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Week 1 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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I don't think anyone will miss last year's lockout-shortened mess of a season. It wore on the players, led to sloppy play, and is largely to blame for an 11-point drop in league-wide shooting numbers.

One thing the compressed schedule did do was make this column a bit easier. Now that we're back to a normal schedule beginning in Week 1 (Oct. 30-Nov. 4), there will not be quite as much variance in the number of games teams play every week. While last season featured 37 different examples of a team playing five times in a week, there are only three such weeks this season, which makes stacking your lineup with as many games as possible a less useful option.

Nevertheless, we will work with what the schedule brings us from week to week. And, in the case of Week 1, the Lakers stand out. The new-look Lakers are the only team in the league to play four times in the first scoring period, thanks to a back-to-back tilt against the Mavericks and Portland to begin the season.

Antawn Jamison is just one of a number of new faces for the Lakers this season, and he clearly is not the biggest name. He is, however, a great option right out of the gate in our opinion. Jamison is likely looking at a reduced role this season, coming off the bench to fill in at both forward spots. While we expect his numbers to take a hit in this new role, Jamison should still be a somewhat useful Fantasy option in the right situations.

Week 1, against a depleted Mavericks team, as well as the Blazers, Clippers and Pistons, would seem to be one of those situations. With the exception of Dallas, each of those teams finished in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency (points allowed, per-100 possessions) last season. With an extra game on the schedule, consider Jamison a worthy option in many formats.

Guards

Start 'Em

Brandon Roy, Timberwolves (SAC, @TOR): Nobody really knows what to expect from Roy this season. He is a full season removed from appearing in an NBA game after an aborted retirement, and he is much further removed from actually being an impactful player. His knees are going to be an issue to monitor all season long, but all indications are he is in great shape at this early stage of the season. He averaged 10.0 points and 2.0 assists per game in 21.3 minutes per game in seven appearances in the exhibition schedule. The Kings and Raptors should provide a fairly soft landing in his return to the court, as they ranked just 30th and 14th in defensive efficiency a year ago.

Anthony Morrow, Hawks (HOU, @OKC): We know exactly what to expect from Anthony Morrow at this point in his career; a lot of three-pointers. That's it, really. He is joining his third team in five seasons, and the only constant is that he will chuck up and connect on as many three-pointers as anyone in the league. While neither the Rockets nor Thunder particularly struggled to defend the three-point line last season, they both allowed points at an above average pace overall. The Hawks revamped their backcourt this season and they will need Morrow to provide valuable floor spacing. Morrow only has two games this week, but expect Morrow to be productive in both.

Sleeper Alert: Kendall Marshall, Suns (GS, DET, @ORL): At this point, it is not clear how many minutes Marshall will get as a rookie. The Suns invested the No. 13 pick in Marshall this season after a solid two-year career at the University of North Carolina and then signed Goran Dragic to man the point this season. That leaves Marshall on somewhat shaky ground. What we do know is that Marshall has phenomenal ball-handling and play-making skills and should be able to rack up assists at an excellent per-minute rate. The Suns open the season with matchups against three defensive lightweights, so Marshall could have an opportunity to make an impact even without big minutes. Marshall could make a solid impact in deeper Rotisserie formats this week.

Sit 'Em

Jose Calderon, Raptors (IND, @BKN, MIN): Calderon is perfectly-suited for the backup point guard role, which is a wonderful asset for the Raptors to have as they look to return to the playoffs. Unfortunately, Calderon does not seem to agree with that assessment, as rumors have spread that he is looking for a way out of Toronto. Barring something crazy happening in the next 48 hours (and after the James Harden mega-deal, don't count anything out), Calderon will be the team's backup at the point whether he likes it or not. History has shown us that tuned-out players can kill your Fantasy team, so don't take the risk on Calderon until we see how he approaches his new role.

Jason Richardson, 76ers (DEN, @NY): The 76ers brought in Richardson along with Andrew Bynum in their blockbuster trade, presumably with the idea that Richardson would thrive as a spot-up shooter with Bynum drawing doubles in the post. Apparently they didn't pay attention to how that worked in Orlando, as Richardson is coming off some of the worst performances of his career with the Magic. Worse still, the 76ers will be without Bynum for the beginning of the season, which will give Richardson even less room to operate on the perimeter. When you add those facts Richardson's ugly numbers against Denver and New York last season (9.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting in four games), and he is not a recommended option for the first scoring period.

Bust Alert: Arron Afflalo, Magic (DEN, PHO): I legitimately think Afflalo could build on his breakout campaign now that he is expected to be given an even bigger role this season on a rebuilding Orlando team. Unfortunately, there are warning signs that Afflalo might be looking at a tough go of things, at least until he figures his role on the team out. Afflalo averaged 12.7 points per game before the All-Star break last season before taking his game to another level in the second half. However, that was in a fast-paced and well-oiled offense that generated plenty of open shots for him. Afflalo will be asked to create more of his own offense in Orlando, a role he is not accustomed to. A total of 76.3 percent of Afflalo's baskets in 2011-12 were assisted on, a number that is generally reserved for catch-and-shoot players, not primary offensive options. Afflalo will get his numbers eventually, but a slow start would not surprise on what looks like potentially one of the worst offenses in basketball.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Metta World Peace, Lakers (DAL, @POR, LAC, DET): Metta's shooting hit rock bottom last season, though he showed signs of life late. He averaged 11.7 points per game in the postseason after 10.7 after the All-Star break. Now, he is in a better offense with a point guard in Steve Nash who knows when and where to get the ball to everyone in the offense. World Peace's production can only improve this season as the Lakers will likely be a machine on offense. He is a low-end Fantasy option most weeks, but World Peace could have value this week.

