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Week 10 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer

I hate to keep writing about injuries. If I had my druthers, all we would be talking about is how everyone is healthy and happy and nobody ever loses a Fantasy matchup!

Unfortunately, Fantasy owners are coping with the loss of two more star-level players. It was almost three, but we were spared another Bradley Beal injury after an MRI revealed just a bone bruise.

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Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and Hawks center Al Horford weren't quite as lucky, as both are now out for long stretches of time. Horford is almost certainly out for the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral, while Westbrook won't be back until at least the All-Star break after undergoing his third knee surgery in eight months.

The Thunder have a natural replacement for Westbrook in Reggie Jackson, the team's previous sixth man. He fits the Westbrook mold as an aggressive offense-oriented point guard, though that description sells Westbrook much more short than Jackson, who isn't nearly the passer Westbrook is. Jackson underwhelmed as a starter earlier in the season, averaging just 8.5 points and 4.3 assists per game prior to Westbrook's return, but he acquitted himself well when pressed into duty last postseason. He averaged 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game as a starter in those nine playoff games. He should be able to step up as a solid Fantasy option from Day 1.

If the Thunder have an obvious replacement for Westbrook in Jackson, the Hawks are left without many answers in Horford's absence. Horford's unique skill set almost guarantees this, as he has made the transition from stretch power forward to high usage center beautifully. A 31-year-old rookie -- Pero Antic -- might be able to provide some of Horford's floor spacing on offense, but the team is going with Elton Brand as the starter, likely for his ability to replicate Horford's defensive impact despite being undersized. Brand has seen his scoring average shrink in three straight seasons and is unlikely to make any kind of Fantasy impact at 34, with 30,000-plus NBA minutes under his belt.

Owners of both Horford and Westbrook aren't going to have an easy time replacing that production, but they can take solace in knowing many of their league-mates are dealing with similar issues of their own. Let's just hope we can get through Week 10 (Dec. 30-Jan. 5) without losing anyone else.

(All stats up to date through Dec. 27 games)

Atlanta Hawks

The Horford injury is going to have reverberations throughout the Hawks' rotation, and it is hard to say exactly how this is going to work out. As mentioned previously, there is no natural replacement for Horford's skill set, so the best option may be to lean more heavily on Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague. Both players are already posting career-high usage rates, so it is fair to wonder whether their efficiency will take a hit with a heavier scoring burden. Either way, this is unlikely to be a great week to find out, with three top-10 defenses on the way. Given the likelihood of more shots, I would say Teague, Millsap and Kyle Korver are high-end options despite the schedule, but I want to see how the rest of the rotation shakes out before jumping on anyone else.

Schedule:Schedule: @BOS, GS, @CHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 30th
10-team starters: Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Shelvin Mack, Lou Williams, DeMarre Carroll, Pero Antic, Elton Brand

Boston Celtics

Avery Bradley has been running hot recently, shooting better than 50.0 percent from the field in the month of December. As a result, he is averaging a robust 16.1 points per game, a number that climbs to 18.0 over the last four games. Unfortunately for Fantasy purposes, he needed to maintain that kind of elite scoring just to remain a starting option, given how little else he does. Even while averaging 18.0 points per game over the last five games, he is putting up just 26.0 Fantasy points in that span, a mark that would rank just 38th among guards for the season. Given four games on the schedule, he is still more of a No. 3 guard in most Fantasy formats.

Schedule: ATL, @CHI, NO, @OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 17th
10-team starters: None
12-to-14-team starters: Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger
Deep-league fliers: Brandon Bass

Brooklyn Nets

I still believe in Andray Blatche, but any Fantasy owner who picked him up in the wake of Brook Lopez's injury can't be happy. Blatche scored just 18 points in the first two games following Lopez's injury, and then left the team to deal with a personal issue. He is expected to be out at least until the team returns from its current road trip, leaving him with just one chance to play this season, so he can be safely benched in Week 10. But I wouldn't give up on his potential just yet; he is definitely worth a spot on most rosters.

