By Juan Blanco, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Week 18 is our second consecutive short week, although it offers more opportunity across the board than that four-day slate leading up to the All-Star break. We even have one three-game week on tap, while the overwhelming majority of teams have two games on their schedule.
We’ve now had a few games since the trade deadline earlier in the month, so that also influences some of the decisions this week.
Without further ado, let’s examine some of the tougher start/sit decisions for a truncated Week 18:
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES: Chicago Bulls
TEAMS WITH TWO GAMES: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards
TEAMS WITH ONE GAME: Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic
Start: Tomas Satoransky, Chicago Bulls (three games)
The Bulls have more games than any other team this week, and although taking the court three times in four nights isn’t usually ideal, it will come after nine days of extended rest afforded by the All-Star break. That puts Satoransky in play with a schedule that also happens to feature a couple of favorable matchups in the Suns and Wizards. Satoransky also entered the break trending in the right direction, averaging 13.0 points (on 50 percent shooting), 5.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.3 steals across 30 minutes over his last eight contests. That stint included six double-digit scoring efforts, making it one of Satoransky’s best stretches of the season, offensively.
Start: Malik Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves (two games)
Beasley appears poised to finally get a legitimate, extended starting opportunity in Minnesota. The 2016 first-round pick of the Nuggets has averaged 22.0 points (on 42.4% three-point shooting), 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists over 33 minutes per contest in his first three starts with the T-Wolves, as he’s jumped right in and soaked up a significant portion of the production left behind by Andrew Wiggins. Beasley struggled for much of the year as a bench player in Denver, but he was fantastic a season ago, so he offers no shortage of upside as a full-time starter on a fast-paced team that seems to constantly find itself in shootouts.
ALSO CONSIDER: Tim Hardaway, Jr., Dallas Mavericks
Sit: Terry Rozier, Charlotte Hornets (two games)
Rozier missed the Hornets’ last game before the All-Star break with knee soreness, but the extended time off should have taken care of that issue. Rozier struggled in recent games entering the break, as he’s hit just 38.5% of his field goals over his last nine contests, including 31.6% from three-point range. That inefficiency led to five games with 15 points or fewer. And given that Rozier’s ball-handling responsibilities have taken a hit since a move to shooting guard, his production could be surpassed by other guards this week.
Sit: RJ Barrett, New York Knicks (one game)
Barrett recently came back from a nine-game absence due to an ankle issue, but the results were hardly impressive. The rookie averaged just 9.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists across 22.5 minutes over four games, shooting just 30.6%, including an abysmal 12.5% from three-point range. Barrett’s season-long numbers don’t jump off the page either, even as he’s certainly had his scoring spikes. Given recent form and the fact he has just one game on the ledger, Barrett can safely be given a seat on this short week.
Start: Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards (two games)
Hachimura was able to get five games under his belt before the All-Star break following his recovery from a groin injury that cost him well over a month of action. The rookie mostly hit the ground running, displaying no apparent rust while averaging 13.6 points (51.9% shooting, including 42.9% from three-point range), 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists across 27 minutes. Now, having had more than a week to further return to full health, Hachimura sets up as an appealing forward option in the short week. His matchups certainly don’t hurt, either. The Cavaliers are ranked in the bottom half of the league in points per game (22.2) and shooting percentage (46.4) yielded to power forwards, while the Bulls sport the third-lowest rebounding rate (48.1%) in the league.
Start: Juancho Hernangomez, Minnesota Timberwolves (two games)
Hernangomez is another new addition to the Timberwolves by way of Denver who has immediately taken to his new surroundings and expanded opportunity. Slotting in as the starting power forward in place of the departed Robert Covington, Hernangomez averaged 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while shooting 42.9% from behind the arc on an average of 4.7 three-point attempts per contest over his first three games in Minnesota. Hernangomez looks like he has a firm grasp on the starting job as the season resumes, despite having a capable veteran in James Johnson behind him.
ALSO CONSIDER: De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks; Jae Crowder, Miami Heat
Sit: Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers (one game)
George exited the Clippers’ final game before the All-Star break against the Celtics with a hamstring injury. It’s particularly concerning when factoring in he was just eight games into his return from a nine-game absence due to a separate hamstring problem. The star wing certainly has a chance to be back for Los Angeles’ only game this week, which comes versus the Kings on Saturday. Nevertheless, with the chance he could sit out the contest or be limited to an extent, George is a relatively easy bench candidate this week.
Sit: PJ Washington, Charlotte Hornets (two games)
Washington entered the All-Star break in a spiral, averaging 6.6 points (33.9% shooting), 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.0 steal across 27.6 minutes over his last seven games. The rookie no longer has Marvin Williams behind him now that the veteran was bought out, but even with what should continue to be a locked-in role, Washington’s meager production is easily replaceable by another big with at least two games.
Start: Marquese Chriss, Golden State Warriors (two games)
Chriss appears to have truly hit his stride as a starter, as he headed into the All-Star break with averages of 14.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.6 blocks across 25.3 minutes over the last 11 games. The big man saved his best offensive performances for the end of that stint, as he scored 17 to 26 points in his final three games before the layoff. Chriss has also logged at least one block in each of his last seven games, a span that includes five contests with multiple rejections. Just as encouraging was Chriss’ uptick in playing time, as he’s logged 25 minutes or more in each of his last six games.
Start: Thon Maker, Detroit Pistons (two games)
Maker is set to continue as the full-time starting center in the wake of Andre Drummond’s departure, a role in which Maker is already averaging 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks across 28.5 minutes over pre-All-Star-break four contests. The seven-footer is capable of checking off every box on the stat sheet, and he’ll draw a Trail Blazers squad ranked in the bottom 10 in both offensive efficiency rating allowed to centers (33.5) and team rebounding rate (48.7%) in one of his two matchups this week.
Sit: Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic (one game)
Vucevic falls victim to a one-game week this week, making his potential production — impressive as it might be — replaceable by another big with double the opportunity. The veteran did head into the All-Star break with solid momentum, but he’s a replaceable piece this week with only one game on the schedule.
Sit: Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers (two games)
Yes, Thompson had a spectacular send-off into the All-Star break, posting a 27-point, 11-rebound double-double over 26 minutes against the Hawks. However, one has to keep both the opponent and the amount of playing time that Andre Drummond (22 minutes in a blowout victory) saw in mind when evaluating those numbers. Neither circumstance will be the norm moving forward, with Thompson’s 19-minute stint against the Clippers in Drummond’s first start likely a more accurate reflection of what his role will be on most nights.