By Nick Whalen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Moving into Week 8 of the fantasy basketball season, the schedule is once again a relatively minor concern. Only two teams — Boston and Philadelphia — play two games while the rest of the league plays three or four.
Four games: BKN, CLE, DEN, DET, NOR, NYK, SAS, TOR
Three games: ATL, CHA, CHI, DAL, GSW, HOU, IND, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, OKC, ORL, PHO, POR, SAC, UTA, WAS
Two games: BOS, PHI
The issue, of course, is those teams house a number of fantasy-relevant players. Big-time talents in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Jayson Tatum, and Kyrie Irving will all be hindered by the schedule. Even Gordon Hayward finally emerged from his early slump on Saturday, putting up a season-high 30 points to go with nine rebounds and eight assists.
While that was overwhelmingly encouraging for patient Hayward owners, he and the rest of the Celtics’ regulars may be worth holding out in Week 8, particularly in favor of four-game options.
As lineup lock approaches, here are a handful of players to consider starting or sitting in Week 8:
SIT: Lonzo Ball, LAL
Opponents: SA, SA, MEM
With the exception of a blowout loss to Denver (18 minutes), Ball continues to see increased playing time in Rajon Rondo’s absence. However, that’s yet to translate to better fantasy production. He’s scored in double-figures just once over the last five games. Big point totals have never been Ball’s calling card, but his assists — four or fewer in six straight — have also lagged behind.
While Ball had five steals in Friday’s win over Dallas, he had zero in the previous four games. Percentage-wise, Ball is a slightly improved three-point shooter this season, but he’s still a marginal contributor in that category, hitting one or zero threes in each of his last eight contests.
START: Emmanuel Mudiay, NY
Opponents: WAS, BOS, BKN, CHA
We don’t want to overreact to Mudiay’s breakout performance in Saturday’s surprising win over Milwaukee, but 28 points, seven assists, three rebounds and four made threes against one of the better defenses in the league is worth some attention. Perhaps even more relevant, though, is the injury to Trey Burke, who played just one minute Saturday before exiting with a knee sprain. It’s unclear how much time Burke could miss, but he’s already been ruled out of Monday’s game against the Wizards
This should equate to an increased workload for Mudiay. Expecting anything close to Saturday’s line from Mudiay would be foolish, but if the minutes are there on a four-game week, he could be a worthwhile point guard streamer, particularly in deeper leagues.
START: Reggie Jackson, DET
Opponents: OKC, MIL, PHI, NOR
Jackson is never the most exciting option, but on a four-game week he’s well worth a spot in the lineup, perhaps as a one-week sub for Kyrie Irving. Jackson is still available in a third of Yahoo leagues, and he’s quietly averaged 19.8 points, 5.0 assists, 2.8 threes, and 1.2 steals over his last five games. Perhaps most encouragingly, Jackson has attempted 33 three-pointers in that span, including 15 in a win over the Suns on Nov. 25.
SIT: Nic Batum, CHA
Opponents: MIN, DEN, NY
Batum is owned in 79% of Yahoo leagues, but he’s been a difficult player to trust in weekly leagues this season. Jeremy Lamb has taken over as the de facto No. 2 option behind Kemba Walker, while Batum has attempted eight field goals or fewer in seven consecutive games. To make matters worse, Batum is not providing much in terms of defensive statistics or made threes. He bottomed out with just six points, three rebounds and no assists in Friday’s loss to Utah.
START: Eric Gordon, HOU
Opponents: MIN, UTA, DAL
Gordon got off to a rough start to the season, but the recent absence of Chris Paul seemed to spark an uptick in production. Gordon is averaging 24.4 points on 16.4 field goal attempts over his last five games. He’s also hitting 5.2 threes per game in that span. Paul has been active for the two most recent contests, but that didn’t stop Gordon from putting up 26 points against the Spurs on Friday and 15 against the Bulls on Saturday. As most fantasy owners know, Gordon can be as streaky as any guard in the league. Now is the time to ride him while he’s hot.
START: Bogdan Bogdanovic, SAC
Opponents: PHO, CLE, IND
Just a quick note on Bogdanovic, since he’s still available in almost a third of Yahoo leagues. After missing the first month of the season while recovering from knee surgery, the second-year guard has hit the ground running.
