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Week 8 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: @DET, @BOS, CHA, @NJ
Good Plays: Al Horford, Josh Smith
Bad Plays: Maurice Evans, Jordan Crawford, Jeff Teague, Zaza Pachulia
Toss Ups: Jamal Crawford, Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams
Injury Report: Joe Johnson (elbow/January)
Notes: Crawford is picking up the pace with Joe Johnson sidelined. He is averaging 16.8 points and 4.2 assists since Johnson has been out and makes for a solid sleeper play. ... Bibby is averaging 11.2 points, 5.0 assists and 2.2 rebounds since Johnson went down. He is also offering good 3-point shooting, making him more appealing in category play. ... Marvin Williamss started off hot when Johnson went down, but he has been held to below 10 points in three straight games. He is still worth stashing, but has to be reserved until he can get going. ... Hawks opponents in Week 8 allow an average of just 96.3 points per game.

Boston Celtics
Schedule: @NY, ATL, IND
Good Plays: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
Bad Plays: Nate Robinson
Toss Ups: Ray Allen, Glen Davis, Shaquille O'Neal
Injury Report: Marquis Daniels (hand/day-to-day), Jermaine O'Neal (knee/late December), Delonte West (wrist/February), Kendrick Perkins (knee/February)
Notes: Allen has not been overly impressive, but he is averaging a useful 15-3-3 line over his last five games. He is a low-end play at this stage. ... Davis is averaging 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds over his last five games and is benefitting from the lack of depth up front with Shaquille O'Neal banged up and Jermaine O'Neal sidelined. ... After a solid two-week stretch, Shaq has been slowed by a bad calf this past week. Reserve him until he can prove healthy and productive again.

Charlotte Bobcats
Schedule: TOR, @MEM, @ATL
Good Plays: Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace
Bad Plays: Nazr Mohammed, Shaun Livingston
Toss Ups: D.J. Augustin, Tyrus Thomas
Injury Report: Tyrus Thomas (quadriceps/day-to-day)
Notes: Augustin is averaging a 17-4-3 stat line over his last five games. He should beneft from high-volume matchups against the Raptors and Grizzlies, two teams that allow an average of 103 points per game. ... Thomas has dealt with a quadriceps injury over the past week, but has continued to put up the occasional big stat line. He is still far too erratic to trust outside of deep, deep leagues.

Chicago Bulls
Schedule: IND, @TOR, LAC
Good Plays: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng
Bad Plays: Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson
Toss Ups: Taj Gibson
Injury Report: No significant injuries.
Notes: Since the return of Carlos Boozer, Gibson is averaging just 7.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in 24 minutes per game. His run as a useful Fantasy option is just about over, though he can still be a decent source for regular blocks in deeper category play.

Sergio's Sleepers for Week 8
* Sleepers are players started in less than 70 percent of CBSSports.com leagues
Player Start %
1. Jamal Crawford, G, Hawks 59
2. Wesley Matthews, G, Trail Blazers 69
3. Darko Milicic, C, Timberwolves 57
4. Amir Johnson, F, Raptors 41
5. Brandon Rush, F, Pacers 27
6. Josh McRoberts, F, Pacers 17
7. Jodie Meeks, G, 76ers 13
8. Spencer Hawes, C, 76ers 9
9. Antawn Jamison, F, Cavaliers 59
10. Daniel Gibson, G, Cavaliers 35

Cleveland Cavaliers
Schedule: @MIA, @IND, NY
Good Plays: Mo Williams
Bad Plays: J.J. Hickson, Ramon Sessions, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Ryan Hollins, Joey Graham
Toss Ups: Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson
Injury Report: No significant injuries.
Notes: Antawn Jamison is now starting over J.J. Hickson at power forward. ... Daniel Gibson is now in the starting lineup at shooting guard. Joey Graham has been pushed to the bench and Anthony Parker has moved over to small forward. ... Jamison scored 21 points with six boards in his first start. He played 34 minutes and is a great play again. ... Hickson was held scoreless and, despite his upside, has to be reserved in all leagues. ... Gibson notched a 14-4-8 stat line in his first start. ... Varejao is heating up with two double-doubles in his last three games. He is a good sleeper at the center position for Week 8, especially with matchups against the Heat and Knicks. The Heat have struggled against opposing bigs all year and the Knicks give up high-volume numbers.

