From the outside looking in, it is often difficult to tell why coaches make the decisions they make. Fantasy owners (and writers, natch) like to yell about the rotation decisions some coaches make, but we viewers do not get to see how players work when the cameras are off and have only the coach to impress. The players we selfishly want to see play more often may not put the work in during practice, or they may be struggling to grasp the team's philosophy on both sides of the ball.
Having considered all those possibilities, it still makes no sense how much Kings' coach Keith Smart has buried guard Isaiah Thomas at times this season. Thomas made the Kings look like geniuses a year ago, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting after being the last player selected in the draft. This season, he has struggled to even earn consistent playing time, playing fewer than 20 minutes in 12 of the team's 35 games, while earning a handful of healthy scratches as well.
In Thomas' case, as it did in his rookie year, talent has eventually won out -- he has been back in the team's starting lineup over the last eight games. His renewed role in the offense and a solid string of matchups put Thomas in position to be my Start of the Week for Week 12 (Jan. 14-20). The diminutive sparkplug is averaging 13.5 points and 3.9 assists per game since returning to the starting lineup and the Kings have two of the seven worst defenses in the league this week on the schedule.
We would like to see Thomas do a bit more playmaking for the Kings, but they like to spread those duties around, limiting his potential for assists. Still, his recent play makes Thomas worth getting into the starting lineup in Week 12. And if he goes on a run like he did in the second half last season, Fantasy owners won't have to think about whether or not to put Thomas in the lineup.
Ramon Sessions, Bobcats (@BOS, IND, @ORL, SAC): As the season has gone on, the Bobcats have been forced to accept the limitations of their front court and play a smaller brand of basketball. They are relying on their guards in a big way recently, especially given the recent loss of Byron Mullens, their only productive big man. As a result, Sessions has seen his responsibilities grow recently. Sessions is doing little play making for the Bobcats, but he has been a strong scorer, averaging 14.0 points per game over his last 10. The Bobcats have some tough matchups on the way in Week 12, and he does not have much experience against these teams this season. Still, Charlotte is giving him plenty of scoring responsibility, and he is rewarding them.
Alexey Shved, Timberwolves (@DAL, LAC, HOU): The Timberwolves seem to have angered some supernatural force this season, and it has caused them to lose roughly half of their relevant players to injury. Shved has been one of their most consistent pieces so far, despite being a relatively unheralded undrafted free agent out of Russia. The 23-year-old has been practically their only option at the shooting guard position, and is averaging 34.8 minutes per game over the last 10. Minnesota has some good matchups on the way, as they face three teams that rank in the top-10 in the NBA in pace. The Timberwolves themselves rank just outside of the top 10, so all three games could turn into track meets, with Shved leading many of the breaks. Shved has been productive for a while this season, and is worth getting into the starting lineup this week.
Sleeper Alert: Lance Stephenson, Pacers (@CHA, @ORL, HOU): Stephenson's improvement this season has largely come out of nowhere, as the 22-year-old looked completely lost at the NBA level in two seasons. He had scored just 143 total points in 54 games across those two seasons, a total he has already flown past in the first 34 games. Stephenson has become a starter for the Pacers, and is averaging 10.2 points per game over the last 10. Stephenson could take advantage of some good matchups this week, and might be worth a risk if you are in need of an upside
Garrett Temple, Wizards (ORL, @SAC, @DEN, @LAC): Temple has been asked to run the offense for the Wizards in recent weeks, and the results have not been pretty. Still, he is averaging 6.2 assists per game in the month of January, and has been a decent fill-in option in deeper Fantasy formats as a result. That is coming to an end with John Wall's return this weekend. While Wall might need a caddy for a few games while he gets back in shape, it should not be long before he dominates the point guard spot as in years past. Temple's time as even a moderate Fantasy option is likely done.
Jamaal Tinsley, Jazz (MIA, CLE): Similarly to Temple, Tinsley has seen his playing time and role increase recently due to an absence up the depth chart. Unlike, Temple, Tinsley is likely to remain in his current role moving forward, as Mo Williams is still out for the foreseeable future with a thumb injury. Tinsley lands here due to the Jazz's schedule in Week 12, which features just two games. His production makes for a decent low-end starter in deeper formats, but with just two games upcoming, he should not be relied upon.
Bust Alert: Evan Turner, 76rs (NOH, TOR): For most of the first two months of the season, it really looked like Turner was making the jump that his lofty draft status implied. On Dec. 21, Turner was averaging 15.3 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting, including a blistering 46.0 percent from three-point range. Things have come completely unraveled for Turner in the 10 games since, as his scoring has dropped to 10.0, with just a 35.9 percent mark from the field. His talent shows through in spurts still, but Turner is clearly still learning how to be consistent at the NBA level. With just two games on the slate in Week 12, Fantasy owners might want to give Turner a rest.
Derrick Williams, Timberwolves (@DAL, LAC, HOU): Unlike the last time he was given an expanded role in Kevin Love's absence, Williams is taking advantage of his opportunity right now. Williams has scored in double figures in three of four games, averaging 14.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in that stretch. His minutes have not increased as much as we would have liked with Love out, but they are slowly beginning to creep up. The Timberwolves have some solid matchups in Week 12, with three games against teams that rank in the top-10 in pace. Williams could take advantage of his athleticism on the break in these games, and is worth getting active.
Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks (@LAL, @PHX, @POR): It is still early, but it appears as if the coaching change in Milwaukee will end up working out pretty well for Ilyasova. Ilyasova was in the starting lineup for each of the first three games under Jim Boylan, and he played at least 26 minutes in each contest. His play is still somewhat up and down at this point, but Boylan is going to give him the chance to get back to the level we saw in his breakout 2011-12 campaign. Ilyasova has put up 11.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in the first three games, and has a solid week ahead of him, with three games against three teams that rank in the bottom-10 in defensive efficiency. With a coach who trusts him again, Ilyasova is worth the risk this week.
Sleeper Alert: Alan Anderson, Raptors (@BKN, CHI, @PHI, LAL): Anderson has become a dynamic bench scorer for the Raptors this season, an unlikely outcome, given the path his career has taken so far. Anderson was out of the NBA from 2007-2011, and is now ranked fourth on his team in per-game scoring on the season. He is pouring in 14.3 points per game over the last 10, and is carrying a heavy load as a sixth man. The Raptors have some tough matchups in Week 12, but a four-game schedule should help make up for any potentially bad games.
Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks (@DET): There are a lot of factors pointing to Stoudemire being an unworthy Fantasy option at this time, not least of which is the fact the Knicks play just one game this week, due to a trip to London. Even if Stoudemire as looking at a full slate of games, however, it would be tough to recommend him as a starting Fantasy option right now. Stoudemire's surgically-repaired knee is clearly not at the level it needs to be right now, and his performance has predictably suffered. He is averaging just 9.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game since returning from the injury, and he simply lacks the explosiveness he needs to produce on either side of the court. The Knicks have been forced to limit his minutes due to the lingering effects of the injury. Stoudemire is too important to the Knicks' long-term prospects to not become a difference maker down the stretch, but he should be avoided in all Fantasy formats for this scoring period.
Derrick Favors, Jazz (MIA, CLE): Fantasy owners are rightly holding on to Favors, given the immense upside he has shown in his part-time role with the Jazz over the last two seasons. They have to be losing patience right now, though, as the 21-year-old is averaging just 8.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game over the last 10. He has low-end starting value when things are going well; he ranks just 64th among forwards in Fantasy scoring over the last four weeks of play right now. With just two games on the schedule, Favors is clearly not worthy using this in Week 12.
Bust Alert: Gerald Wallace, Nets (TOR, @ATL, ATL): Even before suffering what could have been a serious injury Friday, Wallace was starting to edge back into “Fantasy reserve” category. Much as he did early in the season, Wallace has been struggling to get going under new coach P.J. Carlisemo. Over the last five games, Wallace is averaging 6.4 points per game, while reaching double figures just once. Even if Wallace ends up playing through a rib injury, he has a top-six Hawks' defense awaiting him, not to mention the vastly improved Raptors. The injury simply seals his status as a sit-worthy player.
Andray Blatche, Nets (TOR, @ATL, ATL): After appearing to fall out of the rotation upon Brook Lopez's return to the floor, Blatche has been revitalized by the addition of a new head coach. While Avery Johnson seemed adamant about not using Lopez and Blatche together on the floor, Carlisemo has shown more willingness to do so since taking over as the head coach. Lopez and Blatche are averaging 51.4 minutes per game combined over the last five games, indicating at least some shared time on the floor. Blatche has thrived under new management, averaging 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, while being used at times as the focal point of the offense. His value took a big hit before Johnson's firing, but he is worth using once again in Week 12, despite a tough schedule.
Sleeper Alert: Robert Sacre, Lakers (MIL, MIA, @TOR): It has really come to this for the Lakers. Literally every single other option they have at center is currently hurt, which has forced Sacre up from the D-League and into a prominent role recently. Pau Gasol is expected back at some point this week, but Sacre is still going to be needed with Jordan Hill and Dwight Howard out. Sacre has looked outclassed at the NBA level in his limited minutes so far, but at the very least, there is a chance he will put up a random double-digit scoring game, as he did in his first start. If you are truly desperate for help at center, Sacre might be worth the risk.
Chris Kaman, Mavericks (MIN, HOU, OKC, ORL): Kaman has spent the last year and a half showing flashes of his former All-Star form, but he has been unable to put together consistent production. His numbers for the season (13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds) are solid, however he has taken a hit with Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup and playing a large role. Kaman is averaging just 23.2 minutes per game over the last five, and he is struggling to figure out how to work next to Nowitzki. Kaman is shooting just 38.0 percent from the field on 10.0 attempts per game, leading to an average of 9.4 points per game over the last five. Dallas plays four times this week, but his inability to work thrive with Nowitzki playing such a large role makes relying on him a risky proposition while Kaman is cold.
Bust Alert: Tyson Chandler, Knicks (@DET): Chandler has been a model of consistency this season, averaging between 11.8 and 13.8 points per game in each month of the season, while adding consistently excellent rebounding numbers overall. He has been passable as a low-end No. 1 center, and is a killer option as your second center. Most weeks, Chandler is worth starting in almost all Fantasy formats, as his production relies very little on the quality of opponent faced; he gets much of his points and rebounds purely on effort, and few big men out work him. Unfortunately, the Knicks head to London this week and have a plethora of travel days to get used to the time difference. With just one game on the schedule, it is hard to recommend relying on Chandler, though this is just a one-time issue.