Over his last five games, Bogdanovic is averaging 18.8 points — including 2.6 made threes — 4.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game, while shooting nearly 41 percent from three. He’s ownable in leagues of nearly any size and should continue to pick up value as he becomes further removed from the knee injury.
START: Markieff Morris, WAS
Opponents: NY, ATL, CLE
Hopefully you’ve already capitalized on Morris’ increased production since Dwight Howard went down, but if not, there still may be time. Morris is owned in only 63% of Yahoo leagues as of Sunday afternoon. With a lack of center depth, the Wizards have gotten creative in Howard’s absence, often going small with Morris at the five. More than half of Morris’ minutes this season have come at center, and it’s resulted in a tangible bump in rebounding.
He’s averaging just under nine boards per game over the last five contests, while adding 16.2 points, 1.6 steals and 2.2 made threes over that span. Morris can be comfortably started on a three-game week, especially with three of the worst defenses in the league on the schedule.
SIT: Brandon Ingram, LAL
Opponents: SA, SA, MEM
Ingram is by no means a must-sit in Week 8, but the Lakers have a three-game week with matchups against a pair of slow-paced, low-scoring teams in Memphis and San Antonio. Ingram has been fine thus far, but essentially replicating last season’s production feels like a disappointment. He’s shooting the three more efficiently, but he’s only taking two per game, and has only four made threes in his last 10 games. Owners in need of points should still consider starting Ingram, but his upside is even lower than usual this week.
START: Juancho Hernangomez, DEN
Opponents: TOR, ORL, CHA, ATL
Even with increased minutes in the continued absence of Will Barton, Hernangomez has a relatively low ceiling. However, he becomes a much more appealing option with four games on the slate, including appealing matchups against the Hornets and Hawks. Hernangomez hasn’t dipped below 24 minutes in any game since Nov. 9. He’s also averaging 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.0 made threes in 30.0 minutes over his last four contests. He’s not going to offer much in terms of assists, steals or blocks, but four games of Hernangomez — who’s available in 74% of Yahoo leagues — could end up being more valuable than three from a more prominent name like Aaron Gordon.
SIT: Justin Holiday, CHI
Opponents: IND, OKC, BOS
The 29-year-old has been one of the few bright spots for Chicago this season, but he’s fallen into a mini-slump of late. After Saturday’s 1-of-8 performance, Holiday is averaging less than 10 points per game over his last three games, and he’s just 5-of-24 from three in that span. Perhaps more concerning, though, is how the return of Lauri Markkanen could impact Holiday’s workload.
Markkanen is a more natural power forward, but that’s where Holiday has seen 27 percent of his minutes this season. It could just be a one-game anomaly, but with Markkanen making his debut Saturday, Holiday played only 26 minutes — his lowest total of the season. Holiday still managed four steals — a category in which he’s been among the league’s best — but if Markkanen cuts into his playing time going forward, fantasy owners will be forced to adjust accordingly.
SIT: Al Horford, BOS
Opponents: NYK, CHI
Horford has been a bit of a disappointment, but this is more of a math equation than anything else. With two games on the slate — both of which have blowout potential — Horford is a risky play, particularly if you have another four-game center like Jarrett Allen, Tristan Thompson or Enes Kanter. Schedule aside, Horford is rebounding at a career-low rate (10.7 TRB%), and his assists production (3.4 APG) is down considerably after he averaged 4.7 and 5.0 per game in the previous two seasons, respectively.
START: Mason Plumlee, DEN
Opponents: TOR, ORL, CHA, ATL
It’s not often that I advocate for starting a player averaging 17 minutes per game, but if you’re in a bind at center — perhaps if you need a replacement for Horford — you could do worse than Plumlee. Even with the reduced minutes, Plumlee has been a passable fantasy option, averaging 9.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.0 blocks over his last four games.
He’s only needed 19.3 minutes per game to do so, and with four games on the Week 8 schedule, Plumlee could realistically provide something in the neighborhood of 40 points, 30 rebounds, 12 assists and 12 steals/blocks. All four opponents on the Nuggets’ schedule rank in the bottom-half of the NBA in defensive rebound percentage, while the Hawks, Raptors and Hornets each play at above-league-average pace.