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Week 1 Fantasy Basketball Planner

Sergio Gonzalez
Fantasy Writer

Our weekly Fantasy Basketball Planner is the essential guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming scoring period. Every week, we provide you with news and notes for each team, tracking hot and cold players, injuries and rotation changes.

Atlanta Hawks
Schedule: @MEM, @PHI, WAS
Good Plays: Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Jamal Crawford
Bad Plays: Jeff Teague, Marvin Williams, Mike Bibby
Tough Call: None
Injury Report: Jeff Teague (ankle/probable)
Notes: The Hawks have announced that Mike Bibby will start at the point, but we still see Jeff Teague having more value in the long term. All three opponents allowed 100-plus points per game last season. Should be a high-scoring week off the bench for Jamal Crawford, who enters a contract year.

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Boston Celtics
Schedule: MIA, @CLE, NY
Good Plays: Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen
Bad Plays: Jermaine O'Neal, Shaquille O'Neal, Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Glen Davis
Tough Call: None
Injury Report: Jermaine O'Neal (hand/day-to-day), Kendrick Perkins (knee/February)
Notes: The Celtics will be playing with something to prove against the new "Big Three" at home against Miami on opening night. Expect them to play that game with a little something extra. After that, two games against weak defensive teams in the Cavaliers and Knicks. This should be a high-scoring week out of the gate for the core four of Boston. Jermaine O'Neal should play, but we are not comfortable with the dynamics at center with the two O'Neals yet. Let that situation develop.

Charlotte Bobcats
Schedule: @DAL, IND, @MIL
Good Plays: Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, Tyrus Thomas
Bad Plays: D.J. Augustin, Shaun Livingston
Tough Call: None
Injury Report: Shaun Livingston (knee/day-to-day), Kwame Brown (ankle/day-to-day)
Notes: We like Augustin in the long-term, but matchups against solid point guards in Jason Kidd, Darren Collison and Brandon Jennings should be used more as a measuring stick than a source for Fantasy production. We will have a better idea of his potential for a big year as the replacement for Raymond Felton after Week 1. For larger leagues, Tyrus Thomas makes for a decent low-end starter coming off a strong preseason.

Chicago Bulls
Schedule: @OKC, DET
Good Plays: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng
Bad Plays: Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver
Tough Call: Taj Gibson
Injury Report: Joakim Noah (flu/probable), Carlos Boozer (hand/December)
Notes: In cumulative formats, keep in mind that the Bulls are one of just five teams to play just two games this week. Rose should start regardless, but the status of Noah and Deng may come into play in smaller leagues.The use of Taj Gibson depends on your league size. He is a sleeper for the first month of the season with Boozer out, but he should be saved for deeper leagues or average-based play.

Sergio's Sleepers for Week 1
* Sleepers are players started in less than 70 percent of leagues
Player Start %
1. Jrue Holiday, G, PHI 65
2. Udonis Haslem, F, MIA 49
3. Al Harrington, F, DEN 36
4. Wilson Chandler, F, NY 54
5. Terrence Williams, G, NJ 36
6. Drew Gooden, F, MIL 33
7. Jason Thompson, F, SAC 62
8. DeMarcus Cousins, C, SAC 68
9. Timofey Mozgov, C, NY 12
10. Luke Ridnour, G, MIN 20

Cleveland Cavaliers
Schedule: BOS, @TOR, SAC
Good Plays: Mo Williams, J.J. Hickson
Bad Plays: Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson
Tough Call: Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, Ramon Sessions
Injury Report: Daniel Gibson (neck/probable), Joey Graham (quadriceps/probable)
Notes: The Cavaliers have decided to start J.J. Hickson over Antawn Jamison at power forward. Hickson is a strong breakout candidate entering the season and should benefit from weak front court opposition in Toronto and Sacramento. Jamison should also. We expect the Cavaliers to play both players plenty, possibly at the expense of Anderson Varejao, who should be reserved for now. We love Ramon Sessions as a sleeper, and the Cavs are sure to be full of surprises this year in the post-LeBron era, but Week 1 is too soon to take any chances.

