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Waiver Wire: Don't be so Cavalier

Fantasy Writer
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When news of Kyrie Irving's broken left index finger came out, Fantasy owners rushed to pick up his projected backup, Daniel Gibson. Gibson was owned in just 3 percent of all CBSSports.com leagues last week, a number that spiked to 22 percent before game-time Wednesday, making him the fifth-most added player in all formats.

It came as some surprise, then, that the Cavaliers turned to Jeremy Pargo to start Wednesday's game against the 76ers, the first without Irving. Gibson was dealing with a sore elbow and sat out the game, which gave Pargo the opportunity to run the offense. He took full advantage of that, scoring 28 points on just 19 shots to lead Cleveland to surprising win over Philadelphia.

That game leaves the owners who snatched Gibson in a strange position, as he is still the most accomplished and likely option to lead the Cavs' offense with Irving gone. However, Pargo has the hot hand right now, and may have earned a multi-game tryout; the Cavaliers treated the late season emergences of Donald Sloan and Lester Hudson a year ago in the same way.

Gibson has been a double-digit scorer in this league before, so Fantasy owners have to think he will eventually end up being the Cavalier's primary option at point guard. They may just have to wait until Pargo's star burns out; considering the 26-year-old has just 50 games of NBA experience to his name that might not take long. Pargo's emergence definitely puts a damper on Gibson's prospects, so Fantasy owners will not want to run out and grab him en masse until it becomes clear the Cavaliers intend to start him.

Most Added Guards

Alexey Shved, Timberwolves (55 percent owned; +37 percent): I wrote about Shved in my last Start/Sit column, calling him a worthy start for the current scoring format. Fantasy owners seem to agree, as the rookie from Russia is the most-added player in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues. With the way injuries have obliterated the Timberwolves this season, the fact that they are 22nd in the league in offensive rating should not come as much of a surprise. Shved has helped them steady the ship, and it looks like he will have to run the offense for extended periods of time, while shifting between both guard spots. If Shved can improve his three-point shooting moving forward, his ceiling this season can be even higher, and he will be able to hang on to a major role even when the rest of the Wolves get healthy. A year ago, Shved shot 43.8 percent from three-point range in 43 games for CSKA Moscow. If he can even split the difference between that and the 24.3 percent he is currently shooting, Shved could increase his scoring and create even more room to operate on the pick and roll. For now, 10.4 points and 4.2 assists per game off the waiver wires is a nice reward for owners who have scooped the 24-year-old up.

Kyle Korver, Hawks (38 percent owned; +29 percent): It is no surprise that Korver can shoot the three ball well. That has been his calling card since he entered the league 10 seasons ago, and is has held steady no matter what role he has filled. So Korver's resurgence as a Fantasy option right now is tied entirely to an increased role as a starter for the Hawks. After starting 10 out of 426 possible games over the last six seasons, Korver has been the starter for the Hawks in each game he has appeared in this year. As a result, he is scoring 10.2 points per game, his best total since 2006-07 with Philadelphia. Korver is not doing anything different for Fantasy owners to take notice; he is just getting more of an opportunity to be the player he has always been.

Jason Richardson, 76ers (75 percent owned; +17 percent): Richardson is no longer the dynamic, athletic scorer of years past, however his first few weeks in Philadelphia are showing that he is better than the shell we saw over a year-plus in Orlando. Richardson has been successful, despite barely shooting more often than he did in Orlando and doing little in the way of play-making, for himself or others. The former dunk contest winner is attempting fewer than three shots in the restricted area per game this season and he is shooting just 42.0 percent on those attempts, while his 9.0 percent assist rate is his lowest since leaving Phoenix. Despite those factors, Richardson has seen his Fantasy relevance increase, thanks to an increase in steals to 1.7 per game, while shooting a career-best 44.2 percent from three-point range. He might struggle to continue hitting threes at this rate, but the 76ers do a good job of spreading the floor and giving shooters space, so he could remain an asset.

