By Juan Blanco, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
The fantasy basketball season powers into Week 8, and even though we see a bump in teams with two-game schedules — there are four this week — we still have plenty of solid candidates set to take the floor three or four times over the next seven days. A combination of injuries and improved play once again helps us hone in on some strong start candidates this week, while the four teams with just a pair of games mean you’ll likely have some difficult decisions to make.
Without further ado, let’s delve into some candidates to start or leave on the bench in Week 8:
TEAMS WITH FOUR GAMES: Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz
TEAMS WITH TWO GAMES: Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards
Start: Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers (four games)
The Cavs continue to spiral, but Sexton is boasting career-highs in points (17.7) and rebounds (3.1) per game, and he enters his four-game week with a 45.9 field goal percentage over his last five games, a nice improvement over his season-long figure of 43.6 percent. The second-year guard is also putting up 15.5 shot attempts per game, with at least 12 and as many as 21 per contest in every game. While he doesn’t add much in terms of assists, Sexton is an integral part of Cleveland’s offense and has some fast-paced matchups this week (Rockets, Spurs, Bucks), which only enhance his appeal.
Start: Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic (four games)
Fultz seems to slowly but surely be shedding his “bust” label, as he’ll come into the new week having just had his streak of 10 straight double-digit scoring efforts snapped. The third-year guard is still woefully inefficient from long distance, but he’s shooting 49.1% overall while taking most of his attempts from two-point range. Fultz has added value as a decent rebounder for his position, and he’s now averaging 10.1 shot attempts per contest, giving him a nice fantasy floor.
Sit: Isaiah Thomas/Ish Smith, Washington Wizards (two games)
Thomas’ return to relevance has been a nice early season story, but a two-game schedule should keep him on most benches in Week 8. The veteran is also dealing with a calf injury to start the week and has lost playing time in recent games to Smith, who’s been making good use of the opportunity. While both players play in an appealing attack that pushes the pace, the Wizards’ backcourt can be left on the bench in favor of guards with three and four games this coming week.
Sit: C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (two games)
It’s not often you’re going to contemplate a McCollum benching, but his sparse schedule this coming week warrants the tough decision. The sharpshooter will only see the Knicks and Nuggets in Week 8, with that first game being a potential blowout risk. McCollum will be right back to relevance by next week, but consider a one-week respite for him if you’ve got three- and four-game options that could likely eclipse his production.
Start: Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (four games)
Markkanen endured a rough start to his second season, and he’s bounced back recently to average 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists over his last four games while shooting 44.2% from the floor. The big man still ranks outside the top-120 in Yahoo leagues overall, but he’s starting to be more aggressive and has at least seven three-point attempts in each of his last four games. Markkanen’s four-game week will include matchups against the Hawks and Hornets, two teams ranked in the bottom half of the league in three-point percentage allowed.
Start: T.J. Warren, Indiana Pacers (four games)
Warren has proven a strong fit during his first year in Indiana, shooting 51.5% from the field, including 40.5% from three-point range. A lot of his production still primarily comes from scoring, which makes him a borderline-start in some weeks, but the efficiency at which he’s racking up points makes him worthwhile of a spot in the lineup with a four-game schedule. Two of those games come against the Hawks and Hornets — both of which should bring a bump in pace for Indiana.
Sit: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs (two games)
Aldridge is another strong player that will get done in by a two-game schedule this week. San Antonio won’t even take the floor until Thursday, and even if Aldridge keeps playing as well as he has of late, you’re likely only getting around 45 points and 15 rebounds. That production should be fairly easily replicated, or exceeded, by a three- or four-game option on your bench.
Sit: Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks (two games)
Not only does Porzingis draw a two-game schedule, but he’s also struggled to come anywhere close to his expected production in recent games. The big man has between seven and 15 points in four of his last five games, and he’s now shooting a career-worst 39.4% from the floor. That number drops to 36.9% over his last 13 games, and he’s shooting just 31.1% from three in that span. The blocks production has propped up Porzingis’ value, but he’s been a disappointment in virtually all other categories.
Start: Damian Jones, Atlanta Hawks (four games)
Jones gives the Hawks an alternative to the frustratingly inconsistent Alex Len, whose production can typically range from stellar to almost non-existent. Jones scored 16 and 20 points, respectively, in his last two games, while also hauling in eight rebounds in each contest. Just as encouraging is the fact that he’s averaged over 21 minutes per game since taking over as the starter, which positions him well for a four-game week. Jones likely isn’t going to be a significant contributor on the defensive end, but he’s a steady source of rebounds and points with a high field goal percentage — and he’s available in nearly 85% of Yahoo leagues.
Start: Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder (three games)
Adams has bounced back and looked much more like his former self after a slow start to the season. The big man enters Sunday with three double-doubles in the last four games, and he’s raised his shooting percentage back up over 60.0%. Adams is increasingly working better in tandem with Chris Paul, and while there’s some risk on a three-game week, he should still give you 45-50 points with the potential for 30-plus rebounds and a handful of blocks.
Sit: Mortiz Wagner, Washington Wizards (two games)
Wagner has actually done a solid job in his first two games filling in for Thomas Bryant (foot), but the two-game schedule dampens his outlook for the coming week. One of the week’s top waiver wire acquisitions, Wagner showed well with 19 points, nine rebounds, and two steals Friday night, but he’s simply too risky to lock into most lineups — even as he embraces a part-time starting role.
Sit: Aron Baynes, Phoenix Suns (three games)
In terms of per-game production, Baynes remains a top-75 fantasy player this season, but he’s been banged up of late, missing nine of the last 10 games. It’s looking like he could be back in the mix as soon as Monday night, but even before the injury, Baynes had begun to slow down a bit. With three games, Baynes can be left on the bench, and he’ll head into Week 9 as a drop candidate with Deandre Ayton set to return from a 25-game suspension.