Dallas Mavericks
Schedule: CHA, MEM, @LAC
Good Plays: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Caron Butler
Bad Plays: Tyson Chandler, Roddy Beaubois
Tough Call: Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood
Injury Report: Tyson Chandler (hand/day-to-day), Roddy Beaubois (foot/Early November)
Notes: We do like Jason Terry this week given what should be a couple of high-scoring games against the Grizzlies and Clippers. Brendan Haywood is just off the fringe of starters in leagues that require two centers and should be saved for deeper leagues this week. He is not coming off a strong preseason, but will be of use based on matchups over the course of the season. Shawn Marion is a very unattractive play, but it depends on your options.

Denver Nuggets
Schedule: UTA, @NO, @HOU
Good Plays: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene
Bad Plays: Ty Lawson
Tough Call: J.R. Smith, Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo
Injury Report: Al Harrington (foot/day-to-day), J.R. Smith (quadriceps/day-to-day), Chris Andersen (knee/December), Kenyon Martin (knee/January)
Notes: Smith and Harrington are dealing with minor injuries and both are expected to play. With Kenyon Martin out of the mix until January, Harrington is a sleeper for numbers in the paint -- not only as a scorer, but as a rebounder as well. Smith averaged good numbers against the Jazz and Rockets last season. We view him as a solid No. 4 guard option in standard leagues.

Detroit Pistons
Schedule: @NJ, OKC, @CHI
Good Plays: Rodney Stuckey
Bad Plays: Will Bynum, Austin Daye, Charlie Villanueva, Tracy McGrady, Greg Monroe, Ben Wallace
Tough Call: Ben Gordon
Injury Report: Ben Gordon (shoulder/day-to-day), Will Bynum (hamstring/day-to-day), Tracy McGrady (knee/day-to-day), Jonas Jerebko (Achilles'/February)
Notes: The Pistons are mess -- from a Fantasy standpoint -- going into the season. Austin Daye has been named the starter coming off a strong preseason and he oozes upside, but Charlie Villanueva is around and threatens to cut into his production. Avoid both until that situation straightens itself out. In the back court, there was some talk about moving Will Bynum into the starting lineup over Rodney Stuckey, but Bynum is banged up and looks like a real question mark for the first game or two. Stuckey remains the team's only "must-start."

Golden State Warriors
Schedule: HOU, LAC, @LAL
Good Plays: Stephen Curry, David Lee, Monta Ellis
Bad Plays: Reggie Williams, Dorell Wright
Tough Call: Andris Biedrins
Injury Report: Stephen Curry (ankle/probable), Dorell Wright (knee/probable)
Notes: It is time to find out what the "new" Warriors will look like under Keith Smart. No more Don Nelson means no more wacky rotations, but also no more inflated box scores. Curry, Lee and Ellis should be just fine. But the days of fringe players like Reggie Williams and Dorrell Wright getting a boost just because they see minutes are probably over. We like Andris Biedrins as a sleeper for a bounce-back this year if he can stay healthy, but he will be banging bodies with Yao Ming, Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol this week. That makes him a very low-end play.

Houston Rockets
Schedule: @LAL, @GS, DEN
Good Plays: Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola
Bad Plays: Courtney Lee, Brad Miller, Shane Battier, Chase Buddinger, Kyle Lowry
Tough Call: Yao Ming
Injury Report: Kyle Lowry (back/probable), Chuck Hayes (ankle/probable)
Notes: The return of Yao Ming will be a major point of focus early on, but we recommend letting the situation play itself out before activating him. The 24-minute restriction and overall rust of not having playing at all last season make this a wait-and-see situation.

