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What's on the Schedule: Week 3

Fantasy Writer
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With 116 games scheduled to be played over the next seven days, Fantasy Week 3 (Jan. 9-15) promises to be just as action-packed as the first two weeks of the season.

Week 3 looks to be the most balanced in terms of scheduling, as 18 teams are on tap to play four times during the scoring period. In addition, five teams are scheduled to play five games, while eight will play three times and one club just twice. The NBA's condensed schedule continues to provide plenty of intriguing matchups and other circumstances teams have had to deal with, and we once again have chosen the seven teams which have the most interesting slate of games on tap this week.

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The team which perhaps has the most intriguing schedule in Week 3 is the Charlotte Bobcats. After playing four games in each of the first two weeks of the season, Charlotte is scheduled to play five times in the upcoming scoring period. The Bobcats will start the week by making their second trip of the season to Madison Square Garden for another matchup with the Knicks on Monday. They then finish up their third back-to-back set of the year on Tuesday night against the Rockets at home. After a day off Wednesday, Charlotte will play three games on three consecutive nights, starting with the Hawks in Atlanta on Thursday night. The Bobcats will then host the Pistons on Friday before wrapping up a grueling stretch of seven games over 10 days against the Warriors on Saturday.

While fatigue and depth will likely be a big factor for the Bobcats this week, Charlotte looks to have some favorable matchups. New York, Houston and Golden State are all ranked in the bottom 10 in points allowed this season, while the Pistons have surrendered an average of 99 points per game over their last three contests. The only team which could give Charlotte some trouble on the defensive end is Atlanta, although the Bobcats put up 96 points against the Hawks in their meeting last week -- albeit the game did go to overtime.

Still, the Bobcats are averaging nearly three points more per game this season compared to last year and we anticipate that trend to continue this week. Fantasy owners should make sure Charlotte's main Fantasy options, including Boris Diaw, Gerald Henderson and possibly Tyrus Thomas -- now that he is healthy -- are all active heading into the scoring period. However, because Charlotte's jam-packed schedule could force coach Paul Silas to go to his bench a bit more, owners in deeper formats should also consider rolling with Kemba Walker, Byron Mullens and D.J. White as viable options heading into Week 3.

Southeast Division: Orlando Magic (@POR, @GS)

We chose to highlight the Magic's schedule last week, but with only two games on the docket for Week 3, we thought it pertinent to mention them again. Orlando will be in the midst of a four-game road trip over the next eight days, however only two of its games will fall during the upcoming scoring period. After a matchup with the Kings on Sunday night, the Magic will get two days off before finally playing its first game of Week 3 against the Trail Blazers Wednesday. Orlando will then be in Golden State on Thursday, which will be the team's fourth back-to-back set of the year. However, that will be it for Orlando as it will get the final three days of the scoring period off. With the Magic being the only team with two games scheduled this week, Fantasy owners are best to leave every player on the roster not named Dwight Howard on the bench.

Southeast Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Hawks @NJ @IND CHA @MIN
Bobcats @NY HOU @ATL DET GS
Heat @GS @LAC @DEN
Magic @POR @GS
Wizards TOR @CHI @PHI PHI

Central Division: Detroit Pistons (@CHI, DAL, @MIL, @CHA, GS)

After playing four games in each of the first two weeks of the season, the Pistons are slated to play five times during Week 3. Detroit will open up the week in Chicago on Monday before returning home to face the Mavericks on Tuesday night. The Pistons will then get a day off Wednesday before traveling to Milwaukee and Charlotte on Thursday and Friday respectively, for their second back-to-back set of the scoring period and fourth of the season. Detroit will finally close out the week at home against the Warriors on Sunday, concluding a stretch of seven games over 10 days dating back to last week. With that many games crammed into such a small window, depth will be a huge factor for Detroit this week, which is why we feel some of the team's lower-end players could be worth using this week. Besides the obvious choices of Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey, other players such as Ben Gordon, Jonas Jerebko and Brandon Knight could also be worth using in deeper formats.

