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Week 2 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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Plenty of you are catching on, but for the rest of you who haven't yet, listen up before it's too late: Ryan Anderson is really, really good.

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He's one of the most added players in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues right now, as he has been added in 40 percent of all leagues since the start of Week 1, but he is somehow available in 25 percent of leagues still, and only starting in 40 percent.

I'm making him my Start of the Week for Week 2 after calling him my sleeper at forward last week. I'm just going to keep riding this train until the wheels come off. He's a unique talent, adept at rebounding and three-point shooting, and still young enough (23) to make you think this is real development, and not just small sample size flukiness.

For all of you that added him this week, you'll want to make sure he's in the lineup for Week 2, as he plays four games in the week against Detroit, Chicago, Washington and Sacramento. All have decent players at the power forward spot, but none of them are truly elite or even above average defenders, and he scored at least 10 points-per game last year against three of the four (except Sacramento, who he only played twice).

The Magic desperately need Anderson's floor spacing, and he is currently shooting 44 percent from three-point range on the season after making 39.3 percent last year. This looks like true development and the Magic have clearly found Dwight Howard's tag-team partner in the frontcourt. It might be a little unorthodox, with Howard's physically dominant style of play next to Anderson's perimeter-oriented game. But it has been brutally effective thus far, as the duo has combined for 34.3 points and 21.3 rebounds per game, and should continue to be so moving forward.

Guards

Start 'Em

Gerald Henderson, Bobcats (@CLE, @NYK, ATL, @IND): The Bobcats have been waiting for three years for their 2009 lottery pick to begin living up to expectations, and it finally appears to be happening. In his first two games, coach Paul Silas has leaned heavily on Henderson, giving him 40.5 minutes per game, as the Bobcats avoided back-to-backs in the first week. They'll have two in Week 2, but with a Cleveland/New York trip in the wings, I like Henderson's chances to continue his strong play. He is averaging 19.5 points-per game thus far on 51.5 percent shooting with 6.5 rebounds, and Cleveland and New York were two of the eight-worst defenses in the NBA last year. The Hawks and Pacers were above average, but only slightly so, and not enough to scare you off.

Ramon Sessions, Cavaliers (CHA, @TOR, @MIN, @POR): Sessions leads the Cavs in scoring in the early going, and he already put up 18 points and six assists in just 22 minutes against the Raptors, who he faces again in Week 2. Sessions has added a three-point shot to his game, which has opened up his offense. A career 11.1 points-per game scorer, the fourth-year player upped his scoring to 15.4-per game after the All-Star break last year and is carrying his strong play into the new season. With a four-game stretch and only one particularly tough defensive opponent on the way, Sessions is off to a nice start and should be started in more than 25 percent of leagues.

Sleeper Alert: MarShon Brooks, Nets (IND, @BOS, @TOR, MIA): The kid can play. He's proven it, leading the Nets in scoring off the bench in two of their first three games of the season, putting up 17 in each game against two solid defenses in the Magic and Hawks in Week 1. The 25th pick in last year's draft has entered the NBA red-hot, and it doesn't hurt that the rest of the Nets' shooting guard options are dreary at best. With their offense in a rut to start the season, Brooks is forcing the Nets to give him more playing time, and that should result in more fine performances from the rookie out of Providence.

Sit 'Em

Mike Conley, Grizzlies (SAC, @MIN, @UTH, LAL): Conley rolled his ankle badly in the Grizzlies' loss to the Thunder on Wednesday, and is not expected to return to the lineup until Week 2 at the earliest. However with a back-to-back on the schedule and a couple of long plane trips ahead of him, the chances of him receiving a full-load of playing time seem pretty slim. Even if he plays, he'll likely be limited, and with Jeremy Pargo's strong showing in relief, the Grizzlies may take it slow.

Paul Pierce, Celtics (WAS, NJN, IND): The first game of the scoring period is the second of a back-to-back, so even if Pierce's troublesome heel is feeling better by then, he'll likely be limited in that first contest. The Celtics play just twice more in the scoring period, so I don't like Pierce's chances of contributing much in volume, even if he is healthy and giving good per-game production; a big if as well.

Bust Alert: Jrue Holiday, 76ers (@NOH, DET, TOR): Holiday suffered a knee injury on Wednesday against Phoenix, but he appears fine. So why is he here, after averaging 14 points-per game in the first two games of the season? Well, he only plays three times in the week, and has a back-to-back, so the possibility exists that the Sixers will limit his minutes, especially if they go up big early, something they could do in any of these games. He's generally a fine starting option at guard, but for this week, you can steer clear if you have better options.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Marvin Williams, Hawks (@MIA, @CHI, MIA, @CHA, CHI): The Hawks have been hoping for solid, all-around performance from Williams since signing him to a $40 million contract in 2009, and have received just around 10 points-per game and five rebounds for their trouble. However, early returns in 2011-12 suggest he may have found another, level, as he has 8.5 rebounds and 15.5 points-per game thus far. And in Week 2, he has a five-game schedule, which should allow him ample opportunities to continue to give Fantasy owners solid value. While all five represent tough defensive matchups, I like Williams to continue his solid play for the most part, especially with so many opportunities.

