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Week 12 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer

There aren't many of us left. The few brave souls who still aren't convinced the NBA is going through an injury epidemic. Each new week thins our ranks, as news of Eric Bledsoe and Jrue Holliday joining other All-Star caliber players struck down by injury.

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You could put together a Dream Team of injured players right now, and it wouldn't look too far off from a regular All-Star team. And I think the big names are misleading a bit when it comes to the sheer number of injuries occurring. Anecdotally, it seems like we've rarely had as few minor, day-to-day injuries as this season -- it just seems like every time someone goes down, it is a starter stricken with a multi-week issue.

Our brains aren't particularly well-equipped to handle large amounts of data, so we naturally tend to focus more on events that stand out. Our finite storage capabilities mean we stick to the meaningful information and toss out the rest. Injuries to Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul are much more meaningful than an injury to someone like Eric Maynor or Brandon Rush. Even though it might result in the same amount of games missed, Fantasy owners are obviously going to care more about the guy they drafted in the first round than the waiver-wire fodder.

Of course, whether injuries are actually happening more frequently or our under-evolved lizard brains are just inefficient data-processing centers, the end result is that Fantasy owners have been getting screwed. I had one person on Twitter asking me for advice on how to deal with the losses of Al Horford, Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant -- a day-to-day injury to Wilson Chandler was effectively crippling his team thanks to all those losses.

The NBA has already looked into the apparent injury epidemic and concluded that 'significant' injuries (defined as those forcing a player to miss 10 or more games) are not up in a statistically significant manner, as compared to recent five-year trends. Whether that proves to be true for the rest of the season, the league is probably looking into solutions for the injury scourge. It just might be a solution in search of a problem, if the data holds true. Either way, there are no simple solutions to the injury scenarios we're facing in Fantasy.

This continues to be a Fantasy season where whoever wins the war of attrition is going to come out on top. As we head toward the mid-season mark with Week 12 (Jan. 13-19), let's just hope we can get through the next seven days without losing anyone else.

(All stats up to date through Jan. 9 games)

Atlanta Hawks

The loss of Al Horford has really messed up the Hawks over the last handful of game. Entering Friday's action, six different Hawks are averaging at least 10 points per game, but mainstays Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver are all shooting well below their season averages. This is a team in flux as it figures out how to survive without its offensive centerpiece, and Fantasy owners cannot feel great about relying on anyone until they do get things sorted. With just one game on the schedule this week, 10-team owners can safely sit just about anyone in Atlanta.

Schedule: BKN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 28th
10-team starters: None
12-to-14-team starters: Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver
Deep-league fliers: Mike Scott, Shelvin Mack, Lou Williams, DeMarre Carroll, Pero Antic, Elton Brand

Boston Celtics

Guards we like for Week 12
Player Own/Start
1. J.J. Redick, Clippers 70/20
2. Marco Belinelli, Spurs 20/13
3. Gerald Green, Suns 63/41
4. Randy Foye, Nuggets 50/32
5. Brian Roberts, Pelicans 36/12
6. D.J. Augustin, Bulls 50/29
7. Austin Rivers, Pelicans 5/1
8. Luke Ridnour, Bucks 14/5
9. Jeremy Lamb, Thunder 30/12
10. Jimmer Fredette, Kings 2/0

The problem with the Celtics, from a Fantasy perspective, is that so many of their shots are used up by empty, inefficient scorers. Sure, Avery Bradley (17.2 points per game over the last five) and Jeff Green (15.6) sport pretty scoring averages, but they are the Fantasy equivalent of a fried Twinkie, in that they are devoid of the necessary nutrients you might otherwise get -- nutrients being rebounds and assists and the like, in this tortured metaphor. For all their gaudy scoring, neither player rises above borderline starting territory in most Fantasy formats, even with a very solid schedule on the way. Similarly, Jared Sullinger, who has flirted with respectability this season, is dealing with a hand injury that has severely limited his play recently. Steer clear.

Schedule: HOU, TOR, LAL, @ORL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 5th
10-team starters: Jordan Crawford
12-to-14-team starters: Jeff Green, Avery Bradley,
Deep-league fliers: Jerryd Bayless, Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries, Brandon Bass

Brooklyn Nets

Similar to the Hawks in a way, as both teams are learning to adjust to life without a big piece in the middle. Also similar in that they play just once this week, as the teams meet up in London. With the extended time off to adjust for the schedule change, each team has a nice lengthy block of off days surrounding their game, rendering them essentially useless for Fantasy purposes. Especially with Deron Williams likely out with more ankle trouble -- what else is new -- you can ignore everyone on this roster outside of average formats.