Indiana Pacers
Schedule: @SA, @CHA, PHI
Good Plays: Danny Granger, Darren Collison, Roy Hibbert
Bad Plays: Mike Dunleavy, Josh McRoberts, Tyler Hansbrough, T.J. Ford, Brandon Rush, Dahntay Jones
Tough Call: None
Injury Report: Danny Granger (ankle/probable), T.J. Ford (hamstring/probable)
Notes: The Pacers are likely in for low-scoring games against the Spurs and Bobcats, two teams that allowed under 97 ppg last season. Granger, Collison and Hibbert should be fine, but avoid fringe options this week. Keep an eye on the McRoberts/Hansbrough situation early on, but neither player is worth starting yet.

L.A. Clippers
Schedule: POR, @GS, DAL
Good Plays: Chris Kaman, Baron Davis, Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon
Bad Plays: Rasual Butler, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Al-Farouq Aminu
Tough Call: None
Injury Report: Blake Griffin (ankle/probable), Eric Gordon (ankle/probable), Ryan Gomes (knee/probable)
Notes: The injuries to Griffin and Gordon are minor and neither player is expected to be limited.

L.A. Lakers
Schedule: HOU, @PHO, GS
Good Plays: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom
Bad Plays: Derek Fisher, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown
Tough Call: Ron Artest
Injury Report: Lamar Odom (thumb, nose/probable), Andrew Bynum (knee/late November)
Notes: Kobe Bryant was limited all preseason to ease the burden on his sore knee. While he has declared himself ready to go for the regular season, coach Phil Jackson has stated that he expects there to be a transition period early in the season in terms of easing him into more playing time. You may not get a 100 percent Kobe for a week or two, but whatever version of Kobe you get should be more than enough. Without Andrew Bynum for the first month of the season, players like Lamar Odom will creep up the depth chart and get a chance to step up. We also expect that to have a trickle-down effect to Ron Artest as it has in the past. He is no longer a "great" start in Fantasy, but he could be suitable as a low-end play in deeper leagues this week given favorable matchups against three teams that allowed well over 100 points per game last year.

Memphis Grizzlies
Schedule: ATL, @DAL, MIN
Good Plays: Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo
Bad Plays: Hasheem Thabeet, Xavier Henry, Darrell Arthur
Tough Call: Marc Gasol, Mike Conley
Injury Report: Marc Gasol (ankle/day-to-day), Greivis Vasquez (ankle/doubtful), Acie Law (hip/day-to-day)
Notes: Marc Gasol suffered a high-ankle sprain in practice on Sunday night and will likely be a game-time decision for Wednesday's opener. That will put Fantasy owners in a bind on lineup deadline day having to make a decision without knowing whether or not he will play. An MRI on Monday revealed a Grade-2 sprain, which is not terribly serious, but he could easily miss the first game or two. Our recommendation is to play it safe. As for Mike Conley, we don't like the first two matchups against Atlanta or Dallas, but he could be in for inflated numbers against a Timberwolves team that does not play a lot of defense. He is a viable No. 4 guard in deeper leagues this week.

Miami Heat
Schedule: @BOS, @PHI, ORL, @NJ
Good Plays: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
Bad Plays: Carlos Arroyo, Mario Chalmers, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Joel Anthony, Jerry Stackhouse
Tough Call: Udonis Haslem
Injury Report: Dwyane Wade (hamstring/probable), Mike Miller (thumb, ankle/January)
Notes: No tough call with Wade. He is going to play. And while there may be some rust and some growing pains alongside the likes of LeBron and Bosh, there is no reason he should not still put up big numbers. The fact that the Heat are the only team in the NBA this week with four games makes Udonis Haslem an excellent play in cumulative formats. Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony have been named starters, but there is very little Fantasy upside for either player.

Milwaukee Bucks
Schedule: @NO, @MIN, CHA
Good Plays: Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut, John Salmons
Bad Plays: Ersan Ilyasova, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Tough Call: Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette, Carlos Delfino
Injury Report: John Salmons (knee/probable), Chris Douglas-Roberts (eye/day-to-day), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (ankle/day-to-day), Michael Redd (knee/February)
Notes: Carlos Delfino appears to be the starter at small forward for the Bucks, but we expect him and Maggette will split time evenly. That will limit both in Fantasy and makes them worth avoiding where possible until the situation can straighten itself out. We like Drew Gooden as a sleeper for close to 10-and-10 as the starting power forward.

