Availability questions linger for Jimmy Butler


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The first week of 2023 stands to be a busy one. Twenty-one teams will play four games in Week 12, and 14 will play a back-to-back. The loaded schedule will make for some interesting roster decisions, with teams that have rested players in the past, including the Clippers and Pelicans, among the busiest. Let's look at the Week 12 schedule breakdown and some key storylines that need to be considered when setting your lineups.

Week 12 Schedule: Games Played

4 Games: ATL, BKN, CHA, CHI, CLE, DAL, DET, HOU, IND, LAC, LAL, MIA, MIN, NOP, OKC, PHI, PHO, POR, SAS, TOR, UTA

3 Games: BOS, DEN, GSW, MEM, MIL, NYK, ORL, SAC

2 Games: WAS

Top Storylines to Watch

-- How many games will fantasy managers get out of Heat's Butler?

Jimmy Butler has appeared in 23 of Miami's 37 games thus far, and he's been inactive for four of their last nine, including Saturday's win over the Jazz. Miami begins its four-game week Monday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers, and while there are no back-to-backs, it's fair to wonder if Butler will be available for each game. Of the last four games he's missed, two (December 14 vs. Oklahoma City, Saturday vs. Utah) have been part of a back-to-back. So the absence of such games on the Week 12 schedule does not guarantee that Butler will be available.

One player impacted by Butler's status is Victor Oladipo, who is providing top 100 per-game value in 9-cat formats over the last three weeks. Still rostered in just 17% of Yahoo leagues, he's coming off of a game Saturday in which he played 35 minutes, recording a stat line of 23 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals, one block, and four 3-pointers. Oladipo has missed two of the 13 games that Miami has played since he made his season debut on December 6, averaging 9.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 3-pointers in 26.2 minutes during this stretch. Those numbers aren't great, but adding Oladipo as a "safety net" wouldn't be the worst path for managers who have Butler rostered to take.

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-- Warriors to hopefully provide Curry update this week

Due to a left shoulder subluxation, Warriors guard Stephen Curry has been out since he suffered the injury in a December 14 loss to the Pacers. On Christmas Eve, it was reported that he was progressing in his recovery and would be re-evaluated in two weeks' time. Two weeks from that date is January 6, which falls during Week 12. To anticipate a return to game action at that point would be too much, as Curry will have to go through a ramp-up process to ensure his conditioning is at the level it needs to be to compete at a high level and limit the risk of aggravating the injury. But with Andrew Wiggins closing in on a return from the groin injury he suffered in early December, the reigning champions may be back to full strength before January ends.

Golden State continues its eight-game home stand with three games in Week 12, which begins Monday night against the Hawks. That's followed by games against the Pistons (Wednesday) and Magic (Saturday). The spacing could benefit veterans Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who have been asked to take on a heavier workload with Curry and Wiggins sidelined. Another player to watch during this week is Donte DiVincenzo, who has been a top 50 player in 9-cat formats over the last three weeks. Rostered in 42% of Yahoo leagues, he should be streamed until Curry and Wiggins are back in action. But could he have tangible fantasy value beyond that point? We'll see.

-- Are we looking at a three-game max for Clippers' Leonard?

The Clippers will also play four games in Week 12, but their slate includes a road back-to-back against the Nuggets (Thursday) and Timberwolves (Friday) before ending the week with a home game against the Hawks (Sunday). So the question has to be asked: will Kawhi Leonard be available for all four games? As he's yet to play in both ends of a back-to-back this season, it feels safe to assume the answer to that question to be "no," but it would be nice to be surprised. The most recent game missed by Leonard was the Clippers' December 26 win over the Pistons in Detroit, with Nicolas Batum replacing him in the starting lineup.

Batum (seven points, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and two 3-pointers) wasn't particularly effective that night, but you'll certainly take the defensive stats. Rostered in 9% of Yahoo leagues, he has been dealing with a sprained ankle that kept him out of Saturday's loss to the Pacers. That meant a return to the rotation for longtime fantasy favorite Robert Covington, who played just nine minutes. Would RoCo be worthy of a swing if Leonard and Batum were to miss the same game? Or are we well past that point? Given his production or lack thereof, Covington feels like a player who's no longer relevant in fantasy circles, even when given extended minutes.

-- Thunder's Williams providing value before "silly season"

Rostered in 31% of Yahoo leagues, Thunder first-round pick Jalen Williams remains ranked outside the top 200 in 9-cat formats. However, over the last two weeks, he's providing close to top-100 value, averaging 14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 1.2 3-pointers per game. With Aleksej Pokusevski (leg) likely out until March, Williams may emerge as a must-roster player ahead of "silly season," something we have not been able to say about a Thunder frontcourt player (including Poku) this season.

