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What's on the Schedule: Week 15

Fantasy Writer
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There are 57 games on tap for Fantasy Week 15 (April 2-8) as the NBA calendar is now officially in its final month of the season. By now, most Fantasy leagues are in the middle of the playoffs, which is why it is as important as ever to make sure owners put their best lineup on the floor.

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While the schedule continues to balance itself out over the final few weeks, there are still plenty of intriguing matchups on the docket. Only two teams are scheduled to play five times over the next seven days and there are 34 sets of back-to-backs, including two instances of back-to-back-to-backs.

The Memphis Grizzlies are just one of the two teams slated to play three games over three consecutive days, which is why he have chosen to feature them this week.

The Grizzlies are coming off one of their quieter stretches of the season, having played just four games over the last eight days. However, that will change this week. Memphis will take the court five times this period with three of those contests coming on the road. Coach Lionel Hollins' squad will be tested right out of the gate as they partake in their first back-to-back-to-back set of the season starting Monday night in Oklahoma City. The Grizzlies will then be back home to face the Warriors on Tuesday night before wrapping up the triple set on Wednesday in Dallas. After a day off, Memphis will match up with the Heat on Friday night in Miami prior to returning home to face the Mavericks for the second time of the week on Saturday.

Playing five games over a seven-day stretch is never an easy task, especially considering some of Memphis' opponents this week. The Thunder, Mavericks and Heat are all considered strong defensive teams and Miami and Dallas are ranked in the top 10 in both opposition field-goal percentage and points allowed this season. Oklahoma City's defensive stats are not nearly as impressive, but Kevin Durant and Co. has held Memphis under 100 points all three of the teams matchups this season and are 3-0 in those contests. Still, that doesn't mean the Grizzlies won't be able to score a ton of points this week, especially with the Warriors on the slate.

With so many games crammed into so few days, depth and fatigue will play a huge factor this week. Look for Memphis to have to go utilize its bench early and often in some of these matchups, meaning some of the Grizzlies' mid-and low-end options could be looking at some extended run. In addition to must-starts Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley, owners should make sure to get O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen active in the majority of formats. Marreese Speights should also get some consideration in deeper leagues.

Southwest: Houston Rockets (@CHI, @LAL, @SAC): The Rockets are one of just eight teams slated to play three times during Week 15 with all three of those contests coming on the road. Houston will open the week against the Bulls on Monday night before facing the Lakers on Friday. After a day off, the Rockets will close out the scoring period Sunday night in Sacramento. With only three games on the schedule, Fantasy owners won't have much room for error this week. One bad performance can put teams in a big hole, making most of Houston's Fantasy options risky plays, especially considering its upcoming opponents. The Bulls and Lakers are both ranked in the top five in points allowed and opposition field-goal percentage, so points could be tough to come by for the Rockets over the next few days. Luis Scola and Goran Dragic have been Houston's two most consistent producers over the past few weeks, making them the only two players who look like sure bets this period. The rest of the Rockets' spotty production makes them way too risky to use in most formats for the upcoming scoring period.

Southwest Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Mavericks LAC MEM POR @MEM
Rockets @CHI @LAL @SAC
Grizzlies @OKC GS @DAL @MIA DAL
Hornets DEN @SA MIN
Spurs @CLE @BOS NO UTA

Pacific: Sacramento Kings (MIN, PHO, LAC, @LAC, HOU): The Kings are slated to play five times during Week 15 with four of those contests coming at home. Sacramento will start the week with a back-to-back set against the Timberwolves and Suns on Monday and Tuesday night, respectively, before welcoming the Clippers to town on Thursday. The Kings will then face the Clippers for the second time of the scoring period on Saturday night in Los Angeles before hosting the Rockets on Sunday. While the Kings have been struggling to scrape together wins lately, scoring points has not been an issue. Sacramento is averaging 109.7 points per game over its last 10 contests and has failed to score at least 100 points once over that stretch. Coach Keith Smart has encouraged his team to dictate the tempo of the game more and the result has been a slew of high-scoring affairs. Considering all four teams the Kings will face over the next seven days are ranked in the middle of the pack in most defensive categories this year, that trend should be able to continue this week. Fantasy owners should make sure to get Isaiah Thomas and Jason Thompson active, in addition to must-start options DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton.

