Week 20 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em
Plenty on the line for Fantasy owners as we appraoch Week 20. Our Chris Towers shares his top starts and sits for the upcoming scoring period.
When Steve Nash left this offseason for the bright lights of Los Angeles, the Suns were left with a choice; tear the roster apart and try to find a new foundational player to replace Nash, or attempt to remain relevant in a Western Conference that never seems to get any easier. The Suns opted for the latter choice, making a half-hearted attempt to remain competitive by building around unwanted veterans and questionably talented young guys.
The result has been a 22-41 record so far, with an expensive and aging roster that has little of the depth that generally comes from being expensive and aging. They have felt the sting of their lack of depth recently, as center Jermaine O'Neal left the team for an indefinite amount of time just a few days before Marcin Gortat went down with a possibly season-ending foot injury. With both centers on the roster incapacitated for what could be at least the next few games, the team will be forced to ride undersized forward Luis Scola heavily.
The decline that began last year for Scola has continued in his first season since being amnestied by the Rockets, as Scola is averaging just 12.6 points per game, his lowest total since he was a rookie in 2007-08. He has lost much of his Fantasy relevance, but remains productive when given the appropriate minutes; in the 25 games in which Scola has received at least 30 minutes of floor time, he is averaging 16.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
At power forward, Scola can find himself buried at times at a position where the team has plenty of redundancy, but he will almost surely be forced to carry a big load for the Suns as one of the few active players on the roster with anything resembling the size to play center. Scola put up 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists Friday in his first start at center.
With his increased role and a favorable schedule that features two bottom-six defensive teams and four games overall, Scola has enough upside to be my Start of the Week for Week 20 (March 11-17). The Suns play the Nuggets, Rockets, Hawks and Wizards this week, four teams he has faced just twice collectively this season. With the Suns looking to rely on him more than they ever have this season, Scola is worth getting active; especially with the possibility that he could earn center eligibility by week's end.
Devin Harris, Hawks (@MIA, LAL, PHO, @BKN): It has been tough to get a read on Harris' value this season, as he continues to shuffle in and out of the starting lineup. The Hawks seem to change their starting lineup based on matchups more than any team in the league, rarely going with the same starting five for more than a few games. Over the last 10 games, Harris has started four times, but has never been on the bench for more than three straight games. In that stretch, Harris is averaging 11.7 points, 3.1 assists and 1.6 three-pointers per game, while shaking off a season-long trend of putting up less impressive performances off the bench. In seven games against his Week 20 opponents, Harris is averaging 11.0 points and 3.7 assists per game, so consider him a useful Fantasy option.
Avery Bradley, Celtics (@CHA, TOR, CHA): Admittedly, I did not expect much from Bradley after Rajon Rondo's season-ending knee injury. His style of play is so drastically different from Rondo's, I did not see how the Celtics would survive with him as the lead point guard. I was right that the Celtics would not be able to replace Rondo with Bradley, but they have thrived regardless, with Bradley playing a different, but still quite large role. Bradley is averaging 13.2 points and 3.8 assists per game over the last five, with much of the ball-handling duty shifting to veteran Paul Pierce. Bradley is doing a solid job within his role, and is certainly worth getting active in a week in which the Celtics face Charlotte's pitiful defense twice.
Sleeper Alert: Ben Gordon, Bobcats (BOS, @TOR, @BOS): Gordon became persona non grata in Charlotte for a few weeks, after a feud with coach Mike Dunlap about playing time that earned him a few days off at the end of February. He averaged a season-low 7.7 points per game in that month, and seemed to be completely out of the team's plans. An injury to Ramon Sessions and the Bobcats' extended losing streak has changed things a bit, as they have actually had to give Gordon some minutes, especially late in recent blowouts. As of Saturday's game, Gordon has reached double figures in four games in a row, something he had not done since the end of January. At this point, Fantasy owners should be able to rely on Gordon yet again as a low-end option for empty scoring.
Nate Robinson, Bulls (@SAC, @GS): Robinson has filled in admirably for the Bulls with Kirk Hinrich dealing with a multitude of injuries, but it has always felt like the bottom was getting ready fall out any minute. Robinson has never been the best decision maker in the league, and it seems like it is catching up to him in recent weeks. Robinson is averaging 9.8 points per game over the last 10, but is shooting just 30.8 percent from the field in that span. Robinson can be useful for Fantasy owners, but it would be best to avoid him with his current level of play.
Marcus Thornton, Kings (CHI, LAL): Thornton has been able to resurrect his season in recent weeks, after a slow start that had him pegged as one of the biggest Fantasy disappointments in the league. Thornton has been getting buckets recently, averaging 19.9 points per game over the last 10 games, while shooting an absurd 54.8 percent from the field. Fantasy owners should be relying on Thornton while he is hot, but Week 20 could be a source of disappointment. The Kings are slated to play just two games in the scoring period, including one against a Bulls team that still features one of the league's toughest defenses. With the playoffs looming, Fantasy owners might not want to take the risk of having Thornton in the lineup.
Bust Alert: Jamal Crawford, Clippers (MEM, NY): Crawford has been hot all season long, but he is dealing with an ankle injury that could slow him down over the next few days. He has scored 20-plus points in each of the last four games, so an injury is certainly not what we want to see. With the Clippers also set to play just twice in Week 20 -- with one game against a top-notch defense -- Crawford might not be worth the risk. Crawford could go off for a pair of 30-point games with 11 three-pointers made between them; he could also sit out a game with an injury, or manage a stinker or two.
