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What's on the Schedule: Week 9

Fantasy Writer
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Fantasy Week 9 (Feb. 20-26) will be the shortest period of the season, as games only run Monday through Thursday with the NBA's All-Star break starting at the end of the week. There are only 66 games scheduled over the next seven days with most clubs slated to play twice. However, eight teams will play three times, while the Raptors and Bobcats will play just once over during the upcoming scoring period.

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With so few games scheduled this week, Fantasy owners will have little room for error when setting their lineups. One bad game can put teams in an insurmountable hole, which is why it is important to pay a little more attention to matchups this week. Luckily for Fantasy owners, we have gone through this week's schedule with a fine-tooth comb and highlighted the teams with the most intriguing matchups. While we strongly recommend doing your own homework, the information below should give owners some insight on which teams have the best and worst matchups over the next seven days.

The team we feel has the most intriguing schedule this week is the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder is one of eight teams slated to play three times during Week 9, although it is the only team with three home games on the docket. Oklahoma City will open the scoring period on Monday night against the Hornets in its third and final matchup of the season against New Orleans. After a day off, the Thunder will close out the scoring period with a back-to-back set against the Celtics and Lakers on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

While facing the Lakers and Celtics in the same week is never an easy task -- especially with both teams ranked in the top five in points allowed -- the Thunder look more than up to the challenge. Oklahoma City has been one of the highest scoring teams this season, averaging nearly 102 points per game. The Thunder put up roughly 104 points per game at home and is shooting a league-best 51 percent from the field at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Despite the defensive prowess of the Lakers and Celtics, we expect Kevin Durant and Co. to score some points this week, so Fantasy owners should feel free to get most of Oklahoma City's Fantasy options active. Other than the obvious choices of Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, owners should be sure to get Serge Ibaka active in most leagues. Even Kendrick Perkins – if healthy -- and Nick Collison could be worth using in deeper formats.

Northwest: Minnesota Timberwolves (@DEN, UTA): The Timberwolves are one of the many teams slated to play twice during Week 9, although Minnesota looks to have some favorable matchups on the docket. Coach Rick Adelman's squad will begin the week in Denver on Monday night before returning home to take on the Jazz on Wednesday evening. While Minnesota will have played a stretch of five games over eight days when all is said and done, owners couldn't have asked for better matchups. Utah and Denver are ranked in the bottom tier in points allowed this season and both teams are allowing opponents to shoot more than 45 percent from the field. Minnesota has also been clicking on offense over the past week and is averaging 99.7 points over its last five games. All signs point to the Timberwolves playing in some high-scoring affairs over the next few days, so owners should not hesitate to use some of Minnesota's lower-end options. Besides must-start options Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, owners should make sure Nikola Pekovic and Luke Ridnour are active this week. Even the head-scratching Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams could be worth using in deeper formats.

Northwest Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Nuggets MIN @LAC SA
Timberwolves @DEN UTA
Thunder NO BOS LAL
Trail Blazers @LAL SA
Jazz SA @MIN

Southwest: New Orleans Hornets (@OKC, @IND, @CLE): The Hornets are slated to play three times during Week 9, including in their first and only back-to-back-to-back set of the season. All three of New Orleans contests will be played on the road, starting Monday night against the Thunder. The Hornets will take on the Pacers on Tuesday before wrapping up the first half of the season on Wednesday against Cleveland, which will conclude a grueling five-game road trip that spanned over eight days. While fatigue and depth will likely play a big factor for the Hornets this week, points could also be come to tough by. New Orleans is already averaging a league-worst 86.3 points per game on the road this season and now will have to face two of the better defensive teams. Both Indiana and Oklahoma City rank in the top five in opponent field-goal percentage, while the Hornets have scored more than 90 points just once over their last five games. However, there are still some Fantasy options worth using on the Hornets, despite their gloomy upcoming outlook. Chris Kaman has been playing well and is worth starting this week in most formats as well as Gustavo Ayon. However, owners may want to leave the consistently inconsistent Trevor Ariza reserved in most formats as well as Jarrett Jack since he is still working his way back from a knee injury.

