Week 4 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em
The sample sizes are getting larger, but the decisions are not getting any easier. Our Chris Towers makes some sense of it all in his Week 4 edition of Start 'Em and Sit 'Em.
Things are finally starting to make sense -- the early season flukes are coming back to earth and many of our expected studs are finding their way. Selfishly, this makes me happy. I enjoy the unpredictability of the early season, but it's nice to not have to wonder how I might have missed Zaza Pachulia's breakout.
At this point, nearly every team is at or near the 10-game mark, so we're dealing with some not entirely insubstantial sample sizes. While I expect Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose to bounce back from their uncharacteristically poor starts, some quick starts are clearly not flukes. For instance, Lance Stephenson and Andre Drummond might just be the Fantasy studs they've looked like through three weeks.
Week 4 (Nov. 18-24) provides more schedule variance than we have gotten at any point thus far, as we have a few of two-game teams and even our first five-game week, courtesy of the Clippers. This is the week to get your fringe Clippers active and you might not want to rely on any of the Lakers -- even with the faint possibility of a Kobe Bryant return.
One note: You might notice the schedule rankings are a bit different this week than the first few. Rather than compile a given team's opponents' rankings for the season, I've ranked each team's schedule for the week, based on opponents' points allowed and the number of games played. So, this time around, the lower the number, the better -- the Timberwolves have the easiest schedule in the league this week, while the Lakers with their two-game schedule come in last.
(All stats up to date through Nov. 15 games)
|1.||Jamal Crawford, Clippers||81/49|
|2.||J.J. Redick, Clippers||84/61|
|3.||J.J. Barea, Timberwolves||11/3|
|4.||Vince Carter, Mavericks||40/15|
|5.||Kyle Korver, Hawks||81/61|
|6.||Rodney Stuckey, Pistons||34/18|
|7.||Greivis Vasquez, Kings||84/45|
|8.||Alec Burks, Jazz||57/25|
|9.||Jimmy Butler, Bulls||86/47|
|10.||Shaun Livingston, Nets||15/6|
One of the least talked about developments of the early part of the Fantasy season has been the emergence of Jeff Teague as a truly elite guard. Teague ranks third in the NBA in assists per game at 9.9 and his scoring has jumped to 19.8 points per game. And it's not like an unsustainable shooting stroke is fueling his hot start. He is actually well below his career average on 3-pointers, at 25.9 percent. The biggest change for Teague has been a huge jump in his ability to draw free throws, which may be sustainable, given his athleticism and ability to get to the rim. I recently moved Teague into the No. 5 spot among guards and he has to be considered a must-start option regardless of matchup.
Schedule: @MIA, DET, @DET, BOS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 4th
10-team starters: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Cartier Martin, Elton Brand, Dennis Schroder, Lou Williams, DeMarre Carroll
Credit to coach Brad Stevens for trying different things to see what works, but he's creating a very difficult atmosphere for Fantasy owners. Still, Jordan Crawford's emergence as an honest-to-goodness point guard (or something resembling one, anyhow) is one of the happier accidents of his lineup manipulation. Jared Sullinger has also started to cash in on some of the potential he showed as one of the best players in the country in college and entered play Saturday having scored in double figures in seven of eight games. Both Crawford and Sullinger look worthy of a starting spot with four games on the way.
Schedule: @HOU, @SA, IND, @ATL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 14th
10-team starters: Jeff Green
12-to-14-team starters: Jordan Crawford, Jared Sullinger
Deep-league fliers: Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace
This roster is just a mess right now. Age and injuries have decimated what was supposed to be one of the league's deepest teams and there is very little of Fantasy worth here right now. And this is unfortunate because they have a solid schedule for Week 4, with few reliable players to take advantage. Deron Williams was starting to show signs of life before his lingering ankle woes crept up again this weekend and Brook Lopez missed Saturday's game as well. If Lopez or Williams' injuries linger this week, Andray Blatche and Shaun Livingston would be well worth starting.
