Week 8 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Some weeks, you can point to one or two obvious outliers on the NBA schedule that represent either excellent or poor matchups for Fantasy purposes. Looking over the slate of games for Week 8 (Dec. 16-22),that definitely isn't the case this week, as few team's schedules stand out.

Put simply, this is one of the most balanced schedules of the season. All 30 teams play either three or four times this week, so there aren't going to be a lot of matchup-based lineup decisions to make.

Assuming you have a core of reliable players, this isn't such a bad thing. If, however, you have been hit hard by injuries this season and have been playing the matchups or streaming different players into the lineup on a weekly basis, you probably aren't too happy to see this week's schedule. There aren't any five-game sleepers to plug into the lineup and you don't have a two-game schedule as an excuse to sit one of your borderline options.

My advice for Week 8 -- stick with your best options. Individual matchups (like the Nets getting a double dose of the #PhillyBump) might help you make a borderline decision, but there isn't much to be parsed when everyone plays either three or four times.

(All stats up to date through Nov. 22 games)

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks run into a trio of bad defensive teams this week. It’s just too bad there isn't really anyone to take advantage. This team continues to have four excellent players, worth starting every week for Fantasy purposes, and not much more beyond that. Over the last five games, Shelvin Mack is averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 assists and could be worth a role of the dice in deeper leagues, as he appears to be the team's full-time backup at this point.

Schedule:Schedule: LAL, SAC, UTA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 2nd
10-team starters: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Cartier Martin, Dennis Schroder, Lou Williams, DeMarre Carroll, Shelvin Mack

Boston Celtics

Kris Humphries' recent stats suggest he might be finding a measure of success, but I'd guess it's mostly a mirage. Humphries is averaging 9.3 points per game over the last five, but has missed two with a knee injury and has been held to six points in two of the other three. Humphries can still get rebounds and cheap points as a result, but I don't think he is in this team's plans, and wouldn't buy in on him at this point. Brandon Bass is a more intriguing option at this point, as he is averaging 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in six December games, and still managed to play 37 minutes with Kelly Olynyk back from an ankle injury Friday. With four games, I think he has emerged as a low-end starter.

Schedule: MIN, DET, WAS, @IND
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 15th
10-team starters: Jeff Green, Jordan Crawford
12-to-14-team starters:, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass
Deep-league fliers: Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace

Brooklyn Nets

Guards we like for Week 8
Player Own/Start
1. Shelvin Mack, Hawks 2/1
2. Jeff Taylor, Bobcats 14/5
3. Jimmy Butler, Bulls 82/27
4. Jose Calderon, Mavericks 82/40
5. Vince Carter, Mavericks 37/14
6. Jamal Crawford, Clippers 84/53
7. Anthony Morrow, Pelicans 1/0
8. Pablo Prigioni, Knicks 5/2
9. Reggie Jackson, Thunder 55/33
10. Tony Wroten, 76ers 64/33

Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are finally back and producing, which has really helped settle things down for the Nets. Their returns haven't done much to turn around the demise of Kevin Garnett (15.8 Fantasy points per game over last five) or Paul Pierce (21.3 per game in three since returning from injury), but at least the owners who stuck through Williams' and Lopez's issues are being rewarded now. One intriguing wrinkle for Brooklyn has been the recent play of Andray Blatche, who is averaging 15.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game over the last four, even with Lopez playing three of those games. Lopez is expected to play through his ankle injury this week, but Blatche might be worth starting with a pair of games against the dreadful 76ers defense on the way.

Schedule: PHI, WAS, @PHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 3rd
10-team starters: Deron Williams, Brook Lopez
12-to-14-team starters: Joe Johnson, Andray Blatche
Deep-league fliers: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett

Charlotte Bobcats

Al Jefferson isn't quite living up to expectations in his first season as the Bobcats' centerpiece, however it's not like he isn't getting chances. Despite the ankle injury that limited him over the first few weeks of the season, he still ranks sixth in the league in Fantasy points per game for centers. I point this out to stress that, while Fantasy owners might be frustrated, you simply cannot bench a big man who gets 15 shots per game, even if he is shooting just 40 percent from the field. With four games on the schedule, including a couple against below-average defense, I'm betting on Jefferson bouncing back starting this week.

