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Week 8 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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Things haven't been looking good in Cleveland recently after a hot start; rookie star Kyrie Irving sustained a concussion that cost him three games and Anderson Varejao now has a broken wrist that will cost him a significant chunk of the season as well, and the team has lost five of their last seven after a 99-84 loss to the Sixers.

However, a silver lining has emerged from that dark cloud and that is the work of backup point guard Ramon Sessions. He has no place in the Cavs' future plans with Irving on board, but he's done wonders for his trade value with his recent play, earning him the honors as the Start of the Week for Week 8 (Feb. 13-19.)

Sessions is starting in just 26 percent of leagues right now, however he's brought his game to another level recently, averaging 18.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in Irving's three missed games. Irving is expected to return when the Cavs pick up play for the scoring period on Wednesday, however coming off of a concussion and with how careful coach Byron Scott has been with his minutes all season, it's a good bet that Sessions will continue to see solid playing time.

Sessions is scoring 10.1 points per game with 5.7 assists this season and has even added a decent three-point shot to his repertoire, helping when he plays off the ball when Irving returns. Over the last week, Sessions has been the 12th best Fantasy guard in CBSSports.com standard scoring leagues, and while he certainly won't keep that up, he's worth starting in more than just the 26 percent of leagues he is currently being used in, so get him in the lineup, even with just three games on the slate.

Guards

Start 'Em

Jason Kidd, Mavericks (LAC, DEN, @PHI, @NY): Logically, it would be fair to say that Kidd, 38, should be totally washed up by now. Minor injuries have nagged at him all season, and his scoring has all but disappeared. However, call it veteran know-how or savvy, but he's actually looked pretty good in his two games since returning to the floor. He's basically useless as a scorer, so don't count on much more than six points from him, however he still remains an above average stat-sheet stuffer who plays four times in Week 8. With three matchups against subpar defensive opponents, Kidd should be able to lead the Dallas offense and, in his own creaky, crafty way, suffice as a viable starting Fantasy option.

Sleepers for Week 8
Player % Started
1. Nikola Pekovic, C, T'Wolves 58
2. Jared Dudley, G, Suns 37
3. Udonis Haslem, F, Heat 19
4. Trevor Ariza, F, Hornets 42
5. Ersan Ilyasova, F, Bucks 30
6. Jason Thompson, F, Kings 36
7. C.J. Watson, G, Bulls 4
8. Klay Thompson, G, Warriors 3
9. Brandon Rush, F, Warriors 8
10. MarShon Brooks, G, Nets 12

Arron Afflalo, Nuggets (PHO, @DAL, @MEM, @OKC): The Nuggets have been struggling lately as the injury bug has hit them hard, but you wouldn't know it by looking at what Afflalo has done recently. Afflalo, who has dealt with his own injury issues this season, has stepped up in the absence of Danilo Gallinari, scoring 20-plus points in back to back games on Thursday and Saturday while looking like a legitimate offensive threat in the Nuggets' wide-open offense. He is averaging 13.6 points per game over his last five contests and appears to have found a groove and has emerged as a solid scoring threat.

Sleeper Alert: Randy Foye, Clippers (@DAL, WAS, @POR, SA): When Chauncey Billups was lost for the season, the expectation was that Mo Williams would see the biggest gain in Fantasy value, however so far it's been Foye who has stepped up and into the starting lineup to fill Billups' absence. In three starts, Foye has scored in double digits in all three, averaging 12.3 points per game with five three-pointers made. Foye also had a five-game stretch early in the season where he started for Chris Paul and averaged 11.4 points per game, so he's shown he can score when he gets the opportunity. He's not going to give you a ton of production in other categories and he definitely needs to improve his shooting percentages, however with four games on the slate, he should be able to shoot enough times to make up for his lack of efficiency and be worth a start.

Sit 'Em

Roddy Beaubois, Mavericks (LAC, DEN, @PHI, @NY): It really seemed like Beaubois' long expected breakout was finally on the verge of happening, as he stepped into the starting role in Kidd's absence for a spell and started to look like the playmaker the Mavericks have been expecting. However, since Kidd's return on Friday, Beaubois hasn't even gotten off the bench in two games, with no report of any injury keeping him sidelined. That is a terrible sign for his Fantasy value moving forward, so don't look his way until the Mavs start doing so again.

Jeff Teague, Hawks (@LAL, @PHO, @POR): Teague is one of the more exciting young players in the NBA and is enjoying a breakout season after impressing with his play in the postseason last year. However, playing full-time minutes for the first time during a condensed schedule appears to have begun to take its toll on the 23-year old, as he's seen his assists per game numbers fall below three over the last five games, while he's shooting just 42.9 percent from the field. If he had better matchups, or if he was playing more than three times this week, you would be fine riding with him, however each of his three opponents are stingier defensively on their home court, so look for better options as he works through this rough stretch.

Bust Alert: Manu Ginobili, Spurs (@DET, @TOR, @LAC): Ginobili finally made his return to the floor on Saturday after a broken bone in his left hand cost him more than a month of the season, and he actually looked pretty good: eight points, four assists, one turnover in just 17 minutes. However, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has never been shy about limiting his star player's minutes, and he won't be afraid to keep Ginobili on a short leash as he works back into playing shape following his hiatus. While I fully expect this to be the very last time Ginobili appears in this space, for just this week, expect his minutes to be limited, especially with a back-to-back on the schedule.

