Fantasy Basketball Starting Five: Week 12

Each week in the fantasy realm there is always a new story. With new matchups, new performances, and injuries to valued players. There are always moving pieces. The key to being a good fantasy owner and to have supreme power over your opponents is to be aware of the players dominating the NBA.

What this weekly column analyzes is the best players at each position in the NBA, and pieces together the dream fantasy team. Now, granted the week would not be concluded at that moment in time but with the short amount of games from Sundays-Thursdays, you as a fantasy owner and reader have a good idea of who put together the best performances from the week. 

Russell Westbrook

3 GP – 29 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 11.3 APG, 1 SPG, 55.0 FG%, 33.3 3 PT%, 69.2 FT%

Averaging a triple-double and leading the Thunder to a perfect 2-0 record in 2018, gifts Westbrook his fourth position on this list. Westbrook recorded his 12th and 13th triple-double of the season this week versus the Dallas Mavericks on December 31st and the Los Angelas Clippers on January 4th. He kicked off his spectacular week when the visiting Dallas Mavericks traveled to Oklahoma City. Westbrook contributed 38 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists in the disappointing 116-113 loss to the Mavs. Westbrook shot a spectacular 17-28 from the field and much like last week, he did not rely on the three ball at all to get his high scoring total.

Westbrook would then travel to his native West Coast and play the two teams that call the Staples Center home (Lakers & Clippers). His first task was to play against the struggling and Lonzo-less Lakers, not a problem. The Thunder and Westbrook made light work of the Lakers, defeating them 133-96. In another strong outing, Westbrook added 20 points on 10-17 shooting, six rebounds, and 12 assists in only 28 minutes played. Closing out his performance inside the Staples Center the following day, the Thunder were able to take down the Clippers in front of a national audience in a tough 127-117 victory. The Clippers had just as much luck as the Mavericks and Lakers while guarding Westbrook this week, as he logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists versus the Clips.

For fantasy purposes, Westbrook might not have given you, the fantasy owner, the free throws (9-13) and three-pointers you would expect from a high volume scorer. However, he pretty much gave you everything else he carries in his repertoire which includes points, rebounds, assists and even steals. With the Thunder now sitting as the fourth seed in the Western Conference, they are buoyed by the performance of their superstar Westbrook who is making his case stronger for MVP with each triple-double and win that he logs.

DeMar DeRozan

2 GP – 43.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 7 APG, 2 SPG, 55.1 FG%, 58.5 3 PT%, 100 FT%

Keeping with the theme of Southern California natives, the Compton-born DeMar DeRozan broke out this week and earned himself his second selection onto this fantasy list. When DeRozan went off for a career-high 52 points on New Year’s day versus the Milwaukee Bucks, he would all but guarantee his position on this list. In that game versus the Bucks, he would shoot an efficient 17-29 from the field and tack on five three-pointers while going a perfect 13-13 from the charity stripe. The Raptors would eventually triumph over the Bucks in an exciting overtime finish, 131-127.

DeRozan was not done as he kept rolling when the Raptors came into to Chicago to play the Bulls. The success from beyond the arc continued for DeRozan versus the Bulls as five of his eight three-point attempts found the bottom of the net. Chicago could not limit his scoring totals as his 35 points scored was a game-high in Toronto’s 124-115 win over the Bulls. The free-throw line has been kind to DeRozan recently as he was able to knock down 10-10 from the free throw line Wednesday night, making him a perfect 23-23 on the week and an insane 45-49 since December 21st.

DeRozan is in line to earn his fourth All-Star bid given his play in the first half of the season. With the high scoring production (25.1 PPG) and high shooting efficiency (48.5 FG%), he might be in line to get many votes from fantasy owners as the top fantasy shooting guard.

Jimmy Butler

3 GP – 28 PPG, 4 RPG, 6 APG, 2.6 SPG, 54.7 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 92.5 FT%

‘Jimmy Buckets’ did his thing this week and proved he is deserving of his nickname. In his first season with the Timberwolves, he has taken over as their leading scorer and ignites their offense each night. In achieving his second nomination on this list, Butler showcased his consistent scoring capabilities to go along with his defensive prowess. The three-time All-Defensive second team member continued his label of being one of the better two-way players in today’s NBA as he gathered eight steals in just three games.