Schedule: ATL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 29th
10-team starters: None
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Deron Williams, Mirza Teletovic, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Andray Blatche, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee

Charlotte Bobcats

A recent hot streak and a bundle of free throws has pushed Gerald Henderson's value up recently, but he remains clearly below Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. Henderson is averaging 17.8 points per game in the month of January, but is adding just 24.2 Fantasy points in that span thanks to limited overall production. He does get the benefit of the #PhillyBump this week as part of a solid schedule, and that could be enough to bump him up a tier this week; he poured in 18 points and 29 Fantasy points the last time he saw the 76ers.

Schedule: NY, @PHI, @ORL, MIA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 11th
10-team starters: Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson, Gerald Henderson
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Josh McRoberts, Ramon Sessions

Chicago Bulls

All the injury anguish turned one of the biggest stories of the week into an afterthought by Friday, as the Bulls moved two-time All-Star Luol Deng in a trade with the Cavaliers. Deng's absence leaves a large hole for the Bulls to fill on the wings, as Deng was registering a career-high 24.7 percent usage rate prior to his injury. The most obvious beneficiary should be young Jimmy Butler, who will likely be asked to take on a bigger role than ever before. He hasn't quite lived up to expectations in his third season, but he is probably going to see a ton of minutes and shots come his way moving forward. The Bulls play four times against a bunch of mediocre-or-worse defenses, including a late matchup with the 76ers in Week 12, so he could end up being a strong starting option in all formats.

Schedule: WAS, @ORL, @WAS, PHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 27th
10-team starters: Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler
12-to-14-team starters: Carlos Boozer, D.J. Augustin
Deep-league fliers: Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich

Cleveland Cavaliers

And, here's where Deng landed. Deng isn't going to be pushing anyone worthwhile out of a chance at big minutes because the Cavaliers simply don't have anyone worthwhile at small forward. They haven't since LeBron James left, really. The Cavaliers have four players who have played at least 400 minutes with a usage rate of greater than 20 percent, and Deng should cut into only C.J. Miles' shots and minutes; one of the other four, Andrew Bynum, is now a free agent. Deng will likely see fewer shots with the Cavaliers than he did on a Chicago team bereft of playmakers, since Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are likely going to keep chucking. It will be interesting to see how a player with Deng's broad skillset changes the complexion of this team's offense, and Week 12 should provide a smooth landing for everyone involved, with the Cavaliers facing another soft schedule. Deng can produce in a number of ways, and should have no trouble fitting in, seamlessly, so keep him in your Fantasy lineup.

Schedule: @LAL, @POR, @DEN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 4th
10-team starters: Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng
12-to-14-team starters:, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson
Deep-league fliers: C.J. Miles, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark

Dallas Mavericks

Bruised ribs and a shoulder could limit Shawn Marion this week, though his waning production recently had already dropped him to low-end Fantasy starter status. He should remain so in Week 12, and early returns do not indicate any Mavericks' reserves ready to step up in his place. Vince Carter might be asked to pick up some of the slack, but he remains more of a low-end Fantasy option, averaging 13.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game over the last five.

Schedule: ORL, @LAC, @PHO, POR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 8th
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

The problem with the Nuggets, from a Fantasy perspective, is that Brian Shaw apparently does not like his team. Seriously. Shaw seems like the kind of coach who would love to settle on a consistent rotation, with a defined hierarchy and set roles. What coach wouldn't? Unfortunately, the Nuggets are a funky mess of a team, and that leads to situations like the one we've seen over the last five, with no less than eight different players averaging double figures in scoring. That is an embarrassment of riches, and one that is awfully frustrating for Fantasy purposes, because it probably isn't sustainable. Randy Foye and Kenneth Faried are enjoying some of their best play of the season during that stretch, and can probably be started in most Fantasy formats with a solid schedule on the way in Week 12, though approach with caution since both have been wildly inconsistent this season.

Schedule: @UTA, @GS, CLE, @PHO
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 13th
10-team starters: Ty Lawson,
12-to-14-team starters: Wilson Chandler, Randy Foye, Kenneth Faried
Deep-league fliers: JJ Hickson, Timofey Mozgov, Nate Robinson, Evan Founier

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons are in a bad way recently, and the malaise has spread to just about everyone of Fantasy relevance. Over the last five games, only Greg Monroe is averaging better than 14 points per game, with Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings both logging sub-40-percent shooting marks in that span. This remains one of the most frustrating rosters in the league for Fantasy purposes, and with just two games on the schedule, nobody here is a must-start.