Schedule: @SA, @OKC, CLE
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 29th
10-team starters: Deron Williams
12-to-14-team starters: Joe Johnson
Deep-league fliers: Andray Blatche, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Mirza Teletovic, Miles Plumlee

Charlotte Bobcats

The loss of Jeff Taylor hasn't had much of an impact on the Bobcats' rotation, as the team has opted to just give stars Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson ever more shots. This is an exceptionally top heavy offense, with Walker, Jefferson and Gerald Henderson taking 57.8 percent of the team's field goals over the last five games. Given the glacial pace this team prefers to play at, there isn't much to like here, even with four solid matchups on the way.

Schedule: @UTA, @LAC, @POR, @SAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 2nd
10-team starters: Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson
12-to-14-team starters: Gerald Henderson
Deep-league fliers: Josh McRoberts, Ramon Sessions

Guards we like for Week 10
Player Own/Start
1. Kyle Korver, Hawks 78/57
2. D.J. Augustin, Bulls 58/26
3. Tim Hardaway Jr., Knicks 16/5
4. Nick Young, Lakers 74/53
5. Tony Allen, Grizzlies 39/18
6. Avery Bradley, Celtics 57/25
7. Jeremy Lin, Rockets 95/44
8. Darren Collison, Clippers 13/2
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks 54/17
10. J.J. Barea, Timberwolves 10/2

Chicago Bulls

D.J. Augustin has been surprisingly productive for the Bulls, and that continued Wednesday, even after Kirk Hinrich's return from a back injury. The question now is whether he can sustain this success with Hinrich around moving forward. Given how Chicago used Hinrich and an undersized Nate Robinson together last season, it isn't out of the question to think that Augustin could continue producing. For whatever Hinrich brings to the table, he isn't much of a play maker, whereas Augustin is thriving recently, at least relative to expectations. With four games on the schedule for Week 10, Augustin could be worth using as a No. 4 guard in many Fantasy leagues; I like him better than Hinrich, at least.

Schedule: @MEM, TOR, BOS, ATL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 23rd
10-team starters: Joakim Noah, Luol Deng
12-to-14-team starters: Carlos Boozer
Deep-league fliers: Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler, D.J. Augustin, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich

Cleveland Cavaliers

I advocated for it on Friday's podcast, so I am very happy to see the Cavaliers essentially parting ways with Bynum in recent days. The guy reportedly worked hard to get back into playing shape, but he just isn't the same player that was once the league's pre-eminent low-post force. Despite shooting just 41.9 percent from the field, the Cavaliers were still wasting 23.2 percent of their possessions by having Bynum as an offensive focal point. His absence will only mean good things for Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, even if their pedestrian stat lines Saturday don't show it. I would be starting both players this week, even with a pair of tough matchups against the Pacers on the way.

Schedule: @IND, ORL, @BKN, IND
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 24th
10-team starters: Kyrie Irving
12-to-14-team starters: Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson
Deep-league fliers: Anderson Varejao, Jarrett Jack, C.J. Miles, Earl Clark

Dallas Mavericks

We're still waiting for Brandan Wright to show up and wrest the starting center spot away from a series of lesser suitors. Until that happens, this is a pretty boring team from a Fantasy perspective, with a couple of high-usage scorers hogging the spotlight.

Schedule: @@MIN, @WAS, LAC, NY
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 9th
10-team starters: Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis
12-to-14-team starters: Jose Calderon, Vince Carter
Deep-league fliers: Brandan Wright, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, Shawn Marion

Denver Nuggets

Kenneth Faried has been dealing with an ankle injury in recent days, which is only exacerbating a dreadful situation. Fantasy owners are still clinging to the possibility that he will find himself, but coach Brian Shaw's disinterest in using him is pretty clear at this point; Anthony Randolph is playing nearly as many minutes as Faried over the last five. Hanging on to Faried in the hopes that he finds himself is fine, but I cannot recommend starting him in any Fantasy formats at this point, which is a shame with such a good schedule on the way.

