By Juan Blanco, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Week 12 is one fantasy players have been waiting for, as it brings one of the most packed overall schedules of the season. Twenty-nine of 30 teams play three or four games, with only the Clippers sitting on a two-game week. As usual, we’ll break down some of what could be the tougher start/sit decisions for the coming week, focusing on factors such as current opportunity, role, and recent production.
TEAMS WITH FOUR GAMES: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES: Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors
TEAMS WITH TWO GAMES: Los Angeles Clippers
Start: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder (four games)
Gilgeous-Alexander has taken off in his second season, averaging career bests in both points (19.9) and rebounds (5.3) per game. He’ll come into the new week having scored or exceeded 20 points in eight of his last nine games, and he has a four-game ledger with which to continue piling up the numbers. Gilgeous-Alexander’s assertiveness has been encouraging, with double-digit shot attempts in all nine contests during the aforementioned sample. What’s more, he’s been highly efficient during that span with the ball in his hands, shooting 54.4 percent overall, including 42.2 percent from three-point range. With the Thunder’s propensity for close games and matchups against both the Nets and Rockets on the schedule this week, he’s an easy lock for your Week 12 lineup.
Start: Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks (four games)
Huerter progressively hit his stride over the course of December after returning from a prolonged absence due to a shoulder injury early in the month. The second-year guard is still struggling with shooting efficiency overall (40.4%), but he’ll enter the week having scored a season-high 26 points against the Pacers on Saturday night. Huerter is also starting to find the net with more consistency, shooting 44.4%, including 41.0% from three-point range, over the last six games. Some solid matchups against the Rockets, Wizards and Nets also await him on this four-game week, furthering his candidacy for starting lineups.
ALSO CONSIDER: Shabazz Napier, MIN; Darius Garland, CLE
Sit: RJ Barrett, New York Knicks (four games)
It’s not often I’d consider a player with four games a Sit candidate, but Barrett earns that designation this week. Barrett is shooting just 38.3% overall this season, but he enters the new week with an even poorer 28.9% success rate over his last four games. While Barrett is certainly capable of the occasional 20-point effort, he’s put up so many duds that, at this point, he may do more harm than good.
Sit: Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic (three games)
Fultz has made for a nice story overall thus far this season, but with one game fewer than many other guards and a recent downturn in production, he can be benched with confidence this week. Fultz has scored in single digits in four of his last five games, a slump during which he’s shot just 28.9% from the field, including an atrocious 9.1% from distance.
Sit: Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets (three games)
Just a quick note on LeVert, who made his long-awaited return from injury on Saturday against Toronto. He looked good in limited action off the bench, but LeVert only played 16 minutes. He missed almost two full months, so while his minutes should increase, he might not be back up to a full workload during a three-game Week 12.
Start: Troy Brown, Jr., Washington Wizards (four games)
Brown ranks outside the top 170 for the season, but he’s been able to take advantage of a slew of recent injuries. The second-year wing enters the new week fresh off a 25-point, 14-rebound double-double against the Nuggets on Saturday night, and he’s scored in double digits in 10 of his last 12 games overall. Brown isn’t a full-time starter at this point, but even in games when he’s come off the bench, he’s regularly seeing minutes in the mid-20s. With the Wizards still slated to be without multiple front-line players this week — and even Bradley Beal (leg) potentially missing at least one contest — Brown shapes up as an appealing option.
Start: Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz (four games)
Ingles has been trending in the right direction for multiple weeks at this point, and he’ll hit the new week having scored in double-figures in 10 of the last 11 contests. While he’s technically on the second unit, for the time being, he’s still seeing at least 30 minutes per contest and is shooting an excellent 40.1% from three-point range on 5.2 attempts from distance per contest. The Jazz have a nice slate of games in front of them this week, as well, as they line up to face the Pelicans, Knicks, Hornets, and Wizards.
ALSO CONSIDER: P.J. Washington, CHA (three games); Aron Baynes, PHO (three games)
Sit: Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers (two games)
Not only do the Clippers have just two games this week, but George is also nursing a hamstring injury that kept him out of Saturday’s game. He’s set to play Sunday, but if the injury lingers at all, his upside will be even more limited. While George is a bonafide top-20 player on the year, he’s had some struggles of late, averaging just 16.5 points (31.7% FG), 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists over his last six games.
Sit: Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons (three games)
While the three-game schedule isn’t necessarily prohibitive, it remains to be seen how many of those contests Griffin will be able to suit up for, considering he’s missed three straight coming into Sunday night’s matchup against the Lakers. Even if he’s cleared for the week, Griffin is shooting an abysmal 35.2% for the season and is down to just 13.9 shot attempts per game — his lowest figure since the 2012-13 campaign. While he’s been able to endure injury after injury throughout his career, Griffin’s lengthy medical history finally appears to have caught up with him.
Start: Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls (four games)
Carter is managing a nagging abdomen injury, but he’s been playing through it and producing at a steady clip while doing so. The second-year big has four double-doubles in his last six games, and he’s boosted his field goal percentage by almost six points over his rookie season (54.3%, compared to 48.5%). As a scorer, Carter’s upside is fairly limited, but he’s developed into a better rebounder, who also offers contributions in assists and blocks while shooting a strong percentage at the line for a center.
Start: Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors (three games)
Ibaka continues to play an increased role in the absence of Marc Gasol, and he’s taken clear advantage of the opportunity. Ibaka heads into the new week with five consecutive double-doubles, and he’s shooting 53.7%, including 37.5% from three-point range, over his nine-game run as the starter. Ibaka will have one fewer game than the max this week, but his current role with both Gasol and Pascal Siakam (groin) out is such that he has an opportunity to deliver comparable, if not better, production than many other centers on four-game weeks. In Saturday’s win over Brooklyn, Ibaka had 21 points, 12 rebounds and a block in 28 minutes.
Sit: Willie Cauley-Stein, Golden State Warriors (three games)
Cauley-Stein just returned from an illness Saturday night against the Pistons and played a meager 14 minutes. Plus, he’d scored in single digits in three of the five games prior to his recent two-game absence. The seven-footer has had some encouraging showings this season, but with the Warriors now significantly healthier than earlier in the year, his usage could continue trending downward. As it is, Cauley-Stein is averaging just 8.1 points per game, and while he’s been a solid blocks/steals contributor, he shouldn’t be started unless you’re in desperate need of help in those categories.
Sit: Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Clippers (two games)
Zubac has shown some encouraging flashes recently, pulling down double-digit rebounds in three of his past four games heading into the new week. However, the fourth-year big’s minutes continue to be capped in the low 20s on the majority of nights, and he’s now saddled with a two-game schedule. Given his opportunity-based limitations, it’s safe to roll with other centers with more opportunities this coming week.