Schedule: SAC, @TOR, @DET, UTA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 1st
10-team starters: Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson, Gerald Henderson
12-to-14-team starters: Josh McRoberts
Deep-league fliers: Ramon Sessions, Jeff Taylor

Chicago Bulls

Well, the Taj Gibson Starting Fantasy Experience seems to have come to an end as quickly as it began. After scoring 21.4 points per game over a five-game stretch, Gibson totaled just 28 points in his next three games combined. I figured Gibson's role in the offense was going to continue to be larger than it had in the past, given the Bulls' lack of other options, but you know what they say: you can't keep a good Boozer down. I am willing to keep Gibson around as a low-end starter for Week 8, with four games on the schedule, but he needs to show more than he did over the last week to stay there. Also, Jimmy Butler made his return to the lineup Friday and scored 16 points. He won't be a huge Fantasy producer, but if Luol Deng remains on the sidelines, you can go ahead and get him active. Mike Dunleavy naturally takes a hit with Butler back, and Deng's return Saturday probably ends his run of solid play.

Schedule: ORL, @HOU, @OKC, CLE
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 3rd
10-team starters: Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng
12-to-14-team starters: Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson
Deep-league fliers: Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler

Cleveland Cavaliers

Fittingly, just as I begrudgingly accepted that Andrew Bynum might be a solid Fantasy option, he went out and put up five points and 10 rebounds in a two-game span. The fact remains, Bynum just doesn't look like a reliable NBA player right now, especially on the defensive end of the floor. As long as his mobility remains limited (which might be forever), it is hard to see Bynum emerging as someone who plays more than half of every game on a consistent basis. Against a slew of active, athletic big men, I wouldn't take the risk on him in Week 8.

Schedule: POR, MIL, @CHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 28th
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, Alonzo Gee, Earl Clark

Dallas Mavericks

Neither Samuel Dalembert nor DeJuan Blair has been able to hold down the Mavericks' starting center job and secure a full-time role. That is good news for Brandan Wright, who made his return Saturday after missing the first 23 games of the season with a shoulder injury. Wright will now step into the battle for minutes next to Dirk Nowitzki, and probably has a better chance than either of his competitors to take on the lion's share of the role. I wouldn't start him right away as he works his way back into shape, but Wright is definitely someone worth keeping an eye on; he averaged 17.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per-36 minutes last season.

Schedule: MEM, TOR, @PHO
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 25th
10-team starters: Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon
12-to-14-team starters: Shawn Marion
Deep-league fliers: Vince Carter, Brandan Wright, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair

Denver Nuggets

Ty Lawson was scoreless in his return from a hamstring injury Saturday, but it was still nice to see him back from a two-game absence. Andre Miller and Nate Robinson were solid in his stead, but this is a much better team with Lawson around, and Fantasy owners have to be happy to have a borderline top-10 guard back. One player whose Fantasy value seems long gone at this point is forward Kenneth Faried, who is no longer worth starting in the majority of Fantasy formats, as long as he remains in Brian Shaw's doghouse. Faried is averaging just 21.7 minutes per game over the last 10, and has just two double-doubles in that span. At this point, he might not even be worth hanging on to in 10-team Fantasy leagues.

Schedule: OKC, PHO, @LAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 22nd
10-team starters: Ty Lawson
12-to-14-team starters: Wilson Chandler, JJ Hickson
Deep-league fliers: Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov, Andre Miller, Randy Foye, Nate Robinson, Jordan Hamilton

Detroit Pistons

The Josh Smith Problem continues for Fantasy owners, since he is too productive to sit, but too frustrating to embrace. His recent play, however, might be changing that, as Smith simply looks lost right now. Despite taking the second-most shots at 13.4 per game over the last five, Smith is putting up just 11.6 points on a pitiful 34.3 percent shooting. He simply isn't doing enough right now to be worthy of his formerly lofty status as a must-start Fantasy option. The Pistons face just one team not ranked in the top-10 in points per game allowed in Week 8, so you might not be crazy to sit him in a 10-team league, especially one where you are penalized for missed shots.

