By Juan Blanco, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Week 16 represents our last full slate of games before the All-Star break, and luckily, the overwhelming majority of teams are on either three- or four-game weeks. With only the Bulls plagued with the dreaded two-game schedule, we have plenty of options at each spot, some of which are beneficiaries of injuries on their squad.
As usual, we’ll break down at least two options at each position that represent some of the more difficult start/sit decisions of the week.
Without further ado, let’s delve into some candidates you should consider either rolling with or giving a breather to in Week 16:
TEAMS WITH FOUR GAMES: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES: Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards
TEAMS WITH TWO GAMES: Chicago Bulls
Start: Shake Milton, Philadelphia 76ers (four games)
With Josh Richardson (hamstring) still out for the foreseeable future, Milton is set to continue filling the starting two-guard role for the 76ers over their coming four-game week. He’s earned that distinction by averaging 14.0 points (on 58.1 percent shooting, including 44.4 percent from distance), 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals during his first four starts in Richardson’s stead. Milton does have a pair of similarly capable players — Furkan Korkmaz and Matisse Thybulle — currently behind him on the depth chart, but a pair of fast-paced matchups against the Heat and Grizzlies this coming week help to up his chances of continuing to churn out solid numbers.
Start: Mike Conley, Utah Jazz (three games)
It’s been an extremely strange season for the veteran, who got off to a slow start with his new team before battling multiple injuries. Now back healthy, Conley returned to the starting lineup Saturday night against the Blazers and finished with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes — his most since Nov. 29. Before Saturday, Conley’s workload had been limited since his latest injury absence, but he’s worth a return to your fantasy lineup if his minutes continue to hover in the 27-to-30 range. Conley’s 20 field goal attempts Saturday were his most in a Jazz uniform, though it’s worth noting that Utah fell by 17 points for its fourth consecutive loss.
Sit: Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (two games)
LaVine is a classic case of a player whom you wouldn’t normally entertain benching outside of the presence of extenuating circumstances. That’s precisely the case on this upcoming two-game week, with the talented marksman set to tangle only with the Pelicans and 76ers. LaVine could realistically be expected to contribute 55-60 points and 10-12 rebounds/assists apiece combined in that pair of contests, so other guards with three or four games could potentially outpace those figures.
Sit: Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets (three games)
Morris has been a tricky fantasy proposition since Jamal Murray went down with an ankle injury, as he’s averaging a serviceable-but-unspectacular 9.9 points, 4.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds across nine games in his teammate’s absence. While those numbers aren’t necessarily disastrous, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, with four single-digit scoring tallies in that sample and five games with two rebounds or fewer. In other words, Morris’ potential production wouldn’t necessarily be too difficult to replace, especially with just three games on his ledger this week.
Start: Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat (four games)
Robinson enters the new week running hot, as he narrowly missed extending a streak of double-digit scoring efforts to 10 games by a single point on Saturday against the Magic. Despite the one-night downturn, consider that Robinson has put up 13.0 points (on 42.2% shooting from three-point range), 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists across 31.3 minutes over his last 12 games overall, his most extensive stretch of strong production in a solid rookie season. Job security and the minutes that come with it are also there, with Robinson locked into the starting small forward role that’s been regularly affording him over 30 minutes per contest. A four-game week is the proverbial icing on the cake for Robinson, who can especially help those in category leagues that need a boost in the area of three-point shooting.
Start: De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks (four games)
Hunter, unfortunately, enters the new week with a bit of a health-related question mark as a result of an ankle sprain, but the hope is he’ll be ready to take the floor Monday versus Boston after sitting out Saturday’s contest against the Mavericks. Otherwise, Hunter comes in riding a wave of momentum, as he’s averaging 14.0 points (on solid 45.2% shooting), 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists across 30.4 minutes over his last nine games. That sample includes seven double-digit scoring tallies and a six-game streak of one steal apiece. Assuming he can return to action without limitations, Hunter is worthy of a spot in your lineup for the next week.
ALSO CONSIDER: Jae Crowder, Memphis Grizzlies (four games)
Sit: Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings (three games)
Barnes is undeniably spiraling at the moment, making him worthy of a seat on the pine despite a three-game week. The veteran’s latest debacle was a two-point effort on 1-for-8 shooting against the Lakers on Saturday night, and that actually was his third straight single-digit scoring tally. The issue with Barnes is that he can tease with the occasional strong scoring performance and can also put forth solid rebounding contributions at times. However, he’s averaging a pedestrian and inefficient 10.5 points (42.3% shooting, including 25.0% from three-point range) over his last 12 games, making his potential production in the coming week very replaceable.
Sit: Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz (three games)
Ingles put together a particularly strong second half of December and first half of January, but he’s fallen off the map on multiple occasions from a scoring perspective lately. The veteran Aussie has been less than sharp of late, shooting just 38.0%, including 30.3% from distance, over his last eight games. That sample includes seven single-digit scoring tallies for Ingles, whose one saving grace from a fantasy perspective during that slump has been his 6.9 assists per game. That strong figure aside, he’s simply not offering enough elsewhere to warrant serious consideration for your lineup in the coming week.
Start: Nerlens Noel, Oklahoma City Thunder (three games)
Noel has found his groove during his second season in Oklahoma City, and he’s proven worthy of a starting lineup spot if you’re on the thinner side at center or need some help in rebounding. The 2013 lottery pick has averaged 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.4 steals across 22.9 minutes over his last seven games, with four of those featuring Noel in his usual bench role. The difference from earlier in the season has been a tangible boost in playing time, as Noel has logged between 19 and 30 minutes in those contests. Furthering the veteran’s case this week are matchups against the Cavaliers and Pistons, two teams ranked in the bottom half of the league in offensive efficiency rating and rebounds allowed.
Start: Thomas Bryant, Washington Wizards (three games)
Bryant missed a significant swath of playing time earlier in the season due to a foot injury, but he seems to have fully hit his stride 10 games into his comeback. The young big enters the new week with four straight double-digit scoring efforts, including a pair of double-doubles. Bryant is averaging 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists across 22 minutes over his last seven contests overall, and he’s proven capable of churning out strong efforts irrespective of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench.
Sit: Ian Mahinmi, Washington Wizards (three games)
Mahinmi has seen a downturn as Bryant has ascended, as he’s averaging a modest 6.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists over his last five contests. Mahinmi does have an impressive 1.2 blocks per game during that span and still retains the starting job; however, considering Bryant is outproducing him and was the starter to begin the season, the latter is likely to continue eating further into Mahinmi’s opportunity over the coming week, and/or potentially even boot him to the bench.
Sit: Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder (three games)
Adams ties into my other suggestion above, as he’s yielded some minutes to Noel recently. Adams hasn’t logged more than 30 minutes since Jan. 7 and enters the new week with six consecutive single-digit scoring tallies in non-injury-shortened games. H5e’s averaging his fewest shot attempts (7.5 per game) since the 2015-16 season, and he’s shooting just 42.9 over the last seven contests overall. Given the current division of labor at center in OKC, Adams is a risky start on a three-game week.