Schedule: MIA, PHI, MEM, @LAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 4th
10-team starters: Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler
12-to-14-team starters: JJ Hickson
Deep-league fliers: Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov, Andre Miller, Randy Foye, Nate Robinson

Detroit Pistons

Rodney Stuckey had been an integral part of the Pistons offense for much of the season's first two months, but a shoulder injury has derailed him recently. He has scored in double figures just once over the last three games, and has seen a significant decrease in his role -- averaging just 22.3 minutes per game in that span. With just two games on the way, Stuckey is very much a sit-able player for Week 10.

Schedule: WAS, MEM
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 29th
10-team starters: Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Kyle Singler

Golden State Warriors

Harrison Barnes is certainly better than his recent play, but we're reaching a point where he isn't even a useful low-end starting option for Fantasy purposes. Barnes is averaging just 7.0 points per game over the last five, while shooting a paltry 28.2 percent from the field. Given how much he struggles to create on his own, the Warriors' lack of a solid second point guard is really causing him problems. Even with four games and a solid schedule, I don't trust the second-year pro.

Schedule: @ORL, @MIA, @ATL, @WAS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 12th
10-team starters: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee
12-to-14-team starters: Andre Iguodala
Deep-league fliers: Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut

Houston Rockets

Patrick Beverley's injury luckily came right as Jeremy Lin was healthy enough to return, which is a good thing for the Rockets. While Aaron Brooks can score decently enough, too much of him is never a good thing for an offense. Lin is averaging 17.0 points and 4.0 assists per game since returning from his back injury, and is safe to start in absolutely all formats. The same goes with anyone else in the starting lineup, though with two games, Terrence Jones remains more of a deep-league option.

Schedule: SAC, NY
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 26th
10-team starters: James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin
12-to-14-team starters: Terrence Jones
Deep-league fliers: Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi

Indiana Pacers

Danny Granger is still owned in 85 percent of leagues, and was even started in 17 percent of them last week. This just isn't sound policy. Yes, the Pacers need some scoring punch in their second unit, but I don't see any way this team is going to give Granger the kind of shots he needs to be successful. Sure, keep him on your roster in the event he finds his former All-Star form. But even facing the league's best schedule in Week 10, there is no argument to be made for starting Granger in any Fantasy formats. Two other Pacers are struggling with their games recently, as starters Roy Hibbert and George Hill are bother averaging below double figures in scoring over the last five games. I would still feel okay starting Hibbert in a category-based league, but Hill's season-long struggles make him more of a 12-to-14-team option against a strong schedule.

Schedule: CLE, @TOR, NO, @CLE
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 1st
10-team starters: Paul George, Lance Stephenson, David West
12-to-14-team starters: George Hill, Roy Hibbert
Deep-league fliers: Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, Danny Granger

Los Angeles Clippers

Now that Jamal Crawford is starting in place of the injured J.J. Redick, this team's bench is barren. Though backup point guard Darren Collison is seeing decent run recently, he is averaging just 17.6 Fantasy points per game over the last five. This is a solid enough week with four games, but you already know who to start from this roster, regardless of the schedule.

Schedule: PHO, CHA, @DAL, @SA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 15th
10-team starters: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford
12-to-14-team starters: Jared Dudley
Deep-league fliers: Darren Collison

Los Angeles Lakers

So much for the Kendall Marshall era. I touted the D-League pickup's possible virtues in last week's column, but Jordan Farmar's prompt return made sure there isn't anything worth looking at with Marshall. Farmar, on the other hand, probably has to be considered something close to a must-add Fantasy option as he works his way back into shape. As the only point guard on the roster able to walk or dribble right now, Farmar is going to get as much playing time as his tender hamstring can handle. I will stop short of calling Farmar a must-start Fantasy option, but it wouldn't surprise me if he became just that soon; that term neatly fit Steve Blake before suffering his own elbow injury. In a 12-team league, Farmar is already worth using as a No. 3 guard.

