Week 9 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em
Injuries are driving Fantasy owners crazy and it happened again last week. So who should you start if you lost Kobe Bryant or Brook Lopez? Chris Towers tells you in his Week 9 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em.
Stop me if you've heard this one ... we lost two more All-Stars to injury in the last week.
At this point, one has to wonder whether we're actually seeing a rise in injuries in the NBA or if we're just getting unlucky with big names going down with regularity. Though injuries may be up, it also might as simple as us taking notice to more injuries now because they happen to be striking names that grab headlines and demand retweets. Nobody really blinks when Quincy Pondexter or Carlos Delfino goes down for the year, while Derrick Rose is a name that moves the needle
Without a comprehensive database by which to compare years, it is seemingly impossible to judge whether more injuries have been suffered this season vs. years past, but ultimately the numbers won't matter much to Fantasy owners. If you lost Brook Lopez or Kobe Bryant (again) in the last week, you probably don't care whether it is part of a larger trend -- you're just frustrated and looking for help.
The injury to Kobe throws the Lakers' roster back into turmoil, especially since injuries were already pressing him into emergency point guard duty immediately upon his return from a ruptured Achilles. Any number of Lakers wings ( Nick Young , Xavier Henry , Wesley Johnson , et al) will be asked to take on a bigger role, but we have to see exactly how things play out. Brooklyn's situation is a bit clearer: Andray Blatche has been terrific when Brook Lopez is out, so expect him to be in someone's starting lineup in just about every Fantasy league from here on out.
Injuries are never a good thing, but Fantasy owners have had to learn the hard way this season that at some point you just have to make the best of a bad situation. In Week 9 (Dec. 23-29), many more Fantasy owners are going to have to learn that painful lesson.
(All stats up to date through Dec. 22 games)
Lou Williams is still looking for consistency, and that isn't a surprise, given what we know about how players recover from reconstructive knee surgeries. The first month or so after a return usually features a feeling-out period, as a player works his way back into shape. We're starting to see flashes of the explosive sixth-man Williams used to be before the injury, as he scored 20-plus points twice in a four-game span over the last week. I'm still not considering him much more than a bench piece, but a breakout could be coming as he gets his legs under him. For now, this team remains remarkably consistent, with the same four players dominating the scoring every game, and expect more of the same with a pretty boring schedule on the way in Week 9.
Schedule: Schedule: @MIA, @CLE, CHA, @ORL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 19th
10-team starters: Al Horford , Jeff Teague , Paul Millsap , Kyle Korver
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Shelvin Mack , Lou Williams , DeMarre Carroll
This could be the last Rondo-less weak for the Celtics, as he has been cleared to take part in full practices and is scrimmaging in the full court with his teammates. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners who have been riding the Jordan Crawford train, you might not even get a proper send off for the shockingly competent point guard. The Celtics play just one time this week, which probably makes this team radioactive for Fantasy purposes. Even with how good Jordan Crawford has been, he can easily be sat down with just a single matchup on the way. And, by the time the next week comes back, he could be ceding 15-20 minutes per game to Rondo, a multiple-time All-Star and the team's clear franchise player. For what it's worth, I would expect Avery Bradley to see just as much, if not more, of a hit to his playing time, but Crawford's value is going to obviously take a hit without the ball in his hands so often.
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 28th
10-team starters: None
12-to-14-team starters: Jordan Crawford , Jared Sullinger
Deep-league fliers: Jeff Green , Avery Bradley , Brandon Bass
Well, this is no good. Brook Lopez has been the Nets' rock this season, and one of the best big men in the league to boot. Now, the team has to adjust on the fly yet again, and the most obvious beneficiary is Andray Blatche . The Nets might not start Blatche every time out even with Lopez's season likely done, but he is likely in for a big increase in minutes no matter what. Blatche has topped 20 minutes in 54 of his 108 games since joining the Nets, and is averaging 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in those contests. I expect at least that much from Blatche now that Lopez is out of the way, so consider him a solid starting option in many formats, and a must-own in all. Additionally, Miles Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic could see increased roles as the Nets look for the right combination to replace Lopez.
