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Week 1 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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Start 'Em & 'Em is our weekly look at players around the NBA we feel couldl help or hurt your Fantasy squad based upon matchups and other factors. Don't expect to read about why you should start LeBron James or sit Brian Scalabrine. In this space, we will try to help you make the call on players you could be on the fence about while pointing out some players you may not have thought about sitting, but should consider doing so.

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Who thought at the time that when Lakers center Andrew Bynum decided to act like a petulant child -- elbowing Jose Juan Barea -- in the final game of the Lakers' Western Conference semifinal loss to the Mavericks, that it would have major repercussions for the first week of the Fantasy basketball season?

Bynum's Lakers play six games in the opening scoring period, and Bynum will miss two-thirds of them because of his recklessness, and now the Lakers are left scrambling to fill two starting positions on opening day == not to mention dealing with the prospect of Kobe Bryant trying to play through a torn wrist ligament.

Bynum's absence shifts power forward Pau Gasol to the five and opens things up for recently acquired forward Josh McRoberts to start most of the week. McRoberts is known more for his dunking ability and past relationships with a reality-TV star than his consistent production, but in a pinch for the first week of the season, he's going to be a sneaky good option, making him my start of the week for Week 1.

McRoberts' career numbers are unimpressive, to say the least; 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game with fewer than a block and steal. However, he's also simply never had the opportunity to start and play extended minutes, as he has just 54 starts in his four-year NBA career. He has shown the ability to be productive on a per-minute basis, scoring 11.9 points and grabbing 8.8 rebounds per-36 minutes in his career while showing range out to the three-point line.

McRoberts is going to get to start four games, including a back-to-back-to-back to start the season against a tough Chicago defense and two much softer opponents in Sacramento and Utah. At 24, McRoberts has the kind of young legs that could keep him in the game for long stretches during the three-game stretch, and the Lakers have very little front court depth without Bynum to push him out of the picture.

The production won't last, but for Week 1, McRoberts should be a solid option at the forward position.

Guards

Start 'Em

George Hill, Pacers (DET, SAS, @TOR, CLE, @DET) -- The Pacers acquired the combo-guard from the Spurs to backup both guard positions, and he'll get a chance to prove his worth quickly against the three teams that finished 28th, 29th and 30th in the NBA last season in Defensive Efficiency. Hill is a very good scorer, and the the Indianapolis Star speculated that he could supplant Darren Collison as the starting point guard before long. He is likely to see more playing time than the 28.3 minutes per game he received last year, and his 14.8 points, 3.2 assists and 1.1 steals per-36 minutes numbers last year show a playing just waiting to breakout if given playing time. I think it could happen this week against these putrid defenses.

Arron Afflalo, Nuggets (@DAL, UTH, @POR, @LAL, LAL) -- I am a big fan of Afflalo's prospects in a five-game schedule, particularly because he averaged 15.3 points per game against these four teams last season in 12 games, better than his season average by 2.7 points per game.

Sleeper Alert: Jodie Meeks, 76ers (@POR, @PHO, @ UTH, @GSW) -- Meeks emerged as a double-digit scorer for the 76ers last season solely on the strength of his three-point shooting, as more than half of his shots last year came from behind the arc. In this matchup, he faces four teams that ranked No. 15, 26, 28 and 22 in the NBA in three-point field goals allowed last season. This seems like a good week for Meeks to do some long-range damage.

Sit 'Em

Jarrett Jack, Hornets (@PHO, BOS, PHO, @SAC) -- While we here at CBSSports.com love Jack as a breakout candidate following the Hornets' loss of Chris Paul this offseason, he is not a recommended start for Week 1 as he serves a one-game suspension to start the year. Maybe if the Hornets were scheduled for five or six games in this scoring period I'd like him still, but with a de-facto three-game schedule and a matchup against the fierce Celtics' defense in line, you should stay away, but only for this week.

Stephen Curry, Warriors (LAC, CHI, NYK, PHI) -- Normally I wouldn't even consider recommending that you bench Curry, even with tough games against the Bulls and Sixers on the schedule, but Curry's dealing with an ankle injury that is threatening to keep him out of the season opener and the Chicago game the next night. If he wasn't hurt, or if he didn't start the season on a back-to-back, I'd feel more confident in him, but for this week, you may want to look for safer options.

Bust Alert:Brandon Jennings, Bucks (@CHA, MIN, WAS) -- As the only team to play just three games in this scoring period, the Bucks are going to be well represent on this list. While they have decent matchups in all three games, they're playing fewer games than anyone else, and in many cases two fewer games. Jennings is going to have to be 40 percent more productive in his three games than your next best five-start option; considering his inconsistencies, it's tough to expect that.