Central Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Bulls DET @MIN WAS @BOS TOR
Cavaliers @UTA @PHO @LAL
Pistons @CHI DAL @MIL @CHA GS
Pacers @PHI ATL @TOR BOS
Bucks SA DET @DA

Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics (DAL, CHI, @IND)

The Celtics only played three times last week, which will once again be the case in Week 3. Boston should be well rested heading into the upcoming scoring period as the Celtics will be coming off four consecutive off days before finally taking the court Wednesday against the Mavericks. Boston will then get another day off before the team wraps up with a back-to-back set against the Bulls and Pacers on Friday and Saturday, respectively. All three teams the Celtics will be facing this week are allowing fewer than 100 points per game, with Indiana and the Bulls both ranked in the Top 10 in points allowed. While Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce should be able to get their numbers, owners might want to think about sitting Kevin Garnett this week.

Atlantic Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Celtics DAL CHI @IND
Nets ATL @DEN @PHO @UTA
Knicks CHA PHI @MEM @OKC
76ers IND SAC @NY WAS @WAS
Raptors MIN @WAS SAC IND @CHI

Southwest Division: Memphis Grizzlies (OKC, NY, NO)

The Grizzlies are coming off a tough week -- which included losing power forward Zach Randolph until at least February with a knee injury -- and an embarrassing loss at Utah. The Grizzlies will try to regroup with a four-game home stretch, which entails the team playing three times during Week 3 -- all at home. The Grizzlies will host the Thunder on Tuesday before facing the Knicks and Hornets on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. While both the Thunder and Knicks rank near the bottom of the barrel in points allowed, Memphis has looked a bit out of sync on offense with Randolph sidelined. With only three games on the docket this week, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay and Mike Conley should be the only Grizzlies considered sure-starts this week.

Southwest Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Mavericks @DET @BOS MIL SAC
Rockets @CHA @SA @SAC POR
Grizzlies OKC NY NO
Hornets @DEN OKC MIN @MEM
Spurs @MIL HOU POR PHO

Northwest Division: Denver Nuggets (NO, NJ, MIA, UTA)

The Nuggets are coming off a grueling stretch that saw them play six games over the past eight days, which included road games at Los Angeles, Portland, New Orleans and San Antonio. However, the Nuggets will now get to unpack their suitcases as the team is slated to play four home games during Week 3. Denver will play every other day in the scoring period, starting with the Hornets on Monday night. The Nets will be in town on Wednesday, followed by visits from the Heat on Friday and Jazz on Sunday. The Nuggets are averaging a league-leading 104 points per game at home this season and have already posted 117 and 96 points against the Jazz and Hornets, respectively. New Jersey isn't known for its defensive prowess and while the Heat are better, keep in mind that the Nuggets put up 130 points on Miami in Denver last season. While we don't anticipate that necessarily happening again, the Nuggets should have no problems scoring on all four of their Week 3 opponents. Fantasy owners should make sure all of Denver's main Fantasy options -- including Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo -- are active this week.

Northwest Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Nuggets NO NJ MIA UTA
T'Wolves @TOR CHI @NO @ATL
Blazers LAC ORL @SA @HOU NY
Thunder @MEM @NO NY
Jazz CLE LAL NJ @DEN

Pacific Division: Golden State (MIA, ORL, @ CHA, @DET)

The Warriors are slated to play four times during Week 3, with the first two contests coming at home. Golden State will host the Heat on Tuesday night before welcoming the Magic to town on Thursday. After a day off on Friday, the team will head East for its first of two road trips to the Eastern Time Zone this year. Golden State will be at Charlotte on Friday before concluding its third back-to-back set of the season against the Pistons on Saturday. While the Bobcats have really struggled on defense thus far, Miami, Orlando and Detroit have not. Combine that with the fact that Golden State is averaging just over 90 points per game offensively and could be without Stephen Curry for an extended period of time, and we aren't sure where the team's points will come from. Other than the obvious choices of Monta Ellis and David Lee, there aren't enough viable options on the Warriors roster worth starting in Week 3.

Pacific Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Warriors MIA ORL @CHA @DET
Clippers @POR MIA LAL
Lakers PHO @UTA CLE @LAC
Suns @LAL CLE NJ @SA
Kings @PHI @TOR @HOU @DA

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Player News
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:06 pm ET) With one week before the start of training camp, the Lakers have signed five-year veteran guard Wayne Ellington to a contract, the team announced. Ellington is now with his fourth team since June, after failing to crack the rotation with the Mavericks in 2013.

Ellington averaged 3.2 points on 43.7 percent shooting from the field over 45 games for Dallas.

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. 


 
 
 
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