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Week 22 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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Obvious statement alert: Injuries are never good for Fantasy owners. Even more obvious statement: Injuries are infinitely worse in the playoffs.

When they happen in February, there are ways to keep your season afloat. I was faced with this situation earlier when Joakim Noah first began to be troubled by his plantar fasciitis issue. I snagged Amir Johnson on the waiver wires and mostly kept rolling while Noah was sidelined, eventually earning a No. 1 overall seed and first-round playoff bye last week.

With the playoffs on top of us now, however, injuries are a much more serious concern, as we can hardly afford any sort of let down in a do-or-die situation. Which makes a recent rash of injuries a real concern for owners moving forward. If you are still reading this column, that likely means that you have enjoyed a run of good luck so far this season, but you might be hurting right now.

In the past few days, a number of high-end Fantasy options have gone down with injuries, some of them appearing quite severe. Along with Noah, you had big-name players from Marc Gasol (abdominal tear) to Rudy Gay (back soreness). A number of the guys you leaned heavily on might not be there for you this week and moving forward.

When we get to this part of the season, you want to dance with who you came to the dance with, but that might not be possible. With the Fantasy regular season just about over, I will spend much (though not all) of my final Start/Sit column looking at the effects of a lot of these recent injuries, and how Fantasy owners might be able to survive.

The problem with a lot of the injuries happening right now is teams are mostly labeling them vaguely, with "day to day" and "indefinitely" proving to be the buzzwords du jour. So, searching for replacements could lead you to drop a useful option for a fill in who might only play a big role for a game or two. You will want to focus on players who will still have value to you, even if an injured star returns.

One such player is Boston's Jeff Green, whose continues to build momentum after a slow first half of the season. His recent play, along with lingering concerns about the availability of Kevin Garnett are enough to earn him the final Start of the Week, for Fantasy Week 22 (March 25-31).

You certainly didn't miss Green's 43-point outburst against the Heat last week, but he has proven that he is not a flash in the pan at this point. Green has been tremendous since the end of January, and has averaged at least 15.3 points per game in both February and March. Despite his strong play, Green is starting in just 54 percent of all CBSSports.com leagues right now.

Garnett has missed three of the last five games as of Saturday, and the Celtics seem wary of using him on the second night of back to backs so late in the season. The Celtics have a back to back Tuesday and Wednesday this week, meaning Green could get at least one start in the week, and possibly more if Garnett's ankle injury continues to bother him. With four games on the schedule in Week 22 as well as Week 23, Fantasy owners will want Green in their lineups down the stretch.

Guards

Start 'Em

Mario Chalmers, Heat (@BOS, @CLE, DET, CHA): The Heat have made a lot of noise about redefining basketball's natural positional hierarchy in recent years, but they have actually been relying on their point guards more during their (as of Sunday) 26-game winning streak than in the past. It helps that Chalmers, who cannot always be relied on to consistently make the right decision, has been on the mark recently. Chalmers is shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 43.9 percent on 3-pointers during the team's winning streak, and has been excellent even more recently. Chalmers is averaging 13.0 points, 3.4 assists, and 1.8 steals per game over the last two weeks, while playing 29.9 minutes in eight games. Chalmers is worth taking a shot on in.

Terrence Ross, Raptors (ATL, @DET, @WAS): Ross' potential was a big reason why the Raptors' acquisition of Rudy Gay was considered a questionable decision by many. Ross has shown the ability to space he floor nicely, and already gave the Raptors a dynamic athletic tandem with mainstay DeMar DeRozan on the wing. What is done is done, of course, as Ross' long term value is shot as long as Gay and DeRozan are on the team. However, with Gay dealing with a back injury, Ross could be in the starting lineup this week. The Raptors only play three times in the week but Ross has reached double figures in each of his starts this season. As you will read later, Gay's injury could be a lingering one with plenty of complications, so Ross could be a replacement option.

Sleeper Alert: Jannero Pargo, Bobcats (ORL, @NYK, @PHI): Another classic late season meme is the one where teams at the bottom of the standings start scooping up 10-day contracts who inexplicably ball out. Pargo is just the latest in an illustrious line of players that includes 2008 Blake Ahearn and 2012 Donald Sloan, among many others. Pargo has reached double figures in four games in a row for the Bobcats, earning himself a second 10-day contract. Pargo could actually turn out to be useful, if you need an emergency fill-in this week.

