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2011-12 Draft Prep: Ignore this, target that

Fantasy Writer
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With more than 450 players currently in the NBA, most Fantasy owners have a difficult time keeping track of all of them. Look, no one said it was easy, but knowing what roles players have on their teams is essential to drafting the best squad possible and not wasting a draft pick.

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Sometimes in the later rounds of drafts, owners become unfamiliar with the players left on the board and select a player who is an everyday starter, thinking he will be a viable Fantasy option simply because he starts. Sometimes not the case, and using that strategy can put your team in a big hole.

Since most Fantasy owners don't have the time to assess the value of every player on every team, we have decided to assemble a new feature for Fantasy owners to help address this problem.

Below is a list of players we feel are the top-five players who are considered regulars in their teams' starting lineups, but don't hold much Fantasy value. Conversely, we've compiled a list of the top-five players who don't start for their teams, but who are worthy of scooping up on Draft Day.

This should provide owners with an extra edge when drafting their teams. As always, we encourage Fantasy owners to do their own homework, but offer up our thoughts to use as a guide. Best of luck in the new season and we hope to see you in the postseason.

Starters to ignore …

Derek Fisher: Fisher has been a regular in the Lakers' starting lineup in each of the last four seasons and has not missed a game since his return to Los Angeles in 2007. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners, the veteran hasn't been very productive over the last few years. He has seen a steady decline in production in each of his last four seasons and is averaging just 7.9 points and 2.8 assists over that stretch. It is clear that Fisher's best days are behind him, although he is expected to be running the point for the Lakers again this season. However, that shouldn't matter much to Fantasy owners. Despite his consistent minutes and durability, we highly recommend leaving Fisher on the waiver wire in the majority of formats on Draft Day.

Thabo Sefolosha: A fixture in the Thunder's starting lineup since landing in Oklahoma City back in 2009, you wouldn't know it by looking at Sefolosha’s numbers. He has yet to average in double-figure scoring since heading to the Western Conference, and last season he posted an unimpressive 5.1 points per game. He has averaged nearly 28 minutes per game over the last three seasons, although that number could decrease this season. James Harden is expected to see much more playing time in his third year in the league, which should translate into more bench time for Sefolosha. While the 27-year-old is expected to be the team's starting shooting guard Christmas Day, we do not recommend Fantasy owners to follow suit. Leave Sefolosha on the waiver wire to start the year.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: Mbah a Moute has started 166 games over the last three seasons for the Bucks and is expected to be in the team's starting lineup once again. While many feel the 25-year-old has not even come close to scratching the surface of his potential, we wouldn't count on that happening this season. Milwaukee is loaded at the forward position, which means Mbah a Moute could be on a short leash. Combine that with the fact that he has averaged less than 7.0 points per game in each of his last two seasons and we really don't see much benefit in drafting him. Owners should feel free to leave Mbah a Moute on the waiver fire to start the season.

Al Harrington: With three of the Nuggets' starters stuck in China, Harrington looks to be Denver's starting power forward this season. However, that doesn't mean he should be a target of most owners on Draft Day. The 13-year veteran was one of the bigger disappointments in Fantasy last season and now will likely be the team's fourth scoring option, behind Nene, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson. Harrington has also been bothered by a case of chronic plantar fasciitis in his left foot -- an injury that has hampered many basketball careers. While he still may be able to light up the scoreboard every once in a while, we aren't sure he is worth a draft pick. Owners are probably best to leave him on the waiver wire to start the season and then scoop him up later on, if he proves to be healthy and productive.

Jermaine O'Neal: O'Neal is expected to be Boston's starting center this season and supposedly came into camp in great shape. He has earned rave reviews from his teammates and coaches thus far, and some are even predicting somewhat of a bounce-back season for the 33-year-old. But we aren't sold yet. O'Neal has been hit very hard with injuries over the last few years and has appeared in more than 70 games just once in his last seven seasons. Now he will have to try and keep himself healthy with a condensed schedule that includes 19 back-to-backs and one set of games on three consecutive days. We aren't sure O'Neal has enough left in the tank to withstand that type of grind. Even if he is able to stay healthy, O'Neal would likely only be in line for around 20 minutes a game and be the team's fifth scoring option behind, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. There are just too many question marks surrounding the veteran.