Schedule: POR, @CHA, @MIN, DET
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 11th
10-team starters: Deron Williams, Brook Lopez
12-to-14-team starters: Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson
Deep-league fliers: Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry
Whe he signed with Charlotte, Al Jefferson immediately seemed like a contender for the top Fantasy center spot. He was going to get as many shots as he could handle and was going to play a huge role as the team's free agency prize. Unfortunately, an ankle injury has followed him since the preseason and limited him to three limpy, balky games. Making matters worse has been the horrid play of point guard Kemba Walker -- the fact that Charlotte is even in the neighborhood of .500 is a testament to the flukiness of the early season schedule. Nobody has really stepped up with Jefferson and Walker's struggles, so it is difficult to call anyone a reliable start right now, even with four games on the schedule.
Schedule: @CHI, BKN, PHO, @MIL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 26th
10-team starters: Kemba Walker
12-to-14-team starters: Gerald Henderson, Al Jefferson
Deep-league fliers: Ramon Sessions, Jeff Taylor, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Josh McRoberts
This has been a pretty tough start for the Bulls, but there have been enough signs of life across the roster that Fantasy owners shouldn't give up hope yet. This looks like a good week to get things going, though this top-heavy roster doesn't give many chances for role players to step up as consistent contributors -- 69.5 percent of the team's shots come from the starting lineup. Even though Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose have disappointed so far, they have enough good matchups this week to turn things around.
Schedule: CHA, @DEN, @POR, @LAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 10th
10-team starters: Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng
12-to-14-team starters: Jimmy Butler
Deep-league fliers: Kirk Hinrich, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson
If you had Dion Waiters as one of your favorite breakout candidates this season, you have not been happy about the start of the season. Actually, if you were hoping for big things from anyone on this roster except Tristan Thompson, you're probably pretty upset. Unfortunately, while Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao have solid track records to fall back on as bounce-back possibilities, Waiters' chances don't look good based on his last week, as he was reportedly at the center of a locker room confrontation, missed two games with the flu and subsequently lost his starting job to C.J. Miles. I wouldn't necessarily cut Dion Waiters at this point, but there's no way I'm taking the risk of starting him this week..
Schedule: WAS, @NO, @SA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 24th
10-team starters: Kyrie Irving
12-to-14-team starters: Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson
Deep-league fliers: Dion Waiters, Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Earl Clark
Dallas is a team that loves pushing the tempo offensively, and this should be a week that lends itself well to that style of play. Of the Mavericks' Week 4 opponents, three rank in the top-eight in the league in pace -- Dallas ranks fifth. This should be a very good week for Fantasy purposes and I would even consider getting someone like DeJuan Blair active over, say, Pau Gasol, who only plays twice.
Schedule: BOS, @MEM, CLE
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 2nd
10-team starters: Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Jose Calderon
12-to-14-team starters: Vince Carter
Deep-league fliers: Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, Jae Crowder
This is one team that is thankfully starting to look more like we expected. They are starting to run more after a slow start and are all the way up to eighth in the league in pace. The frontcourt has been a mess, but Kenneth Faried entered play Saturday with three double-doubles in a row. And Timofey Mozgov is looking like the kind of skilled post-oriented big man Brian Shaw can rely on. If Denver was playing four times this week, I would be tempted to bump Mozgov up a tier. He'll stay where he is for now. Wilson Chandler is a strong second option for Ty Lawson and only a minutes limit in his current role keeps him from consideration as a starting option in all formats.
Schedule: @OKC, CHI, DAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 16th
10-team starters: Ty Lawson
12-to-14-team starters: Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried
Deep-league fliers: Timofey Mozgov, Andre Miller, Randy Foye, Nate Robinson, JJ Hickson
Even if he hasn't even tried to go to the free-throw line, Andre Drummond remains an unstoppable force near the basket and is one of just 11 players averaging a double-double this season. He and Greg Monroe have been steadying presences on a team that has disappointed early. Unfortunately, much of the roster has fluctuated between varying levels of usefulness through the first few weeks. If ever Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith are to solve their efficiency problems, Week 4 is as good a time as any. Given the fifth-best schedule of the week, I think Rodney Stuckey should be a worthy play, even if just as a contributor of fairly empty scoring.