Schedule: MIL, UTA, DEN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 19th
10-team starters: Nick Young
12-to-14-team starters: Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks,
Deep-league fliers: Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks, Chris Kaman, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill

Memphis Grizzlies

Mike Conley has struggled badly with his shot recently, but it is hard to blame him much for that. He is sooting just 23.3 percent from the field over the last five games, leading to a paltry 8.7 points per game average that ranks just fifth on this offensively-challenged team in that span. Still, when you look at the players he takes the floor with, it is understandable that Conley might wilt occasionally under the constant pressure. His track record shows that Conley is much better than this, and I wouldn't even think about benching him this week, despite the struggles.

Schedule: CHI, @PHO, @DEN, @DET
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 13th
10-team starters: Mike Conley, Zach Randolph
12-to-14-team starters: Tony Allen
Deep-league fliers: Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless, Mike Miller

Forwards we like for Week 10
Player Own/Start
1. Glen Davis, Magic 79/52
2. Markieff Morris, Suns 64/28
3. Xavier Henry, Lakers 25/8
4. Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers 96/78
5. Wilson Chandler, Nuggets 83/57
6. Danny Green, Spurs 45/23
7. Terrence Jones, Rockets 81/31
8. Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks 70/10
9. Khris Middleton, Bucks 78/44
10. Tobias Harris, Magic 89/57

Miami Heat

There is little Fantasy intrigue with this roster, so we have to dig pretty deep for anything interesting. For instance, Mario Chalmers is one Flagrant foul away from being hit with a one-game suspension, so that is something to keep an eye on in the 60-percent of leagues where Chalmers is owned. Barring injury, you know the rest here.

Schedule: @DEN, GS, @ORL, TOR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 18th
10-team starters: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Michael Beasley

Milwaukee Bucks

Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova made their returns from injuries this weekend, which is going to make this team a headache moving forward. Sure, Khris Middleton is scoring the ball well for now, but what happens when shots that were going his way suddenly find their way into the hands of Ersan Ilyasova? I haven't been too keen on many Bucks recently, and their crowded rotation only makes it worse. EVen breakout Fantasy star John Henson is a risky play this week, given the crowded situation, as well as some minor injury issues he is dealing with.

Schedule: @LAL, @UTA, @PHO
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 7th
10-team starters: Brandon Knight
12-to-14-team starters: John Henson
Deep-league fliers: Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova, Giannis Antetokounmpo, O.J. Mayo, Khris Middleton, Nate Wolters

Minnesota Timberwolves

Ricky Rubio's offensive struggles have opened minutes up for J.J. Barea, who is enjoying one of his best stretches of the season recently. Of course, that comes out to just 11.4 points and 4.6 assists per game, numbers that have him just as a low-end Fantasy option in deeper leagues, though that is an improvement on the team's woeful depth otherwise. At this point, Rubio is probably no longer a must-start option either, at least until he figures out how to score more than a handful of points on terrible shooting percentages; no amount of assists can make up for his 22.5 percent mark over the last five games.

Schedule: DAL, NO, OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 10th
10-team starters: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic
12-to-14-team starters: Kevin Martin
Deep-league fliers: Corey Brewer, J.J. Barea

New Orleans Pelicans

It took a while, but Tyreke Evans has finally found a real comfort zone with the Pelicans. He is averaging 19.0 points, 9.5 assisted and 8.0 rebounds per game over the last five games, despite dealing with a troublesome left ankle that has to be bothering him still. Evans is thriving as the first option on the second unit, but has also surpassed Eric Gordon in minutes played over the last five. Start him with utter confidence in all formats against a four-game schedule with some soft defenses, and steer clear of Gordon while he deals with a hip injury.

