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Week 6 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
  •  

The season-long basketball malaise in New York City is not really showing any signs of abating, and it is affecting the Fantasy world. Though we knew there were some questions about Brooklyn's health and New York's depth, Fantasy owners still have to be taken aback by just how bad things have been through the first month of the season.

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Both teams face pretty solid matchups for Week 6 (Dec. 2-8), but it is fair to wonder how much even strong matchups can help for Fantasy purposes at this point. Both teams have bottom-10 NBA offenses and, to make matters worse, play at the second and eighth-slowest paces in the league. It's hard to put up good numbers on a bad offense, but when a team is combining that with an offense that walks the ball up the court court and limits possessions, that's a terrible recipe for scoring.

At least the Knicks have an excuse. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith is clearly not healthy right now, but at least he is playing. When times have been good for the Knicks in recent years, it is because they have built a solid offense around Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler pick and rolls, capitalizing on both players' strengths. With Chandler out, Felton is running aimless pick and rolls with Andrea Bargnani instead, which is hardly the same thing. Tyson Chandler could be back in the next few weeks, but a Week 6 return seems unlikely, meaning I wouldn't expect the Knicks' fortunes to change this week. Beyond Bargnani and Carmelo Anthony, I'm staying far away from this squad right now.

Before the season, I expressed some concern about how Brooklyn's roster would work, given the age of its stars and the positional overlap built in. Joe Johnson seems to have come out ahead of Paul Pierce on the wings, and he joins Brook Lopez as the only players on the roster I would even feel at all comfortable starting at this point. I'm willing to wait until Deron Williams gets back to really start cutting bait with my Nets, but I would definitely try to avoid any lower-end guys for Week 6.

(All stats up to date through Nov. 30 games)

Atlanta Hawks

The biggest story for Atlanta is that Kyle Korver has missed three games due to a rib injury, and it isn't entirely clear when he will return. One troubling sign is Korver did not travel with the team to Washington Saturday, putting his availability for the remainder of the road trip in some doubt. He might not play until Wednesday against the Clippers if he doesn't meet the team in San Antonio Monday. With Korver out Friday, Lou Williams stepped into the starting lineup, but his minutes limit seems to still be in place, so I'm not sure there is a reason to move him up a tier. While Cartier Martin and DeMarre Carroll could step up in Korver's place, they are too inconsistent to really be expected to step up. Instead, expect the Hawks' big three of Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Jeff Teague to continue carrying the load.

Schedule: Schedule: @SAS, LAC, CLE
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 14th
10-team starters: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Cartier Martin, Dennis Schroder, Lou Williams, DeMarre Carroll

Boston Celtics

Guards we like for Week 6
Player Own/Start
1. Avery Bradley, Celtics 39/17
2. Aaron Brooks, Rockets 15/6
3. Dion Waiters, Cavaliers 77/29
4. Gal Mekel, Mavericks 0/0
5. Randy Foye, Nuggets 13/8
6. Nate Robinson, Nuggets 28/10
7. Rodney Stuckey, Pistons 69/52
8. Jamal Crawford, Clippers 80/48
9. Trey Burke, Jazz 88/33
10. Tony Wroten, 76ers 42/13

Jared Sullinger has clearly received a green light from coach Brad Stevens to fire away from three-point range, which is only increasing the intrigue surrounding his Fantasy value. The groundbound big man is never going to overpower with his athleticism, but the Celtics' analytics-driven coach seems to understand that the extra point Sullinger gets from stepping behind the line is more valuable than trying to let him post up on the block. Sullinger gained center eligibility after Saturday's start, which only increases his value for this week. If he keeps his recent production up (14.0 points, 8.4 rebounds per game over the last 10) while being eligible to play center, he will almost certainly be worth moving up one more tier next week. For now, he is worth taking a shot on for Week 6, as either a No. 2 center or low-end starter at forward.

Schedule: MIL, DEN, @NY
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 6th
10-team starters: Jeff Green
12-to-14-team starters: Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger
Deep-league fliers: Kris Humphries, Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace

Brooklyn Nets

Brook Lopez returned Friday, which will likely mean Andray Blatche's time as a Fantasy starting option is done. Though the Nets have a pretty solid week of matchups ahead of them, we have a pretty clearly established track record of Blatche only being useful as a starting center. Unfortunately, while that bumps Blatche back down and Lopez back up, there isn't much clarity around the Nets otherwise. Deron Williams remains without a timeline, and Paul Pierce has joined him on the sidelines with a hand injury. This team is a mess right now, and coach Jason Kidd has reached the point where he is going deep into his bench to try and find a spark, with Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee playing in recent days. I wouldn't feel particularly good about trusting anyone on this team at this point.