Dallas Mavericks
Schedule: MIL, POR, PHO
Good Plays: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd
Bad Plays: Brendan Haywood, Jose Juan Barea,
Toss Ups: Jason Terry, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler
Injury Report: Roddy Beaubois (foot/out indefinitely)
Notes: Terry is getting on a roll again with back-to-back 20-point games in Week 7. Get him back in there if you reserved him. ... Caron Butler's scoring is starting to rise, but his peripheral numbers are still weak. He remains a good low-end play, but is not a must-start. ... Butler's hot streak has cut into Shawn Marion's touches. He should be reserved again for now. ... Tyson Chandler caught the bug that has been floating around the league lately, but he returned to action on Thursday night. Barring any setbacks over the weekend, he remains a decent No. 2 center option.

Denver Nuggets
Schedule: ORL, SA, MIN
Good Plays: Carmelo Anthony, Nene, Chauncey Billups
Bad Plays: Al Harrington, Ty Lawson, Shelden Williams, Chris Andersen
Toss Ups: J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo
Injury Report: Carmelo Anthony (knee/day-to-day), Chris Andersen (knee/December), Kenyon Martin (knee/late Decembert)
Notes: Smith remains a tricky play in Fantasy. He has become tempting with good numbers in recent games, but that has come mostly with Carmelo Anthony either sick or banged up. If 'Melo is healthy, Smith is too inconsistent to trust outside of deeper leagues still. ... Afflalo has been even more spotty than Smith. Avoid him barring an extended absence by Anthony.

Detroit Pistons
Schedule: ATL, LAC, NO
Good Plays: Rodney Stuckey
Bad Plays: Greg Monroe, Austin Daye, Jason Maxiell, Tracy McGrady, Will Bynum
Toss Ups: Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva, Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Ben Wallace
Injury Report: Jonas Jerebko (Achilles'/February)
Notes: Tayshaun Prince has suddenly cooled off, just as the Pistons declared they were ready to rely on him more heavily on the offensive end. The Rockets and Hornets each held the Pistons below 85 points this week. There is still good value here, but he should be reserved for Week 7 unless he can get hot again over the weekend. ... Villanueva missed a game for personal reasons this week. When he returned, he played just 10 minutes and went 0 for 5 from the field. The power forward situation in Detroit being the mess that it is, avoid activating Villanueva unless there is a significant resurgence over the weekend. ... Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon continue to be inconsistent. Avoid them. ... Ben Wallace is never going to be a scorer, but his rebounding is also down. He is averaging just 6.2 rebounds over his last five games.

Most Added Players
* as of Dec. 9
Player % Change
1. Jodie Meeks, G, 76ers 28
2. Amir Johnson, F, Raptors 19
3. Terrence Williams, G, Nets 18
4. Josh McRoberts, F, Pacers 17
5. Tayshaun Prince, F, Pistons 15
6. Jerryd Bayless, G, Raptors 15
7. Kyle Lowry, G, Rockets 11
8. Brandon Bass, F, Magic 10
9. Brandon Rush, G, Pacers 9
10. J.R. Smith, G, Nuggets 8

Golden State Warriors
Schedule: @UTA, MIN, @POR
Good Plays: Monta Ellis, David Lee
Bad Plays: Reggie Williams, Ekpe Udoh, Lou Amundson, Rodney Carney, Jeremy Lin
Toss Ups: Stephen Curry, Dorell Wright, Andris Biedrins
Injury Report: Stephen Curry (ankle/day-to-day)
Notes: Stephen Curry hurt his ankle again. He has sprained his right ankle four times already since the preseason and could be forced to miss a few games. He is a player that will have to be monitored closely through the weekend. In his absence, Reggie Williams scored 31 points on Wednesday night and is an interesting addition. Monta Ellis, David Lee and Dorell Wright also stand to benefit. ... Biedrins remains a steady source for rebounding, but is offering very little offense.

Houston Rockets
Schedule: SAC, @OKC, MEM, @SAC
Good Plays: Luis Scola, Kevin Martin
Bad Plays: Aaron Brooks, Yao Ming, Courtney Lee, Chuck Hayes, Chase Budinger
Toss Ups: Kyle Lowry, Brad Miller
Injury Report: Aaron Brooks (ankle/out indefinitely), Yao Ming (ankle/mid-December)
Notes: Aaron Brooks remains without a timetable for a return, though he has begin to increase his workouts. ... Yao Ming had his return date pushed back this week. He will not begin to practice until early in Week 8, making him a player to reserve. ... The absences of Brooks and Yao will continue to benefit Kyle Lowry and Brad Miller as stopgap measures in Fantasy.

