By Juan Blanco, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Week 15 brings a three-game slate for most of the league, but we do have nine teams with four contests on their schedules. Injuries continue to open up some opportunities around the league, and we’ll look at a couple of players benefitting from such scenarios in this week’s column.
TEAMS WITH FOUR GAMES: Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards
TEAMS WITH TWO GAMES: Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic
Let’s dive into some candidates you should consider starting, or benching, heading into Week 15:
Start: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings (four games)
Bogdanovic was inserted into the starting five on Friday against the Bulls in place of Buddy Hield, as Luke Walton sought to change things up in an effort to snap the Kings’ losing streak. While Bogdanovic contributed a modest 12 points over 26 minutes, the Kings prevailed comfortably, so Walton may continue to roll with Bogdanovic in the lineup for the time being. Whether he’s starting or not, Bogdanovic can contribute across the stat sheet and can pile up the points from distance when he gets hot. Bogdanovic is averaging 14.0 points per game in four contests since returning from injury.
Start: Kris Dunn, Chicago Bulls (four games)
Dunn has notably picked up the pace in recent games, rattling off five straight double-digit scoring tallies while shooting 61.8 percent from the field, including 45.5 percent from three-point range. Dunn is also averaging 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.4 steals across that stretch, corroborating his ability to contribute in multiple categories. The 25 year old appears to have the starting small forward role locked in for the time being, and his significantly improved shooting over the last five contests could be a sign he’s finally starting to hit his stride.
Sit: Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers (two games)
Brogdon will enter the new week having missed consecutive games due to a concussion, so he automatically has a health-related concern attached. However, even if he’s cleared in time for the first game of the new week — Wednesday versus the Bulls — he’ll draw one of the toughest matchups for point guards in that game and then will have just one more chance during the week to put up numbers. He’s been a borderline-All-Star-caliber addition for the Pacers this season, but Brogdon is an easy sit in Week 15.
Sit: Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic (two games)
Fournier is actually in the midst of what is arguably a career-best season, as he’s currently posting career bests in points (19.2), shooting percentage (47.5) and three-point percentage (41.0). He’s averaging an even more impressive 21.1 points over the last seven, but with only a pair of contests on the ledger this coming week, Fournier’s potential contributions of 40-45 points and 5-7 rebounds and assists apiece could well be exceeded by other guards with three or four games.
Start: Dorian Finney-Smith, Dallas Mavericks (four games)
Finney-Smith is far from the first name you think of as a must-start option, but the young wing has upped his contributions across the board. The 26 year old is coming off of back-to-back double-digit rebounding tallies and has six double-digit scoring efforts in his last 11 games. Finney-Smith is averaging a solid 10.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 32.7 minutes over his last 11 games, and just as encouraging is the fact he’s putting up 5.5 three-point attempts per contest over that span. That’s a nice uptick over his season-long figure, and with some favorable opportunities this coming week (vs. OKC, PHO, HOU, and ATL), this is the rare week when starting Finney-Smith is justifiable.
Start: Thaddeus Young, Chicago Bulls (four games)
Lauri Markkanen will be out for multiple weeks due to a pelvic injury, a development that’s already afforded Young a pair of starts at power forward. Young has contributed 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 block across those two games, offering a glimpse of the well-balanced contributions he’s offered in the past. With several other Bulls’ frontcourt players on the shelf alongside Markkanen, Young should be in line for an increased role for several more games. He saw 29 minutes of action Friday against the Kings before matching his season-high with 35 minutes Saturday in Cleveland.
Sit: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves (two games)
After a mid-season slump, Wiggins has been excellent in recent games, which makes it difficult to leave him on the bench. He’s shooting an efficient 48.1% over his last six games, and he enters Week 15 with three straight 22-plus-point games. Nevertheless, the Wolves have only two games on the schedule, including a particularly tough matchup against the Clippers. Wiggins isn’t worth the risk this week.
Sit: Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers (three games)
Anthony has been a rock-solid addition for the Trail Blazers, but he’s still often the third or fourth option. That’s helped lead to a couple of single-digit scoring tallies in recent contests, and Anthony is also struggling from distance over the last eight games, hitting just under 27% of his attempts. With the Lakers and Jazz among his opponents this week — as well as the Blazers getting CJ McCollum back in the mix — consider giving Anthony a rest in Week 15.
Start: Larry Nance, Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers (four games)
Nance is set to continue seeing time at both power forward and center, with the latter role partly due to Ante Zizic’s indefinite absence due to an illness. Naturally, plenty of trade rumors also continue to swirl around Kevin Love, and if the star big is happened to be dealt this coming week, Nance would immediately step into the top job at the four. As it is, Nance has posted three consecutive double-doubles off the bench, and he has four double-digit point tallies in the last five contests. Nance is currently locked into a minutes load in the low-to-mid-20, at minimum, on most nights, and a four-game week leaves him poised to continue offering rewarding returns across the stat sheet.
Start: Marquese Chriss, Golden State Warriors (three games)
The Kings’ Marvin Bagley III is also a consideration here, but his ongoing foot issues did cost him another game Friday and he therefore enters the new week with some health-related question marks. However, despite the fact he has one game less than the ideal four-game ledger, Chriss is now in the role of starting center with the recent trade of Willie Cauley-Stein to the Mavericks. Chriss checks into the new week with three consecutive double-digit scoring efforts, including a 13-point tally over 21 minutes he posted Friday in his first starting opportunity. Playing time for centers is always a concern in coach Steve Kerr’s rotations, but Chriss has certainly proven capable of making very good use of limited minutes on multiple occasions this season.
Sit: Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic (two games)
Vucevic is another player who’s typically an easy start, but his two-game week should push him to the bench for most managers. Vucevic’s scoring has also taken a bit of a dip recently, as he’s failed to reach 20 points in three of his last six contests. He’s still a threat for a double-double each time he takes the floor, but other centers with three- or four-game weeks could exceed Vucevic’s scoring and rebounding contributions.
Sit: Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers (two games)
Turner will enter the new week battling an illness, and then he’ll have just two chances to benefit your lineup during the next seven days. He’s also been in a scoring slump of late, posting single-digit scoring contributions in five of the last six games and not double-doubling since Jan. 13. Provided you have another starting center with at least three games on his schedule this week, feel free to give Turner a seat for the moment.