Schedule: IND, CHI, MIL, @IND
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 29th
10-team starters: Deron Williams
12-to-14-team starters: Andray Blatche , Joe Johnson
Deep-league fliers: Paul Pierce , Kevin Garnett , Mirza Teletovic , Miles Plumlee
Al Jefferson is still struggling with his efficiency, needing a ton of touches to put up his points. Fortunately, the Bobcats have little problem giving him those touches; he is getting 15.3 field-goal attempts per game in the month of December, and 18.0 over his last five games. He has been good for a nightly double-double since getting healthy, and is one of just two no-doubt starters on this roster. Beyond Jefferson and Kemba Walker , there just isn't much here for owners in shallower leagues, especially with three games on the schedule.
Schedule: MIL, OKC, @ATL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 24th
10-team starters: Kemba Walker , Al Jefferson
12-to-14-team starters: Gerald Henderson , Josh McRoberts
Deep-league fliers: Ramon Sessions
These guys just cannot stay healthy. Both Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler are hurt now, leaving the team dangerously thin on the wings once again; Tony Snell had to play 41 minutes in a loss to the Thunder Thursday. Even if Deng and Butler remain sidelined, I wouldn't expect Snell to be worth starting with two games on the schedule. Slightly more intriguing is point guard D.J. Augustin , who is averaging 27.0 Fantasy points per game over the last three. Still, Augustin has a pretty lengthy track record of not being good to go off, so I need a lot more than that to put him in my starting lineup. I'm steering clear of most of the Bulls this week; Joakim Noah is an obvious exception.
Schedule: @BKN, DAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 20th
10-team starters: Joakim Noah
12-to-14-team starters: Carlos Boozer , Mike Dunleavy , Luol Deng
Deep-league fliers: D.J. Augustin , Taj Gibson
|1.||Lou Williams , Hawks||31/12|
|2.||D.J. Augustin , Bulls||33/9|
|4.||Nick Young , Lakers||59/39|
|5.||Beno Udrih , Knicks||14/8|
|6.||Alan Anderson , Nets||5/2|
|7.||Aaron Brooks , Rockets||21/10|
|8.||Ramon Sessions , Bobcats||37/12|
|9.||Gerald Henderson , Bobcats||84/55|
|10.||J.J. Barea , Timberwolves||12/6|
Kyrie Irving has been exceptional recently, averaging 29.4 points and 6.8 assists per game over the last five, and hopefully this is the end of his long slump to open the season. Beyond him, this team is pretty lacking in relevant Fantasy options, especially with Dion Waiters sidelined by a wrist injury. If he cannot return and you need a flier for the week, C.J. Miles can be a decent fill-in; he scored 15 points while starting for Waiters Friday.
Schedule: DET, ATL, @BOS, GS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 10th
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 , Earl Clark
Last week, I said I wouldn't start Brandan Wright immediately upon his return from a shoulder injury, and he made me look pretty good. He put up 19 points in his debut, and then followed that up with four points. He remains the best option among the Mavericks' centers, but he is still playing his way into shape. He should emerge as a useful Fantasy option down the line, but he isn't there yet. I'm certainly not touching Dalembert or Blair, but I will wait until Wright proves his worth before I want to rely on him; Week 9 is too early for that.
Schedule: @HOU, SA, @CHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 25th
10-team starters: Dirk Nowitzki , Monta Ellis
12-to-14-team starters: Jose Calderon , Vince Carter , Shawn Marion
Deep-league fliers: Brandan Wright , Samuel Dalembert , DeJuan Blair , Shane Larkin
Wilson Chandler has started to find himself, after getting off to a pretty mediocre start to the season. Chandler has found his shot and is now averaging 16.0 points per game over the last five, while shooting nearly 50.0 percent from the field and adding two 3-pointers per game. Given how little the rest of the team is producing right now, he is clearly the second-best option around, and is now a solid starting option in all Fantasy formats.
Schedule: GS, @NO, @MEM
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 13th
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
Josh Smith is alive! He's still maddeningly inefficient, but his production recently has been incredible; 21.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game over the last five. He is taking way more shots than is probably healthy for Detroit's offense, but Fantasy owners aren't going to complain about that, given how subpar his production had been for so long. He is back to being a high-end option.