Pacific Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Warriors @MEM @MIN @UTA DEN
Clippers @DAL LAL @SAC SAC
Lakers NJ @LAC HOU @PHO
Suns @SAC @UTA @DEN LAL
Kings MIN PHO LAC @LAC HOU

Northwest: Minnesota Timberwolves (@SAC, GS, @NO): The Timberwolves enter Week 15 as one of the more beat-up teams in the league. Minnesota has dealt with a rash of injuries over the past few weeks that have left only eight players at coach Rick Adelman's disposal over the past few games. However, the Timberwolves will be able to get some much needed rest over the next seven days as they are scheduled to play just three times this week. Two of those contests will be on the road, starting Monday night against the Kings. The Timberwolves will be back at home to face the Warriors on Wednesday before wrapping up the scoring period at New Orleans on Sunday night. While facing the Kings and Warriors in the same week should result in at least two high-scoring affairs, Minnesota's injury troubles have made it extremely tough for Fantasy owners to set their lineups in recent weeks. With the status of Michael Beasley, Jose Juan Barea and Nikola Pekovic still up in the air, we don't recommend starting any of those three this week. Only Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour look like safe plays for the upcoming scoring period.

Northwest Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Nuggets @NO PHO @GS
T'wolves @SAC GS @NO
Thunder MEM @MIA @IND TOR
Trail Balzers UTA NJ @DAL @MIL
Jazz @POR PHO GS @SA

Southeast: Atlanta Hawks (CHA, DET, CHA): The Hawks are slated to play three times during Week 15, but will only face two different teams over the next seven days. Atlanta will host the Bobcats on Wednesday night before welcoming the Pistons to town on Friday. After a day off, the Hawks will face the Bobcats for the second time of the scoring period Saturday night in Charlotte. While this looks to be a very favorable schedule for Atlanta, playing only three games puts some Fantasy owners at a disadvantage. One bad game can put owners in a hole that could be tough to climb out of with just two remaining games on the slate. For that reason, Josh Smith, Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague are the only three Hawks we recommend starting this week.

Southeast Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Hawks CHA DET @CHA
Bobcats @TOR @ATL @MIL ATL
Heat PHI OKC MEM DET
Magic @DET NY @PHI
Wizards MIL IND @DET @NJ

Atlantic: New York Knicks (@IND, @ORL, CHI): The Knicks have been one of the most discussed teams this season and that trend has continued over the past few weeks with all the injuries to hit New York. Jeremy Lin is the latest player to go down with a serious injury leaving the Knicks trying to fill another void on their roster. However, New York should have some time to regroup over the next few days as the Knicks are slated to play just three times during Week 15. The Knicks start the week with a pair of home games against the Pacers and Magic on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, before returning home to face the Bulls on Sunday. All three of those teams are ranked among the league leaders in points allowed and opposition field-goal percentage, so this looks like it could be a tough week for the majority of New York's Fantasy options. Coach Mike Woodson will likely spend the next several days tweaking his rotation a bit as the Knicks' light schedule should allow for some much needed practice time. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners, that means most of New York's options will be risky plays this week. Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith are expected to see extended minutes in Lin's absence moving forward, but with only three games on the docket, one bad performance can really sink you. For that reason, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler look like the only sure bets this week.

Atlantic Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Celtics SA @CHI @IND PHI
Nets @LAL @POR WAS CLE
Knicks @IND @ORL CHI
76ers @MIA TOR ORL @BOS
Raptors CHA @PHI CLE @OKC

Central: Milwaukee Bucks (@WAS, CLE, CHA, POR): The Bucks are slated to play four times during Week 15 and Milwaukee looks to have some very favorable matchups on tap. Brandon Jennings and Co. will start the week with a game against the Wizards on Tuesday night, which will be the team's lone road contest of the period. The Bucks will be back at home on Wednesday night to face the Cavaliers before closing out the week against the Bobcats and Trail Blazers on Friday and Saturday night, respectively. The Bucks have really tried to push the tempo on offense over the past few weeks and as a result are averaging 105 points per game during the month of March. Now the Bucks will get a chance to face four teams which have really been struggling on defense. The Wizards, Bobcats and Cavaliers all rank near the bottom of the pack in most major defensive categories this season, including points allowed and opposition field-goal percentage. While the Trail Blazers do not fall into that category, Milwaukee put up 116 points against them in their lone meeting back in Week 13. In addition to must-start option, Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, owners should make sure to get Ersan Ilyasova and Drew Gooden active this week. Even Mike Dunleavy deserves some consideration from owners in deeper formats.

Central Division schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Bulls HOU BOS @NY
Cavaliers SA @MIL @TOR @NJ
Pistons ORL WAS @ATL @MIA
Pacers NY @WAS OKC BOS
Bucks @WAS CLE CHA POR

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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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