Forwards

Start 'Em

My sleepers
Week 1
Player % Started
1. Jared Dudley, G, Suns 28
2. Devin Ebanks, F, Lakers 0
3. DeAndre Jordan, C, Clippers 49
4. Corey Maggette, F, Bobcats 35
5. Ed Davis, F, Raptors 24
6. Derrick Favors, F, Jazz 22
7. Lou Williams, G, 76ers 11
8. Ben Gordon, G, Pistons 11
9. Jerryd Bayless, G, Raptors 4
10. Kenneth Faried, F, Nuggets 3

Shawn Marion, Mavericks (MIA, DEN, @OKC, TOR, @MIN) -- While he does face the formidable Heat and Thunder defenses, Marion gets to pick on three other far inferior squads in his other three games, which is why I like him for the first week. Particularly in the final two games, against Toronto and Minnesota, he should be able to put up very solid numbers. Plus the five-game schedule means he should be able to produce in volume for the scoring period.

J.J. Hickson, Kings (LAL, @POR, CHI, NYK, NOR) -- Catching the tough Bulls defense doesn't bode well for Hickson in Week 1, but he does have a five-game schedule and three favorable matchups. He's coming off a career-high 13.8 point campaign and while he'll be splitting time in a pretty loaded frontcourt, I like his chances to score in double figures for all five games.

Sleeper Alert: Ryan Anderson, Magic (@OKC, @MIN, @MEM, DAL, PHO) -- There may be some concern about how the Magic will split time between Anderson and Glen Davis, their skillsets don't overlap much, and we could see them on the floor together at times. Because of this, it's likely that Anderson gets starter's minutes this season. I like him in a five-game schedule with two back-to-backs, as his conditioning advantage could see him out on the floor more than Davis in the second nights of those games.

Sit 'Em

Paul Pierce, Celtics (@NYK, @MIA, @NOR, DET, @WAS) -- He's got a handful of pretty nice matchups in this scoring period, but Pierce may not even play in two of them, as he is doubtful for the opener against New York with a heel injury and will likely rest plenty on the second night of the back-to-back when Boston plays New Orleans. Pierce on a three-game schedule is better than most forwards, but not when he's going to be limited by injury.

Stephen Jackson, Bucks (@CHA, MIN, WAS) -- I really like Jackson's matchups this week, I just wish there were more of them. The three teams finished 17th, 27th, and 24th in the league in defensive efficiency last season, but because of a lingering back injury and the low number of opportunities, Jackson could fail to produce well in Week 1.

Bust Alert: Paul Millsap, Jazz (@LAL, @DEN, PHI, @SAS) -- Millsap averaged just 13.3 points-per game in 12 games against this four teams in 2010-11, a full four points below his season average. Even if that wasn't so, a pair of back-to-backs, a deep Jazz frountcourt and Millsap's balky right quad make Millsap a questionable start. He's going to lose minutes this season to the developing Derrick Favors, and Tyrone Corbin may choose to rest him more when they play two in a row, something they do twice this week.

Centers

Start 'Em

Mehmet Okur, Nets (@WAS, ATL, @ORL, @ATL, @CLE) -- While I don't particularly love any of the matchups for the newest Net, I simply had to put him on here as he's owned in just 34 percent of leagues but is going to be the starting center in five games for the first scoring period. Okur is coming off an injury-plagued season, but I like the possibility of him finding the old spark with Deron Williams; he averaged between 18.0 and 13.5 points-per game in his five full seasons with Williams in Utah.

Jermaine O'Neal, Celtics (@NYK, @MIA, @NOR, DET, @WAS) -- The Boston Celtics have very little in the way of depth right now, and are ill-prepared for back-to-backs, the first of which they face this week, with Miami and New Orleans. Because of this and his reported health, O'Neal will likely see a decent number of minutes, at least early on in the season while he's healthy. He's not going to be a stud, but he blocks a good amount of shots and could be relied upon more this year than last, when he averaged just 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds. He's only owned in 19 percent of leagues currently, but there are worse options at center than a guy playing five times per week.

Sit 'Em

Andrew Bynum, Lakers (Suspended four games; DEN, @ DEN) -- As stated in the opening, Bynum cost himself most of his first week with his showing during the playoffs, and he should be rewarded by Fantasy owners by being benched in all formats for the week. Even though he is one of the top centers in Fantasy, playing in just two games in a week kills his value. If you start him and lose Week 1, don't see I didn't warn you.

Andrew Bogut, Bucks (@CHA, MIN, WAS) -- It's kind of unfair to Bogut to put him here with Bynum, but his value is extremely limited this week by a lack of playing opportunities through no fault of his own. Bynum has two decent matchups, playing against the center-less Bobcats and the hapless Timberwolves, but with so many teams playing four or five games and with questions still remaining about his ability to bounce back following last year's subpar performance, you should feel okay about benching the talented Australian, but only for Week 1.

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) 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
(9/20/2014) 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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