Indiana Pacers
Schedule: @CHI, LAL, CLE, @BOS
Good Plays: Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert
Bad Plays: T.J. Ford, Tyler Hansbrough, James Posey, Paul George
Toss Ups: Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Brandon Rush, Josh McRoberts
Injury Report: No significant injuries.
Notes: Darren Collison's assist numbers have remained alarmingly low. He is averaging just 3.4 assists over his last five games. He can be relied upon for decent mid-to-high teens scoring. ... The Rush/Dunleavy merry-go-round continues to frustrate Fantasy owners. Rush has had the hot hand of late and is a good 3-point option for category leagues. He is coming off a stinker on Wednesday night, but averaged 20.7 points over his three previous games. ... Josh McRoberts has taken hold of the power forward role. He is offering a diverse stat line. He won't win you any category, but he can help you in most.

L.A. Clippers
Schedule: @PHI, @DET, @CHI
Good Plays: Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon
Bad Plays: Baron Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Gomes
Toss Ups: Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe
Injury Report: Chris Kaman (ankle/day-to-day), Randy Foye (hamstring/day-to-day)
Notes: Baron Davis is playing at a very restricted pace due to his hamstring. He has been held under 10 points in four of his last five games, though he is averaging 7.0 assists per game in that span. ... With Davis still unable to take on a big role, Eric Bledsoe is playing good minutes and has retained some low-end Fantasy appeal. ... Chris Kaman is looking at a lengthy absence after an MRI revealed a deep bone bruise. He is unlikely to be available to Fantasy owners for Week 8. ... DeAndre Jordan finally had a productive game in place of Chris Kaman on Wednesday night with 11 boards and nine points. In 14 starts, he is averaging just 5.4 points and 6.8 rebounds.

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L.A. Lakers
Schedule: @WAS, @IND, @PHI, @TOR
Good Plays: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom
Bad Plays: Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake
Toss Ups: Andrew Bynum
Injury Report: Andrew Bynum (knee/out until at least Dec. 14)
Notes: Bynum is hoping to return on Tuesday against the Wizards. He is a tempting play, especially at center. However, he is likely to be restricted initially and will need at least a few games to get his playing legs back under him. ... Lamar Odom figures to see a decline at some point in the near future with Bynum back, but with Bynum likely to not be 100 percent right away he still has at least one more good scoring period in him.

Memphis Grizzlies
Schedule: POR, CHA, @HOU, @SA
Good Plays: Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley
Bad Plays: Hasheem Thabeet, Greivis Vasquez
Toss Ups: O.J. Mayo, Xavier Henry
Injury Report: No significant injuries.
Notes: Mayo's slump has reached panic mode. He is averaging just 5.6 points over his last five games and has only been getting around 4-5 shots in most games. His potential is enough that you should avoid cutting him, but he is an absolute must-sit right now. ... Xavier Henry has been mostly unproductive since taking over for Mayo at shooting guard.

Miami Heat
Schedule: NO, CLE, @NY, @WAS
Good Plays: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
Bad Plays: James Jones, Carlos Arroyo, Mario Chalmers
Toss Ups: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Injury Report: Udonis Haslem (foot/April), Mike Miller (thumb/late December)
Notes: Zydrunas Ilgauskas had his most productive game of the season by far on Wednesday night in Utah. He scored 16 points with 10 rebounds. Fluky or not, he is worth an add. The Heat have gotten nothing out of their center spot all year and will look to keep Big Z rolling if they can. ... James Jones is 13 of 21 from beyond the arc in his last five games, but is averaging just 8.8 points per game in that span.

Milwaukee Bucks
Schedule: @DAL, @SA, UTA
Good Plays: Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut
Bad Plays: Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders
Toss Ups: John Salmons
Injury Report: Drew Gooden (foot/day-to-day), Carlos Delfino (concussion/out indefinitely), Michael Redd (knee/February)
Notes: Gooden could return at some point in Week 8, but have him prove healthy and productive before activating him again. ... The possible return of Gooden at some point in Week 8 makes players like Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders too risky to play. ... Salmons has attempted 15 or more shots in three of his last four games. In those three games, he has scored 15-plus points. He looks to be a decent play in most formats, though inconsistency is still an issue.

