Beginning Monday, the NBA takes center stage for the next couple of months. As we enter Week 8, there are more teams on three-game schedules than in recent weeks, which gives us more challenging calls to make when it comes to our lineup construction.
Let's take a look at a few difficult calls at each position and analyze which players should be started, or are better left on the bench, during the week ahead.
Teams with four games
Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors
Teams with three games
Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards
Start: Derrick White, Spurs
26% start rate in CBS leagues
White has been productive in his return from a toe injury, averaging 11.8 points, 4.8 assists, 1.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks across his first four games back. The fourth-year guard worked back up to 29 minutes and re-entered the starting five in Saturday's win over the Rockets with Lonnie Walker out with an illness. Walker will miss at least one more game, and it will be interesting to note whether White can hold onto the starting role. Either way, Dejounte Murray is likely to continue serving as the primary ball-handler for the Spurs, but White could be a solid source of production during a four-game week that kicks off with back-to-back matchups against the fast-paced Warriors.
Start: Dennis Schroder, Lakers
46% start rate in CBS leagues
Schroder is still in the midst of fully integrating into the Lakers' system, but he heads into a four-game week for the Lakers exhibiting plenty of encouraging signs. The veteran guard has seven consecutive double-digit scoring efforts and is averaging 15.3 points, 4.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds while shooting an impressive 53.7 percent (including 42.9 percent from behind the arc) during that sample. Schroder's assists numbers are still down from his career-best levels, but given the talent surrounding him and the four-game schedule, he's a starting-caliber option in Week 8.
Also consider: Gary Trent, Trail Blazers
Sit: Mike Conley, Jazz
75% start rate in CBS leagues
Conley sat out Sunday's game against the Pacers with a hamstring injury, and it's very possible his absence extends into at least Tuesday's contest versus the Celtics. If so, that would leave the veteran with only two more opportunities to take the floor in Week 8. Even if Conley does make it back on the floor and suits up for all three of Utah's contests this coming week, he's scored 16 points or fewer in three of his Fantasy four games. His season production, while perfectly adequate overall, isn't of the caliber that it can't be met or exceeded by a four-game player. Factoring in the injury, Conley is a risky start, especially if the Jazz don't comment on his status before Tuesday.
Start: Draymond Green, Warriors
53% start rate in CBS leagues
Green's production has gone through the roof with the Warriors down both Kevon Looney (ankle) and James Wiseman (wrist). The veteran big man has seen sizable boosts in rebounds, assists and minutes while logging more time at the five. The versatile veteran is averaging 5.0 points, 12.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.0 blocks across 34.0 minutes in his first three games with Looney and Wiseman sidelined. With both still projected to miss Golden State's four-game week, Green's run of success should continue.
Start: Eric Gordon, Rockets
44% start rate in CBS leagues
Christian Wood's ankle sprain is projected to keep him out over the following week, and that influences two of my recommendations this week. Gordon is the first, with the veteran guard already coming into the new week averaging 21.4 points (52.2 percent shooting, including 42.1 percent from 3-point range), 3.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists over his Fantasy five games. Gordon does boast a 27.1 percent usage rate without Wood on the floor this season, so look for him to continue to help pick up the slack in the scoring department.
Also consider: Patrick Williams, Bulls; Thaddeus Young, Bulls
Sit: Kevin Durant, Nets
74% start rate in CBS leagues
The unusual circumstances surrounding the 2020-21 season are prompting some unique scenarios, and Durant's is one of them. The perennial All-Star was pulled from Friday night's game against the Raptors due to health and safety protocols, and coach Steve Nash has already announced Durant won't rejoin the team until this coming Friday. That will leave Durant with just a single game this week. As great as he is, most managers can't justify starting him over even some lower-level three- or four-game options.
Start: Cody Zeller, Hornets
36% start rate in CBS leagues
Zeller has reclaimed his starting job following his extended absence due to a hand injury. In his six games back with the first unit heading into Sunday's contest against the Wizards, he averaged 10.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists across 30.5 minutes. The veteran big is still in the midst of getting his field goal percentage back up to his career norms -- Zeller is draining just 44.4 percent of his attempts -- but that number should gradually climb as the sample size builds. While the scoring will inevitably fluctuate with Zeller, he's a proven source of rebounds, and he's even averaging a career-high 2.7 assists per game. In Sunday's win over Washington, Zeller recorded 16 points (6-9 FG, 1-3 3PT, 3-4 FT), seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in just 20 minutes.
Start: DeMarcus Cousins, Rockets
43% start rate in CBS leagues
Cousins is an even more direct beneficiary of Wood's ongoing absence, as he'll handle starting center duties while his teammate remains on the shelf. The veteran posted a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double that also included two assists, two blocks and one steal over 30 minutes against the Spurs on Saturday. Cousins has averaged 14.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals across 29.8 minutes in the five starts he's logged with Wood out this season, and he sports a 24.8 percent usage rate with Wood off the floor. Cousins has a well-earned reputation as one of the most versatile big men in the league when he's healthy. The opportunity hasn't always been there this season, but it certainly will be in Week 8.
Also consider: Bobby Portis, Bucks; Chris Boucher, Raptors
Sit: Serge Ibaka, Clippers
61% start rate in CBS leagues
Ibaka heads into Sunday's matchup against the Kings with a pair of single-digit scoring tallies in the past three games. Ibaka's season-long figures of 12.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 blocks are rock-solid, but on a three-game week you'll likely be able to find a four-game player with a little more upside.