through next season.

The threesome have shown potential either at the college or NBA levels. Carter-Williams last year became only the second NBA rookie to lead all first-year players in scoring, assists and rebounds. Noel, still a prized rookie after sitting out last year while nursing a knee injury, debuted Wednesday with six points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Wroten averaged 17.8 points and 5.1 assists in 17 games for Philadelphia a season ago.


 
 
 
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