Schedule: @IND, @BOS, CHA, HOU
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 27th
10-team starters: Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings
12-to-14-team starters: Josh Smith
Deep-league fliers: Kyle Singler

Golden State Warriors

We might be reaching the point where Harrison Barnes' usage is leaving him overextended. He is attempting 14.2 field goals per game over the last five, but is scoring just 14.8 points per game with them. Barnes is never going to stuff the stat sheet, so his Fantasy value is going to rely on scoring efficiently, particularly by taking advantage of his open looks; he has made just four 3-pointers over the last five games. The return of Andre Iguodala looms large over any discussion of Barnes' value, and we're still not sure when Iguodala is going to return and knock Barnes back to his sixth-man role. He remains useful given the sheer number of minutes and shots he gets as a starter, but his time as a sure-fire, high-end starter might be coming to an end soon.

Schedule: NO, SA, LAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 9th
10-team starters: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Andrew Bogut

Houston Rockets

This is not a favorable schedule for the Rockets, as they get set to face two of the league's stingiest defense to open the week. The upside is, I'm not sure that really matters for this team, which produces efficient shots with an assembly line's proficiency. I am wary of relying on the point guard duo of Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley this week, and Chandler Parsons' back is a bit of a concern. It seems like he could miss a game at any point, without much warning. Despite that, this team can pretty much score on anyone, and should continue humming. One thing is for sure, however; with Lin back, Aaron Brooks heads straight back to the scrap heap.

Schedule: CHI, @IND, @DET
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 30th
10-team starters: James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons
12-to-14-team starters: Patrick Beverley, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lin
Deep-league fliers: Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi

Indiana Pacers

What is so frustrating about Roy Hibbert is, it's pretty clear he could produce more offensively than he does. The Pacers ask so much of him on the defensive end, it wouldn't be fair for him to be asked to take a dozen or more shots per game. But boy, it would be nice, huh? He gives us these glimpses of his tantalizing production potential, like consecutive games with 42 combined points, but will settle back down to his normal level before long. One player whose value does appears to be changing -- and not for the better -- is point guard George Hill His scoring has fallen to just 11.4 per game, a number that is all the way down to 8.8 per game over the last five. Given how deep guard is, he is by no means a sure thing as a starter, even with four games on the schedule in Week 8.

Schedule: DET, @MIA, HOU, BOS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 14th
10-team starters: Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson
12-to-14-team starters: David West
Deep-league fliers: George Hill, Luis Scola

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers' schedule seems to have been heavy on the extremes this season. They have already played one five-game set, and they have four mostly solid matchups on the way this week. Unfortunately, an injury to J.J. Redick sapped this team of some of its Fantasy intrigue, and left them even more top-heavy. There isn't any reason to load your team up with Clippers despite their solid matchups, but Jamal Crawford is looking like a solid Fantasy option at this point.

Schedule: SA, NO, DEN, MIN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 5th
10-team starters: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Jared Dudley

Los Angeles Lakers

It doesn't come as much of a surprise that Kobe Bryant has attempted to slide into a playmaking role since his return from Achilles surgery, thought the results have been pretty spectacularly uninspiring thus far. Bryant has just one more assist (20) than turnovers (19) through three games. He will need to continue dishing the ball out with no healthy point guards on the roster, so don't expect him to up his scoring in Week 8. Kobe's return has not impacted the team's wing rotation too much, with Nick Young, Xavier Henry and Jodie Meeks averaging between 12 and 17 points per game in three games entering Saturday. One noteworthy exception is Wesley Johnson, whose shot has abandoned him with Bryant around. I still don't feel comfortable relying on anyone on this team right now, but a solid schedule for Week 8 makes starting any of the players listed here at least defensible.

