By Juan Blanco, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
After starving us with an abbreviated schedule over the last two weeks, the NBA finally returns at full strength schedule-wise in Week 19. We have a large number of teams on four-game weeks, a highly favorable scenario for fantasy purposes.
The majority of remaining teams have a three-game slate ahead of them, leaving us with very little concerns in terms of playing time when making lineup decisions.
Without further ado, let’s examine some of the tougher start/sit decisions for Week 19:
TEAMS WITH FOUR GAMES: Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76e—rs, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES: Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz
TEAMS WITH TWO GAMES: Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs
Start: Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors (four games)
After a brief but unsuccessful run with the starting point guard job, Ky Bowman has been replaced by Poole in the starting five in the Warriors’ last two games. The upgrade has been clear, with Poole averaging 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steal in that pair of contests. The rookie had already been coming on since before the All-Star break, as he has five straight double-digit scoring performances heading into a Sunday night matchup against the Pelicans. Poole is still struggling mightily with inefficiency, but with four games to further integrate himself into the first unit — three which consist of favorable matchups against the Kings, Suns, and Wizards — Poole is a strong start candidate.
Start: Bruce Brown, Detroit Pistons (three games)
Brown is filling in at multiple positions for the Pistons at the moment and providing strong across-the-board production for fantasy managers. With the ability to play both guard spots and small forward, Brown has averaged a robust 34.3 minutes thus far in eight February games, putting up 10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.0 steal per game over that span. This includes five double-digit scoring efforts, including three double-doubles. The versatile second-year pro is one game short of a full schedule this week, but given his diversified production and ample playing time recently, he’s worth considering for a start due to his ability to prop up multiple categories.
Sit: Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs (two games)
Murray has recently rewarded fantasy managers who’ve either stuck with him or plucked him off their league’s wire, as he’s averaging 19.8 points while shooting 60.0 percent, including 71.4 percent from distance, over the last four games. What’s more, he’s complemented those impressive figures with 7.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per contest, but he’ll have sparse opportunities to maintain his hot hand this coming week with only two games. The numbers he might produce if he continues generating the same caliber of play could still be outpaced by guards with more opportunities to take the floor over the next seven days.
Sit: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (three games)
Lillard is certainly a name one wouldn’t normally expect to find carrying this label unless he had a minimal number of games on his schedule. However, his lingering groin injury could cost him at least one more game during the new week, and the Blazers are already down a game compared to more than half of the league. With the possibility he’s only out there for two games, at most, Lillard will struggle to pay off as a starter this coming week.
Start: Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets (four games)
Bridges has had some ups and downs in his second season, but a good portion of the highlights have come over the last several weeks. The MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge has rattled off 10 straight double-digit scoring efforts, a stretch during which he’s averaged 19.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists across 34.3 minutes while also putting up at least 20 points on six occasions. Bridges’ offensive role has spiked over that span, as he’s averaged 15.6 shot attempts per game, including 6.8 from three-point range. Given his red-hot stretch, recent usage, and a four-game ledger this week, consider Bridges for a spot in your starting lineup.
Start: Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies (four games)
Starting power forward Jaren Jackson, Jr. has been ruled out for the next two weeks with a left knee sprain, leaving Clarke for an extended run with the first unit. The timing is perfect from a fantasy perspective, with the Grizzlies drawing a four-game schedule this coming week. Clarke has excelled off the bench this season to the tune of 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists while shooting 62.3%, including 40.4% from three-point range. His two spot-starts this season have actually been duds, but with plenty of opportunities this week and averages of 13.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steal in his last 11 games, Clarke firmly earns a Start designation this week.
ALSO CONSIDER: Kyle Anderson MEM (four games); Nemanja Bjelica, SAC (four games)
Sit: DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs (two games)
DeRozan is worthy of this designation only because of scheduling reasons. He happens to be on one of two teams with only a pair of games in a week where there is an abundance of four-game options. DeRozan has also dealt with some back spasms recently that cost him a couple of contests, which may have helped lead to him scoring under 20 points in his last two games. His production over the coming week could well be achieved by others with three or four games on their schedule.
Sit: OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors (three games)
Anunoby has put together some particularly strong performances recently, the most recent being a 25-point, 12-rebound double-double against the Timberwolves two games prior to the All-Star break. He also produced a 12-point effort coming out of the extended layoff, a contest against the Suns in which he racked up four blocks. He’s shooting an efficient 50% for the season, but Anunoby’s overall usage remains hard to trust, even with the Raptors still missing Norman Powell (finger) and Marc Gasol (hamstring). Throw in a three-game week, and he becomes a strong candidate for a seat on the bench, despite the well-rounded production he’s offered heading into a Sunday evening matchup against the Pacers.
Start: Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers (four games)
Thompson made a mockery of the Sit designation I gave him last week, one that was due to an expected reduction in minutes with Andre Drummond now in the fold. Instead, Thompson logged 26 minutes apiece on both of his games, averaging 13.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.0 block. Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff was at the helm for both of those contests, lending credence to the notion that this type of playing time split between Thompson and Drummond might be the norm. While fantasy managers may still be skeptical of occasional downturns in minutes for Thompson, his four-game week and first pair of contests under the new regime in Cleveland support his case for a starting designation in lineups this week.
Start: Naz Reid, Minnesota Timberwolves (four games)
Like Clarke, Reid is another player set to take advantage of a prominent injury on his team. Karl-Anthony Towns is set to miss an undetermined amount of time with his wrist injury, and Reid has already begun impressing in the star big man’s absence. He played behind James Johnson for the first game Towns missed but still posted 12 points, six rebounds, one steal and one block across 22 minutes in a loss to the Hornets back on Feb. 12. He then slotted into the starting five against the Celtics on Friday night and responded with a 19-point, nine-rebound effort during which he shot 7-for-15 from the field, including 2-for-5 from distance. A versatile floor spacer who should be primed for big minutes on a four-game week, Reid is a strong starting candidate with the talent to reward fantasy managers in multiple categories.
ALSO CONSIDER: Daniel Theis, BOS (three games)
Sit: Enes Kanter, Boston Celtics (three games)
Kanter has seen his opportunities take a bit of a dip recently in conjunction with some improved play from starter Daniel Theis. Kanter has seen single-digit minutes in two of his last three games dating back to before the All-Star break, going scoreless in both of those contests. He hasn’t scored in double digits in the last four overall while logging 20 minutes or less in each game. Kanter has certainly had stretches this season where he’s been a fruitful fantasy starter, but given his recent track record and three-game schedule, he can be offered a seat on the bench this week.
Sit: Derrick Favors, New Orleans Pelicans (three games)
Speaking of centers who’ve seen a recent downturn, Favors has been a difficult player to trust in recent weeks. In his case, it’s seemingly been the integration of Zion Williamson that’s led to reduced production. The veteran big man has scored in single digits in 10 of the 11 games Williamson has suited up for thus far, averaging 8.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists in a modest 23.3 minutes during that span.