Schedule: @CLE, @ORL, @WAS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 28th
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
This should not come as a surprise, but Harrison Barnes production has fallen off a cliff since Andre Iguodala return. Barnes has scored just eight points combined in two games since Iguodala came back from a hamstring injury, and if he isn't scoring, Barnes bring pretty much nothing to the table for Fantasy purposes. He will be better than he has been even in his reserve role, but I think he is no longer a starting option when Iguodala plays, even with a pretty great schedule on the way for Week 9. And, for his part, Iguodala has had trouble shaking off the rust in his first few games, so I would put both of them in the same low-end starting option category right now.
Schedule: @DEN, LAC, PHO, @CLE
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 7th
10-team starters: Stephen Curry , Klay Thompson , David Lee
12-to-14-team starters: Harrison Barnes , Andre Iguodala
Deep-league fliers: Andrew Bogut
Even with Jeremy Lin out of the picture, you would expect Patrick Beverley production to increase, but that hasn't exactly been the case. In nine games with Lin sidelined by injuries, Beverley is averaging just 8.9 points and 2.3 assists per game; he averages 9.7 and 2.3 overall. So, even with Lin dealing with a back injury that looks likely to cost him some time in Week 9, there isn't much of a reason to think Beverley will be worth using. He has been a big disappointment this season, and at this point it is best to temper expectation, even with five games on the schedule. He simply doesn't produce enough. In fact, this Rockets' team is much less deep than we expected, as only Howard, Harden and Parsons are truly must-start options even in this packed schedule.
Schedule: DAL, @SA, MEM, NO, @OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 5th
10-team starters: James Harden , Dwight Howard , Chandler Parsons ,
12-to-14-team starters: Terrence Jones
Deep-league fliers: Patrick Beverley , Francisco Garcia , Omri Casspi
Danny Granger is back! That is good, in that it is good anytime an injured player gets healthy. For Fantasy purposes, I'm highly skeptical of his ability to contribute anytime soon. The Pacers beat the Rockets badly in Granger's first game back Friday, but he shot just 1 of 7 with five points in 22 minutes. The Pacers have the depth to ease Granger back in, and this team is not constructed in a manner that suggests some massive usage rate is coming for Granger. He will likely be the team's top option off the bench, but I'm not sure that will be enough to make him Fantasy anytime soon, especially since his minutes will likely be limited. We're still talking about a former All-Star here, so I'm not going to write Granger off completely this season; but you definitely won't want to start him with just two games on the way this week.
Schedule: @BKN, BKN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 16th
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
Jared Dudley has located his shot, and it's about time. After shooting just 32.1 percent from three-point range (and subsequently averaging only 8.2 points per game) over the last 22 games of the season, Dudley is finally starting to take advantage of all those open shots. Dudley is averaging 12.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game over the last five, while nailing 12 of his 23 3-pointers in that time. Dudley remains a low-end Fantasy option, but at least he can be considered that much after such a poor start to the season. With a solid schedule on the way, he's worth starting, especially in category-based formats.
Schedule: @GS, @POR, UTA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 8th
10-team starters: Chris Paul , Blake Griffin , DeAndre Jordan , Jamal Crawford
12-to-14-team starters: Jared Dudley
Deep-league fliers: None
Los Angeles Lakers
Between Kobe looking completely out of sorts and then suffering a knee injury, this was pretty much the worst-case scenario for his comeback. He will miss six weeks with a fracture in his knee, and his absence leaves the Lakers with a massive playmaking deficit. Jordan Farmar could be back this week, and they also made a very interesting signing out of the D-League ranks in adding former lottery pick Kendall Marshall . Marshall flamed out in his one season with the Suns, who cut their losses by trading him to Washington, who promptly cut him in the same offseason. Still, Marshall is an inventive passer who might be able to navigate pick and rolls well enough to find some success in Mike D'Antoni's point-guard heavy offense. Given Marshall's complete lack of an NBA track record, I'm not looking to add him right now. But, I definitely want to keep an eye on the Lakers this week to see if he can crack the rotation and show some potential.
Schedule: @PHO, MIA, @UTA, PHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 4th
10-team starters: Pau Gasol
12-to-14-team starters: Jordan Hill , Nick Young
Deep-league fliers: Xavier Henry , Jordan Farmar , Wesley Johnson , Jodie Meeks
Tony Allen has been a surprisingly effective offensive player recently, scoring 16-plus points in three of five games since returning from a hip injury. We have seen him have these kings of runs before, so Fantasy owners probably aren't falling over themselves to get Allen in the starting lineup. Still, with a pretty solid stretch of matchups on the way in Week 9, he might not be the worst option if you need a guard, given the fact that he is averaging 10.8 field-goal attempts in the month of December. The Grizzles are so starved for offense, they've actually had to rely on Allen more, which pushes him into fringe-starting territory.