Best Fantasy Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Heat @BOS, @PHI, ORL, @NJ
2. Kings @MIN, @NJ, @CLE
3. Jazz @DEN, PHO, @OKC
4. Lakers HOU, @PHO, GS
5. Timberwolves SAC, MIL, @MEM

Minnesota Timberwolves
Schedule: SAC, MIL, @MEM
Good Plays: Kevin Love, Michael Beasley
Bad Plays: Anthony Tolliver
Tough Call: Corey Brewer, Luke Ridnour, Darko Milicic
Injury Report: Jonny Flynn, (hip/early November), Wesley Johnson (hamstring/probable), Martell Webster (back/late November)
Notes: Jonny Flynn is expected to be out for at least a week or two, meaning Luke Ridnour will have a chance to run the point. He has favorable matchups against the Kings and Grizzlies and makes for an interesting sleeper this week for deep leagues. The absence of Corey Brewer also makes him a sleeper in deep leagues. Remember, he got off to a hot start seemingly out of nowhere a year ago. Darko Milicic will be helpful down the line, but he is not a player who should be in a Week 1 lineup.

New Jersey Nets
Schedule: DET, SAC, MIA
Good Plays: Brook Lopez, Devin Harris
Bad Plays: Troy Murphy, Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar, Kris Humphries
Tough Call: Terrence Williams, Anthony Morrow, Derrick Favors
Injury Report: Troy Murphy (back, groin/doubtful)
Notes: Troy Murphy is unlikely to play in the team's opener. Kris Humphries is likely to fill in but is not a good play in Fantasy without guaranteed playing time all week. Derrick Favors has far more upside among the players that could see a boost, but is still not someone we recommend starting. Terrence Williams has some breakout appeal coming off a strong second half a year ago. Keep an eye on him and he may even be worth starting in deeper leagues.

New Orleans Hornets
Schedule: MIL, DEN, @SA
Good Plays: Chris Paul, David West, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor
Bad Plays: Marcus Thornton, Peja Stojakovic, Marco Belinelli
Tough Call: None
Injury Report: Marcus Thornton (Achilles')
Notes: Marcus Thornton is coming off a very weak preseason and is banged up. This is a no-brainer.

New York Knicks
Schedule: @TOR, @BOS, POR
Good Plays: Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari
Bad Plays: Toney Douglas
Tough Call: Wilson Chandler, Anthony Randolph, Timofey Mozgov
Injury Report: Danilo Gallinari (wrist/probable), Kelenna Azubuike (knee/out indefinitely)
Notes: Gallinari is dealing with a wrist injury that may have been the cause of his poor shooting in the preseason, but the team calls the ailment minor. He remains a must-start. Wilson Chandler could play off the bench to start the year, but he will see starter's minutes either way. As long as he gets those minutes, he'll be able to average mid-teens in scoring. Timofey Mozgov will start at center for the Knicks and makes for a strong sleeper.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Schedule: CHI, @DET, UTA
Good Plays: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green
Bad Plays: Nenad Krstic, Serge Ibaka, Cole Aldrich
Tough Call: James Harden
Injury Report: Serge Ibaka (wrist/day-to-day), Nick Collison (knee/mid-November)
Notes: James Harden will likely see big minutes at the shooting guard spot this season for Oklahoma City and it starts with Week 1. Unfortunately, he will be up against three strong defensive teams, which limits his appeal to the deepest of leagues. He'll be of help down the line, though, we are sure of it.

Orlando Magic
Schedule: WAS, MIA
Good Plays: Dwight Howard
Bad Plays: Brandon Bass, Chris Duhon, J.J. Redick, Quentin Richardson
Tough Call: Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson
Injury Report: Jason Williams (knee/day-to-day)
Notes: The Magic are one of just five teams to play two games this week, making players like Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson tough plays. In average-based play, they are safe bets. In cumulative leagues, we recommend reserving them in favor of players with three games.