Southwest Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Mavericks BOS LAL
Rockets MEM PHI
Grizzlies @HOU PHI DAL
Hornets @OKC @IND @CLE
Spurs @UTA @POR @DEN

Pacific: Los Angeles Clippers (@GS, DEN): The Clippers are slated to play twice during Week 9 and look to have some favorable matchups on tap. Los Angeles will start the week on the road at Golden State on Monday night before returning home for a matchup against the Nuggets on Wednesday. While two games don't leave Fantasy owners much room for error in case of a down performance, the Clippers should be able to score some points this week. Both Denver and Golden State are allowing more than 100 points per contest and Los Angeles has put up over 100 points against each team once already this season. Despite the light schedule, Fantasy owners should have no qualms about using most of the Clippers' main Fantasy options this week. Make sure Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan are all active for the scoring period. Even Randy Foye could be worth a look in deeper leagues.

Pacific Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Warriors LAC @PHO
Clippers @GS DEN
Lakers POR @DAL @OKC
Suns WAS GS
Kings @MIA @WAS

Central: Milwaukee Bucks (ORL, @CHI): The Bucks have two games scheduled this week, although both are against two of the league's better defensive teams. Milwaukee will begin the week with its third matchup of the year against the Magic on Monday night before wrapping up the scoring period on the road at Chicago on Wednesday night. Both Orlando and Chicago are ranked in the top 10 in points allowed and opponent field-goal percentage, plus the Bucks are winless against both clubs this season. Milwaukee has also been struggling to light up the scoreboard over the past week, as the Bucks have averaged just 91 points per game over their last four contests. Playing the Magic and Bulls this week likely won't help coach Scott Skiles' club solve their offensive issues, so owners may want to try and avoid using some of Milwaukee's Fantasy options during the upcoming scoring period. Brandon Jennings' recent shooting woes make him a candidate to sit this week and Drew Gooden is dealing with wrist and knee issues, making him an injury risk. Surprisingly, Ersan Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino have been Milwaukee's two most consistent producers of late, so owners may want to consider rolling with those two this week.

Central Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Bulls ATL MIL
Cavaliers DET NO
Pistons @CLE @TOR
Pacers NO @CHA
Bucks ORL @CHI @SAC

Southeast: Charlotte Bobcats (IND): The Bobcats are one of two teams slated to play only once during Week 9, but at least their lone game is at home. However, it will be against the Pacers on Wednesday night, one of the better defensive teams in the league. Indiana is surrendering an average of 92.8 points per game and is allowing opponents to shoot just 43 percent from the field. Charlotte was held to just 77 points in its lone matchup against the Pacers this season and there is little reason to think that Charlotte won't have trouble scoring when these two clubs meet again. While the Bobcats are finally starting to get some key pieces healthy, they are still nowhere near full strength, which makes players like D.J. Augustin and Corey Maggette risky plays with only one game on the docket. Fantasy owners should try and avoid using any of the Bobcats' Fantasy options this week -- if possible. If you have no choice, Austin, Maggette and Kemba Walker are the only players we recommend for the week.

Southeast Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Hawks @CHI @NY ORL
Bobcats IND
Heat SAC NY
Magic @MIL @NJ @ATL
Wizards @PHO SAC

Atlantic: Toronto Raptors (DET): The Raptors are the other team with just one game on the docket for Week 9 and just like the Bobcats, it will also be at home. Toronto will play host to the Pistons on Wednesday night in the first of three meetings between the two teams. While Detroit is not known as one of the stingier teams in the league, Fantasy owners should still try and avoid using most of the Raptors' Fantasy options where possible. Toronto has really had problems scoring points since Andrea Bargnani went down with a calf injury and receives sporadic production from most of its main options. DeMar DeRozan continues to struggle shooting the ball, while Amir Johnson and Ed Davis have been non-existent at times this season. The Raptors' most consistent producer this season has been Jose Calderon, who is the only player we feel comfortable endorsing this week. Fantasy owners should consider starting any of Toronto's other options at their own peril.

Atlantic Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Celtics @DAL @OKC
Nets @NY @ORL
Knicks NJ ATL @MIA
76ers @MEM @HOU
Raptors DET      

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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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