Schedule: NYK, @ATL, ATL, @BKN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 5th
10-team starters: Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings
12-to-14-team starters: Rodney Stuckey
Deep-league fliers: Will Bynum, Kyle Singler
Golden State Warriors
If he ever got a consistent role, I'm sure Harrison Barnes could turn into a solid Fantasy option on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, he represents the only thing close to a wild card on this roster and isn't one I'd be particularly inclined to take a chance on, even with a juicy schedule on the way. Barnes has scored in double figures in just two of his first five games and does almost nothing else to help on the box score, which leaves me wondering why he's still owned in 64 percent of Fantasy leagues. It might be tempting to start him with four games on the schedule, but he averages just 13.0 Fantasy points per game and is unlikely to provide a return on that investment.
Schedule: @UTA, MEM, @LAL, POR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 3rd
10-team starters: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes
Omer Asik's name is certainly missing from this week's rankings, but don't think that is because of some oversight on my part. The situation in Houston has already become toxic, as he has reportedly requested a trade for the second time since Dwight Howard joined the team. If and when the Rockets do choose to trade him, Asik will likely return to his place as a low-end starting Fantasy option, but he is safe to drop now. Terrence Jones has become the biggest beneficiary of Asik's reduced role, but hasn't proven enough to be started as anything more than a flier this week.
Schedule: BOS, @DAL, MIN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 19th
10-team starters: James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin
12-to-14-team starters: Patrick Beverley
Deep-league fliers: Terrence Jones, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi
Danny Granger remains a ways away from returning from a calf injury, so the Pacers remain in a holding pattern. One side effect of Lance Stephenson and Paul George's development offensively has been how it has affected David West and George Hill, both of whom have seen their numbers reduced across the board. With just three games on the schedule, benching either player is an option if you like a reserve's matchups better.
Schedule: @NY, @BOS, PHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 18th
10-team starters: Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson
12-to-14-team starters: David West, George Hill
Deep-league fliers: Luis Scola, C.J. Watson
Los Angeles Clippers
It might be a bit much to consider starting Jared Dudley or Matt Barnes in your 10-team league this week, but you'll want to start the rest of the team's relevant players. The Clippers don't have uniformly great matchups across the board, but being the only team with five games on the schedule (and the first five-game week of the season) is enough to push just about everyone else up. If you've got Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, you might just win your weekly matchup by the sheer volume of their excellence. If you're deciding between a Clipper and someone else on your team, it's probably best to default to the extra game or two.
Schedule: MEM, @MIN, @OKC, SAC, CHI
10-team starters: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes
Los Angeles Lakers
|1.||Shawn Marion, Mavericks||92/69|
|2.||Corey Brewer, Timberwolves||50/32|
|3.||C.J. Miles, Cavaliers||31/15|
|4.||DeMarre Carroll, Hawks||25/15|
|5.||Wilson Chandler, Nuggets||84/33|
|6.||Richard Jefferson, Jazz||5/2|
|7.||Taj Gibson, Bulls||38/15|
|8.||John Henson, Bucks||66/32|
|9.||Terrence Jones, Rockets||34/12|
|10.||Rashard Lewis, Heat||0/0|
Well, the good news is Kobe Bryant seems nearly ready to return. That should provide some stability for a roster that often makes little sense on a nightly basis. Coach Mike D'Antoni simply doesn't know who he can rely on, so he throws stuff against the wall to see if something is going to stick on a given night. Unfortunately, Bryant seems unlikely to return this week, so the nightly roulette will continue. I'm not sure anyone on this team is definitely a start-worthy player in a shallower league with just two games on the schedule.
Schedule: GS, SAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 30th
10-team starters: None
12-to-14-team starters: Steve Blake, Pau Gasol
Deep-league fliers: Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar, Chris Kaman
Fittingly, I criticized Zach Randolph in last week's column, just in time for a vintage 28-point, 11-rebound dismantling of the Lakers Friday. He is still a very capable player, though it is important to note that his per-game averages are still well below last season. This isn't a great schedule for Memphis, but I'm willing to put Randolph back up to the top tier since his matchups at power forward aren't formidable this week. At some point, a fourth option has to step up, but until that happens, there isn't much here beyond the top-shelf trio.
Schedule: @LAC, @GS, SA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 27th
10-team starters: Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Tony Allen, Jerryd Bayless, Tayshaun Prince, Mike Miller, Quincy Pondexter
The Big Three continue to play well, but the lower-end guys ran into some trouble last week. Mario Chalmers got tossed from Friday's game and was suspended Saturday. Ray Allen missed two games due to an illness. Those issues allowed some of the team's reserves to step up, but there still isn't much there. As surprisingly competent as Michael Beasley has looked in limited minutes in his return to Miami, there is no reason to put him in a starting lineup yet. He remains intriguing only if LeBron James is forced to miss time at some point.