Best Fantasy Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Timberwolves @GS, @PHO, @POR, @DEN
2. Trail Blazers @MEM, @DAL, MIN, GS
3. Rockets SAC, @OKC, MEM, @SAC
4. Kings @HOU, @NO, @OKC, HOU
5. Pacers @CHI, LAL, CLE, @BOS

Minnesota Timberwolves
Schedule: @GS, @PHO, @POR, @DEN
Good Plays: Kevin Love, Michael Beasley
Bad Plays: Luke Ridnour, Sebastian Telfair, Martell Webster, Wesley Johnson
Toss Ups: Darko Milicic, Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer
Injury Report: Darko Milicic (quad/day-to-day), Martell Webster (back/day-to-day), Jonny Flynn (hip/out until at least Dec. 14), Anthony Tolliver (knee/mid-January)
Notes: Kevin Love is averaging an amazing 17.6 rebounds over his last five games. ... The four opponents that the Timberwolves will face in Week 8 allow an average of 103.2 points per game -- highest in the league for the upcoming scoring period. ... Darko Milicic is dealing with a bruised quad muscle. He should be fine for Week 8 barring setbacks over the weekend and makes a strong play given the matchups. ... Jonny Flynn is likely to make his debut on Dec. 14. With two quick NBDL stints for rehab under his belt, he may be further along in terms of stamina than most players who return after a lengthy absence. He has some sleeper appeal in deeper leagues given the matchups, but remains very risky considering the fact that he has not played an NBA game this season. ... Flynn's return will cut into minutes and touches for Luke Ridnour.

New Jersey Nets
Schedule: PHI, WAS, @TOR, ATL
Good Plays: Brook Lopez, Devin Harris
Bad Plays: Jordan Farmar, Damion Jones
Toss Ups: Terrence Williams, Travis Outlaw, Kris Humphries, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow
Injury Report: No significant injuries.
Notes: Nets coach Avery Johnson has inserted Damion James into the starting lineup at small forward. James has some sleeper appeal in deeper formats, but is not expected to play huge minutes even as a starter. ... Terrence Williams is back from his red-hot NBDL stint, during which he averaged 28.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 10.7 assists. We understand that has many Fantasy owners salivating, but while he is expected to return to the primary rotation now that he is back, he is not guaranteed big minutes. He will also have to contend for touches with the likes of Travis Outlaw and Anthony Morrow as well as James. ... Johnson has also hinted at a possible starting job in the near future for Derrick Favors. Clearly, that is bad news for Kris Humphries.

New Orleans Hornets
Schedule: @MIA, SAC, UTA, @DET
Good Plays: Chris Paul, David West, Emeka Okafor
Bad Plays: Jarrett Jack, Marcus Thornton, Jason Smith
Toss Ups: Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli
Injury Report: No significant injuries.
Notes: Trevor Ariza is averaging 11.4 points over his last five games with wildly inconsistent shot totals of 7, 15, 21, 12 and 4 in those games. He remains hard to peg, but makes for a decent source of steals, and adequate rebounding with the occasional big game offensively. ... Marco Belinelli showed a spark on Wednesday night against Detroit with 22 points, but he had been held below 10 points in three straight games prior to that. He remains useful mainly just for his 3-point shooting in deeper category play.

New York Knicks
Schedule: BOS, MIA, @CLE
Good Plays: Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari
Bad Plays: Ronny Turiaf, Timofey Mozgov, Shawne Williams,Toney Douglas, Anthony Randolph
Toss Ups: Landry Fields
Injury Report: Kelenna Azubuike (knee/out indefinitely)
Notes: The average points per game allowed by New York's three Week 8 opponents is 95.6 points per game. ... Landry Fields has posted three straight games of 10 rebounds, but his scoring has been poor. He is averaging 7.6 points and 9.0 rebounds over his last five games.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Schedule: HOU, SAC, PHO
Good Plays: Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green
Bad Plays: Thabo Sefolosha, Eric Maynor
Toss Ups: James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Nenad Krstic
Injury Report: No significant injuries.
Notes: Despite being asked by coach Scott Brooks to be more aggressive offensively, Harden attempted just four shots in 25 minutes against one of the most Fantasy-friendly teams in the NBA in the Timberwolves on Wednesday night. That ended a string of four straight double-digit scoring performances. ... Serge Ibaka is averaging just 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds over his last five games. ... Nenad Krstic broke out for 18 points and six boards against the Bulls on Monday night. He followed that with just four points and no boards on Wednesday. He is clearly not trustworthy for Fantasy purposes.