Schedule: DEN, NYK, @MIL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 5th
10-team starters: Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Andray Blatche, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Reggie Evans, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Shaun Livingston, Mirza Teletovic

Charlotte Bobcats

If not for a shortened schedule, the Bobcats would probably have the best slate of games for Fantasy purposes this week. As it stands, Charlotte still gets two shots against a pair of the worst defenses in the league, so this could be a good time for the offense to get going. If you're in an average-based format, you might want to put any Bobcats you've got into the lineup. Even in standard leagues, playing a Bobcat probably isn't the worst option since the majority of teams are playing either two or three times this week. One thing to keep an eye on moving forward will be how Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's plantar fasciitis plays out. If he is limited, Jeff Taylor will almost certainly see a larger role moving forward. Neither is probably worth the risk this week.

Schedule: @DAL, PHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 7th
10-team starters: Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson
12-to-14-team starters: Gerald Henderson, Josh McRoberts
Deep-league fliers: Ramon Sessions, Jeff Taylor, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Chicago Bulls

Kirk Hinrich didn't exactly set the world on fire in his first week as Derrick Rose's replacement, and that should come as absolutely no surprise. He can best be described as a game manager at the point guard position, and he is unlikely to be much more than just a decent Fantasy option moving forward. Until Jimmy Butler gets back, there are just three truly reliable Fantasy options on this roster, especially since this team plays at such a slow pace.

Schedule: NO, MIA, DET
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 20th
10-team starters: Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng
12-to-14-team starters: Kirk Hinrich
Deep-league fliers: Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers had one of the worst Fantasy schedules in the league last week, so Week 6's slate is a sight for sore eyes. Cleveland has been dysfunctional for much of the season, and a big reason for that has been Andrew Bynum's inability to play at a high level. There are two very solid big men who are in a minutes squeeze behind Bynum, who is still getting 15 to 20 minutes on a nightly basis. As long as Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson's roles remain inconsistent, it is hard to recommend them, even against a solid set of matchups like this. Dion Waiters, on the other hand, is a recommended start, assuming you can stand the hit to your percentages. Waiters is a streaky scorer, but he might be worth the risk against this series of poor defenses.

Schedule: DEN, @ATL, LAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 4th
10-team starters: Kyrie Irving
12-to-14-team starters: Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson
Deep-league fliers: Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Earl Clark

Dallas Mavericks

Jose Calderon suffered an ankle injury Friday, but that isn't the reason he has been moved down a spot this week. And it isn't because of Dallas' poor matchups this week. No, Calderon is being moved down solely because of his play. Generally considered one of the defter passers in the league, Calderon hasn't topped five assists in a game since Nov. 16. He is contributing his usual solid efficiency, but that matters a lot less than getting those precious assists from the point guard position. Calderon is still a solid starter, but against a tough schedule, you might want to consider letting him stay on the bench for a better matchup in Week 6.

Schedule: CHA, @NO, @POR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 27th
10-team starters: Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis
12-to-14-team starters: Jose Calderon, Shawn Marion
Deep-league fliers: Vince Carter, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, Jae Crowder

Denver Nuggets

Now that the Nuggets are pushing the pace again, everything is back to normal in Denver. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners, this team is severely lacking in a consistent No. 2 option, as four players behind Ty Lawson average between 10.1 and 11.2 points per game this season. More than ever, Denver has been relying on their depth and speed to overcome teams, and that shouldn't change much in Week 6, against a plethora of subpar defensive squads. Lawson remains an absolute must-start Fantasy option, but you might want to get your borderline Nuggets action given their matchups. And don't be worried about the schedule lacking in games at their beloved Pepsi Center; the Nuggets are averaging more points per game on the road (106.0) than at home (103.1).

