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What's on the Schedule: Week 7

Fantasy Writer
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There are only 112 games scheduled during Fantasy Week 7 (Feb. 6-12), making this scoring period the lightest of the season thus far. No team is slated to play five times or play three games on three consecutive days this week, as 24 of the 30 teams are scheduled to take the court four times over the next seven days. Only six teams will play three contests and there are only 26 back-to-back sets.

With this week's schedule arguably the most balanced to date, there aren't that many intriguing matchups at first glance. However, after taking a closer look at each team's upcoming schedule, we found plenty of tidbits that Fantasy owners should be aware of when setting their lineups this week. Here is our list of the teams we feel have the most intriguing schedules heading into Week 7.

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We highlighted the Grizzlies' schedule last week, but with four games on the docket during Week 7, we thought it prudent to mention Memphis once again. The Grizzlies are the only team slated to play four home games during the upcoming scoring period and one of the only teams that won't play any back-to-back sets. Memphis will begin the week with its third matchup of the season against the Spurs on Monday night, followed by a visit from Kevin Love and the Timberwolves on Wednesday. The Grizzlies will then host the Pacers on Friday night before closing out the week against the Jazz on Sunday.

While Memphis looks to have some tough matchups this week, the Grizzlies should have no problem putting points on the board. Coach Lionel Hollins' club has one of the most lopsided home and road splits in terms of points scored this season. The Grizzlies are averaging just 87.2 points per game on the road this season but are scoring 102.1 points per contest at home. That is a difference of nearly 15 points, which is the largest differential in the league. Sure, fatigue could play a factor at some point with the Grizzlies playing nine games over 14 days, but Memphis' splits are simply too drastic to ignore. While Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley should almost always remain active, Fantasy owners should have no qualms about rolling with some of Memphis' lower end options this week as well. Feel free to activate O.J. Mayo, Tony Allen and even Marreese Speights in deeper formats.

Here are the other teams with schedules that could help make those tough decisions a bit easier:

Southwest: New Orleans Hornets (SAC, CHI, POR): The Hornets are one of only six teams with three games scheduled for Week 7, although New Orleans is the only club slated to play all three contests at home. The Hornets will welcome the defensively challenged Kings to the Big Easy on Monday night before hosting the Bulls on Wednesday. After a day off, New Orleans will close out the scoring period against the Trail Blazers on Friday night. While Sacramento is ranked last in points allowed this season (101.4), Chicago and Portland are both ranked in the Top 10 in the same category, allowing just 88.4 and 91.5 points per game, respectively. Combine that with the fact that New Orleans is averaging a league-low 87.4 points per game at home this season and Fantasy owners are likely looking at three grind-it-out, low-scoring affairs this week. Only Jarret Jack -- if healthy -- Emeka Okafor and maybe Trevor Ariza are worthy of starting in most formats this week. Carl Landry and Greivis Vasquez are simply too risky to start in anything other than the deepest of formats.

Southwest Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Mavericks @DEN @MIN POR
Rockets @DEN @POR @PHO @GS
Grizzlies SA MIN IND UTA
Hornets SAC CHI POR
Spurs @MEM @PHI @NJ

Pacific: Phoenix Suns (@ATL, @MIL, HOU, @SAC): The Suns have played four times in each of the last two weeks and that trend will continue during Week 7. Phoenix is slated to play four games over the next seven days, with three of those contests coming on the road. The Suns will start the week with a back-to-back road set against the Hawks and Bucks on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Phoenix will play its lone home game of the scoring period on Thursday against the Rockets before closing out the week at Sacramento on Saturday night. While everyone considers the Suns one of the faster-paced teams in the league, Phoenix has had problems scoring away from home. Coach Alvin Gentry's squad is averaging just 89.9 points per game on the road this season, which doesn't bode well for owners considering their upcoming schedule. With three road games, including a back-to-back on the docket, Fantasy owners should avoid using the majority of Phoenix's Fantasy options this week. Only must-starts Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat should be left active in most formats.

Pacific Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Warriors OKC @DEN HOU
Clippers @ORL @CLE @PHI @CHA
Lakers @PHI @Bos @NY @TOR
Suns @ATL @MIL HOU @SAC
Kings @NO @MIN OKC PHO

Northwest: Oklahoma City Thunder (@POR, @GS, @SAC, @UTA): The Thunder will be on the West Coast over the next seven days as Kevin Durant and Co. are scheduled to play four road games, including a pair of back-to-back sets during Week 7. Oklahoma City will begin the week in Portland for a game against the Trail Blazers on Monday night before making its second trip of the season to Golden State on Tuesday. After a day off, the Thunder will be at Sacramento on Thursday night before closing out the scoring period against the Jazz on Friday. While four road games in five days seems like a daunting task for most teams, the Thunder should be up for the challenge. Three of the four teams Oklahoma City will be facing this week are ranked in the bottom seven in points allowed, including Sacramento, which is allowing a league-worst 101.4 points per contest. Couple that with the fact that the Thunder is averaging 98.3 points per game away from home, and this looks to be a good week to use most of Oklahoma City's Fantasy options. Besides the obvious choices of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Fantasy owners should give Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and even Nick Collison a look in deeper formats.