Philadelphia 76ers
Schedule: MIA, ATL, @IND
Good Plays: Andre Iguodala
Bad Plays: Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, Spencer Hawes, Marreese Speights, Andres Nocioni
Tough Call: Jrue Holiday, Elton Brand, Evan Turner
Injury Report: Andre Iguodala (wrist/day-to-day), Spencer Hawes (back/day-to-day)
Notes: Jrue Holiday is coming off a big second half last season and he will be the starting point guard from Day 1 for the first time in his career. We love him as a breakout player and fully endorse starting him out of the gate even in standard leagues. Evan Turner -- the No. 2 overall pick in this summer's draft -- is coming off a very weak preseason and is not looking like a good play just yet. Elton Brand entered camp in great shape, but his preseason was unimpressive and he remains little more than a No. 4 forward entering the season.

Phoenix Suns
Schedule: @POR, @UTA, LAL
Good Plays: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson
Bad Plays: Grant Hill, Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress, Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley
Tough Call: Hedo Turkoglu, Channing Frye, Robin Lopez
Injury Report: Josh Childress (finger/day-to-day)
Notes: Hedo Turkoglu is a candidate for a bounce-back season in a Phoenix system that fits his style of play, but coming off a weak preseason and a poor overall year last season with Toronto, he does not appear to be a very strong play. Avoid activating him until he can show some signs of a resurgence. Three tough defensive battles against the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Lakers does not bode well for big weeks out of reserve center options like Frye and Lopez.

Portland Trail Blazers
Schedule: PHO, @LAC, @NY
Good Plays: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Miller, Marcus Camby
Bad Plays: Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, Wesley Matthews
Tough Call: None
Injury Report: Marcus Camby (hip/probable), Nicolas Batum (shoulder/day-to-day), Wesley Matthews (Achilles'/probable), Joel Przybilla (knee/out indefinitely), Greg Oden (knee/December)
Notes: Wesley Matthews is coming off a strong preseason, but he is not going to be an appealing Fantasy option outside of leagues where 10-12 points per game will be of help. Rudy Fernandez is a strong 3-point shooter, but he is far too inconsistent to trust, especially in Week 1 when you should not be dealing with many injuries.

Sacramento Kings
Schedule: @MIN, @NJ, @CLE
Good Plays: Tyreke Evans, Carl Landry
Bad Plays: Samuel Dalembert, Omrio Casspi, Francisco Garcia, Donte Greene
Tough Call: DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Beno Udrih
Injury Report: Samuel Dalembert (hip/day-to-day)
Notes: The Kings (and Fantasy owners) will be without Tyreke Evans for the first game of the season as he serves a suspension. But he should make up for it with favorable matchups against the Nets and Cavaliers. He is a safe play even in cumulative formats. Samuel Dalembert will miss the first game of the season, but hopes to return on Friday. However, he has yet to receive clearance from the team and is too risky to play in any format -- even average-based leagues. His absence will make rookie DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson strong sleepers for Week 1, especially in leagues that require two centers. Beno Udrih has some appeal as a No. 4 guard this week as well with Evans gone for a game and favorable matchups all week.

Worst Fantasy Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Wizards @ORL, @ATL
2. Bulls @OKC, @DET
3. Magic WAS, @MIA
4. Spurs IND, NO
5. Suns @POR, @UTA, LAL

San Antonio Spurs
Schedule: IND, NO
Good Plays: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker
Bad Plays: George Hill, Richard Jefferson
Tough Call: DeJuan Blair
Injury Report: Tiago Splitter (calf/out for Oct. 27)
Notes: Tiago Splitter's absence for the opener likely means big minutes for DeJuan Blair. However, while he has some strong sleeper appeal in average-based play this week, Blair should be reserved in cumulative leagues due to the two-week slate.