Schedule: UTA, @HOU, DEN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 9th
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
Miami faces a slew of solid matchups this week, giving them the best schedule in the league this week. Unfortunately, the matchups don't exactly play in the team's favor for Fantasy purposes, since we know the Big Three will get theirs anyways. The problem with this matchup is that Miami's role players rely so heavily on the three-point ball, and only one of the team's four Week 9 matchups ranks in the top-10 in 3-pointers allowed. One player who might be back to must-start status is Chris Bosh , who has scored 20-plus points in three of the last four games, including a 25-point outburst in a win over the Kings. His role as the third option in the offense has led to a disappointing season for Bosh, but he should be active in all Fantasy leagues this week..
Schedule: ATL, @LAL, @SAC, @POR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 1st
10-team starters: LeBron James , Dwyane Wade , Chris Bosh
12-to-14-team starters: Mario Chalmers
Deep-league fliers: Ray Allen , Michael Beasley
Hopefully the ankle injury that caused the Bucks to shut Ersan Ilyasova down for is the same one that has caused such a miserable start to his season. Either way, you won't be using him this week, given the fact that we don't actually have any idea if he will play. You are almost certainly starting Brandon Knight (29.0 Fantasy points per game over the last five) and John Henson (barring this knee injury being a serious one), but there might not be much else here. Despite his ascension to a starting role and the minutes that come with that, Giannis Antetokounmpo remains very much a work in progress. He is averaging 10.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game over the last five, and remains more of a speculative add at this point.
Schedule: @CHA, @BKN, MIN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 12th
10-team starters: John Henson , Brandon Knight
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Luke Ridnour , Giannis Antetokounmpo , O.J. Mayo , Khris Middleton , Nate Wolters
We've reached the point where Corey Brewer can be safely sat in most Fantasy leagues unless he faces an exceedingly appealing slate of games in a given week. With just two on the way, and Brewer averaging just 6.6 points per game over the last five, there is no reason to have him in your lineup. Kevin Martin production has also been on the wane recently, probably due to an issue with his left knee. He should figure things out before long, but it is perfectly fine to sit him in a 10-team league this week.
Schedule: WAS, @MIL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 26th
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 this point, if the Pelicans' team doctors told me I only had six months to live, I'd be feeling pretty upbeat. This is either the world's most pessimistic training staff ever, or we need to dispatch a research team to study the healing powers in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, because we had two surprise returns from injury in recent weeks. Tyreke Evans surprisingly came back before expected with an ankle injury, setting the stage for Anthony Davis to return almost a month earlier than expected. Not that I'm complaining; given the kind of luck we've had this season, we could do with a few more players healing faster than expected. The Pelicans are roughly back to full strength, something we haven't really seen this year. The return of Davis likely pushes Eric Gordon down to the fourth option in the offense, while Jason Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu should return to Fantasy irrelevancy.
|1.||Mason Plumlee , Nets||4/1|
|2.||Markieff Morris , Suns||66/30|
|3.||Xavier Henry , Lakers||25/12|
|4.||Jared Dudley , Clippers||27/15|
|5.||Wilson Chandler , Nuggets||80/47|
|6.||Mike Dunleavy , Bulls||36/15|
|7.||Terrence Jones , Rockets||78/47|
|8.||Wesley Johnson , Lakers||35/21|
|9.||Khris Middleton , Bucks||38/17|
|10.||Tobias Harris , Magic||84/36|
Schedule: @SAC, DEN, @HOU
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 6th
10-team starters: Anthony Davis , Jrue Holiday , Ryan Anderson
12-to-14-team starters: Tyreke Evans , Eric Gordon
Deep-league fliers: Anthony Morrow , Jason Smith , Al-Farouq Aminu
New York Knicks
Tyson Chandler returned from his fractured leg this week and immediately played 30-plus minutes in each of his first two games back. It might not be the best strategy, but it is awfully tough to argue that the Knicks are in any kind of shape to ease him back in. Chandler's production hasn't been outstanding so far, but then, it never is. The biggest impact of Chandler's return is likely to be a reduction in Andrea Bargnani 's role; he scored just three points Saturday, after recording a rare double-double in Chandler's first game back. If the Knicks can stay away from Bargnani, that is probably for the best for the team's long-term viability. It isn't time to toss Bargnani to the scrap heap, but he is definitely not a must-start Fantasy option now. With four games on the schedule, I would still keep him active in deeper formats, but I am wary about him beyond that.