In the Timberwolves first game of the week, they took on their non-conference opponent, the Indiana Pacers, Sunday night and defeated them with ease, 107-90. In the victory, it was Butler who would put forth an uber-efficient night scoring 26 points on 8-11 shooting from the field while also collecting three steals.

The second game of a back-to-back for the Timberwolves saw them play host to the visiting Lakers on New Year’s day. Minnesota would hand the purple and gold their sixth straight loss at the time and second defeat at the hands of Minnesota within seven days. The combination of scoring and defense for Butler continued through the Timberwolves 114-96 victory over Los Angeles as Butler added 28 points, nine assists, and three steals. In the last game of the week for the Timberwolves, they lost a heartbreaker 98-97 to the Brooklyn Nets where Butler achieved his highest scoring output for the week with 30 points and got his hands on two steals

In having Butler on your fantasy team, you are getting a player who is scoring consistently and is achieving his highest field goal percentage of his career (47.3%). Butler has gotten the Timberwolves in a good position to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons. If he is able to achieve this feat, it would end the longest active playoff drought that currently exists in the NBA.

Ben Simmons

2 GP – 23.5 PPG, 7 RPG, 5 APG, 3 SPG, 2 BPG, 51.7 FG%, 0 3 PT% (0-1)65.3 FT%

For the second time on this list, it is the positionless rookie who continues to create excitement in the city of brotherly love, Ben Simmons. While Simmons plays a lot of the point for the 76ers, on ESPN Fantasy, Simmons is listed as both point guard and power forward (good for all you fantasy owners who don’t value power forwards).

In the 76ers first game of the week taking place Sunday night at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Pheonix, Simmons helped get Philadelphia a 123-110 win by contributing 21 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. His offensive skillset is enough to warrant his position him on this list, but it is his defensive domination that catapulted him above all else at this position. In Sunday’s game versus the Suns, Simmons was pestering the Pheonix offense all night as he was able to swat away three shots and pick up three steals.

Rounding out the fantasy week, the 76ers and Simmons would have to deal with LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, and the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night. Fortunately for the crazed Sixers fans that hold a special spot in their heart for their hometown team, the Sixers would emerge victorious 112-106. Thanks in part to how Simmons performed in that game going 8-18 from the field adding 10 free throws which resulted in him totaling 26 points. Simmons would also muster up another three steal game and dished out four assists while inhaling five rebounds.

One should not be surprised that they are seeing a rookie make this list yet again as he keeps on performing to the pleasure of many happy fantasy owners. As much as we love Simmons’ teammate ‘The Process’ AKA Joel Embiid (you will read about him shortly), this team goes as far as their rookie guard/forward will take them. With a shared workload between the two, it comes as no surprise that this team is on the rise and making noise in the Eastern Conference.

Joel Embiid

2 GP – 21.5 PPG, 10 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1 SPG, 3 BPG, 53.8 FG%, 0 3 PT% (0-5), 78.9 FT%

The 76ers are a different team when their star big man Joel Embiid is out of the lineup. With Embiid, they are a team that plays confident and loose while feeding off his energy and high level of play. Without him, the 76ers are a team that the NBA is all too familiar with in terms of them selecting in the lottery and would most likely end up back there without ‘the process’.

The fantasy performance that Embiid had this week started with the 76ers matchup with the Suns Sunday night. Embiid was able to score 22 points while shooting 8-14 from the field without achieving any points from beyond the arc. Also versus the Suns, Embiid added nine rebounds, five assists, one steal, and two blocks. The game that led to Embiid being chosen for this list was his statistical output he put forth versus the Spurs on Wednesday night, scoring 21 points, bringing down 11 boards, and tallying four assists and four blocks.

This is the third time and second consecutive appearance on this weekly fantasy list for Embiid. With Simmons running the show in Philadelphia, it is Embiid who is solidifying himself as this team’s franchise cornerstone and possibly emerging as one of, if not the best center in the NBA.

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