Marreese Speights, Cavaliers (WAS, @DAL, @SA): Speights seems to still be developing his relationship with Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, who has been unwilling to move him into the starting lineup despite Speights clearly outplaying Tyler Zeller. From the standpoint that Zeller is younger and the team has more invested in his development, it makes sense that things remain that way, but Speights continues to post solid numbers in his limited minutes. Speights enters Week 20 averaging 13.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in his previous five games, despite playing just 23.2 minutes per game. The Cavs do not give Speights a ton of playing time, but he is getting plenty of opportunities to put shots up while on the floor; Speights is averaging a career-high 16.4 field-goal attempts per-36 minutes since joining the Cavs. Cleveland plays two top-10 defenses in Week 20, but also has a porous Dallas defense on the way, so Speights should put up fine numbers.
Dorell Wright, 76ers (BKN, MIA, IND): Wright fell off badly in the month of February, averaging just 6.0 points per game on 38.6 percent shooting from the field. Fortunately, injuries have opened up a spot in the rotation for him once more. Wright is averaging 14.4 points in 26.8 minutes per game in five March games so far, as he has taken Nick Young's spot in the rotation due to an ankle injury. Wright is doing much of his damage from three-point range in that span, something that should continue at least in the team's game against the Heat, who allows the 10th most three-pointers in the league. He is averaging 12.3 points and 2.3 three-pointers per game this season against his Week 20 opponents.
Sleeper Alert: Marcus Morris, Suns (DEN, @HOU, @ATL, @WAS): Morris has quickly endeared himself to his new coaches in Phoenix, landing in the starting lineup just six games after joining the team via trade. He has scored in double figures in four of his last five games, averaging 12.0 points per game in that stretch on 52.3 percent shooting. The Suns have some excellent matchups on the way, starting with a pair of games that promise to be high-scoring affairs against the Nuggets and Rockets, who rank among the league's six worst defenses. He is enjoying great success next to his twin brother in the starting lineup and can be considered a worthwhile option.
Danny Granger, Pacers (MIN, LAL, @PHI): Fantasy owners waited so long for Granger to return from his knee injury, but we almost wish he hadn't at this point. Granger came back for five largely uninspiring performances before being shut down last week due to lingering soreness. Granger has a chance to come back sometime during Week 20, but at this point, Fantasy owners should simply not expect to see the former All-Star in peak shape this season. Lower your expectations, and let whatever positives he might end up bringing down the road surprise you.
Gerald Wallace, Nets (@PHI, NO, ATL): The most surprising thing about Wallace's season is not that he struggled to get acclimated to working with a slew of new teammates as a fourth option on offense. The surprise has been how he has consistently gotten worse as the season has gone on. Wallace is averaging just 6.8 points per game over the last five on 30.5 percent shooting from the floor, with just 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game as well. Wallace faces a pair of above average defenses in Week 20 and is not worth relying on, despite still being owned in 77 percent of CBSSports.com leagues.
Bust Alert: Zach Randolph, Grizzlies (@POR, @LAC, @DEN, @UTA): Randolph missed three games due to an ankle injury in Week 19, and it certainly looks like this injury is going to follow him into the upcoming scoring period. He told the Memphis Commercial Appeal Friday that the ankle "doesn't feel right," and he has been walking with a noticeable limp through the weekend. The Grizzlies play four times in Week 20, so there could be enough time for him to get healthy and return to the floor, but that is not assured. The Grizzlies' four games come on a pair of back to backs, meaning that even if Randolph is able to return, the team might be unwilling to let him play on consecutive nights with a balky ankle. This doesn't seem like a long-term issue, but it could cause Randolph to disappoint in this scoring period.
Tiago Splitter, Spurs (OKC, @MIN, DAL, CLE): Splitter's development has been a quiet development for the Spurs that has helped them yet again avoid what now does not seem like an inevitable decline. Splitter has averaged double figures in scoring in each month since December, and has become a key cog for the Spurs' efficient offense. Splitter is averaging 9.6 points per game over the last five games, despite attempting just 6.8 shots per game in that span. He is adding 8.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in that span as well. The Spurs face two of the 10 worst defenses in the league among their four games in this scoring period, so expect him to continue to be a worthy starter.
Sleeper Alert: Ed Davis, Grizzlies (@POR, @LAC, @DEN, @UTA): With Randolph likely to miss some time this week, expect Davis to make his presence felt. Davis proved that he has the ability to be a useful Fantasy option when given the minutes back in Toronto, but he was buried after being traded to Memphis. We did not need a reminder of Davis' ability, but he has given us one anyways, averaging 9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.0 steals per game over the last four. As long as Randolph remains out, Davis should be considered a worthwhile starting option with his center eligibility.
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers (MEM, NY): At this point in his career, Jordan should have been a starting caliber Fantasy option in almost all formats. That is what his career arc suggested after the first four years, as he made consistent progress yearly. Unfortunately, despite putting up far and away the best per-minute numbers of his career, Jordan's minutes have fallen to their lowest level since his second season in the league. Jordan is a useful Fantasy option in the right matchups, but the schedule has not been kind to his Fantasy owners, as the Clippers already have four separate weeks with just two games played. Jordan simply does not do enough on a daily basis to be worth starting with just two games on the schedule.
Bust Alert: Enes Kanter, Jazz (DET, @OKC, MEM): With Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson dealing with injuries over the last 10 days, Kanter has had an opportunity to show the ability that made him a top-five talent back in the 2011 draft. He is averaging 15.7 points 9.8 rebounds per game over the last five games, proving that he could be a high-end Fantasy center if given a full-time role. Unfortunately, Jefferson returned Saturday, which will likely return him to his role deep on the bench. Kanter is a tremendous talent for the long term, but his short-term value is entirely tied to the health of other players. I would not take the risk of him being buried on the bench this week with a spot in the Fantasy playoffs possibly on he line.
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