Derrick Williams, Timberwolves (SAC, @TOR): This might end up being the last time for a while that anyone can play up Williams as a potentially underrated Fantasy option. He is set to join the starting lineup for the first month of the season with Kevin Love's broken hand, and he could be in position to excel. Williams really struggled in his first season, but that was with him playing mostly on the wing, away from the basket. With Love out, he should have more chances to play power forward, which should do wonders for his efficiency. Williams might end up being too productive right out of the gate to end up on this list -- or the waiver wires -- for long. An easy early schedule should only help.

Sleeper Alert: Jae Crowder, Mavericks (@LAL, @UTA, CHA): Crowder ended up being one of the pleasant surprises of the summer league and preseason, and he looks likely to be the best player drafted in the second round this season. Crowder is a bit undersized for a forward (he measured at 6' 3.75” at the combine), but he is a bundle of energy who has endeared himself to the coaching staff in Dallas already. He averaged 11.4 points per game in the preseason while filling the stat sheet up, and he should slot in nicely in the rotation. He is owned in 17 percent of CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues right now, but with two matchups against porous defenses looming, he could have some low-end value.

Sit 'Em

Alonzo Gee, Cavaliers (WAS, CHI, @MIL): A lot of people like Alonzo Gee as a breakout candidate this season, and for good reason. He emerged as a solid play for the Cavaliers last season in a contract year, which is why it is hard to understand their offseason logic. They acquired Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles and seem to have slotted both in ahead of him on the depth chart. Gee averaged just 9.6 points per game as a reserve last season, so that shift in his role is worrisome. He'll get back to the starting lineup before long; neither Miles nor Waiters is likely to run away with things. In the early going, you might want to avoid him, however.

Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks (@BKN, MIA, PHI): There seems to be an inordinate number of early-round Fantasy options who are beginning the season on the shelf for a variety of reasons this year. By now, you should know that Stoudemire is almost certainly going to miss the entirety of the first week of the season due to a knee issue. And yet, 'Stat' is still in 44 percent of starting lineups in CBSSports.com leagues as of this writing. The same goes for Dirk Nowitzki (39 percent), Kevin Love (31 percent), John Wall (42 percent), and Andrew Bynum (64 percent). Consider this a friendly reminder that you'll need to get those studs out of the lineup for at least the first week, and likely a bit longer. Your Week 1 opponents will thank you if you don't.

Bust Alert: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats (IND, @DAL): There is a lot to love about Kidd-Gilchrist's long-term potential; he's an athletic freak who no coach will ever need to get on about not trying hard enough due to his relentless motor. Unfortunately, it seems like that might not be enough for him to succeed right away in the NBA. We try not to put too much stock in performance during exhibition games, but MKG's numbers are flat-out startling. MKG averaged just 5.8 points per game in eight preseason games, while shooting an abysmal 31.9 percent from the field. He made no three-pointers and actually found himself out of the starting lineup for a pair of contests. His long-term potential is undeniable, but it could be a very rough landing for Kidd-Gilchrist in his first taste of NBA action. Both Indiana and Dallas finished in the top-10 in defensive efficiency last season.

Centers

Start 'Em

Spencer Hawes, 76ers (DEN, NY): For a period of about three weeks to begin last season, Hawes legitimately looked like one of the most uniquely-skilled big men in basketball. He turned back into a pumpkin before too long, but it was still impressive! Hawes was expected to be moved to power forward with the team's acquisition of Andrew Bynum, but Bynum's lingering knee injury will force Hawes to man the pivot for a few weeks. Don't expect Hawes to flirt with any triple-doubles like last season's early going, but he has a solid chance to provide surplus value with Bynum gone.

Sleeper Alert: Byron Mullens, Bobcats (IND, @DAL): Mullens was a surprisingly productive player last year for the hapless Bobcats, pouring in 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in just 22.5 minutes per game. He flashed a solid jumper, and the Bobcats seem to have given him carte blanche to fire away -- he shot 41.0 percent on 39 three-point attempts during six preseason games. He probably won't chuck up six-plus attempts from long range every game once they start to count, but it is clearly a weapon for a Bobcats team that might not have many. While Indy and Dallas are strong defenses, Mullens could get off to a fast start from three-point range if teams aren't ready to close out hard on the big man.

Sit 'Em

Drew Gooden, Bucks (@BOS, CLE): At times last season, Gooden was a legitimately useful Fantasy option. In 46 games as a starter, he averaged 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds while filling in for Andrew Bogut at center. The Bucks realized that situation was not workable in the offseason, particularly on the defensive side of the court, so they traded for Samuel Dalembert to start at the pivot. They also drafted a young, defensive-minded power forward in the lottery in John Henson. As a result, Gooden is unlikely to play a big role for Milwaukee this year. He might still have value against the right matchups, but with the Bucks playing just twice this week against a pair of stout defensive front courts, this will not be the week. Sit him down.

Bust Alert: Emeka Okafor, Wizards (@CLE, BOS): There's quite a few reasons to like Okafor as a bounceback candidate this season. But Week 1 may not be indicative of his season as a whole. Both Boston and Cleveland have formidable frontcourts, so Okafor might not have many opportunities to produce. Additionally, the absence of Wall in the Wizards' lineup could have disastrous effects on their offensive ability. Okafor might not have many easy opportunities to score at the rim this week, so don't expect much production from him overall.

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Player News
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:06 pm ET) With one week before the start of training camp, the Lakers have signed five-year veteran guard Wayne Ellington to a contract, the team announced. Ellington is now with his fourth team since June, after failing to crack the rotation with the Mavericks in 2013.

Ellington averaged 3.2 points on 43.7 percent shooting from the field over 45 games for Dallas.

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. 


 
 
 
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