Schedule: @BKN, @CLE, @BOS, @PHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 2nd
10-team starters: Ty Lawson
12-to-14-team starters: Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, JJ Hickson
Deep-league fliers: Timofey Mozgov, Andre Miller, Randy Foye, Nate Robinson

Detroit Pistons

Who expected contract-year Rodney Stuckey to come out like this? The shooting challenged guard has emerged as Detroit's most reliable offensive option this season, leading the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game off the bench. He has been even better recently, averaging 18.6 points per game over the last 10, while shooting 51.1 percent from the field. I never imagined Rodney Stuckey would rate out as a better Fantasy option than Josh Smith at any point this season, but that has been the case over the last few weeks. Neither is a particularly strong option in a week full of tough matchups but I think I'd rather start Stuckey at this point, as Smith is averaging just 11.5 points per game over the last 10 games.

Schedule: @MIA, @MIL, @CHI, MIA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 28th
10-team starters: Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey
12-to-14-team starters: Josh Smith
Deep-league fliers: Will Bynum, Kyle Singler

Golden State Warriors

Harrison Barnes doesn't do much beyond score a this point in his career, but he's proven to be pretty good at that. He is doing a capable Jeff Green impression since stepping into the starting lineup, as the sophomore is averaging 16.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game over the last five. The loss of Andre Iguodala hasn't changed the overall shape of Golden State's Fantasy prospects, with Harrison Barnes standing in as a less valuable version of Iguodala and no other players stepping up. Given his recent play, Andrew Bogut might be worth using as a No. 2 center, but only three games on the schedule makes him very much a low-end choice as a starter.

Schedule: TOR, @HOU, @MEM
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 22nd
10-team starters: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee
12-to-14-team starters: Andrew Bogut
Deep-league fliers: None

Houston Rockets

A knee injury to Jeremy Lin opened the door for Aaron Brooks to step into the rotation this week, and he has really taken advantage of his chances. Nobody doubts that Brooks can score; it's the one thing he has always done when given chances in the league. He has averaged 16.0 points per game over the last four, while filling in for Lin and James Harden, who was dealing with a foot injury. The Rockets' offense leaves plenty of space for a third guard to get solid minutes and shots, so Brooks should have a consistent role with Lin out a couple of weeks. I wouldn't feel great about it, but Brooks might be worth starting with four games on the schedule this week.

Schedule: @UTA, PHO, GS, ORL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 10th
10-team starters: James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons
12-to-14-team starters: Patrick Beverley, Terrence Jones, Aaron Brooks
Deep-league fliers: Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi

Indiana Pacers

This should be a pretty brutal week for the Pacers, who head west for a brutal road trip. Even with four games on the schedule, Week 6 for the Pacers rates out as one of the worst schedules in the league, as three of four teams rank in the top half of the league in points allowed per game. Even with a tough schedule, things shouldn't change much from a Fantasy perspective for this roster, which has a pretty established hierarchy. David West is starting to get it together, but he remains a fringe-y Fantasy option, so sitting him this week might not be the worst option.

Schedule: @POR, @UTA, @SAS, @OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 25th
10-team starters: Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson
12-to-14-team starters: George Hill, David West
Deep-league fliers: Luis Scola, C.J. Watson

Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul missed one game last week with a hamstring injury, and it isn't quite clear at this point if it is going to linger into Week 6. Even if it does, it might be too difficult to sit him, as Paul has been arguably the top guard in the league this season. Unless we get a confirmation that Paul is going to miss multiple games, role the dice on him -- Chris Paul with two games is better than nearly every guard in the league with three. In light of Paul's injury, you might be tempted to look at Darren Collison as a stream option. Here's my suggestion; don't. Collison played 40 minutes Friday against a poor Kings' defense, and finished with just 20 Fantasy points.

Schedule: @ATL, @MEM, @CLE
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 19th
10-team starters: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan,
12-to-14-team starters: Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick
Deep-league fliers: Jared Dudley

Los Angeles Lakers

Making sense of the Lakers without Kobe Bryant has been a fool's errand. They continue to have plenty of options who might look useful, if you squint and catch them in the right light. Unfortunately, the team spreads the ball around so much, and the rotations are so inconsistent, you simply can't predict who is going to be providing the points on a given night. With just two games on the schedule, I wouldn't take the risk on anyone but Pau Gasol in most Fantasy formats.