Bench players to target …

Lamar Odom: Odom has spent the better part of the last three seasons coming off the bench in Los Angeles and still been able to remain one of the better all-around Fantasy options out there. He has averaged nearly a 12-8-3 stat line over his last three seasons and last year took home the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award. While there are some concerns he won't be able to match that type of production while playing in Dallas, we aren't overly worried. Odom will continue to come off the bench for the Mavericks, but shouldn't have any trouble getting his numbers. He should be in line for 30-plus minutes per game and will be counted on to be one of the team's main scoring options behind Dirk Nowitzki. Despite entering another season as a reserve, Odom is still worthy of a mid-round pick in the majority of formats on Draft Day.

Chris Kaman: Kaman was part of the mega-trade that landed Chris Paul in Los Angeles, which actually could be a blessing in disguise for the 29-year-old. Kaman seemed destined for an extremely diminished role with the Clippers -- had he stayed -- but now should see plenty of minutes in New Orleans. While he is currently being tabbed as the backup center behind Emeka Okafor, coach Monty Williams has already come out and said Kaman will be a big part of the team's rotation this season. Keep in mind he is just one season removed from averaging 18.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, which is definitely better production than most starting centers. While Kaman has had a very difficult time staying healthy over the last few seasons, we feel a change of scenery could help him re-emerge as a useful Fantasy option. Consider the 7-footer worthy of a late-round pick with some sleeper potential.

Jerryd Bayless: Bayless came over from New Orleans last year and opened a few eyes once he landed in Toronto. Jose Calderon's hamstring issues gave the 23-year-old a legitimate chance to show what he could do and he responded by posting career highs in points (10), assists (4.0) and rebounds (2.5) during his time north of the border. While he will once again start the season coming off the bench, there are rumblings that the Raptors could be looking to move Calderon at some point during the season. That would certainly open things up a ton for Bayless, who many believe hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential yet. Even if Calderon stays, Bayless should be in line for at least 25 minutes per game and could end up stealing the starting gig outright. Fantasy owners should feel free to spend a late-round pick on Bayless in the majority of formats on Draft Day.

Jamal Crawford: Crawford has not started a single game in each of the last two seasons, but has still managed to remain one of the more productive Fantasy guards around. The former Sixth Man of the Year has averaged 16.1 points over his last two seasons to go along with 3.1 assists and 2.1 rebounds. Crawford is expected to once again come off the bench in Portland and give the Blazers some much-needed scoring help on the wing. While there are some concerns about Crawford being unable to match his past production in Portland's slow-paced, half-court offense, keep in mind Atlanta ranked 27th, in terms of offensive pace. We still expect Crawford to be in line for around 30 minutes per game with his new team, which should give him plenty of chances to get his numbers. While he is coming off a bit of a down season, Crawford should be viewed as a premium source for 3-point shooting and scoring. Consider the 31-year-old worthy of a mid-round pick in most formats on Draft Day.

Thaddeus Young: Young started just one game for the Sixers last season, but still wound up averaging 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game, while playing in all 82 contests. He is likely looking at another year of coming off the bench and will be asked to be a role player behind Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday. However, his production -- coming off the bench -- is still better than what some starters in the league put up. And at age 23, Young still has a ton of upside. He can be counted on to help owners in scoring, rebounding, steals and field-goal percentage, which makes him worthy of a late-round selection in our book. We recommend owners take the same approach and scoop him up in the later rounds on Draft Day.

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Free-agent center Andray Blatche has signed a one-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers in China. Blatche's deal with pay him almost $2.5 million, and he'll be able to rejoin an NBA team in March, Yahoo! Sports reports.

Report: Kings add Ramon Sessions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:04 pm ET) The Kings have agreed to a two-year, $4.2-million deal with free-agent guard Ramon Sessions , Yahoo! Sports reports.

The team is reportedly using its bi-annual exception provision to sign Sessions, who averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 83 games between two teams last season.


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. 


 
 
 
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