Schedule: POR, @MIN, @BOS, @IND
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 6th
10-team starters: Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Eric Gordon, Anthony Morrow, Jason Smith, Al-Farouq Aminu

New York Knicks

It is probably time we started paying attention to Knicks rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. He wasn't expected to be much of a factor in his first season, but he has emerged as one of the team's most effective options around the perimeter, averaging 13.6 points per game over the last five. Given the team's lack of athleticism and shooting, Hardaway should keep his role, which has already pushed him into low-end Fantasy reserve territory. Unfortunately, if he is to make a leap into starting territory, he will have to either up his scoring or start making some plays; even as his role has improved recently, Hardaway is averaging just 1.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists over the last five. I've got my eye on Hardaway, but he needs to do more before I'm slotting him into my starting lineup.

Schedule: @SA, @HOU, @DAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 14th
10-team starters: Carmelo Anthony,
12-to-14-team starters: J.R. Smith, Andrea Bargnani, Tyson Chandler
Deep-league fliers: Tim Hardaway Jr., Amar'e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, Beno Udrih

Oklahoma City Thunder

Reggie Jackson is already owned in 80 percent of our leagues, so there's just a one-in-five chance you have a chance to add Westbrook's replacement. There will be other ripples throughout the Thunder's rotation, including a likely increase in Jeremy Lamb's role; he has already seen some extra time recently working as a primary ball handler, and will now become the first option off the bench. One player who is likely to see his value take a hit without Westbrook is Serge Ibaka, who famously disappeared in last year's playoffs after the injury. Ibaka has quietly struggled without Westbrook this season, averaging just 13.9 points per-36 minutes on 46.5 percent shooting with Westbrook off the floor, compared to 16.6 points per-36 minutes on 54.2 percent shooting with Westbrook setting him up. Ibaka will still do more than enough to justify his spot in your starting lineup, but brace for the slump that could be coming.

Schedule: POR, BKN, @MIN, BOS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 3rd
10-team starters: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Jeremy Lamb

Orlando Magic

The Magic have opted to play Tobias Harris and Glen Davis together recently, to the detriment of Andrew Nicholson, who has a DNP and is averaging just 14.7 minutes per game over the last five games. Given preseason expectations, this shouldn't be a huge surprise, but it is certainly disappointing for any Fantasy owners who thought they had some found money with Nicholson. I would still avoid Orlando and their crowded rotation, but the team seems to be settling into a consistent rotation, at least until the next injury.

Schedule: GS, @CLE, MIA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 22nd
10-team starters: Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson
12-to-14-team starters: Victor Oladipo, Glen Davis, Tobias
Deep-league fliers: None

Philadelphia 76ers

The talk about playing more two-guard lineups appears to have been just that; talk. Tony Wroten played just 44 minutes combined in his first two games after Michael Carter-Williams' return. I wouldn't give up on Wroten just yet, but it seems clear he isn't going to be playing more than 25 or so minutes per game as long as MCW is healthy. Even with some really solid matchups on the way, Wroten is very difficult to rely on in Week 10, given his current role.

Schedule: @DEN, @SAC, @POR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 17th
10-team starters: Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Tony Wroten, James Anderson

Phoenix Suns

This last week was a perfect example of why the Suns scare me for Fantasy purposes. With Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe surprisingly shooting less than ever over the last five games, the team spread the ball around to an almost absurd degree. Seven different players averaged double figures in scoring over the last 10 games, led by Gerald Green and his 15.0 per game. This squad spreads it around and shoots a ton of 3-pointers, so the scoring load will naturally be split on any given night. Unfortunately, this kind of still dooms many of their players to Fantasy limbo, since it is awfully difficult to know just who you can rely on at any one time. With just three games on the schedule for Week 10, I would still only trust Dragic and Bledsoe, who have the most well-defined roles.

Schedule: @LAC, MEM, MIL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 27th
10-team starters: Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe
12-to-14-team starters: Miles Plumlee, Markieff Morris, Gerald Green
Deep-league fliers: Marcus Morris, Channing Frye

Portland Trail Blazers

Like many of the best teams Portland's team isn't exactly overflowing with Fantasy interest. Set rotations and a core of players you can actually, you know, rely on are nice bonuses for coaches, but they tend to make things pretty boring for Fantasy owners looking for help. You know who to start from the Blazers, and their top-heavy approach leaves little leftover for low-end guys, even with four games on the way.