Schedule: @SAC, TOR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 29th
10-team starters: Pau Gasol
12-to-14-team starters: Steve Blake
Deep-league fliers: Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar

Memphis Grizzlies

Forwards we like for Week 6
Player Own/Start
1. Cartier Martin, Hawks 3/1
2. Jared Sullinger, Celtics 82/55
3. Mirza Teletovic, Nets 3/1
4. Taj Gibson, Bulls 35/11
5. Kenneth Faried, Nuggets 97/71
6. Harrison Barnes, Warriors 83/55
7. Trevor Ariza, Wizards 89/29
8. Richard Jefferson, Jazz 10/4
9. John Henson, Bucks 70/41
10. Glen Davis, Magic 68/35

Ed Davis got a start Saturday! Of course, it came with Zach Randolph out, and does not seem to be indicative of any kind of larger change in his role -- in the three previous games since Marc Gasol went down with an injury, Davis topped 20 minutes played just once. He remains unworthy of starting regularly at this point. As for Gasol's replacement, Kosta Koufos, he has been decent on the boards and on defense, posting multiple blocks and double-digit rebounds in consecutive games. However, his upside remains extremely limited thanks to his lackluster scoring, which means he probably isn't more than a spot starting option when the schedule dictates. With just three games on the schedule and only one good matchup, I wouldn't plug him into my starting lineup.

Schedule: PHO, LAC, GS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 18th
10-team starters: Mike Conley, Zach Randolph
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis, Tony Allen, Jerryd Bayless, Tayshaun Prince, Mike Miller, Quincy Pondexter

Miami Heat

At what point do we have to start taking Michael Beasley seriously? He has earned coach Eric Spoelstra's trust, how far is he from doing the same with Fantasy owners? Michael Beasley, disregarded as too much of a distraction by the tanking Suns, emerging as a useful rotation piece on both sides of the floor for the NBA Champion Heat? It hardly sounds believable. And I'm not believing it; yet. Beasley's hot start to the season has allowed him to usurp Udonis Haslem in the rotation, but his skill set is still a bit redundant with Rashard Lewis around. In a deeper league, Beasley is probably worth grabbing on waivers, but I cannot recommend starting him at this point.

Schedule: DET, @CHI, @MIN, @DET
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 8th
10-team starters: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
12-to-14-team starters: Mario Chalmers
Deep-league fliers: Ray Allen, Michael Beasley

Milwaukee Bucks

Injuries have caused the Bucks a ton of problems this season, and have derailed some of their best players' seasons through the first month. I have faith in Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Knight getting it together down the road, but it is hard for Fantasy owners to continue running them out there when they are playing like this. Week 6 provides some great matchups for the Bucks, but I don't really trust anyone on this roster to take advantage. Even O.J. Mayo, the team's leading scorer, has been held to single digits in four of the last six games. If you're starting a Bucks player in Week 6, you're probably desperate.

Schedule: @BOS, DET, @WAS, BKN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 3rd
10-team starters: None
12-to-14-team starters: O.J. Mayo
Deep-league fliers: Ersan Ilyasova, Caron Butler, Luke Ridnour, John Henson, Brandon Knight

Minnesota Timberwolves

Hey, the Timberwolves made a trade! Acquiring Luc Richard Mbah a Moute should help shore up the second unit and give the team another reliable defender on the wing. Of course, this is a Fantasy column, so you probably don't care that Mbah a Moute's strength and length allow him to guard multiple positions on the wing with ease, because he's only scored in double figures in 26.2 percent of his 344 career games. The loss of Derrick Williams doesn't do much to change the short-term Fantasy prospects of this team, so don't change your plans for these Wolves. The only difference here in Week 6 is Corey Brewer's energy probably won't make up for just two games on the schedule. Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Kevin Martin are must-start players, but everyone else is negotiable with two games.

Schedule: SA, MIA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 30th
10-team starters: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
12-to-14-team starters: Nikola Pekovic
Deep-league fliers: Corey Brewer

New Orleans Pelicans

The second unit, built around Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans' scoring has found its footing, and there is now a clear heiarchy in New Orleans. The same five players are pretty much in double figures in scoring, and you know their Fantasy value is pretty static, even against tough matchups. The Pelicans' schedule in Week 6 isn't particularly forgiving, but you can't even consider sitting Evans or Anderson with how well they are starting to play.