Northwest Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Nuggets HOU DAL GS @IND
T'Wolves SAC @MEM DAL NY
Thunder @POR @GS @SAC @UTA
Trail Blazers OKC HOU @NO @DAL
Jazz @NY @IND OKC @MEM

Southeast: Charlotte Bobcats (@BOS, CHI, LAC): The Bobcats are slated to play three times during Week 7, and all three on their matchups look to be challenging. Charlotte will be in Boston on Tuesday night to take on the Celtics before Derrick Rose and the Bulls come to town on Friday night. The Bobcats will then close out the scoring period against the Clippers on Saturday. Both the Celtics and Bulls are ranked in the top five in points allowed this season, which could make it a long week for the offensively-inept Bobcats. Charlotte has been decimated by injuries of late and is having trouble generating offense. Kemba Walker and Co. are averaging just 78 points per game over their last six contests and have failed to score 100 points in 11 straight games, making most of Charlotte's Fantasy options risky plays this week. Only Walker and perhaps Boris Diaw are worthy of starting in the majority of formats this week.

Southeast Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Hawks PHO IND @ORL MIA
Bobcats BOS CHI LAC
Heat CLE @ORL @WAS @ATL
Magic LAC MIA ATL @MIL
Wizards TOR NY MIA @DET

Central: Chicago Bulls (@NJ, @NO, @CHA, @BOS): The Bulls enter Week 7 in the midst of a nine-game road trip, which will have Chicago playing four times over the next seven days. The Bulls will battle the Nets on Monday night in New Jersey before heading out to New Orleans on Wednesday. After a day off, Chicago will take on the Bobcats on Friday before making their second trip of the season to Boston on Sunday afternoon. While most teams struggle on the offensive end when playing away from home, the Bulls have been the opposite. Chicago is actually averaging nearly 98 points per game away from the United Center this season, which ranks sixth overall. With New Jersey, Charlotte and even New Orleans on the schedule this week, the Bulls should have no problem continuing their stellar offensive play. Fantasy owners should feel free to roll with the majority of Chicago's Fantasy options heading into Week 7. Even lower-end options such as Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson and Kyle Korver could be worth a look in deeper formats.

Central Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Bulls @NJ @NO @CHA @BOS
Cavaliers @MIA LAC MIL PHI
Pistons @NJ NJ WAS
Pacers UTA @ATL @MEM DEN
Bucks PHO @TOR @CLE ORL

Atlantic: Philadelphia 76ers (LAL, SA, LAC, @CLE): The 76ers are slated to play four times during Week 7, with three of those contests at home. Philadelphia will face the Lakers on Monday night before Tim Duncan and the Spurs head to town on Wednesday. After a day off, the 76ers will take on the Clippers on Friday and then close out the week in Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Saturday night. While taking on the Lakers, Spurs and Clippers seems like a daunting task on paper, the 76ers should be able, at the very least, to score some points. The Lakers are the only team on that list ranked in the top 10 in points allowed this season, while the Clippers and Cavaliers rank near the bottom. San Antonio is surrendering just over 93 points per game but has had its fair share of issues on the defensive end. With the way Philadelphia's offense has been clicking of late, owners should feel free to continue to roll with the majority of the 76ers' main Fantasy options. Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Jodie Meeks could also be worth a look in deeper formats.

Atlantic Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Celtics CHA LAL @TOR CHI
Nets CHI DET @DET SA
Knicks UTA @WAS LAL @MIN
76ers LAL SA LAC @CLE
Raptors @WAS MIL BOS LAL

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Player News
Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(3:51 pm ET) 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
(3:02 pm ET) 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
(2:09 pm ET) 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
(12:28 pm ET) 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
(11:34 am ET) 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
(11:26 am ET) 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
(11:18 am ET) 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. 


Xavier Henry still aiming for start of regular season
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:13 am ET) Lakers forward Xavier Henry is recovered from offseason wrist surgery, but is still working his way back from a procedure on his right knee. Lakers coach Byron Scott told the Los Angeles Daily News he is not sure if Henry will be ready to play in games by the start of training camp.

"I haven't seen him do much on the court," Scott said. "It's going to be close on if he's ready for camp."

Henry has been able to take part in basketball activities, but has still not been cleared for contact. Still, he is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, after appeared in 43 games a year ago. 


Larry Sanders 'absolutely' a part of team's future plans
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:09 am ET) Bucks assistant general manager David Morway told HoopsHype.com in September center Larry Sanders is still a part of the team's future plans, despite a troubled 2013-14 season.

"Absolutely," Morway said. "Yeah, yeah. Larry is in our future plans. We are hopeful that this year Larry gets back to being the basketball player that he was two years ago."

Sanders had a long list of issues follow him last season, including a drug suspension served at the end of the season, as well as a thumb injury suffered during a bar fight. Sanders was limited to just 23 games, during which he averaged 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game before his season ended in February with a fractured eye socket.

Sanders is expected to open the season as the team's starting center. 


Brendan Haywood possibly ahead of schedule
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:55 am ET) Cavaliers center Brendan Haywood might be able to play during the first half of the 2014-15 season according to The Plain Dealer, as he is in better shape than expected ahead of the start of training camp.

According to the report, the team was concerned their recently-acquired big man might not be able to play until January, if at all, due to foot surgery last season. Haywood missed all of last season as a result of the surgery, but might be able to provide some depth in the backcourt shortly.  


 
 
 
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