Sit 'Em

Derrick Rose, Bulls (MIA, @DAL, DET): This one isn't specifically about Week 22; I just wanted to get my thoughts down on Rose, because I am still getting questions about him. At the time of writing this, the Bulls have just 14 games remaining on the schedule, and Rose has yet to give an indication that he will return. He has held Fantasy owners in limbo for months, and I think it is time to cut bait. It would be great to get an elite Fantasy option down the stretch for nothing, but that is simply unlikely to happen at this point. Ricky Rubio and Iman Shumpert, our other young knee surgery veterans this season, took weeks to find their footing and get re-acclimated to NBA speed. Even if Rose returns at some point before the end of the season, he will probably struggle to live up to the hype. If you have a dead roster spot being taken up by Rose, wouldn't you rather scoop someone off waivers who can rely on for help? I know I would.

Bradley Beal, Wizards (MEM, @OKC, @ORL, TOR): You have to love how Beal has developed this season, as he averaged 16.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in 10 games after the All-Star break. Unfortunately, his left ankle has become a recurring issue, one the Wizards are obviously going to be very careful with. The team has been quiet about his status, preferring to tag him with the "day to day" label, but he has now missed 8 of the last 11 games as a result. Even in the three games Beal played, the Wizards were careful to hold him to roughly 20 minutes per game. And even then, he re-aggravated the injury this week on an awkward landing. Given his injury and the Wizards' lack of any real motivation to risk further injury down the stretch, I would swallow the pill and sit him down.

Bust Alert: Rodney Stuckey, Pistons (MIN, TOR, @CHI): It has been tough to get a read on Stuckey, who started the month of March in the doldrums before coming alive thanks to a Brandon Knight injury. Knight was back Saturday, but Stuckey still poured in 13 points and eight assists off the bench to help Detroit snap a 10-game losing streak. His recent production makes him look good for Fantasy owners, but I would advise against relying on him; his inability to provide any sort of consistency is a bad mix on a three-game schedule, especially now that he is back on the bench.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Patrick Patterson, Kings (@GSW, @PHO, LAL): Patterson could have sulked after being traded from a starting role on the playoff-bound Rockets to a spot on the bench on the forever hopeless Kings. It is a credit to him that he has been able to stay in playing shape and has taken advantage of a chance for an increased role lately. Patterson is averaging 12.8 points in 26.0 minutes per game over the last five games, and just as he did in Houston, is providing a unique look for defenses due to his three-point range from the power forward position. All three of the Kings' opponents in Week 22 rank among the league's 10 worst scoring defenses, and they also all allow an above average number of threes, which bodes well for his value.

Reggie Evans, Nets (@POR, @DEN, @UTA): I have wanted to avoid using Evans as a start, as his particular brand of junk points and rebounds simply does not appeal to me. However, I can no longer ignore his production, as Evans has actually shown flashes of not being a black hole offensively. Over the last 10 games in the month of March, Evans has increased his scoring to 6.2 points per game, a mark that would be a career-best for a season for him, with room to spare. That number is paltry, but it also comes with a monstrous 14.9 rebounds per game in just 26.5 minutes. At this point, his overall production is too hard to ignore, especially in head-to-head formats.

Sleeper Alert: Josh McRoberts, Bobcats (ORL, @NYK, @PHI): McRoberts has shown some real flashes of talent in his six NBA season, and it is easy to forget that he is just 26 years old due to how he has bounced around. McRoberts has averaged better than 20 minutes per game just once in his career, but is showing what he can do when the minutes are there. In seven starts for the Bobcats so far, he is averaging 9.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, with three double-doubles in his last six games. The Bobcats have little to play for this season, which means the final few weeks of the season could be a showcase for McRoberts before free agency. Expect him to take advantage of that.