Schedule: ATL, @ORL, ORL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 21st
10-team starters: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Michael Beasley
Injuries up and down the roster continue to muddle the Bucks' rotations, as they have had up to eight different players on the injury report for recent games. If Brandon Knight and Ersan Ilyasova could get past their lingering injuries for an extended period of time, it would add a lot of clarity to the team's plans. With just three games on the schedule, pretty much everyone is a risky play right now.
Schedule: POR, @PHI, CHA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 17th
10-team starters: O.J. Mayo
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Khris Middleton, John Henson, Caron Butler, Nate Wolters, Brandon Knight, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia
I'm buying Kevin Martin's hot start, as he has proven he is simply a perfect fit for a Rick Adelman offense. He has been one of the best scorers in the league so far and joins Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love as must-start options on a weekly basis. With the best schedule in the league on the way this week, Fantasy owners will probably want to start the entirety of the Wolves' starting lineup, as even Corey Brewer continues to look like an unstoppable force in transition for a team that likes to run. None of this week's opponents look capable of slowing this offense down.
Schedule: @WAS, LAC, BKN, @HOU
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 1st
10-team starters: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin
12-to-14-team starters: Corey Brewer
Deep-league fliers: J.J. Barea, Derrick Williams
New Orleans Pelicans
As good as it is to see Ryan Anderson cleared to play, this isn't a great time for him to come back for Fantasy owners. The Pelicans' schedule features just two games and we're not sure what kind of role he's going to have on a game-by-game basis, as he is still dealing with some pain in his fractured toe. The Pelicans will likely take things a bit easy for him early on, so his return likely doesn't change much. He will probably be another week from starting in leagues that don't allow daily changes.
Schedule: UTA, CLE
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 23rd
10-team starters: Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Morrow, Jason Smith, Al-Farouq Aminu, Brian Roberts
New York Knicks
Andrea Bargnani conintues to be shockingly productive, but the Knicks are not getting much consistent production from their backcourt. Raymond Felton has been a major disappointment this season, and neither J.R. Smith nor Iman Shumpert has looked very good on the wings. Felton and Smith are going to get their chances to shoot and create with the ball, which is enough to make them intriguing, though not particularly trustworthy starting options with three games on the schedule.
Schedule: @DET, IND, @WAS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 15th
10-team starters: Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani
12-to-14-team starters: J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton
Deep-league fliers: Metta World Peace, Iman Shumpert
Oklahoma City Thunder
Reggie Jackson keeps showing enough flashes as a sixth man that we can't quite bury him, but it's awfully difficult to rely on him on a weekly or even daily basis. The Thunder offense is humming and the Week 4 matchups look likely to keep that going. Unfortunately, this team isn't deep enough to allow Fantasy owners to take advantage of the schedule.
Schedule: DEN, LAC, UTA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 8th
10-team starters: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Russell Westbrook
12-to-14-team starters: Reggie Jackson
Deep-league fliers: Jeremy Lamb, Thabo Sefolosha, Steven Adams
Arron Afflalo has joined Nikola Vucevic as an unlikely must-start option after the season's first few weeks. Beyond those two at the top of the heap, Orlando has been as frustrating as expected for Fantasy purposes. There are too many similar players, in both skillset and talent, to allow too many to rise above the rest. This is a tough week from the schedule-makers, so I wouldn't feel too comfortable taking a chance on my lower-end Magic players this week.
Schedule: MIA, @MIA, PHO
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 28th
10-team starters: Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo
12-to-14-team starters: Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo
Deep-league fliers: Andrew Nicholson, Maurice Harkless
Hopefully Michael Carter-Williams' foot injury doesn't continue to linger, and I'm not concerned enough about it to drop him down a tier for Week 4. With four games on the schedule, there is enough room for Carter-Williams to miss a game and still put up solid numbers, though there is obviously some inherent risk involved here. If Carter-Williams is forced to miss time, Tony Wroten looks like a solid fill-in option.