Forwards

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Start 'Em

Channing Frye, Suns (@GS, @DEN, ATL, @LAL, LAL): Frye has long had an extremely unique skill set; standing almost seven-feet tall, he shoots near 40 percent on three-pointers and blocks almost a shot per game for his career, two traits you don't often see together in the same package. He got off to a horrendous start to the season, however he has managed to turn it around and is being rewarded with an expanded role in the offense. In six games in February as of Saturday, he is averaging 13.3 points and has upped his shooting percentage to 44.3 percent, right in line with his career average. The Suns have been given a brutal schedule so far in the month, as they'll have played 12 games in 19 nights by the end of Week 8, however he hasn't shown signs of slowing down yet; he's just starting to heat up.

Corey Brewer, Nuggets (PHO, @DAL, @MEM, @OKC): Injuries have created plenty of opportunities for some less-heralded Nuggets to step in and begin producing. Brewer had missed three games following a personal tragedy but came back on Saturday and entered the starting lineup with a 19-point performance in 34 minutes. He's been extremely solid when given the opportunity, as he is averaging over 18 points per 36 minutes on the season. He was buried by the Nuggets depth early on in the season, but they should be leaning on him more often now that injuries have taken their toll, so Brewer should be able to top double digits on average as long as he's a major part of their offense.

Sleeper Alert: Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers (IND, MIA, SAC): Coming in as the No. 4 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Thompson has been exactly as advertised early in his NBA career; all defense, no offense. He's shooting just 42.4 percent on the season, a pitiful number for an athletic, slashing big man; however in just 17.9 minutes per game, he is grabbing 5.1 rebounds and blocking 1.2 shots. And in two starts since Varejao went down with a broken wrist, he has upped that to 11.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, numbers that should be expected as long as he can continue to get respectable minutes. He's a non-threat to score, however if you're in need of help in the defensive categories in a Rotisserie league, he'll definitely give you a plentiful supply.

Sit 'Em

Boris Diaw, Bobcats (PHI, @MIN, BOS, NJ): To call what the Bobcats are currently attempting to do when they have the ball "offense" is an affront to what actual NBA offenses do, and Diaw is a big part of what's gone wrong. Over the last 10 games the Bobcats have topped 90 points just once, and Diaw is shooting just 40.5 percent from the field in that period. While he's still putting up nice assist numbers for a big man at 3.9 per game his rebounding has fallen off a cliff, and he is showing no signs of turning that around. At this point, He is useful only in Rotisserie formats and with tough games against the physical front courts of Philadelphia, Minnesota and Boston looming, don't expect anything better.

Marvin Williams, Hawks (@LAL, @PHO, @POR): There was a point early on this season where it appeared as if Williams had turned the corner and emerged as a useful Fantasy option. However, he has topped double digits just once in the last six games and shows absolutely no consistency in his production from game to game. That's partially a result of his status as the No. 4 option in the Hawks' offense, but it's also because he's just not a very good player night in and night out. At this point he should be mostly relied upon only with good matchups, and this schedule just doesn't provide that.

Bust Alert: Brandon Bass, Celtics (DET, @CHI, @DET): Bass started off the season so well that it seemed like he was going to become a borderline must-start Fantasy option in most leagues. The Celtics' offense, however, has really struggled at many points this season, and there hasn't been a lot of room for Bass to operate. Because of that, Bass has reached the point where you need to matchup watch, picking and choosing when and where he's worth using to maximize his value. Two matchups against the Pistons would be a good place to go, but with just one game at Chicago on the schedule beyond those two games, Fantasy owners who have to set a lineup for a week will want to avoid him. Daily-league owners can get him in for the Pistons games, but avoid him against the tough Chicago front-line.

Centers

Start 'Em

Nikola Vucevic, 76ers (@CHA, @ORL, DAL, @MIN): Vucevic is just a rookie, and as such has had his share of rookie struggles, including some injury issues, however he's going to see his fair share of minutes this week with Spencer Hawes out until at least Friday. The rookie is actually producing pretty well on a per-minute basis, averaging 5.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and .7 blocks in just 15.3 minutes per game, so if he can maintain that level of production with the expected bump in minutes, he might be able to challenge for a nightly double-double. At the shallow center position, that would be enough to make him a viable Fantasy option, especially on a four-game schedule.

Sleeper Alert: Kosta Koufos, Nuggets (PHO, @DAL, @MEM, @OKC): Koufos was the third big-man in the Nuggets rotation for most of the season, however injuries have pushed him into the starting lineup and a bigger place in the Nuggets' immediate future. He has responded by upping his production, putting up 6.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in seven games during the month of February. With injuries to a number of centers around the league recently, you can pick up Koufos and hope that the 22-year old continues his upward trend.

Sit 'Em

Samuel Dalembert, Rockets (@MEM, OKC, MIN, UTA): For a two-week stretch from Jan. 13-28 everything clicked for Dalembert; he scored in double digits in seven of nine games, had double-digit rebounds just as often and was a menace protecting the rim, averaging 2.6 blocks per game. If that Dalembert ever decides to come back, by all means, get him in the starting lineup. The Dalembert you've been getting for the last two weeks has been blocking shots, and that's about it. He's shooting just 37.7 percent from the field over his last 10 games and hasn't scored or rebounded in double-digits since the calendar turned to February. With four of the NBA's toughest front courts on the slate in Week 8, Dalembert should be avoided in all Fantasy formats.

Bust Alert: Javale McGee, Wizards (@POR, @LAC, @UTA): At times it seems as if McGee is the only Wizard giving consistent effort, as they've sleepwalked to the NBA's worst record. He's a terror at the rim on both sides of the ball and is a threat to post a double-double every night. However, the dysfunction of the Washington offense as well as his own mental lapses has made him a question mark on a nightly basis. He's never going to totally disappear just based on pure ability, however with a road trip against tough front lines, don't be surprised if he disappoints some this week.

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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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