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Waiver Wire: Dragic steps up in a pinch

Fantasy Writer
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The playoffs are rapidly approaching for Fantasy owners so it is time to makes some moves to assure you will be a part of it in your league. Even at this point in the season there are still players fighting for playing time as their respective performances down the stretch will likely determine their role heading into the 2012-13 campaign.

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Just like it has been all season long, injuries continue to shake up lineups and the upcoming scoring period is no different.

This week we are looking at Goran Dragic.

With Kyle Lowry out for a couple of weeks due to a bacterial infection, Dragic has stepped into the starting lineup for the Rockets and is putting up some solid stats. Dragic scored 20-plus points with eight assists and a steal in each of the first two games without Lowry, which capped off a four-game stretch in which he averaged 17 points with 5.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals. The 25-year-old has never really be given a chance to start on a consistent basis but with some potent pieces surrounding him in Houston, and how the offense runs through the point guard, he should be able to put up some decent numbers for owners. With games against the Suns, Lakers, Warriors and Mavericks on the schedule for Week 13 (Mar. 18-25), grab Dragic off waivers before it's too late. Keep in mind that his value will likely take a bit hit once Lowry returns, however.

Guards

Add 'Em

O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies
Owned: 66 percent
Analysis: Mayo has been scoring more consistently of late and is also picking up his production in other areas. He capped off Week 11 by scoring 22 points with eight assists, five rebounds and three steals against the Nuggets. That capped off a five-game stretch in which he averaged 15.8 points with 4.2 assists, four rebounds and 1.2 steals. He appears to finally be adjusting to his bench role and has a couple of favorable matchups in Week 13. Mayo will play the Kings, Trail Blazers, Clippers and Lakers during the upcoming scoring period so owners in need of some guard help should consider adding the 24-year-old.

Jose Juan Barea, Timberwolves
Owned: 24 percent
Analysis: Barea stands to gain the most from Ricky Rubio's injury and should see an increase in playing time down the stretch as the primary backup to Luke Ridnour. While he scored just three points in his return from an ankle injury, the 27-year-old has shown in the past that he can put up some decent numbers in Fantasy when given the playing time. Owners should not expect the 8.2 assists that Rubio averaged but an increase in his all around production -- especially scoring -- should be in order. With a couple of favorable matchups on tap for Week 13, Barea appears to be a worthwhile addition in deeper Fantasy formats.

Avoid 'Em

J.R. Smith, Knicks
Owned: 39 percent
Analysis: Smith has scored in double figures five times in 11 games since joining the Knicks via China as he continues to find his role on the team. While the 26-year-old has recently seen some starts, his production has not been what Fantasy owners had hoped for. Along with putting up 8.4 points per contest, he is averaging just 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists while shooting a career-low 36 percent from the floor. With all of the scoring options on New York, Smith could continue to have a hard time getting his numbers on a nightly basis so owners in deeper formats should be the only ones looking at him at this point.

Ben Gordon, Pistons
Owned: 36 percent
Analysis: Gordon has been able to increase his scoring slightly in his third season in Detroit but is still not contributing enough on a consistent basis to make a difference in Fantasy. He has scored in double digits just twice in the last five games, and is averaging 7.6 points with 1.8 assists and 1.8 rebounds over that span. His minutes have remained fairly consistent off the bench, the emergence of rookie Brandon Knight and the solid play of Rodney Stuckey have cut into his production. It does not look as though things will change down the stretch so leave Gordon in waivers in most formats at this point.

Forwards

Add 'Em

Jason Maxiell, Pistons
Owned: 24 percent
Analysis: Maxiell has stepped up his game since the beginning of March and is starting to gain some steam in Fantasy. He is averaging 11.8 points with 7.4 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field through five games this month, and is starting to see some more playing time. The 29-year-old has shown glimpses in the past of being a viable option in Fantasy and it looks as though owners should ride him while he is hot. With the Nuggets, Heat and Knicks on the schedule for Week 13, Maxiell should be considered a worthwhile add in deeper Fantasy formats.

Trevor Booker, Wizards
Owned: 72 percent
Analysis: Booker jumped back on the Fantasy map with his 18-and-17 performance against the Lakers on Mar. 7 and is starting to pick up the pace again for the Wizards. He averaged 12.2 points with eight rebounds and one steal through his first five games in March, all while shooting 54 percent from the field over that span. Washington has been a mess all season long but as long as the 24-year-old continues to produce, he should continue to see a solid role with the team. With only a couple of weeks left in Fantasy, Booker appears to be a viable addition off waivers.

Avoid 'Em

Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers
Owned: 43 percent
Analysis: Thompson put together some decent performances for owners that added him a couple of weeks ago but he has not been doing much of late. He ended Week 11 with a 4-and-4 performance, which capped off a five-game stretch in which he averaged just three points and 4.2 rebounds. His lowly 26 percent field-goal percentage over that span had a lot to do with his poor numbers and the rookie has struggled to find consistency in his first season in the NBA. While Thompson has some nice upside in Fantasy, he is not someone to pick up at this point in the year.

Linas Kleiza, Raptors
Owned: 23 percent
Analysis: After tearing it up for owners in February, Kleiza has not been nearly as valuable so far in March. He is averaging just 7.8 points with 3.2 rebounds through six games this month and is shooting 38 percent from the field in those contests. On a Toronto team that has been searching for scoring, the 27-year-old will always be a threat to go off at any point but with playoffs in Fantasy coming up, owners should not be banking on Kleiza for consistent production. Leave Kleiza on waivers in most formats heading into Week 13.

Centers

Add 'Em

Tiago Splitter, Spurs
Owned: 39 percent
Analysis: Splitter has re-emerged since missing a few games due to a calf injury and is starting to put up some points again. He began Week 12 with a 17-and-7 performance against the Wizards in which he went 7 for 9 from the floor. That capped off a five-game stretch in which he averaged 9.2 points with 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. With center being such a thin position in Fantasy, the 27-year-old could pay dividends for owners over the final few weeks of the season, especially on a Spurs team that has lacked consistent production out of the five-spot. Pick up Splitter in deeper formats for the stretch run.

Bismack Biyombo, Bobcats
Owned: 59 percent
Analysis: Biyombo is seeing some solid run in Charlotte again and the rookie has been able to come through with decent performances. He averaged 8.2 points with 10 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in his first five games in March, and shot 45 percent from the field over that span. It has been a revolving door at center for the Bobcats this season but the 19-year-old has made some solid progress on offense thus far, and remains threat on defense in the middle. Owners in need of some defensive stats and low-end scoring should consider scooping up Biyombo.

Avoid 'Em

Andray Blatche, Wizards
Owned: 75 percent
Analysis: Blatche has had a down campaign all around for the Wizards and his production has fallen off the face of the earth of late. He is averaging just four points with 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists through five games in March and played more than 20 minutes in only one of those contests. With the emergence of Booker in Washington, it looks as though the 25-year-old is not going to be much of a factor for the remainder of the season. Despite his high average draft position, it might be time to cut ties with Blatche in all but the deepest of Fantasy formats.

Enes Kanter, Jazz
Owned: 13 percent
Analysis: The Jazz continue to limit Kanter's minutes during his rookie campaign but he has shown flashes of being a future contributor in Fantasy. He has scored in double figures four times through 41 games, and has hauled in double-digit rebounds twice. Utah has a pretty solid rotation in their frontcourt at this point so owners should not expect much from the 19-year-old down the stretch. As long as he is buried behind Al Jefferson on the depth chart, leave Kanter for the deepest of formats and long-term keeper leagues.

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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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