Schedule: @CHI, DAL, OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 21st
10-team starters: Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon
12-to-14-team starters: Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson
Deep-league fliers: Anthony Morrow, Jason Smith

New York Knicks

Coach Mike Woodson has tinkered with the rotation quite a bit, but this roster simply doesn't work with Tyson Chandler out. At this point, it is fair to ask whether J.R. Smith even deserves a spot on most Fantasy rosters, as he has gotten off to an absolutely horrendous start to the season and is still bothered by his surgically repaired knee. With both Smith and Raymond Felton dealing with injuries and slumps, Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani really might be the only players worth a look for Fantasy purposes right now. I might give Smith and Felton one more week in my starting lineup before looking for replacements, but their struggles have to be acknowledged.

Schedule: @BKN, ORL, BOS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 11th
10-team starters: Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, Metta World Peace, Iman Shumpert, Beno Udrih

Oklahoma City Thunder

We have probably reached the point where Reggie Jackson shouldn't be considered a viable Fantasy option. A season that started with such promise for the third-year guard has not gone as hoped, through he is playing at a career-best level. Unfortunately, that has translated to just 20.6 Fantasy points per game, putting him squarely on the periphery of Fantasy relevance at the guard position. Even with four games on the schedule, you probably won't want to start the low-end Thunder at this point.

Schedule: @SAC, @POR, @NO, IND
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 16th
10-team starters: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Russell Westbrook
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Thabo Sefolosha, Steven Adams

Orlando Magic

Well, Tobias Harris' setback with his ankle injury is one way for the Magic's frontcourt glut to get resolved. He is dealing with a high ankle sprain, a notoriously tricky injury, so there would seem to be little ready to continue holding on to last year's second-half breakout star. This is one way to clear out a role for Glen Davis, who is averaging 29.6 minutes per game since returning from a foot injury, though his production has not been particularly impressive. Davis is averaging 12.6 points and 6.0 points per game, and is clearly not being given the same freedom he had last season, when he attempted 14 shots per game. As a low-end starting against this cupcake schedule, Davis is probably worth starting this week. But I'm not buying into him as a consistent Fantasy option just yet.

Schedule: @WAS, @PHI, @NY, @HOU
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 1st
10-team starters: Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo
12-to-14-team starters: Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo, Glen Davis
Deep-league fliers: Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers continue to play at an absolutely frantic pace this season, which is leading to good Fantasy outcomes for their players. Recent weeks have seen injuries disrupt Spencer Hawes and Tony Wroten's breakouts, and Thaddeus Young's absence due to a personal issue forced him to miss a few games. They should have all hands on deck in Week 6, and matchups against fast-paced teams in Denver and Orlando should lead to high-scoring affairs. Wroten has been pretty hit-or-miss this season, but I might take a chance on him this week if I don't like the matchups for my other guards -- he thrives when the game turns into a track meet.

Schedule: ORL, @CHA, DEN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 12th
10-team starters: Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Michael Carter-Williams
12-to-14-team starters: Thaddeus Young
Deep-league fliers: Tony Wroten, James Anderson

Phoenix Suns

Eric Bledsoe's return to the lineup over the last two games hasn't quite had the impact I might have expected. Specifically, Gerald Green has remained productive, scoring 27 points and adding seven 3-pointers over Bledsoe's first two games back, despite his minutes taking a dip. I'll admit to not buying Green's play, but I am also starting to consider that I might have to change my mind on him at some point, as his numbers for the whole season remain impressive. With just three games on the schedule, I'm willing to leave Green in the middle tier, and he is joined there by Channing Frye, who has found his stroke and is averaging 17.0 points and 3.0 3-pointers per game over the last five. Markieff Morris and Miles Plumlee drop a tier this week, given their recent inconsistency.

Schedule: @MEM, @HOU, TOR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 23rd
10-team starters: Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic
12-to-14-team starters: Gerald Green
Deep-league fliers: Miles Plumlee, P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye, Markieff Morris

Portland Trail Blazers

The only thing that can stop Wesley Matthews at this point is the Trail Blazers' offense. He failed to score in double figures for the first time in 10 games Wednesday, but still hit half of his shots, but only took six. This highlights one potential problem with the Blazers' top-heavy approach; someone might get left out to dry on any given night, because there are only so many chances to shoot. Fortunately, there doesn't appear to be any chance of a change in the team's starting lineup changing anytime soon, so everything is likely to remain as is. With four games on the schedule and some solid matchups in the second half of the season, start your typical Blazers as you would every week.