Schedule: @DAL, TOR, MIL, @IND
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 25th
10-team starters: Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Michael Carter-Williams
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Tony Wroten, James Anderson
This is a great way for the Fantasy Gods to reward Suns owners coming off a two-game week. This motley crew hasn't been particularly consistent on a game-by-game basis, but four games should be enough for even the likes of Markieff Morris and Miles Plumlee to give you some solid value as starters. Unfortunately for the 25 percent of owners who added Gerald Green recently, Goran Dragic's return is likely to send him back to obscurity, so he probably isn't worth starting.
Schedule: @SAC, SAC, @CHA, @ORL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 15th
10-team starters: Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic
12-to-14-team starters: Miles Plumlee, Markieff Morris
Deep-league fliers: P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye
Portland Trail Blazers
After a slow start, Mo Williams is starting to find his way. On a team whose bench hasn't really lived up to expectations, his recent play has been a good sign. With four games on the schedule, I am almost tempted to bump him up a tier, as he is averaging 25.7 Fantasy points per game over the last three games. I want to see a bit more before I move him up for good, but he is certainly worth a look if one of your lower-end guards has some poor matchups this week.
Schedule: @BKN, @MIL, CHI, @GS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 22nd
10-team starters: Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum
12-to-14-team starters: Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez
Deep-league fliers: Dorell Wright, Mo Williams
|1.||Andray Blatche, Nets||15/5|
|2.||Bismack Biyombo, Bobcats||30/11|
|3.||Andrea Bargnani, Knicks||86/50|
|4.||Timofey Mozgov, Nuggets||19/7|
|5.||Samuel Dalembert, Mavericks||28/15|
Just when we thought we understood the Kings' hierarchy, Greivis Vasquez had to go usurp Isaiah Thomas' role and completely muck things up. This shouldn't come as a huge surprise, even with how well Thomas was playing this season. His coaches seem to look for any excuse possible to not feature him. The presence of Vasquez is a pretty good excuse, as far as these things go, but it makes the Kings' a bit toxic for Fantasy purposes, because now we have to determine if Vasquez and Thomas can co-exist. Each has the potential to be a top flight Fantasy option, and I think both can be started with four games on the schedule for the week.
Schedule: PHO, @PHO, @LAC, @LAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 7th
10-team starters: DeMarcus Cousins
12-to-14-team starters: Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas, Greivis Vasquez
Deep-league fliers: Patrick Patterson, Jason Thompson, Ben McLemore, John Salmons
San Antonio Spurs
We know better than to write Tim Duncan off, but his slow start to the season has to be noted. Between his struggles, Kawhi Leonard's stagnation and Danny Green's lack of consistency, this Spurs roster is surprisingly difficult for Fantasy owners to rely on. So far, the team has reverted back to their grind-it-out defensive days, which isn't a fantastic sign for Fantasy purposes. Until they get things figured out, Tony Parker is probably the team's only can't-sit player.
Schedule: BOS, @DAL, MIN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 20th
10-team starters: Tony Parker
12-to-14-team starters: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan
Deep-league fliers: Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw
If the Raptors had one more game against a solid matchup this week, I would have a rosy outlook for Week 4. They get to face two opponents who don't put up much of a fight on defense, but only playing two games is a difficult thing for anyone but the most valuable Fantasy options to overcome. Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan score with enough volume to remain worthy of starting, but everyone else should be approached with extreme caution.
For a team relying on so many young players, this is a surprisingly stable roster at this point. We know who the featured players are, and that hasn't changed much through the season's first three weeks. The ascension of Alec Burks to the starting point guard position represents an intriguing possibility, but he has averaged just 10.0 points and 4.0 assists in his first two starts, so it's not like he looks like a star so far. With four games on the schedule, it might be worth rolling the dice on Burks, but you know what to expect from the rest of these guys.
Schedule: GSW, @NO, @DAL, @OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 9th
10-team starters: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter
12-to-14-team starters:, Alec Burks, Richard Jefferson
Deep-league fliers: Diante Garrett, John Lucas, Marvin Williams
Last season, Martell Webster proved how well he can fit in with the Wizards' young backcourt, so he should fill Trevor Ariza's absence pretty seamlessly. With Ariza likely to miss some time with a hamstring injury, Webster is clearly a useful Fantasy option for this week, and is likely worth starting in 12-team, category-based Fantasy formats if you need a boost in 3-pointers.
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