Oklahoma City begins a four-game week Tuesday night against the Celtics, which means more opportunities to either further evaluate (or roster) Williams. Mike Muscala and Kenrich Williams have also had their moments recently, and Jaylin Williams started Oklahoma City's last two games but offered little production outside of the rebounding category. With the Thunder well on their way to another appearance in the draft lottery, now is a good time to evaluate the roster beyond Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey for players who could be assets come "silly season." And Jalen W. should be at the top of that list.

-- Does Nance's injury open the door for Pelicans' Hayes?

Pelicans forward Larry Nance has had a rough go of it recently, as he has missed five of the last seven games. The most recent injury was a neck injury suffered during the December 28 win over the Timberwolves, which will keep him sidelined for a third consecutive game Monday night in Philadelphia. Nance's injury woes, along with those of Brandon Ingram, Trey Murphy, Zion Williamson, and Herb Jones (the latter three have all returned), have opened the door for Jaxson Hayes to jump into the rotation. And he's played well, averaging 10.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.8 blocks in 21.3 minutes over his last six games.

Rostered in 5% of Yahoo leagues, Hayes has been a 12th-round player over the last two weeks. The returns of Williamson, Murphy, and Jones make Hayes a "luxury" add heading into Week 12; fantasy managers with a roster spot available to gamble on a player can afford to take that risk. As for those who don't, Hayes is worth keeping an eye on, just in case, Nance's injury winds up being more severe than anticipated.

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-- Is it time to fire up the LeVert bandwagon?

While the decision to move Caris LeVert to the bench in mid-November (there have been a few exceptions) has benefitted the Cavaliers, his production and fantasy value have slipped considerably. While averaging 14.6 points per game as a starter, LeVert's scoring drops five points in games where he comes off the bench. And the only category in which his production as a reserve is better than when he starts is steals, with LeVert averaging 0.9 per game coming off the bench (compared to 0.6 as a starter).

Darius Garland's recent thumb injury opened the door for LeVert to take on an expanded role, and he finished Saturday's win over the Bulls with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and three 3-pointers, shooting 10-of-19 from the field. Cleveland begins its four-game Week 12 Monday night against the Bulls, a game Garland is considered doubtful for. Rostered in 36% of Yahoo leagues, LeVert is a player worth adding if available. Because even if Garland only misses one game, LeVert is averaging nearly 27 minutes per game off the bench. As noted above, he hasn't been good in that role, but that's enough time to make it worthwhile for some managers to exercise patience.

-- Is there any fantasy value in the Hornets' backup center role?

The sprained ankle suffered by Nick Richards during Charlotte's December 23 win over the Lakers opened the door for rookie Mark Williams to log meaningful minutes for the first time in his NBA career. And he's taken advantage of the opportunity, averaging 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.0 blocks in 17.5 minutes over Charlotte's last four games, shooting 69.6% from the field and 72.7% from the foul line. While Richards was cleared for the December 29 win over the Thunder he did not play, and his minutes in a loss to the Nets two days later were limited to the game's final three minutes.

Charlotte will play four games in Week 12, beginning Monday night against the Lakers. Does Williams remain in the backup center role? And will there be enough playing time to warrant holding onto him? A major issue for Williams and Richards is the presence of starter Mason Plumlee, who has been a top 50 player in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks. With the Hornets seven games (in the loss column) out of the last play-in tournament spot, there may come a point where Steve Clifford and the front office have to make some decisions on how the rest of the season will go. Williams has shown flashes of his potential over the last week, but it does not appear to be time for fantasy managers to commit to him fully.

Light Game Days

Tuesday: 3 Games

WAS vs. MIL
BOS vs. OKC
SAC vs. UTA

Thursday: 4 Games

MEM vs. ORL
BOS vs. DAL
UTA vs. HOU
LAC vs. DEN

Saturday: 5 Games

BOS vs. SAS
UTA vs. CHI
NOP vs. DAL
ORL vs. GSW
LAL vs. SAC

Week 12 Back-to-backs

Monday-Tuesday: None

Tuesday-Wednesday: MIL, OKC, SAC

Wednesday-Thursday: HOU, MEM, ORL

Thursday-Friday: DEN, LAC

Friday-Saturday: CHI, LAL, NOP, SAS

Saturday-Sunday: DAL, UTA