Orlando Magic
Schedule: @DEN, PHI
Good Plays: Dwight Howard
Bad Plays: J.J. Redick, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, Chris Duhon, Jason Williams, Ryan Anderson
Toss Ups: Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Brandon Bass
Injury Report: No significant injuries.
Notes: The Magic are getting over the results of a stomach bug that riddled much of their roster over the past week. ... They are the only team in the league to play just two games in Week 8, making fringe players an avoid in cumulative formats. ... Very quietly, Brandon Bass is averaging 15.0 points and 6.0 rebounds over his last five games, though much of that has to do with absences due to the stomach bug.

Philadelphia 76ers
Schedule: @NJ, LAC, LAL, @ORL
Good Plays: Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Jrue Holiday
Bad Plays: Evan Turner, Andres Nocioni, Marreese Speights
Toss Ups: Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Spencer Hawes
Injury Report: No significant injuries.
Notes: Thaddeus Young has been on fire from the field in his last two games, shooting a highly efficient 19 for 23 from the field. He scored 20-plus points in each game and added 11 boards for a double-double against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night. He is still rather spotty, but can be thought of as a good low-end starter while he's hot. ... Lou Williams, who scored 19 points with four assists in 21 minutes against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, has not scored double figures in back-to-back games since mid-November. ... Jodie Meeks has thrived as a starter, averaging 17.0 points in three starts. He offers only scoring and plus 3-point shooting, however. ... Spencer Hawes is starting to get more playing time and Tuesday's 10-and-12 stat line with three blocks and a steal should have had you rushing to the waiver wire. We would like to see him back it up before we recommend activating him, but the minutes seem to be there for him to put up decent numbers for a waiver wire center.

Phoenix Suns
Schedule: MIN, @DAL, @OKC
Good Plays: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson
Bad Plays: Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick, Goran Dragic, Robin Lopez, Josh Childress, Jared Dudley
Touss Ups: Channing Frye, Grant Hill
Injury Report: Robin Lopez (knee/mid-December)
Notes: Lopez will not begin to practice until Week 8, so he will likely be unavailble for games until Week 9. ... Channing Frye should continue to benefit with Lopez out, averaging 30-plus minutes per game in his absence. He is averaging a solid 14.0 points with 6.8 rebounds over his last five games and is providing help in 3-point shooting, steals and blocks. ... Grant Hill has not completely faded yet. He is averaging 15.2 points with 4.4 rebounds over his last five games. Make the most of it while you can, because the light is flickering.

Portland Trail Blazers
Schedule: @MEM, @DAL, MIN, GS
Good Plays: LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Andre Miller
Bad Plays: Nicolas Batum, Joel Przybilla, Rudy Fernandez
Toss Ups: Marcus Camby, Wesley Matthews
Injury Report: Greg Oden (knee/out for the season)
Notes: Marcus Camby is averaging just 4.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in four December games, and that is with an out-of-the-blue 12-and-19 performance against DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers. He has favorable matchups, however. ... Wesley Matthews is averaging 35.0 minutes over his last five games, turning that into 20.8 points on average. He also offers over a steal per game and good 3-point shooting. ... The average points per game allowed by Portland's four Week 8 opponents is 102.8 points per game.

Sacramento Kings
Schedule: @HOU, @NO, @OKC, HOU
Good Plays: None
Bad Plays: Carl Landry, Donte Greene, Pooh Jeter
Toss Ups: Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Samuel Dalembert, Jason Thompson, Beno Udrih
Injury Report: Tyreke Evans (foot/day-to-day), Carl Landry (knee/day-to-day)
Notes: There have been some concerns that Evans may be dealing with a stress fracture in his foot, but both the team and the player refuted those reports on Wednesday night. Evans is scheduled for an MRI and Fantasy owners will have to monitor him closely over the weekend. For the moment, the plan is for him to play through the pain. ... Pooh Jeter is getting his first significant run of the season. He has scored 11-13 points in three of his four games since joining the rotation. While he may be worth a flier in deep, deep leagues, his appeal remains limited at best. ... DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds over his last five games and appears to be settling in. ... Samuel Dalembert is playing around 20 minutes per game, but remains a decent cheap source for boards and blocks -- and nothing else. ... Jason Thompson remains one of the biggest headaches in Fantasy right now. He posted another big game on Wednesday night with 22 points and 14 rebounds, but much of that had to do with Carl Landry leaving the game early due to injury and Dalembert out due to a personal matter. ... Landry has been ineffective in a bench role. ... Add Beno Udrih to the list of inconsistent Kings. He has three games of 15 or more points in his last five contests, but scored just six points combined in his other two games. He is merely a low-end play.