Toronto Raptors
Schedule: NY, CLE
Good Plays: Andrea Bargnani
Bad Plays: Jarrett Jack, Linas Kleiza, Jose Calderon, Leandro Barbosa, Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan
Tough Call: None.
Injury Report: Leandro Barbosa (wrist/probable)
Notes: The Raptors have nice sleeper potential in players like Linas Kleiza and Amir Johnson, but they should not be starting this week outside of deeper average-based leagues.

Utah Jazz
Schedule: @DEN, PHO, @OKC
Good Plays: Deron Williams, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap
Bad Plays: Mehmet Okur, Raja Bell, Earl Watson, Gordon Hayward
Tough Call: Andrei Kirilenko
Injury Report: Mehmet Okur (ankle/day-to-day), C.J. Miles (ankle/day-to-day)
Notes: The Jazz have excellent matchups against the Nuggets and Suns to begin the year -- two teams that allowed over 102 points per game a season ago. With Andrei Kirilenko getting the nod as the starter over C.J. Miles at small forward, he makes for a decent play in larger leagues this week. Mehmet Okur has not been given a timetable for a return, making him a player to avoid in all weekly formats.

Washington Wizards
Schedule: @ORL, @ATL
Good Plays: Andray Blatche
Bad Plays: Kirk Hinrich, JaVale McGee, Yi Jianlian, Al Thornton, Josh Howard
Tough Call: John Wall, Gilbert Arenas
Injury Report: Gilbert Arenas (groin/day-to-day), Josh Howard (knee/early November)
Notes: John Wall has looked like a superstar in the making and has the potential to make the same kind of impact Tyreke Evans did a year ago and maybe even more. However, a two-game scoring period against two of the better defensive teams in the league makes him a low-end starter for Week 1. Gilbert Arenas has looked distant and unmotivated in the preseason and is now dealing with a groin injury? We'll pass on him this week, though we do think he still has plenty to offer down the road. JaVale McGee looks like a potential breakout candidate coming off another strong preseason and after developing good rapport with Wall, but this is not the week to activate him.

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Player News
Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers |
(9/17/2014) Last season was a rough one for Omer Asik, who had to deal with returning to a reserve role after really shining as a starter the previous year. He should be much happier with his role this season, as the Pelicans acquired him this offseason with the intention of installing him as the starting center.

The Pelicans should have a fearsome frontcourt with Asik starting next to Anthony Davis, and Davis' presence should free Asik up to do the kind of work he excels at. Asik isn't a great offensive player, but he can be a dominant offensive rebounder, and should have many chances to clean up the boards with teams keying in on Davis offensively. Among players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Asik is 22nd all-time in offensive rebounding percentage.

Asik had trouble staying healthy last season, but that was the first time he had ever missed a regular-season game in his career, so we can probably write that off as a fluke. He averaged a double-double with 1.1 blocks per game in 30.0 minutes per game two years ago, and should be capable of similar production as he returns to a starting role.

Asik should be viewed as a starting Fantasy option this season, though he may not have the upside of some other younger centers at this point. 

Tobias Harris' Fantasy value a mystery at this point
by Chris Towers |
(9/17/2014) Perception is a funny thing. Just ask Magic forward Tobias Harris, who enjoyed by far the most productive season of his career in 2013-14 but was somehow viewed as a Fantasy disappointment.

Part of that stemmed from Harris' issues with availability, as he missed 20 games and got off to a slow start to the season as a result. It really took until January for Harris to find his stride, but he averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Jan. 1 on, without missing a contest.

Harris was probably better than the general perception of him a year ago, but the power of expectations hurt him. And now he enters his fourth season as something of a career crossroads, and it is hard to say just how Fantasy owners should approach him this season.

The Magic added Channing Frye and Aaron Gordon to the roster this season, further confusing what was already one of the most crowded frontcourts in the league. Harris can play both forward spots, but he is probably best used as a small-ball power forward; the presence of Frye, one of the league's elite stretch-fours certainly complicates matters for Harris, then.