Sit 'Em

Rudy Gay, Raptors (ATL, @DET, @WAS): Toronto's acquisition of Gay has not worked out quite like they had hoped, but the team remains undeterred in their appreciation for his abilities. The Raptors are expected to offer Gay a contract extension this offseason (link: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nba--rudy-gay-takes-issue-with-grizzlies--embraces-challenge-with-star-hungry-raptors--230326752.html), a situation that will likely impact their handling of his recent back woes. As far back as two weeks ago, coach Dwane Casey was talking about shutting Gay down for the season, and he made rumblings about that yet again Saturday to the Toronto Star. Gay is too talented to sit on your bench when healthy, but the fact that Casey is even considering putting him on the shelf should make Fantasy owners shudder. Keep an eye on this one, and consider sitting him if the talk keeps up.

Kenyon Martin, Knicks (@UTA, ORL, @TOR, TOR): Martin's presence on this list represents a bit of a flipped script for much of the column's theme. Martin has been benefitting from a star player's absence in recent games, as he has four double-digit scoring games in the last six with Tyson Chandler. Knicks coach Mike Woodson already confirmed that Martin will return to the bench once Chandler is healthy, which makes that "day to day" designation attached to Chandler awfully scary for Fantasy owners looking to reap the benefits of Martin's play. I'm not sure I would rely on him in an important week.

Bust Alert: Paul Millsap, Jazz (NYK, @HOU, @SAS, @DAL): The Jazz have gone 1-4 in their last five games and are mired in a long slump that has seen them fall to a precarious position in the playoff standings. It is little surprise that their slide has coincided with injuries and then poor performance from Millsap, who many consider to be their best player. He is averaging a season-low 13.4 points per game in the month of March, a number that drops to just 11.8 over the last five games. Millsap could get it going quickly, but the Jazz also seem content to lean on the younger big men right now. Shockingly, Millsap is no longer the sure-fire start you thought you were drafting, and it comes at the absolute worst possible time.

Centers

Start 'Em

Ed Davis, Grizzlies (@WAS, @NYK, HOU, @MIN): Davis earned the start at center Saturday, after it was announced that Grizzlies center Marc Gasol is dealing with a torn abdominal muscle. Coach Lionel Hollins initially downplayed the injury, before the team announced that he will be out indefinitely due to the injury. This means good things for Davis, who has clearly established himself as a useful Fantasy option when given the chance to play. Davis put up 11 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots in just 19 minutes in the start Saturday. It would be awful for Fantasy owners to lose out on Gasol's production down the stretch, but Davis might not be a bad option this week if he stays in the starting lineup.

Sleeper Alert: Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors (ATL, @DET, @WAS): Valanciunas has the higher ceiling of the Raptors' rookie duo, and he is starting to show that off as the team has grown more comfortable relying on him down the stretch. Valanciunas is a mobile big man with serious offensive potential in the pick and roll, and he is averaging 13.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game over the last five games, in 28.4 minutes per game. He is shooting an absurd 77.1 percent from the field and 86.7 percent from the free-throw line in that span. Expect the Raptors to give Valanciunas an extended tryout down the stretch.

Sit 'Em

Marc Gasol, Grizzlies (WAS, @NYK, HOU, @MIN): The flipside of Davis' writeup is here, as the Grizzlies could be looking at an extended run without their dominant center. Gasol apparently suffered the abdominal tear March 6, but was gutting through the injury before aggravating it Friday. He was averaging 16.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.3 combined blocks and steals per game since the injury, but it looks like it could at least cost him some time after he sat out Saturday's game. For comparison's sake, Heat center Chris Bosh was forced to miss three weeks after suffering a similar injury last postseason. At the time of writing, it is not known how long Gasol is expected to miss, but he is certainly a risky start.

Bust Alert: Omer Asik, Rockets (IND, @MEM, LAC): Asik continues to rebound at extreme rates, but his offensive game is starting to lag behind. After shooting nearly 60 percent from the free-throw line over the first four months of the season, Asik has regressed in that particular area in March, shooting a season-low 47.2 percent. As a result, his scoring has fallen to 8.9 points per game in the month, despite shooing 55.4 percent from the field. Asik's overall play is still solid for the center position, but he is ranked just 31st in the league among centers in Fantasy scoring in the month, making him anything but a confident start.

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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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