Most Added Forwards

Harrison Barnes, Warriors (83 percent owned; +30 percent): Barnes is really starting to round into form, with a pair of double-doubles over the course of his last four games heading into Wednesday's action. He is averaging 11.5 point and 4.7 rebounds per game, while posting a solid triple-slash shooting line of 48.5/38.5/70.4. When you dig into his numbers a bit, you see why he is enjoying such success; Barnes simply avoids doing things he is not good at. Barnes is attempting just 40.6 percent of his shots between three feet of the rim and the three-point line, generally considered the least-efficient parts of the floor. He is shooting just 31.7 percent on those attempts, but is making up for that by shooting the three-point shot and getting to the rim at high rates. According to the stat-tracking site MySynergySports.com, 60.4 percent of Barnes' attempts have been either in transition, as a spot-up shooter or in the post. These are all shots designed to get him clean looks on jump shots or in the area immediately surrounding the rim. Barnes landed in a good spot on a Warriors team that can use him as a secondary offensive option, and they are putting him into spots where he can succeed. His performance might not be a fluke.

Metta World Peace, Lakers (68 percent owned; +27 percent): Like a B-horror movie villain, World Peace's Fantasy value just will not die. A year ago, he ranked 70th among all forward-eligible players in Fantasy scoring, contributing a paltry 16.0 Fantasy points per game in 64 contests. He had a broken shot, was an unwilling passer and had an anemic rebounding rate for one of the physically strongest players in the league. Undeterred by years of being an offensive black hole, the Lakers continue to feature World Peace in the offense, and so far he has held up his end of the bargain. He ranks 38th in Fantasy scoring among forwards, at 22.5 per game, while upping his rebounding and three-point shooting to respectable levels; in fact, only Nicolas Batum has made more threes than World Peace this season among forwards. I have been and remain outspoken in my skepticism of World Peace's ability to sustain this kind of offensive resurgence, but the evidence is starting to mount that he is back to respectability, at the very least.

Jason Maxiell, Pistons (32 percent owned; +17 percent): At the age of 29, with eight years of NBA experience under his belt, we know what Jason Maxiell is. He is averaging a career-best 9.8 points per game on a career-high 7.4 shot attempts per game, mostly because he is seeing more of the floor than ever. As a full-time starter, Maxiell is averaging 26.4 minutes per game; his per-36 minutes production remains well within the margins of what he has done in the past. Maxiell can sustain something close to this level of production if he continues to receive 25-plus minutes per night, but Fantasy owners should temper expectations; younger, more talented options loom in the background for a Pistons team that will likely turn an eye towards the future sooner rather than later.

Most Added Centers

Nikola Vucevic, Magic (79 percent owned; +11 percent): The Magic remain committed to their big men in this rebuilding season, with Vucevic and Glen Davis attempting 26.2 field goals per game between them. The results are not always pretty, as the team has the second-least-efficient offense in the league through 10 games, but it is leading to some surprising valuable Fantasy performances for the duo. Vucevic, in particular, is surprisingly being used as more of a centerpiece than we expected; the second-year big man is fourth on the team in minutes played and shot attempts. He has a double-double in five of 10 games, and has reached double figures in scoring in seven contests. There is little reason to think the Magic will turn away from his development in a season that they have to know is already lost.

Byron Mullens, Bobcats (89 percent owned; +8 percent): Mullens is putting up one of the strangest lines in the league through the first month of the season, as he ranks 20th in the league in rebounds per game and 16th in three-pointers attempted per game. His shooting percentages from the field and three-point range are laughably bad for the volume he is shooting, but the Bobcats seem committed to using him as a floor-stretching big. He is starting to reach the point where he is owned in nearly every league, and the production has been hard to argue with, even if it is difficult to understand. Mullens has emerged as a kind of poor-man's Ryan Anderson, and his center eligibility makes him well-worth owning.

Others notes: Other highly added players: Jason Thompson, Jordan Crawford, Marcus Morris, John Henson, Markieff Morris … Some sell-high candidates: Jamal Crawford, Metta World Peace, Kyle Korver, Anderson Varejao, A.J. Price, Larry Sanders, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chandler Parsons, Andrei Kirilenko, Glen Davis, Shannon Brown… Buy-low candidates: Tyreke Evans, Jodie Meeks, Klay Thompson, Ersan Ilyasova, Ty Lawson, Marcin Gortat.

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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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