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Waiver Wire: Weighing your options

Fantasy Writer
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The Spurs moved Tiago Splitter into the starting lineup last weekend, highlighting a shift in their lineup usage that, at least on its surface, seems to signal a move back to the more traditional roots of the Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich dynasty. Splitter now starts alongside Duncan in an ultra-big lineup that essentially sacrifices floor spacing without negatively affecting their overall offensive dominance as a team.

Splitter has long been a tremendous per-minute player on the offensive side of the ball, averaging 16.4 points per 36 minutes for his career. Any increase in minutes will hopefully bring with it an increase in his Fantasy value, so the question from a Fantasy perspective is whether we can expect a big boost in his minutes moving forward on a deep Spurs roster.

As of Wednesday, the Spurs have already played Splitter and Duncan 127 minutes together on the floor, as compared to just 129 in a full season a year ago. According to NBA.com, the Spurs still light up the scoreboard with this big lineup on the floor, averaging 111.9 points per 100 possessions. The success of that lineup pair in the front court bodes well for Splitter moving forward, as he has seen an increase in playing time as the season has gone along as a result.

Splitter is averaging 22.0 minutes per game in the month of December after averaging just 18.7 through the first month-plus of the season. That total continues to creep up as well, as he is playing 24.5 minutes per game over the last five, while averaging 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. Splitter's increased production has led to him being added in 19 percent of CBSSports.com leagues over the last week, bringing his overall ownership up to 51 percent.

The fact that the Spurs are enjoying success while Splitter is on the floor with Duncan bodes very well for his ability to remain productive moving forward. Of course, Popovich has been known to make lineup and rotational changes on a whim -- over a six-game stretch last January, Splitter averaged 25.7 minutes per game, before averaging just 19.0 minutes over the next 10.

Splitter has the offensive ability to make an impact off the waiver wire, so his Fantasy value is going to depend on being able to stay in Popovich's good graces. Continue scooping him up.

Most Added Guards

Nick Young, 76ers: Young has been limited to a bit role ever since leaving Washington last season, but he still shows flashes of the ability that can make him an intriguing Fantasy option. His performance last Sunday against the Lakers was a good indication of this ability, as he dropped 30 points on 23 shots while playing 41 minutes. He has been taking on a larger role for the Sixers recently due to the injury to Jrue Holiday, and if every game was like Sunday's he would be a no-brainer pickup on the waiver wire. Unfortunately, he sandwiched a pair of eight-point games around that 30-point effort, which explains why Fantasy owners won't want to rely on him for too much. He is worth a look while Holiday remains out, but be prepared to cut bait once his minutes shrink again.(26 percent owned; +14 percent)

Jarrett Jack, Warriors: Jack is back on one of his hot tears (he has been streaky all season). The Warriors have relied on a small backcourt featuring both Jack and Stephen Curry a lot this season, and they seem to be leaning on Jack more in recent weeks. He is averaging 29.9 minutes per game in the month of December, while putting up 13.6 points and 5.8 assists per game. The Warriors have gone 8-2 in this time, so it is difficult to see them changing course in the near future. Jack ranked eighth among all guards in Fantasy scoring during Fantasy Week 7 and at this point is probably worth owning in all leagues.(76 percent owned; +13 percent)

Jose Calderon, Raptors: There is not much to figure out about Calderon's performance this season. When he starts for the Raptors, he is a must-start Fantasy option. His splits are startling, as he averages 14.1 points and 11.0 assists per game in 11 starts, with just 8.1 points and 4.2 assists off the bench. Most of that can be explained by minute distribution, as he averages 37.0 per game as a starter and 22.0 per game otherwise. Even when Kyle Lowry returns from his current triceps injury, Fantasy owners would be wise to hang on to Calderon. Lowry has missed significant amounts of time in each of the last two games, making Calderon an excellent handcuff option, given his success.(93 percent owned; +12 percent)

Most Added Forwards

Ed Davis, Raptors: Similar to Calderon, Davis has seen his role increase as a result of an injury to one of the Raptors' supposed franchise cornerstones. His success has been decidedly less pronounced, as he has alternated double-figure scoring games over the last five contests. Still, he is averaging 11.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game, and figures to keep receiving opportunities with Andrea Bargnani out indefinitely with elbow and wrist injuries. Davis is too limited offensively to be worth owning in all Fantasy leagues, but he can be useful against the right matchups in deeper formats. (74 percent owned; +38 percent)

Jared Dudley, Suns: It took them a while, but the Suns finally seem to have realized that Dudley is a better option than Michael Beasley. It is not difficult to see why the Suns would go with Beasley over Dudley, at least to start the season. They invested $18 million into the former No. 2 overall pick last season and he is still an incredibly intriguing physical talent. When compared to Dudley, who can barely jump high enough to dunk in-game, it is not hard to see why the Suns assumed Beasley had more upside. Suns coach Alvin Gentry has leaned more and more on Dudley recently, giving him 37-plus minutes in each of the last four games heading into play Wednesday. Dudley does not have a reputation as a dynamic scorer, but he is still averaging 14.9 points per game in the month of December. Assuming his role is secure, Dudley is worth picking up in most Fantasy formats. (66 percent owned; +37 percent)

Shawn Marion, Mavericks: Marion has battled through some injuries this season, but he has been on fire since returning from his most recent issue. Marion has three double-doubles in the last four games while averaging 14.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game since returning from a groin strain. Marion seems to be at full strength and his minutes are ticking up as a result. He is making up for a slow start that saw him average under double-figures in the month of November. Marion can still fill up the box score, but this is probably the upper limit of his Fantasy value. He is still best left on waivers in many Fantasy formats. (74 percent owned; +18 percent)

Most Added Centers

Spencer Hawes, 76ers: Hawes was an abject disaster in November, scoring in double figures just three times in 15 games while averaging just 6.7 points and 4.7 rebounds. He has turned things around nicely recently, topping double digits in each of the last six games, while seeing an increase in playing time. The Sixers have desperately needed some offense, ranking just 25th in the league in offensive rating, which has helped Hawes see more of the floor. Hawes' Fantasy value cratered during that horrible November, but his production from the center position has been passable recently -- he ranked 16th in Fantasy scoring among centers during Week 7. Hawes can be maddeningly inconsistent, but he still deserves to be owned in more than half of Fantasy leagues, given his current production. (46 percent owned; +8 percent)

Andre Drummond, Pistons: This was not a big week for centers, as none reached double figures in the percentage of leagues in which they were added. If I was going to bet on one center outperforming his current Fantasy ranking for the rest of the season, it might be Drummond, the uber-talented and raw 19-year-old. He is getting more minutes recently and is averaging 7.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game over the last five. He will singlehandedly torpedo your free-throw shooting as teams begin to exploit that weakness in his game, but Drummond's skill demands more playing time on a Pistons team that is largely bereft of ability. Drummond is a fine high-upside candidate on the waiver wire if you have room at the end of your bench. (56 percent owned; +3 percent)

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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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