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Week 8 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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When things go bad, every fan base has a player or two they will look to as a scapegoat. Raptors fans seem to have spent the entire season heaping the majority of the blame for their woeful start onto the shoulders of forward Andrea Bargnani, while calling for more playing time for under-used players, such as third-year big man Ed Davis. Bargnani's inattentive defense and inefficient offense has sunk the Raptors on both sides of the floor, they claim, and Davis' skill set fits in better with coach Dwane Casey's defense-first philosophy.

Those fans are about to have their hypothesis put to the test and the situation could end up giving smart Fantasy owners a boost. The Raptors will be without Bargnani for an as-yet-undetermined amount of time after he suffered a torn ligament in his elbow as well as a wrist sprain. Davis has taken Bargnani's spot in the rotation since he suffered the injury and he has done well in that role thus far, making him our Start of the Week for Week 8 (Dec. 17-23).

Davis is averaging 14.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in three games since Bargnani suffered the injury, and he has found himself in the starting lineup over the last two games. It is not clear how large of a role Davis is going to get, but it looks like the former lottery pick is going to get his first extended playing time of the season moving forward.

The Raptors play three times in Week 8, against the Cavaliers, Pistons and Magic. Cleveland and Detroit rank below the league average in defensive rating this season, and none of these teams boasts particularly stout defensive front courts. If Davis sees the playing time expected, he could flirt with a couple of double-doubles this week.

Guards

Start 'Em

Nick Young, 76ers (@DAL, @HOU, ATL, @BKN): Injuries have bothered Young recently, but they may also have earned him a spot in the starting lineup. At least for the time being, Young is among the Sixers' first five, as Jrue Holiday is out with a knee sprain. Young started Friday's game against the Pacers, playing 37 minutes and scoring eight points. Young can be a big-time scorer when given the opportunity and Philadelphia may have to rely on him a bit more heavily this week if Holiday is forced to miss some time. The first two games in particular should provide Young with an opportunity to thrive, as Houston and Dallas are pacing the league in the speed of their games this season.

Alexey Shved, Timberwolves (@ORL, @MIA, OKC, @NYK): The impending return of Ricky Rubio is certainly going to shake up the Timberwolves' rotation, especially with regards to the multitude of combo-guard options on their roster. Luckily for Shved, he currently stands as their best option at the shooting guard spot, as he possesses the requisite size and shooting ability. Shved has seen his production tail off some recently, but he stands a good shot at remaining in the starting lineup upon Rubio's return, due to a recent knee injury to Malcolm Lee. It will be interesting to see how Shved adapts to playing off the ball more consistently with Rubio on the floor, but it should help his shooting efficiency to get more spot-up opportunities. During the week, the Wolves face one team that defends the three-point line well in Orlando, before taking on three teams that rank in the bottom 11 in three-pointers allowed. He has a good chance to put a lock on the shooting guard position.

Sleeper Alert: Austin Rivers, Hornets (@GSW, @LAC, @SAS, IND): After a slow start that made him look more like a D-League washout than a lottery-level talent, Rivers has started to show some of the potential that made him such an attractive prospect coming out of college. Over the last five games, Rivers has reached double figures in scoring in four games in a row, including a masterful performance Friday against the Timberwolves in which he scored 19 points on just seven shot attempts in the first half before finishing with 27 points. Rivers is starting to catch up to the speed of the NBA game, averaging 14.0 points, 2.4 assists and just 1.2 turnovers per game over the last five. The Hornets have some tough matchups on the way for Week 8, but Rivers' recent play makes him worth taking a flier on.

Sit 'Em

Chris Duhon, Lakers (CHA, @GSW): Last week, Duhon was listed as a possible starting option, due to his role as the Lakers' starting point guard. He has not put up big numbers, averaging just 3.8 points and 3.8 assists per game through the first three games of Week 7. He looked like he might be finding success in the Mike D'Antoni offensive system again, but it appears to have been fool's gold. With just two games on the schedule, Duhon is unlikely to put up the kinds of numbers you are looking for from a starting option.

Marcus Thornton, Kings (@PHO, GSW, @LAC, POR): In the past, Thornton has been a solid option for points, as one of the better score-first (and score-only) guards around. Unfortunately, he has seen his role crater, averaging just 12.1 field-goal attempts per game, his lowest total since leaving New Orleans in 2010-11. Thornton has been a total non-entity since the calendar turned to December, averaging 8.8 points per game in five contests. He has not been with the team over the last two games while dealing with family issues, which may explain why his performance has been subpar. Either way, at this point he is a risky Fantasy option for the scoring period.

Bust Alert: Luke Ridnour, Timberwolves (@ORL, @MIA, OKC, @NYK): Last season, Ridnour thrived playing the off-guard role next to Ricky Rubio, but that may not be a role he fits this season. The Wolves had almost no options at the shooting guard position, which pressed the under-sized Ridnour into service in a lot of dual-point-guard lineups. With Shved's move into the starting lineup at shooting guard, however, it may be Ridnour who is moved to a bench role. At this point, it is not clear how much Ridnour's role will take a hit, given his recent strong play. Still, the uncertainty regarding his usage makes him a risk to rely on this week.

Forwards

Start 'Em

Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks (IND, @MEM, @BOS, CLE): After a slow start that had him branded as an early bust, Ilyasova is starting to figure things out. Since the calendar turned to December, Ilyasova has scored in double figures in six of seven games, with a pair of double-doubles on his record. He is averaging 15.0 points and 8.2 rebounds over the last five games, and he has found the three-point shot that made him a breakout player a year ago. Ilyasova does not have the best matchups in Week 8, but his recent play makes him worth getting back in the starting lineup.