Worst Fantasy Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Magic @DEN, PHI
2. Bucks @DAL, @SA, UTA
3. Knicks BOS, MIA, @CLE
4. Hawks @ORL, NJ, @SA, @IND
5. Grizzlies POR, CHA, @HOU, @SA

San Antonio Spurs
Schedule: MIL, @DEN, MEM
Good Plays: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker
Bad Plays: Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter, Antonio McDyess
Toss Ups: Richard Jefferson, George Hill, DeJuan Blair
Injury Report: No significant injuries.
Notes: The Spurs play a back-to-back set in Week 8, which means Tim Duncan may be limited in at least one of those games. ... Tony Parker is back on track, scoring 19 or 20 points in three straight games after being mysteriously benched in the second half on Dec. 1 at the Clippers. ... George Hill is averaging 15.4 points over his last five games. ... Richard Jefferson is averaging 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds over his last five games. ... DeJuan Blair is starting to get on a roll. He is averaging 10.2 points and 7.8 rebounds with 2.0 steals over his last five games and could benefit if Duncan is restricted during the back-to-back.

Toronto Raptors
Schedule: @CHA, CHI, NJ, LAL
Good Plays: Andrea Bargnani
Bad Plays: Jerryd Bayless, Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan, Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza
Toss Ups: Jose Calderon, Amir Johnson
Injury Report: Peja Stojakovic (knee/day-to-day), Reggie Evans (foot/February)
Notes: Jerryd Bayless has been unable to string two good games together. He showed a ton of upside in scoring 23 points with seven boards and six dimes on Dec. 5 against the Knicks, but has been spotty otherwise. ... Jose Calderon is averaging 8.0 assists over his last five games. He also offers over a steal and a 3-pointer per game with minimal turnovers. ... Amir Johnson has been, for the most part, productive as a starter. He is averaging 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds through his first six starts. He is also contributing a block and a steal per game while shooting over 63 percent from the field. Beware his free-throw shooting, however.

Utah Jazz
Schedule: GS, @NO, @MIL
Good Plays: Deron Williams, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap
Bad Plays: Raja Bell, Earl Watson, Gordon Hayward
Toss Ups: Andrei Kirilenko, C.J. Miles
Injury Report: Andrei Kirilenko (quadriceps/day-to-day), Raja Bell (adductor/day-to-day), Mehmet Okur (Achilles'/out indefinitely)
Notes: Andrei Kirilenko is averaging an unimpressive 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds over his last five games, but he is also offering his usual steal and block per contest. ... Miles has seen 10-plus shot attempts in three of his last four games. He has not scored double figures in back-to-back games since Nov. 20-22, however. ... There remains no clear timetable for the return of Mehmet Okur, though he seems to be getting close.

Washington Wizards
Schedule: LAL, @NJ, MIA
Good Plays: Gilbert Arenas
Bad Plays: Nick Young, Al Thornton, Yi Jianlian, Josh Howard, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin
Toss Ups: John Wall, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Kirk Hinrich
Injury Report: John Wall (ankle/day-to-day), Andray Blatche (hip/day-to-day), Josh Howard (knee/out until at least Dec. 14)
Notes: Coach Flip Saunders moved JaVale McGee to the bench on Wednesday night, but he responded with 13 points and nine rebounds after two lackluster performances. Track his progress over the weekend, but it seems he is a safe play as a No. 2 center again, barring any fallout from an embarrassing failed dunk attempt from the foul line in a blowout loss to the Kings. ... John Wall's foot issues are not going away and it may hold him out again over the weekend. Be ready for another tough lineup call on Monday here. ... Kirk Hinrich had been moved to the bench as Saunders wanted to start Wall and Gilbert Arenas together, but Wall's foot may allow Hinrich to retain some Fantasy appeal. He would only be recommended if Wall is ruled out for the week, however. ... Andray Blatche has missed two games due to his hip injury and heads into the weekend listed as day-to-day. Fantasy owners should have healthy alternatives available, but Yi Jianlian is not an option. He was replaced in the starting lineup after making just one spot start. ... Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin were both unproductive as starters replacing McGee and Blatche on Wednesday night.

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Player News
Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(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 | CBSSports.com
(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 | CBSSports.com
(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 | CBSSports.com
(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 Stats.NBA.com, 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 | CBSSports.com
(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 MySynergySports.com, 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 | CBSSports.com
(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 | CBSSports.com
(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 | CBSSports.com
(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 | CBSSports.com
(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 | CBSSports.com
(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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