Schedule: UTA, @WAS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 25th
10-team starters: None
12-to-14-team starters: Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings
Deep-league fliers: Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Kyle Singler, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Golden State Warriors

With how much room Andre Iguodala is getting in the Warriors offense, he is enjoying the most efficient shooting season of his career. Unfortunately, that efficiency has not translated into production, thanks to his lowest usage rate since his rookie season. Iguodala is playing it smart, but the Warriors could probably use more off-the-bounce creativity from him. Fantasy owners would certainly like that too, as Iguodala has hardly been worth starting recently. Despite some solid matchups for Week 12, don't expect that to change based on how he is playing right now.

Schedule: DEN, @OKC, @NO
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 14th
10-team starters: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut

Houston Rockets

Hamstring and knee issues have cost Chandler Parsons two straight games now, and this injury could linger into Week 12 if rest doesn't cure it. Parsons has been the clear third option for this team, and nobody really stepped up to fill the void left by his absence in Wednesday's win over the Lakers. This is not a particularly deep team, so the other four starters simply all chipped in to make up for his absence. If Parsons continues to miss time, don't expect someone like Omri Casspi or Francisco Garcia to all of a sudden become relevant, as this is a team that really relies heavily on that starting five. If Parsons is forced to sit, look elsewhere for his replacement.

Schedule: @BOS, @NO, OKC, MIL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 10th
10-team starters: James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons,
12-to-14-team starters: Jeremy Lin, Terrence Jones
Deep-league fliers: Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi

Indiana Pacers

Entering Friday's action, Danny Granger had scored in double figures six times in a row, producing much more than we expected so early in his return from knee surgery. Still, the results aren't exactly impressive from a Fantasy perspective, as he is still looking for his three-point range and is not doing much besides score. He possibly had a chance to jump into relevance with Lance Stephenson dealing with a knee injury, but Stephenson's quick return to full strength ended any thoughts of that. Beyond Stephenson, Paul George and maybe Roy Hibbert -- in category-based Fantasy formats -- there isn't much here given a less-than-impressive schedule.

Schedule: SAC, NY, LAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 17th
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

Writing this Friday night, I haven't had the chance to see what the Clippers do with J.J. Redick upon his return from a hand injury. I'm sure they will ease him back into the rotation at first while he gets his conditioning back, though he did get the start Friday. Despite how well he was playing before the injury, Redick should be approached with caution this week, with a subpar schedule on the way. Long term, however, I would expect Redick to be a solid starting option in all formats, as he is capable of picking up some of the playmaking slack left over by Chris Paul's absence. As for the idea that Blake Griffin might struggle without Paul around to set him up, that was clearly foolish. In fact, Griffin has been doing more creating for himself and others since Paul's injury, and has been succeeding without qualification. He remains an absolute stud.

Schedule: DAL, @NY, @IND
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 26th
10-team starters:, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
12-to-14-team starters: Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison, J.J. Redick
Deep-league fliers: Jared Dudley

Los Angeles Lakers

Forwards we like for Week 12
Player Own/Start
1. Kenneth Faried, Nuggets 93/66
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks 50/21
3. Kris Humphries, Celtics 51/34
4. Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks 71/30
5. Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks 45/22
6. Jason Thompson, Kings 27/11
7. Patrick Patterson, Raptors 19/11
8. Richard Jefferson, Jazz 12/6
9. Kyle Singler, Pistons 5/2
10. Boris Diaw, Spurs 24/13

This continues to be an unpredictable season for the Lakers, largely because of how often expected contributors have been sidelined by injuries. The inconsistent play of Pau Gasol has not helped, though he has been playing some of his best ball of the season recently. The Lakers have re-dedicated themselves to playing around Gasol recently, and he has responded with 21.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game over the last five. Given how much his production has ebbed and flowed this season, Gasol is by no means a sure thing. Still, he looks to be a strong starting option in all formats yet again with four games on the schedule this week.