Schedule: @ORL, OKC, TOR, @TOR
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
A compelling case can be made that this is one of the deeper Thunder teams yet, and the recent production certain backs that up. Five Thunder players are averaging at least 10 points per game over the last five, including Jeremy Lamb (12.2 per game) and Reggie Jackson (14.4) off the bench. Lamb still isn't doing much beyond scoring (20.2 Fantasy points per game in that stretch), but he is starting to look like a more interesting Fantasy option. Maybe in a 12-team league, you can add him to the bench and consider playing him in a week where the Thunder play four times. That isn't Week 9, however, so not much changes here.
Schedule: @NY, @CHA, HOU
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 23rd
10-team starters: Kevin Durant , Serge Ibaka , Russell Westbrook
12-to-14-team starters: Reggie Jackson
Deep-league fliers: Jeremy Lamb
One tweak the Magic could make that would definitely please Fantasy owners is playing at a faster pace. Right now, they rank 13th in the league in pace, but this is still a team that simply doesn't have enough possessions to go around between its many viable Fantasy options. Over the last five games, six different Magic players have attempted at least 9.3 field-goal attempts per game, a utilitarian playing style that doesn't really benefit anyone. With three games on the schedule, the Magic have too many mouths to feed for Fantasy owners to come away happy with the lower-end guys.
Schedule: NY, DET, ATL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 21st
10-team starters: Nikola Vucevic , Arron Afflalo , Jameer Nelson
12-to-14-team starters: Victor Oladipo
Deep-league fliers: Glen Davis , Tobias Harris , Andrew Nicholson
One extremely interesting development from Michael Carter-Williams ' return from an extended absence due to a knee injury was how much the Sixers still used Tony Wroten . Though he won't be the lead ball handler as long as Carter-Williams is around, Wroten's 19-point, 3-assist effort Friday served notice to the team's intentions to have the two share the floor more often. Wroten played just 24 minutes, but seemingly has a green light to shoot as often as he wants when he is on the floor. Fantasy owners shouldn't expect huge numbers from Wroten moving forward, but he is clearly not going anywhere, and should remain a viable play in many formats.
Schedule: @PHO, @LAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 17th
10-team starters: Evan Turner , Spencer Hawes , Michael Carter-Williams , Thaddeus Young
12-to-14-team starters: Tony Wroten
Deep-league fliers: James Anderson
It has been said before, but the Suns remain one of the toughest teams in the league to predict. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe , who are absolute must-start options at all times, anyone can step up as the third, fourth or fifth options on any given night for this team. Four different players are averaging at least 20 Fantasy points per game, while three others are averaging at least 15 Fantasy points. Of the role players, Miles Plumlee and Markieff Morris remain the best starting options, but with a fantastic schedule on the way for Week 9, Marcus Morris , Gerald Green and Channing Frye are all solid risks in most deeper leagues.
Schedule: LAL, @GSW, PHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 3rd
10-team starters: Goran Dragic , Eric Bledsoe
12-to-14-team starters: Miles Plumlee , Markieff Morris
Deep-league fliers: Gerald Green , Marcus Morris , P.J. Tucker , Channing Frye
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers are not exactly teeming with depth, so Fantasy owners have little reason to look their way in Week 9. The Trail Blazers have the least appealing schedule in the league this week, with just two matchups on the way against better-than-average defenses. You aren't sitting Lillard, Aldridge, Batum or Matthews this week, even with just two games on the way, obviously; all four are averaging at least 16 points per game over the last five. Beyond them, however, go ahead and leave any Blazers you might have on the bench, and don't give it a second thought.