Schedule: @ATL, @MEM, MIN, @GS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 10th
10-team starters: Pau Gasol
12-to-14-team starters: Kobe Bryant
Deep-league fliers: Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Jodie Meeks

Memphis Grizzlies

Forwards we like for Week 8
Player Own/Start
1. Brandon Bass, Celtics 76/46
2. Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers 96/64
3. Kyle Singler, Pistons 7/4
4. Terrence Jones, Rockets 85/54
5. Jon Leuer, Grizzles 25/11
6. Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks 41/11
7. Marcus Morris, Suns 19/10
8. Markieff Morris, Suns 69/37
9. Derrick Williams, Kings 63/39
10. Amir Johnson, Raptors 92/57

Jon Leuer has emerged as the most unlikeliest of winners as a result of Marc Gasol's absence. With Ed Davis sidelined by an injury, Leuer has emerged as the team's third option on offense, averaging 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game over the last five. Leuer isn't without skill, but he has never put together a run even comparable to this one so far, so I am naturally a bit skeptical. Against some of the worst defensive front lines in the league however, it might not be crazy to take a chance on him in Week 8, especially if injuries to big men like Nene and Anthony Davis have left you thin up front.

Schedule: LAL, @DAL, @NY
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 7th
10-team starters: Mike Conley, Zach Randolph
12-to-14-team starters: Jon Leuer, Kosta Koufos
Deep-league fliers: Ed Davis, Tony Allen, Jerryd Bayless, Mike Miller

Miami Heat

We're reaching a point where Chris Bosh's production is becoming a problem for Fantasy owners. No matter how you slice up the season, his production has been a concern, and doesn't seem to be getting any better. Bosh is averaging just 22.2 Fantasy points per game for the season, a number that drops to 19.8 over the last 10, making him a borderline starting Fantasy center, a shocking development. Bosh's minutes are way down, but the Heat are still succeeding in spite of that, so there isn't much of a reason to change things around. With only three games on the schedule, benching Bosh isn't just an option; it's advisable.

Schedule: UTA, IND, SAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 16th
10-team starters: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade
12-to-14-team starters: Chris Bosh
Deep-league fliers: Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Michael Beasley

Milwaukee Bucks

I probably get more questions about Ersan Ilyasova than any other player right now, and they're awfully difficult to answer. We have seen Ilyasova thrive as one of the league's better stretch-fours, but right now he simply cannot be relied on. Ilyasova is averaging just 6.4 points on 26.1 percent shooting over the last five games, and can be pretty safely benched until he shows signs of life. His struggles have given rise to John Henson, the lanky second-year big man who is playing like an All-Star right now. Over the last three weeks (12 games), Henson is eighth among all forwards and fourth among centers in Fantasy scoring, and his production has only increased in recent games. With Henson averaging 16.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.2 steals per game over the last five, he has to be considered a must-start player at this time.

Schedule: NY, @CLE, PHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 17th
10-team starters: O.J. Mayo, John Henson
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Luke Ridnour, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Knight

Minnesota Timberwolves

Corey Brewer got off to a really strong start to the season, and was thriving while snagging those long outlet passes from Kevin Love. Unfortunately, he hasn't been unable to sustain that production recently, while marred in a horrendous cold stretch. Brewer is averaging just 10.6 points per game on 35.7 percent shooting over the last five games, making this top-heavy unit even more unbalanced. Given how little Brewer gives you besides scoring, it's not inconceivable to leave him on the bench this week, even with four games.

Schedule: @BOS, POR, @LAL, @LAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 15th
10-team starters: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Corey Brewer, J.J. Barea

New Orleans Pelicans

Thankfully, Tyereke Evans' ankle didn't end up costing him any time when he initially aggravated it last week, but he suffered a re-aggravation Friday that leaves his status in doubt moving forward. At this point, that injury is a real concern, as it has now re-occurred twice since he initially suffered it in the preseason. With a back-to-back to open the league, it is possible Evans misses one or both games, making him a risk for Week 8. Anthony Morrow would stand to benefit if Evans is out, but he is no more than a low-end flier in category-based formats, as he can help in 3-pointers.