Schedule: CLE, @PHO, @BOS, @TOR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 19th
10-team starters: Pau Gasol, Jodie Meeks
12-to-14-team starters: Nick Young, Kendall Marshall
Deep-league fliers: Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies moved backup point guard Jerryd Bayless to Boston this week to pick up Courtney Lee, who gives them a bit more versatility and production on the wings. Lee proved to be a big disappointment in Boston, but he was also playing in a crowd. With Tony Allen currently dealing with a hand injury, Lee is going to get minutes for the offense-starved Grizzlies, as he played 25.7 in his very first appearance. Lee doesn't do much beyond score, but he could do enough of that to emerge as a useful Fantasy option down the road. He needs to prove that before Fantasy owners look to rely on him, so don't consider him much more than a very marginal starting option with only three games on the schedule in Week 12. This is still the Zach Randolph-Mike Conley show until further notice.

Schedule: OKC, @MIL, SAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 15th
10-team starters: Mike Conley, Zach Randolph
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Courtney Lee, Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis, Mike Miller

Miami Heat

Chris Bosh continues to be one of the most frustrating Fantasy options around, and that will happen as the third option on offense behind two usage hogs. Bosh just finished a three-game stretch that saw him scored in double figures just once, amassing 26 points on just 30.8 percent shooting. At least he has been hitting the boards over the last handful of games, a pleasant surprise for a notoriously poor rebounder. Bosh remains maddening for those who own him, but he also remains too talented to seriously consider benching full time. The Heat don't have the best matchups for Week 12, but you have to be pretty confident in your reserves to consider taking Bosh out of the lineup.

Schedule: @WAS, @PHI, @CHA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 19th
10-team starters: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Michael Beasley

Milwaukee Bucks

After starting the season just 8 of 49 on 3-pointers, Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova is finally starting to find his stroke. After Friday's game, he has made multiple 3-pointers in consecutive games for the first time all season, and that not-coincidentally coincided with a three-game double-digit scoring streak, also a first for the season. This has been a nightmarish season for the Bucks, but Ilyasova finding himself would go a long way towards helping to fix an offense that ranks dead last in the league in efficiency. Waiting another week or two before considering Ilyasova a start probably isn't the worst idea for Fantasy owners, but owners in category-based formats might consider him as a No. 4 forward if they need help with threes, as the Bucks face three teams that do not defend the three-ball well. Beyond Ilyasova, the looming return of John Henson only complicates things further for owners of Larry Sanders, who remain disappointed by his lackluster play thus far. Neither is a trustworthy option for Week 12.

Schedule: @TOR, MEM, @HOU, @SA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 7th
10-team starters: Brandon Knight
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: John Henson, Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova, Giannis Antetokounmpo, O.J. Mayo, Khris Middleton, Nate Wolters

Minnesota Timberwolves

After a hot start, Corey Brewer had fallen on hard times for the Timberwolves in the month of December, averaging 9.1 points per game on 36.4 percent shooting. Just as a possible replacement, Chase Budinger, has returned to health, however, Brewer has been showing some of that early season form since the start of January, averaging 10.8 points on 53.8 percent shooting in five games. Brewer is still more of a low-end starting option for category-based formats even when things are going well, but at least we know he is still alive after that long slump.

Schedule: SAC, @TOR, UTA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 16th
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

With Jrue Holiday going down with a stress reaction in his right tibia, a big opportunity has opened up in the Pelican's rotation for whoever wants to grab it. The most obvious beneficiary of Holiday's absence should be sixth man Tyreke Evans, the team's top playmaker next to Holiday. Unfortunately, his troublesome ankle appears to be a problem again, leaving Brian Roberts and Austin Rivers to step up in the first two games post-Holiday. That duo leads the team in assists over the two games since Holiday went down, though Holiday's backcourt mate Eric Gordon has taken on a huge scoring role as well, a natural outgrowth of Holiday's absence. This team is going to take some time to sort out how the rotation is going to work with Holiday out, and I would try to avoid the lower-end options. With Ryan Anderson also out indefinitely, Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon are probably the only safe bets here.

Schedule: SA, HOU, GS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 24th
10-team starters: Anthony Davis
12-to-14-team starters: Eric Gordon
Deep-league fliers: Brian Roberts, Austin Rivers, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Morrow, Jason Smith, Al-Farouq Aminu

New York Knicks

Following a series of boneheaded decisions too numerous to recount here, the Knicks finally decided to take a tough-love stance with J.R. Smith. That included a benching he admitted he did not see coming Thursday, with coach Mike Woodson adopting an increasingly frustrated tone when discussing Smith -- if he discusses him at all. Smith was back in the rotation Saturday and, at least for one night, seems to get the hint, playing one of his better games of the season in 27 minutes of action. The real test now will be whether he can remain focused moving forward -- on playing basketball, not untying shoelaces, or whatever else occupies Smith's mind when he steps on the floor. Fantasy owners who took the risk on Smith following up his solid campaign have to be hoping that the lesson sticks, but history suggests Smith might be too thick to get it. For the purposes of setting your lineup for Week 12, Smith is not worth the risk.