At just 22, Harris still has a world of potential ahead of him. However, he probably profiles best as a reserve Fantasy option heading into the season, given concerns about his role.   

Hype may be too high for Giannis Antetokounmpo
by Chris Towers |
(9/17/2014) No matter what he accomplishes in his second NBA season, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to be a historical outlier, given his age. The question is, how much of a leap can the now-20-year-old take next season.

Only 15 players in NBA history have logged as many minutes in a single season as a teenager as Antetokounmpo's 1,897, so he is occupying fairly rarified air already. His age is a big part of why he is considered a big-time breakout prospect for Fantasy purposes, but he has a long way to go from a statistical standpoint.

Antetokounmpo was good for a 19-year-old rookie, but his season averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game left a lot to be desired. It is easy to dream about a Antetokounmpo taking a big step forward, but that next step is never guaranteed -- for every Anthony Davis there is a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist whose development follows a slower, less linear path. 

Antetokounmpo was very good -- for a 19-year-old. However, Fantasy owners don't get extra points, rebounds or assists if the degree of difficulty is higher, so you are betting on Giannis taking a huge step forward at the age of 20. Antetokounmpo has become something of an internet darling, and his play in Summer League and the FIBA World Cup dominated much of the offseason discussion, which only helped build the hype to potentially unsustainable levels. 

He is a lottery ticket, for sure, but he is one that might not be worth the cost at this point. 

Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers |
(9/17/2014) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the breakout season many expected from him a year ago, but there were still plenty of flaws apparent in his game as he finished his third NBA season. With a better team around him, Butler just might have enough help to vault him to stardom.

Butler's jump shot abandoned him last season, especially after a toe injury forced him to miss 11 games in November and December. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range prior to the injury, but connected on just 39.3 percent of his shots overall and 27.1 percent from three-point range from that point on.

We can blame Butler's season-long shooting slump on the injury or his increased offensive role, but he should have neither excuse available for him this season. Butler should be healthy, and the Bulls added plenty of offensive firepower this offseason, in the form of Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott, not to mention a hopefully healthy Derrick Rose. Butler took 154 shots off the dribble last season, per, and made just 30.7 percent of them. With a better team around him, Butler should get many more opportunities to shoot with his feet set.

Butler has the skill set to be a tremendously efficient offensive player, given how often he bullies his way to the free-throw line. Last season, Butler filled up the box score extremely well, but his poor shooting limited his Fantasy value somewhat. If a new role helps his efficiency, he could be one of the very best guards in the league in category-based formats. 

Lance Stephenson set for bigger role in new setting
by Chris Towers |
(9/17/2014) Though there were fits and starts, Lance Stephenson finally began to live up to his considerable promise last season. Now in a new home in Charlotte, will Stephenson take another step forward in 2014-15?

By the end of last season, the Pacers were a mess, and Stephenson caught plenty of the blame for that. Still, he might have been arguably the team's most consistent player throughout the season, averaging between 25.8 and 29.7 Fantasy points per game from before and after the All-Star break as well as the playoffs. For as much of a mess as that team was, Stephenson emerged as something of a rock, at least for Fantasy purposes.

The Hornets are actually built in a somewhat similar way to the Pacers, so there wont' be much of a stylistic shift for Stephenson to get used to. Per, 11.8 percent of the then-Bobcats' possessions ended in post-ups, actually down from the 13.2 percent mark the Pacers' posted. Stephenson struggled at times with his post-entry passing, though his off-target feeds might find their mark more often when being lobbed in to the soft hands of Al Jefferson, as opposed to Roy Hibbert.

The Hornets might lean even more heavily on Stephenson than the Pacers did, since Indiana liked to spread the ball around with their starting five. The Hornets, on the other hand, look to be extremely top-heavy, and Stephenson will get plenty of chances to be the second or third option. We have him projected for 29.1 Fantasy points per game, and consider Stephenson a borderline top-50 Fantasy option for this season.  