Schedule: @GS, @LAC, @POR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 18th
10-team starters: Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson
12-to-14-team starters: Tyreke Evans, Jason Smith, Al-Farouq Aminu
Deep-league fliers: Anthony Morrow

New York Knicks

This is getting embarrassing. One upside of this roster's complete incompetence recently has been the re-emergence of Amar'e Stoudemire as something resembling a Fantasy option. Given his injury concerns and how little explosiveness he has left, Stoudemire's recent play might be something of a mirage. Still, with Andrea Bargnani starting to fall apart, the Knicks may need to rely on their $20 million man whether they like it or not. He is averaging 16.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game over the last five, but is by no means a sure thing right now. This isn't the best week for Stoudemire to get into the lineup, but he is someone to keep an eye on.

Schedule: WAS, @MIL, MEM
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 29th
10-team starters: Carmelo Anthony
12-to-14-team starters: Andrea Bargnani
Deep-league fliers: J.R. Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Beno Udrih

Oklahoma City Thunder

This team might have a bench they can rely on! Sure, Derek Fisher still plays too much/at all, but the young Thunder players are developing nicely. Jeremy Lamb is averaging 9.4 points per game over the last five, and probably just needs a bigger role. Unfortunately, he might be blocked by fellow reserve Reggie Jackson, who is putting up 15.8 points and 3.2 assists per game over the last five, and isn't leaving much room for Lamb to step up as the sixth man. The Thunder are going to have to grind out a couple of their games this week, but a four-game schedule makes Jackson a solid option in many leagues..

Schedule: @DEN, CHI, @SA, TOR
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, Thabo Sefolosha, Steven Adams

Orlando Magic

Given how this season has gone, we might not be able to just assume that Tobias Harris is back for good after his most recent return from a high ankle sprain. Still, we do have to take him into account, crowding an already overloaded frontcourt for the Magic. Harris' return hurts Glen Davis at this point, especially since Davis has really struggled in recent games. I would advocate staying away from Davis, Harris or Andrew Nicholson right now; there is too much overlap in their roles.

Schedule: @CHI, UTA, SAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 12th
10-team starters: Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Victor Oladipo
12-to-14-team starters: Jameer Nelson
Deep-league fliers: Glen Davis, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson

Philadelphia 76ers

Michael Carter-Williams' recovery from a skin infection has been painfully slow, but Fantasy owners who picked up Tony Wroten on waivers certainly aren't in any rush to get the Rookie of the Year leader back. As a standing rule, Wroten should be considered an absolute must-start Fantasy option any time MCW is out; unfortunately, he remains day to day, so it is hard to just stick Wroten into the starting lineup when lineups lock Monday. In a 10-team league, Wroten might not be worth the risk, but he probably warrants a starting risk in any deeper league.

Schedule: @BKN, BKN, @MIL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 13th
10-team starters: Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young
12-to-14-team starters: Tony Wroten
Deep-league fliers: James Anderson

Phoenix Suns

The Suns' unexpected competence this season has largely been fueled by their stellar backcourt. Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic have battled injuries, but have been exemplars of consistency otherwise -- they're even putting up eerily identical stat lines this season. Beyond those two, this team is nearly impossible to predict for Fantasy purposes, with the Morris twins emerging as the latest duo to post a series of strong performances after nearly disappearing. Markieff and Marcus are playing well right now, but given the way this season has gone, Gerald Green and Channing Frye could knock them off their lofty positions at any minute.

Schedule: SA, @DEN, DAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 19th
10-team starters: Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe
12-to-14-team starters: Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris
Deep-league fliers: Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye

Portland Trail Blazers

Another week, and I still don't have much to say about this team, With Robin Lopez's recent emergence as a double-double machine, he has certainly leapt into starting consideration at the center position. Over the last five games, the starting lineup is averaging 87.2 points per game, continuing a season-long trend that doesn't leave much room for any of the reserves to step up. Beyond the deepest of leagues, guys like MO Williams is the only player you can even consider off the Trail Blazers' bench.