Schedule: PHO, @CHA, @IND, LAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 28th
10-team starters: Carmelo Anthony,
12-to-14-team starters: Raymond Felton, Andrea Bargnani
Deep-league fliers: J.R. Smith, Tyson Chandler, Tim Hardaway Jr., Amar'e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert

Oklahoma City Thunder

Serge Ibaka has struggled pretty badly since Russell Westbrook knee injury, though his recent numbers received a big boost thanks to games against porous Bucks and Celtics' defenses. Fantasy owners have to be frustrated and more than a little concerned by Ibaka's prospects while playing without Westbrook for at least another month. Still, his recent production, while somewhat disappointing -- especially from an efficiency standpoint -- is solid enough that you probably cannot consider benching him for Week 12. Especially with a solid four-game schedule on the way. He rare shot-blocking ability makes him an absolute must-start in category-based leagues, despite some worrisome signs.

Schedule: @MEM, @HOU, GS, SAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 3rd
10-team starters: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka
12-to-14-team starters: Reggie Jackson
Deep-league fliers: Jeremy Lamb

Orlando Magic

Fantasy owners have received just nine rebounds and six points from Nikola Vucevic since New Year's Eve, an extremely disappointing result of two injuries that were supposed to be of the day-to-day variety. Any hope of Vucevic providing relief in the way of a return from his concussion in Week 12 relies on Fantasy owners willing to take a big risk; that he will, in fact, make his return when the team begins a home stand against the Bulls. We already know Vucevic will miss at least one game this week, and he might not be worth the risk of playing just two, one or even no games this week. When healthy, Vucevic is one of the more reliable big men in the league, but he is probably another week away from really being a safe start. His questionable presence also lingers over two productive big men in Glen Davis and Tobias Harris, both of whom will inevitably take a hit upon Vucevic's return. Given that we don't know if or when that is happening, both carry some risk as lineups lock Monday.

Schedule: @DAL, CHI, CHA, BOS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 23rd
10-team starters: Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson
12-to-14-team starters: Victor Oladipo, Glen Davis, Tobias Harris
Deep-league fliers: Nikola Vucevic

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers are one of those bad teams that nonetheless has a set rotation, which doesn't give Fantasy owners much flexibility. Especially in a week like Week 12, where the Sixers face three of the league's stingiest defense. Three games is probably still too much time to consider sitting any of the team's starters, but you also won't want to take a risk on any of the lower-end guys against these defenses. Keep it simple.

Schedule: CHA, MIA, @CHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 30th
10-team starters: Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Tony Wroten

Phoenix Suns

Gerald Green has been a pretty interesting Fantasy option for a while, though he always had a pretty limited ceiling given his likely role on the team. Now, with Eric Bledsoe's unfortunate knee injury, Green is going to remain a member of the starting lineup as long as he can avoid coughing it up; given that he played 33 minutes Saturday despite missing 12 of his 17 field-goal attempts, it is safe to assume Green isn't going to be relegated to a bench role anytime soon. Bledsoe's injury hurts the team's outlook overall, and likely limits the production of some of the team's big men, who lost a dynamic pick-and-roll partner. For Green and starting backcourt mate Goran Dragic, this represents an opportunity to further increase their production in surprisingly solid seasons. Green is a particularly solid option for Week 12 in category-based formats, where the copious amount of 3-pointers he takes and makes provides a big boost.

Schedule: @NY, LAL, DAL, DEN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 3rd
10-team starters: Goran Dragic
12-to-14-team starters: Channing Frye, Gerald Green
Deep-league fliers: Miles Plumlee, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Ish Smith

Portland Trail Blazers

CJ McCollum has been a bigger part of the rotation through his first few games than was expected based on initial reports, but he still isn't looking like much of a Fantasy option. McCollum can be a solid Fantasy option down the line, I am sure. For now, however, he will be lucky to break 15 minutes per game, and has no place in a competitive Fantasy team's starting lineup in Week 12. He is still an injury away from relevance.