Move to Houston won't alter Trevor Ariza's trajectory
by Chris Towers |
(9/17/2014) Trevor Ariza parlayed a career-year into a lucrative free-agency contract with the Rockets this offseason -- stop me if you've heard this story before.

Ariza was largely a disappointment in his first stint with the Rockets, though it did lead him to the best per-game numbers of his career. Still, Ariza was obviously miscast as a primary offensive option the last time he was in Houston, and that won't be a problem this time around.

Ariza joins a Rockets team with two established stars, and will likely spend much of his time trying to fill the departed Chandler Parsons' role. That should suit him nicely, as Ariza has just enough of an off-the-bounce game to serve as the team's third ballhandler when the shot clock gets deep. Ariza attempted 11.1 field-goal attempts per game last season, and should see a boost given Parsons' role; he attempted 13.3 shots per game.

Ariza's improved three-point shot seems legitimate, as he is shooting 38.6 percent from long range over 738 attempts since 2012. However, he will no longer have John Wall feeding him for juicy corner 3-pointers; Wall to Ariza was the league's most productive corner-three combination last season. His shooting numbers may take a hit with his move.

Even acknowledging the loss of Wall's help, we know the Houston offense is set up to get every player the most efficient shots possible, so Ariza shouldn't see much of a dip in his efficiency. His ability to fill up the box score makes him a perfect No. 2 option at forward in category-based leagues, especially now that he is a high-volume shooter. 

Despite new role, don't write off Isaiah Thomas entirely
by Chris Towers |
(9/17/2014) Suns guard Isaiah Thomas might see one of the biggest dropoffs in his Fantasy value from last season to this, as he joins the crowded Suns' backcourt.

The Suns might have three All-Star caliber guards in the backcourt now, with Thomas likely to backup Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe this season. That should put a serious dent in Thomas' value; Thomas finished 13th in Fantasy scoring among guards a year ago, but is projected to finish just 43rd this season.

Still, Thomas is definitely someone you'll want to add to your team when drafting, and almost certainly before the rest of the No. 4-type guards he is grouped with. Thomas is likely to see his numbers fall off from the 20.3 points and 6.3 assists he averaged a year ago, at least at first. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end up starting upwards of 25 games throughout the year, given Bledsoe's injury-proneness. Bledsoe has missed at least 25 games in two of the last three seasons for knee issues.

Thomas probably profiles as more of a bench option for Fantasy purposes next season, but you'll be targeting him much earlier than nearly any other reserve. His upside as a handcuff option for either Bledsoe or Dragic is sky-high, and will make him well worth your attention on Draft Day. 

Eric Gordon cleared for contact
by Chris Towers |
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Eric Gordon has been cleared to take part in full-contact offseason drills ahead of training camp, The Times-Picayune reports.

Gordon underwent season-ending knee surgery last April, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. 

Jrue Holiday cleared for contact ahead of camp
by Chris Towers |
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was able to participate in full-contact offseason drills last week, the first time he has done so since undergoing season-ending surgery last January.

"Getting out playing has been a joy," Holiday told The Times-Picayune. "I've been running and jumping and stuff, but getting my rhythm back on the court is definitely a big thing right now for me."

The Pelicans open training camp Sept. 30, and Holiday is not expected to have any limitations as the team prepares for the start of the season. Holiday averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season prior to the injury.

Kent Bazemore focused on conditioning in recovery
by Chris Towers |
(9/17/2014) Newly signed Hawks guard Kent Bazemore did not pick up a basketball until August, preferring to focus on conditioning in his recovery from foot surgery in April.

"I think the injury was definitely a blessing," he told the Daily Press, "because I was able to step away from the game of basketball. I took myself out of my element all summer. I did stuff I'm not used to doing."

Bazemore signed a two-year deal with the Hawks this offseason, and is expected to compete for playing time on the wing immediately, as he is fully recovered from the surgery. 

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