Schedule: @CLE, @MIN, NO
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 8th
10-team starters: Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews
12-to-14-team starters: Robin Lopez
Deep-league fliers: Mo Williams

Sacramento Kings

Centers we like for Week 8
Player Own/Start
1. John Henson, Bucks 90/70
2. Brandan Wright, Mavericks 89/64
3. Kosta Koufos, Grizzlies 84/45
4. Andray Blatche, Nets 71/46
5. Jason Smith, Pelicans 96/66

Maybe the Kings have some sort of mind-control device, or the trip westward addled his brain, because Rudy Gay actually exhibited control over his worst impulses in his Kings' debut Friday. That won't last. Gay isn't without his merits, but he does not seem to know how to play without hijacking possessions and dominating the ball. I want to see how the Kings play with three super-high usage players in the starting lineup, because Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins are going to need their touches too. Go ahead and start them all this week with four games, even while they work out the kings.. I kind of like the idea of Derrick Williams coming off the bench as a power forward, but not enough to think he's anything more than a low-end starting option at this point.

Schedule: @CHA, @ATL, @MIA, @ORL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 20th
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

Despite a historically disastrous showing late in last year's finals, Manu Ginobili seems intent on proving that reports of his demise were wildly exaggerated. Ginobili is playing some of his best ball of the last few years in recent weeks, as he is shooting 54.4 percent from the field with 12.2 points and 5.7 assists in the last 10 games. The Spurs don't have uniformly great matchups this week, but I'd say Ginobili is playing well enough to be worth getting into the lineup with four games on the way.

Schedule: @LAC, @PHO, @GS, OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 11th
10-team starters: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan
12-to-14-team starters: Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili
Deep-league fliers: Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw

Toronto Raptors

Well, this changes everything. The trade of Rudy Gay opens up a huge hole in the Raptors' rotation, and it will be fascinating to see how they decide to fill it. The biggest beneficiaries, by far, since Gay left are Terrence Ross and Amir Johnson. Johnson is averaging 22.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game since Gay's departure, while Ross is putting up 16.3 points per game, up from just 6.2 prior to the trade. Johnson's recent hot streak looks like just that -- he is shooting an absurd 79.5 percent from the field, a mark he simply cannot sustain. He will remain solid if he keeps getting as many chances as he is, but there's a fall coming. Ross looks like the more intriguing option for Fantasy owners, especially since he is likely still available on waivers in a huge number of leagues. This is a former lottery-pick with three-point range on his jumper and otherworldly athleticism, making him a strong breakout candidate. It is a bit early to say for sure, but Ross could emerge as a solid contributor. As for the players Toronto received in exchange for Gay, I wouldn't plan on relying on any of them at this point, though the seemingly inevitable Kyle Lowry trade will thrust Greivis Vasquez back into the spotlight as early as next week.

Schedule: CHA, @DAL, @OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 24th
10-team starters: DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson
12-to-14-team starters: Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross
Deep-league fliers: Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson,

Utah Jazz

If I get more questions about Ersan Ilyasova than any other player in the league, Enes Kanter comes in a very close second. Kanters' expected breakout has not quite occurred, as his defensive lapses and offensive inconsistency have resigned him to a spot on the bench. Kanter is averaging just 9.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game over the last five, continuing a season-long trend. With guys like Jeremy Evans, Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson playing more than him right now, Kanter can't be started in the majority of leagues right now. Evans actually presents a pretty intriguing case for starting in a deep, category-based league, since he has big defensive upside in a four-game week.

Schedule: @MIA, @ORL, @ATL, @CHA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 21st
10-team starters: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke
12-to-14-team starters: Alec Burks, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams
Deep-league fliers: Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans

Washington Wizards

Two huge injury questions hang over everything with this team right now, as Bradley Beal and Nene continue to work their way back. Neither player really has a specific timeline to return, as the team seems to be considering them on a day-by-day basis at this point. Beal's return would likely push Martell Webster back into the smaller role he opened the season in, while Trevor Booker recent solid play has been almost entirely a result of Nene's absence with a foot injury. If my lineups lock before I heart concrete information saying that Nene and Beal are coming back, I obviously wouldn't start them, however their looming returns make Webster and Booker risky plays with only three games on the schedule.

Schedule: @NY, @BKN, @BOS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 26th
10-team starters: John Wall, Marcin Gortat
12-to-14-team starters: Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster
Deep-league fliers: Trevor Booker, Nene, Bradley Beal

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Though he can be found covering three different sports depending on the time of year, there is one unifying theme in how Chris Towers approaches sports; "Where's the evidence?" It doesn't matter how outlandish... Full Bio

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