Schedule: @NO, @OKC, CHA, PHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 6th
10-team starters: Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Robin Lopez, Mo Williams

Centers we like for Week 10
Player Own/Start
1. Jared Sullinger, Celtics 94/56
2. Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers 88/60
3. Larry Sanders, Bucks 84/24
4. Andrew Bogut, Warriors 94/75
5. Pero Antic, Hawks 3/1

Sacramento Kings

With Rudy Gay, Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins taking 57.6 percent of the team's total field goals since the trade, this team is substantially less interesting than it otherwise might have been. After the Kings acquired Derrick Williams, the hope was that he would be freed to become a useful Fantasy option, but there really isn't any reason to think that at this point that will change. The Kings have some solid matchups this week, but only Thomas, Cousins and Gay should be in any lineups for Week 10.

Schedule: @HOU, PHI, CHA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 14th
10-team starters: Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Marcus Thornton, Derrick Williams, Jason Thompson, Ben McLemore

San Antonio Spurs

A move to the bench appears to have sparked Danny Green, who scored 14-plus points in two of the last three games; he had just five such games in the team's first 27. His playing time hasn't exactly been consistent since the move, but it also wasn't prior. This is just what happens when you are relying on players whose role is left up to the whims of Gregg Popovich. We probably need a bigger sample size, but it appears safe to begin using Green in category-based formats beginning in Week 10.

Schedule: BKN, NY, LAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 21st
10-team starters: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan
12-to-14-team starters: Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Manu Ginobili
Deep-league fliers: Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw

Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry might be upset about the trade rumors swirling around him, but he isn't letting it impact his play. In fact, the notoriously moody point guard has been one of the better players in the league recently, flirting with triple-doubles and leading the team in scoring over the last five games. He is averaging 22.4 points, 9.2 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game in that stretch, and is clearly a must-start option for Week 10, even with some of the league's toughest defenses on the schedule..

Schedule: @CHI, IND, @WAS, @MIA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 28th
10-team starters: DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Kyle Lowry
12-to-14-team starters: Jonas Valanciunas
Deep-league fliers: Terrence Ross, Greivis Vasquez

Utah Jazz

Enes Kanter's production (17 points, 12 rebounds) Friday against the Clippers is a good example of why I can be talked into not giving up on him. The third-year big man is so obviously talented as a scorer, all he needs is the opportunity to succeed. Given that he is playing behind ill-fitting short-term pieces like Marvin Williams, it is only a matter of time before he is back to playing consistent minutes. Unfortunately, for Week 10, I'm still not touching him. I am also probably avoiding Alec Burks right now, as he has seen his scoring deep to 9.8 per game over the last five. If he isn't giving you consistent production in the mid-teens, it is hard to justify using Burks in most 12 or 14-team leagues.

Schedule: CHA, MIL, @LAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 20th
10-team starters: Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke
12-to-14-team starters: Derrick Favors
Deep-league fliers: Enes Kanter, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Alec Burks

Washington Wizards

Luckily, we avoided a third serious injury this week, as Bradley Beal's left knee injury suffered Friday proved to be a non-issue. His Fantasy owners have to be thrilled with that news, even if his production since coming back from a previous injury has been a bit lacking. He is still averaging 14.8 points per game in the last five games while shooting 60.0 percent from three-point range, but coach Randy Wittman is being very cautious about unleashing him for big minutes right now. Fantasy owners shouldn't share his cautious approach, however, with four solid matchups on the way this week. Beal remains well worth starting in the majority of formats this week.

Schedule: @DET, DAL, TOR, GS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 5th
10-team starters: John Wall
12-to-14-team starters: Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza, Nene, Marcin Gortat
Deep-league fliers: Trevor Booker

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Player News
Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers |
(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 |
(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 |
(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 |
(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, 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 |
(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, 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 |
(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 |
(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 |
(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 |
(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 |
(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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