Schedule: CLE, @SA, @DAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 20th
10-team starters: Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews
12-to-14-team starters: Robin Lopez
Deep-league fliers: Mo Williams

Sacramento Kings

Centers we like for Week 12
Player Own/Start
1. Robin Lopez, Trail Blazers 88/54
2. Andrew Bogut, Warriors 94/57
3. Timofey Mozgov, Nuggets 29/16
4. Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors 92/67
5. Kevin Seraphin, Wizards 3/0

Rudy Gay's resurgence has been as pleasant as it is surprising to see since his arrival in Sacramento. The Kings have been a model of NBA dysfunction in recent years, so it is a testament to the current staff in place that the talented Gay has found himself here. He remains one of three must-start players here. Beyond those three it is slim pickings, though Jason Thompson has been doing enough dirty work recently to merit a look in deeper Fantasy leagues, as he is averaging close to a double-double over the last five games. Rookie Ben McLemore has been losing playing time amid a horrible slump, and can be safely left on the bench in all formats for Week 12, even with four games on the schedule. Jimmer Fredette might be a more attractive option right now.

Schedule: @IND, @MIN, @MEM, @OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 21st
10-team starters: Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay
12-to-14-team starters: Jason Thompson
Deep-league fliers: Marcus Thornton, Derrick Williams, Jimmer Fredette

San Antonio Spurs

Tiago Splitter's shoulder injury has kept him out of the lineup recently, an absence that is expected to continue into Week 12. Even without a pretty key cog in the middle, the Spurs haven't really struggled, but help hasn't come from the reserve big men. Boris Diaw and Jeff Ayres are averaging just 6.0 and 4.4 points per game, respectively, over the last five. Instead, reinforcements have arrived in the form of improved production from the perimeter, specifically in Marco Belinelli. Belinelli is leading the team in scoring over the last five games at 17.2 points per game, and is averaging 25.0 Fantasy points per game over that span. With Danny Green's continued ineffectiveness, Belinelli remains a key contributor, and is a worthy starting option for Week 12, with the Spurs facing the league's softest schedule.

Schedule: @NO, UTA, POR, MIL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 1st
10-team starters: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan
12-to-14-team starters: Kawhi Leonard, Marco Belinelli, Manu Ginobili
Deep-league fliers: Danny Green, Boris Diaw

Toronto Raptors

Patrick Patterson struggled to stand out in a Kings rotation in which he was pretty much redundant. The Raptors have a greater need for his specific skill set, and he is providing them with exactly what they want recently. Patterson is third on the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game over the last five games, with four double-digit scoring performances in that stretch. Patterson's minutes still come and go from time to time, but his recently play is exciting enough to make him worth a flier as a high-upside play for Week 12.

Schedule: MIL, @BOS, MIN, LAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 2nd
10-team starters: DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry
12-to-14-team starters: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson
Deep-league fliers: Terrence Ross, Greivis Vasquez

Utah Jazz

One of the most interesting injury concerns of the week comes with Utah's Gordon Hayward, who is considered a game-time decision for Monday's Week 12 opener against the Nuggets with a hip injury. The Jazz play at 9 p.m. Monday, meaning word on Hayward's status may not come down until after lineups lock. The Jazz play four times in Week 12, and Denver isn't even their most favorable matchup, so I think I would still roll the dice on Hayward this week, even without knowing his status for Monday. Given how well Hayward is playing recently (18.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists per game over the last 10), he remains well-worth a starting spot even if he only plays two or three times.

Schedule: DEN, @SA, @DET, @MIN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 6th
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

John Wall might not get enough credit for his skills as a passer, but even he cannot do anything for this team right now. None of the team's six players who are averaging at least 20 minutes per game over the last five games is making at least half of their shots in that time frame, which makes Wall's uncharacteristically low 7.4 assists per game average much more understandable. We would like to see them turn things around as a squad in Week 12, but a slew of tough matchups looms. Beyond Wall, there certainly isn't a must-start on this roster for Week 12, and category-based format players might want to look for better options if the field-goal percentages of guys like Bradley Beal (37.5 percent over the last five games), Nene (44.9 percent) or Marcin Gortat (43.2 percent) are proving too much of a drag.

Schedule: @CHI, MIA, CHI, DET
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 24th
10-team starters: John Wall
12-to-14-team starters: Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene, Marcin Gortat
Deep-league fliers: Martell Webster, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker

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Player News
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello |
(9/22/2014) With one week before the start of training camp, the Lakers have signed five-year veteran guard Wayne Ellington to a contract, the team announced. Ellington is now with his fourth team since June, after failing to crack the rotation with the Mavericks in 2013.

Ellington averaged 3.2 points on 43.7 percent shooting from the field over 45 games for Dallas.

Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White |
(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 |
(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 |
(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. 

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