Schedule: LAC, MIA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 30th
10-team starters: Damian Lillard , LaMarcus Aldridge , Nicolas Batum , Wesley Matthews
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Robin Lopez , Mo Williams
We have enough of games of the new-look Kings to be able to tell a bit about how they are going to play. Unsurprisingly, with three incredibly-high usage players in the starting lineup, there isn't much room for role players to contribute on this roster. Rudy Gay , DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas are must-start Fantasy options even against a subpar Week 9 schedule, but that is about it. Beyond those three, no player is averaging double figures in scoring over the last five games, which doesn't exactly come as much of a surprise. Derrick Williams remains an appealing long-term piece, but his Fantasy value is pretty limited in the near term.
|1.||Jonas Valanciunas , Raptors||84/51|
|2.||Anderson Varejao , Cavaliers||86/51|
|3.||Andray Blatche , Nets||73/41|
|4.||Andrew Bogut , Warriors||91/68|
|5.||Marcin Gortat , Wizards||98/59|
Schedule: NO, MIA, @SA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 22nd
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
The Spurs are up to their old tricks again, having already taken a few opportunities to rest their big name players. So, while they play four times this week, there is some concern that you won't have everyone available for all four, since two of the games fall on a back to back. Thus is life for Fantasy owners of Spurs players. You can't really know when Gregg Popovich is going to look to get his guys some time off, so you probably cannot factor that into your lineup decision making process. Fantasy owners might want to ride Marco Belinelli on the strength of his 28-point outburst Thursday, but he hadn't topped 13 in any December game before that, so don't expect him to sustain anything close to that moving forward. Still, with Danny Green's struggles and a very favorable set of matchups, he might be worth a play as a low-end option in deeper league.
Schedule: TOR, HOU, @DAL, SAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 2nd
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
The specter of trades not yet consummated and still to come hangs over this team every day. For now, it looks like Kyle Lowry is staying put, but that doesn't mean Greivis Vasquez is totally useless. Over the last five games, he is averaging 10.5 points and 4.0 assists per game, and looks like a fringe starting option in deeper leagues. Seeing as you absolutely have to hang on to him while waiting for the Lowry trade that seems inevitable at some point, there appear to be worse options in the world of 14-team leagues than sticking Greivis Vasquez in as a No. 4 guard. Jonas Valanciunas is also adapting nicely to life without Rudy Gay , putting up 13.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game over the last five, making him the solid starting center option we all envisioned before the season.
Schedule: @SA, @NY, NY
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 27th
10-team starters: DeMar DeRozan , Amir Johnson , Kyle Lowry
12-to-14-team starters: Jonas Valanciunas
Deep-league fliers: Terrence Ross , Greivis Vasquez
The most impressive thing about Trey Burke's rookie season is just how in control he has been. Despite posting a 22.8 usage rate (higher than Derrick Rose's rookie season, for example), Burke is still turning the ball on just 9.1 percent of his possessions. For comparison's sake, only three other rookie guards since 1979-80 have posted a usage rate above 22 percent with a turnover rate below 10 percent, and none even came close to dishing out as many assists per game as Burke has. Combined with a league-average three-point shot and a dead-eye ability at the free-throw line, Burke is looking like a must-start option in category-based Fantasy formats. Even with a couple of tough matchups on the way in Week 9, you can't take Burke out of your lineup.
Schedule: @MEM, LAL, @LAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 15th
10-team starters: Gordon Hayward , Derrick Favors , Trey Burke
12-to-14-team starters: Alec Burks
Deep-league fliers: Enes Kanter , Richard Jefferson , Marvin Williams
Following his return from another stress reaction in his leg, the Wizards are being much smarter with Bradley Beal's minutes. In three games back, Beal is averaging just 29.0 minutes per game, as compared to over 40 prior to the injury. His production has naturally taken a bit of a hit, but this likely just a short-term development, abetted by the continued solid play of Martell Webster and the presence of Otto Porter . If Porter's development continues to flatline, or Webster shows any signs of slowing down (15.0 points per game over the last five), coach Randy Wittman is likely to throw caution to the wind and rely on his young star yet again; he is coaching for his life right now. For now, both Webster and Beal are solid starting options, but neither can be considered a must-start in Week 9 with just two games on the way.
Schedule: @MIN, DET
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 18th
10-team starters: John Wall
12-to-14-team starters: Bradley Beal , Martell Webster , Trevor Ariza , null Nene , Marcin Gortat
Deep-league fliers: Trevor Booker