Brandon Rush, Warriors (@PHO, @SAS, @LAL, UTH): Rush has been a disappointment in the NBA since the Pacers took him with the 13th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. The Pacers dumped him on the Warriors right before the season, and he is starting to show signs of life in the Warriors wide-open offense. He wouldn't be the first wing to revive his career in Golden State, a team that puts guards like Rush in the best position to succeed. So far, he is averaging 12 points-per game on 48 percent shooting, and with matchups against Phoenix and Utah, who finished in the bottom half of NBA defenses last year and look no better this season, Rush should be able to continue his surge.

Sleeper Alert: Amir Johnson, Raptors (@NYK, CLE, NJN, @PHI): Johnson faced the Cavaliers once this season, finishing with a stat-sheet stuffing 13 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and one steal performance in the season opener. The Nets and Knicks have had plenty of problems with opposing big-men, as Dwight Howard grabbed 24 rebounds against the Nets and Pau Gasol had a double double against the Knicks last Wednesday. While Johnson isn't either of those guys, the matchups bode well for him to get close to at least another couple of double-doubles as he's receiving almost 30 minutes-per game so far this season.

Sit 'Em

Caron Butler, Clippers (HOU, MIL): I like the acquisition of Butler for the Clippers, and think he'll be a very good fit in their offense, however at the pace he's been on in the early going, he's simply not a good enough player to recommend as a starting option in a week when he plays just twice. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, yeah, go ahead and keep them active even with just two games. But a borderline starter like Butler can't be counted on with such few opportunities coming his way.

Serge Ibaka, Thunder (@DAL, POR, HOU, @HOU): Oklahoma City is starting off the season with four sets back-to-backs in a row, two of which come in Week 2. In their first two sets of back-to-backs, Ibaka averaged fewer than 26 minutes per night with just 6.5 points and 6.8 rebounds-per game to his credit. If that is going to be the pattern for the Thunder, then Ibaka is in line for another week in which he is limited. Because of their depth, the Thunder has the ability to spread minutes out, which is great for them, but bad for Ibaka's owners.

Bust Alert: Elton Brand, 76ers (@NOH, DET, TOR): It's been a rough start for Brand, who didn't play more than 28 minutes in either of the 76ers' first two games. Concerns about his conditioning and health are always in the minds of his Fantasy owners, and with the high number of back-to-backs this season, Brand's minutes will likely continue to be limited. Unfortunately for his owners, this week he plays just three times, but has a back-to-back. That's just a killer combination for a guy who isn't likely to play a ton of minutes anyways. Combine that with a seven points-per game average through two games, and you should definitely look to other players fro Week 2.

Centers

My sleepers
Week 2
Player % Started
1. Jon Leuer, F, Bucks 1
2. Vladimir Radmanovic, F, Hawks 3
3. James Anderson, G, Spurs 0
4. Samardo Samuels, F, Cavaliers 1
5. Jordan Hill, F, Rockets 13
6. Ben Gordon, G, Pistons 22
7. Norris Cole, G, Heat 8
8. Mike Dunleavy, F, Bucks 9
9. Chris Duhon, G, Magic 0
10. Tiago Splitter, F, Spurs 3

Start 'Em

Dejuan Blair, Spurs (@MIN, GSW, DAL, DEN, @OKC): Blair has long been known for his defensive and rebounding contributions, and not for his offense. However, he has scored 20 points in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, and looks to be taking on a bigger part of the offense in the early going. While it may not last, he does play five times in Week 2 with only one matchup against a really tough opposing center (OKC's Kendrick Perkins) so you won't need him to get 20 points per night to contribute. If he just gives you his consistent, solid eight-points-and-seven-rebounds-per night production you've come to expect, he's a fine play. Anything more is just gravy.

Sleeper Alert: Robin Lopez, Suns (GSW, @DAL, POR, MIL): The up-and-down career arc of Lopez continues, and this time he appears to be on the upswing. With Marcin Gortat limited and struggling with a fractured thumb, Lopez stepped up to score 14 points and add 6.5 rebounds-per game in the Suns' first two games. He's completed 11-of-16 attempts from the field, and looks more like the guy who performed so well in 2009-10 than the guy who led the Suns to acquire Gortat last season. With Gortat's injury lingering, I like Lopez to give you solid production at the center position.

Sit 'Em

Mehmet Okur, Nets (IND, @BOS, @TOR, MIA): Admittedly, I blew this one. A week ago, I said Okur could be a good starting option at center as he was brought in to replace the injured Brook Lopez. He has responded by missing 13 of his first 18 shots and grabbing just 4.3 rebounds-per game. I though reuniting with Deron Williams would serve him well and the five-game schedule would give him ample opportunity to produce. So you have my first apology of the season. For those of you who started him last week on my recommendation, I suggest you rectify the situation immediately by benching him, if you don't outright cut him. He's been that bad.

Bust Alert: DeAndre Jordan, Clippers (HOU, MIL): Everything I said for Butler up there goes for his teammate Jordan, as the Clippers play just two games. Normally, Jordan is a fine starting option at center for Fantasy owners, but with just two opportunities to play, you have to keep him on the bench. The only things he does positively in bulk is block shots and you can't keep him in the lineup solely for his blocks because he's just as likely to kill you with missed free throws if you do. Get him back in the lineup in Week 3, but for now steer clear.

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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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