C.J. Miles, Cavaliers (TOR, @BOS, IND, @MIL): Miles was invisible through the first month of the season, as he earned twice as many '"DNP -- coach's decisions" (six) as he had double-figure scoring games (three). Since Dion Waiters went down with an ankle injury, however, Miles has come into his own, scoring in double figures in six consecutive games as of Friday. Miles has likely earned a consistent role moving forward, even once Waiters gets back, especially with Waiters' struggles with consistency. Miles has faced two of his Week 8 opponents during his scoring streak, putting up 45 points in back-to-back games against the Bucks and Pacers.

Sleeper Alert: Andrew Nicholson, Magic (MIN, @WAS, @TOR, UTA): Nicholson, a first-round pick out of St. Bonaventure, has found his stride and is moving up the depth chart after a string of solid performances. Nicholson contributed intermittently during the first month of the season, scoring in double figures in five games while averaging 6.9 points per game in 13 contests. He has seen his role grow over the last few weeks, and he is averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game over the last five while stealing minutes from more-establishing front court players. The Magic face a pair of below-average defensive teams in Week 8, and none of them really have strong defensive front courts. He could remain productive moving forward.

Sit 'Em

Kris Humphries, Nets (NOH, @SAC, CHA, LAL): Humphries has been a major disappointment this season, and things keep getting worse for him. He has been taken out of the starting lineup over the last four games, and his production has seen a predictable tumble as a result. Humphries has received 20-plus minutes off the bench just once in the last four games and is averaging just 4.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in that span. The Nets seem unhappy with Humphries' play on the defensive side of the floor, and until he improves on that end he remains unworthy of your Fantasy consideration.

Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers (TOR, @BOS, IND, @MIL): The 2010 lottery pick continues to disappoint, and it appears as if his offensive development has completely stalled at this point. Thompson has been held under double digits in scoring in five games in a row, and his shooting percentage has now dipped under 45.0 percent on the season, a horrendous rate for a big man. He can still provide decent rebounding totals, but his lacking offensive game is beginning to cost him playing time. Thompson has topped 30 minutes just once in the last five games, so he is tough to rely on in his current role.

Bust Alert: Antawn Jamison, Lakers (CHA, @GSW): Jamison seemed to greatly enjoy the Mike D'Antoni era at the beginning, but he has come crashing back to earth recently. He has failed to reach double figures in scoring in any of the last five games, and he was only on the floor for six minutes as the Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak against the Wizards Friday. Apparently even Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced style of play only has so much room for defensive sieves. If Jamison's shot is not falling -- and it hasn't been recently -- there really is not any reason to get him on the floor. He has been useful for stretches this season, but Fantasy owners will want to avoid him with just two chances to play in Week 8.

Centers

Start 'Em

Spencer Hawes, 76ers (@DAL, @HOU, ATL, @BKN): As recently as last week, Hawes looked like a total non-entity in the Fantasy world, as he endured a stretch of eight games in a row without reaching double figures in scoring. He has been turning things around recently, however, averaging 11.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in 27.2 minutes per game over the last five contests. Hawes has long been a skilled offensive big man, but his shortcomings on the defensive end have made it tough for coach Doug Collins to rely on him. If Collins is giving him consistent minutes in the high 20's, Hawes should be a useful Fantasy option this week, especially with matchups against Dallas and Houston, two of the five worst defenses in the league.

Sleeper Alert: Tiago Splitter, Spurs (@OKC, @DEN, NOH, DAL): Splitter has scored in double figures in seven games in a row and after Saturday's game against the Celtics was told that he would be entering the starting lineup moving forward. That might not mean a big boost in playing time, but it should give him a consistent role for the time being. His play recently has certainly deserved that much, as he is averaging 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over the last five. The Spurs don't face a single top-10 defense during the course of the week and only Oklahoma City on Monday ranks above the league average in points scored. Splitter has shown he can be a very productive player when given the chance and he should have the opportunity in Week 8.

Sit 'Em

Emeka Okafor, Wizards (ATL, @ORL, @DET, DET): After a disappointing final season in New Orleans, we hoped that Okafor would be able to bounce back for a Washington team in desperate need of a steadying presence in the middle. Hypothetically, he would provide a rebounding and defensive presence they have been lacking, and would form a solid tandem with Nene in the front court. Unfortunately for Okafor, the Wizards' defense has not been the problem this season, so his services have not been required. Washington surprisingly ranks 12th in the NBA in points allowed, while sporting a league-worst offense. That combination has led to him seeing just 21.7 minutes per game, the lowest of his career. Okafor has scored in double figures just once in the last five games, so it does not look like things are getting better. Don't expect the veteran to get going this week.

Bust Alert: Andray Blatche, Nets (UTA, @NYK, PHI): We've all enjoyed Blatche's resurgence as a Fantasy contributor this season -- he has helped carry two of my Fantasy teams over the last few weeks while averaging 17.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in Brook Lopez's absence. Unfortunately, Lopez was able to return to the floor in a limited manner Friday, which means Blatche's wild ride is likely coming to an end. Blatche was averaging just 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game prior to Lopez's injury. If he is limited to 20-25 minutes per game with Lopez in the lineup, that will make it tough to rely on Blatche, especially with just three games on the schedule.

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Player News
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/22/2014) 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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