Schedule: IND, OKC, UTA, DAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 13th
10-team starters: Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews
12-to-14-team starters: Robin Lopez
Deep-league fliers: Dorell Wright, Mo Williams

Sacramento Kings

Centers we like for Week 6
Player Own/Start
1. JJ Hickson, Nuggets 90/70
2. Andrew Bogut, Warriors 89/64
3. Miles Plumlee, Suns 84/45
4. Robin Lopez, Trail Blazer 71/46
5. Marcin Gortat, Wizards 96/66

I want to just skip this team's section every week, because the backcourt is becoming such an unpredictable mess. Despite being their second-best player through the first month of the season (and it hasn't been particularly close), Isaiah Thomas' role continues to fluctuate. For whatever reason, Kings' coaches for three years have done everything they can to avoid the only logical conclusion possible -- Thomas is just a good NBA player. Coach Mike Malone has gone with the more "conventional" option at point guard with Greivis Vasquez in recent games, and even rookie Ben McLemore has seen his role increased. I like the idea of seeing what Derrick Williams can do with a full-time role, even out of position, and think he is worth using as a low-end starter this week, along with Vasquez and Thomas.

Schedule: OKC, LAL, @UTA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 15th
10-team starters: DeMarcus Cousins
12-to-14-team starters: Derrick Williams, Greivis Vasquez, Isaiah Thomas
Deep-league fliers: Marcus Thornton, Patrick Patterson, Jason Thompson, Ben McLemore, John Salmons

San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan has finally put it together in recent games, scoring 19 and then 20 points on consecutive nights Friday and Saturday. He had been in a season-long slump, but showed this weekend he can still get the job done when needed. Unfortunately, Danny Green's struggles have continued, with Marco Belinelli stealing minutes and shots from him in recent games. Belinelli has been a solid fit in the Spurs offense, making better than half of his shots from the field and three-point range, but his role has been pretty inconsistent overall. I wouldn't rely on either Green or Belinelli until we see who gets more playing time moving forward.

Schedule: ATL, @MIN, IND
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 26th
10-team starters: Tony Parker
12-to-14-team starters: Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan
Deep-league fliers: Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw

Toronto Raptors

Alright well, if Dwane Casey isn't going to trust Jonas Valanciunas, I guess I won't either. Valanciunas' breakout season has simply not gone as expected, and he clearly does not have his coach's confidence. Unfortunately, there isn't really a big man who has been able to step up in his void, as Amir Johnson's playing time has been inconsistent as well. Until they start playing better, I'd skip the Raptors frontcourt. In a 10-team league, I might even consider dropping Valanciunas, who is averaging just 8.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over the last 10.

Schedule: @GS, @PHO, @LAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 17th
10-team starters: Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry
12-to-14-team starters: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas
Deep-league fliers: Tyler Hansbrough

Utah Jazz

As evidence by his 3.7 assists per game average from last week, Trey Burke is still trying to figure out how to proper run an NBA offense. His scoring touch is starting to come, though, and the Jazz seem perfectly content to let him shoot as much as he wants; Burke averages 15.7 points per game and took at least 14 shots in each game. The efficiency should come as he figures out how to work his way through defenses and find the right shot, but the team's willingness to let him chuck should yield positive results moving forward. The Jazz really only face one tough matchup this week, and three of their four opponents feature subpar defense on the perimeter, so I like his chances here. Beyond that, it is clear Enes Kanter's role is in flux, so there is little reason to start him right now. I can't drop the talented big man, but it I also cannot recommend starting him right now.

Schedule: HOU, IND, @POR, SAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 9th
10-team starters: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors
12-to-14-team starters: Trey Burke
Deep-league fliers: Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams

Washington Wizards

Bradley Beal's leg injury snuck in just after deadline for last week's column, and that is a real game changer. The Wizards, a team without much of a bench, now has to find a way to split up the 19.1 shots Beal was attempting before the injury. I have always liked Martell Webster's fit with John Wall, so he is an obvious choice to continue his solid play. Trevor Ariza is also averaging 16.3 points per game since returning from his hamstring injury, so both players should do a decent job picking up the slack. The only think keeping me from recommending them highly is that Washington only plays twice this week. They both look like borderline starters right now.

Schedule: ORL, MIL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 24th
10-team starters: John Wall
12-to-14-team starters: Nene, Marcin Gortat, Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza
Deep-league fliers: None

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