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Waiver Wire: Land of opportunity in Minnesota

Fantasy Writer
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Derrick Williams has been a major disappointment since the Timberwolves selected him with the No. 2 overall pick last year. There really is not any nice way to say it, other than to note he is barely old enough to legally drink alcohol. The 21-year-old is averaging just 8.7 points per game in the first 92 games of his career and has largely been a non-factor on most nights, especially this season. He entered play Wednesday against the Hawks averaging just 17.4 minutes per game.

However, if you've been paying close attention, you can see Williams' play has clearly improved here in his second season. His shooting from the field has only improved from 41.2 percent to 42.1 percent, but he has improved across the board otherwise. Williams has a 52.8 true-shooting percentage, which takes into account free-throw shooting as well as three-pointers being worth more; he posted a 49.9 percent mark as a rookie. He has improved his efficiency while actually playing a larger role while on the floor with a 23.2 percent usage rate, compared to a 20.7 percent rate a year ago.

Williams' scoring is down due to his decreased role, but he has a chance to turn his per-minute-production into real results for Fantasy owners, due to another injury to Kevin Love. Williams largely flopped in his earlier attempts at filling in for Love. He averaged a pretty pedestrian 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in nine starts, while shooting just 35.6 percent from the field. However, this time the Wolves have opted to bring Williams off the bench behind Dante Cunningham, hoping that his success with the second unit can carry over in an increased role.

Williams has been added in 25 percent of all CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues in the last week, due to the news of Love's injury. Cunningham is getting more minutes, initially, than Williams. However, Williams has feasted in Love's absence, scoring 35 points in his first 39 minutes over two games. Williams' talent is clear, and if his jump shot can remain as true as it has been so far this season, he could end up putting up big numbers in Love's absence. I like taking a chance on his potential.

Most added guards

Ben Gordon, Bobcats: The Bobcats' guard rotations have been inconsistent, which is to be expected for a team that stands as the league's third-worst by record so far. Gordon was the victim of a minute squeeze last month, as coach Mike Dunlap has searched for the right combination to turn his team around. Gordon went a stretch of 10 games from Dec. 7 through Dec. 29 averaging just 16.2 minutes per game. The pendulum has shifted the other way again over the last week-plus for Gordon, as he is averaging 26.8 minutes per game over the last three, while scoring in double figures in six consecutive games. Gordon is a contributor of empty, inefficient scoring even at his best, but he has some value when the minutes are there. Unfortunately, his inconsistent role on the team this season should serve as a caution for Fantasy owners who see his gaudy scoring in recent games as a reason to snag him. Be ready to cut Gordon loose if it looks like Dunlap is shying away from him. (45 percent owned; +15 percent)

Vince Carter, Mavericks: Carter found himself in the starting lineup for a few games last week, as the Mavericks also look for an answer to a slide that has seen them lose nine of the last 10 games. Carter has not really been a reason for that slide, as he has scored in double figures in 8 of 10 games, averaging 13.1 per. Carter has transitioned seamlessly into full-time sixth man role for the first time in his career, though he does little besides chip in some points off the bench. Carter has the green light to fire away from three-point range and is averaging 1.7 three-pointers per game (on 5.4 attempts). He is also contributing 1.2 steals per game and is worth an add in category-based Fantasy formats in his current role. (47 percent owned; +11 percent)

Carlos Delfino, Rockets: The Rockets seem intent on setting some sort of NBA land-speed record with their play this season. They average 97.0 possessions per game on the year, the highest mark since the 2009-10 season. They score a lot of points, and they simply love taking three-pointers, with only the Knicks having attempted more; no other team is within 100 attempts of them, otherwise. These tendencies bode particularly well for a player like Delfino, whose best skill remains his three-point shooting; he leads the team in attempts from deep at 6.0 per game, while making 37.7 percent of them. He got off to a slow start to the season -- thanks in part to injury -- but is averaging double figures in scoring since December and is shooting over 40 percent from three-point range in that time. Delfino is another worthy add in category-based formats, though his production is even less consistent than Carter's. (27 percent owned; +9 percent)

Most added forwards

John Henson, Bucks: Just as Henson was starting to earn coach Scott Skiles' trust (and the subsequent minutes that trust leads to), Skiles decided to hit the road. Skiles came to an agreement with the team Monday that he would not finish off the last season of his contract, with assistant Jim Boylan taking over. That decision complicates a Bucks' front court rotation that has been exceedingly difficult to make sense of this season. In Skiles' final three games as the head coach, Henson averaged 12.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. It remains to be seen how interim head coach Boylan will choose to use Henson, but it will likely take more than a few games before we know whether Henson is going to see significant minutes. Henson played just five minutes in the first half of Boylan's first game as head coach, but forced his way onto the floor in the second half, finishing with 19 minutes total. He finished with a double-double in his time, and he was a part of the team's closing lineup. I would take a wait-and-see approach to adding Henson, but it looks like he is going to earn playing time, no matter what his coaches have planned. (42 percent owned; +37 percent)

Dante Cunningham, Timberwolves: Cunningham will be the other part of the Timberwolves' two-headed Kevin Love replacement plan. He earned the start in Love's first two games out and has actually played a larger role than Williams this season, averaging 23.0 minutes per game to Williams' 17.4. However, while coach Rick Adelman might prefer Cunningham's defense-and-energy-first approach to the game, the results on the stat sheet are less than impressive; he is averaging just 7.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. While Cunningham has been added in slightly more leagues than Williams, I would bet on Williams' upside over Cunningham. (32 percent owned; +28 percent)

Antawn Jamison, Lakers: Here we go again with the Jamison thing; he had a few weeks of decent production before falling completely out of favor with the coaching staff, but a frontline devastated by injury has opened up another chance for Jamison to possibly start. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are out "indefinitely" with various maladies, however it appears as if they could be back within a week. Jamison might see a larger role with them out, but will likely represent just a short-term solution. (32 percent owned; +15 percent)

Most added centers

Tyler Zeller, Cavaliers: This was a very slow week for center additions, but it would not surprise if Zeller ends up being a solid pick up. The Cavaliers indicated Tuesday that center Anderson Varejao might not travel on an upcoming five-game road trip, which should leave Zeller in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future. In 10 games as a starter, Zeller is averaging 10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He is shooting just 40.4 percent from the field in that span while racking up more field-goal attempts than points, so it is not all positive with him. Still, with the center position being so shallow, I would expect Zeller to be owned in more than 32 percent of leagues while Varejao remains out. (32 percent owned; +5 percent)

Jordan Hill, Lakers: Given the dearth of options at the center position, I'll cheat just a little bit and focus on a player who is a forward primary player who, nonetheless, has center eligibility. Like Jamison, news of Gasol and Howard's injuries led to a little rush to add Hill to rosters, but Hill comes with very different caveats about his Fantasy utility. Hill is dealing with his own injuries that will keep him from taking advantage of the starting big men's absences. Hill has a torn labrum in his hip and is expected to miss at least a week, if not more, due to the injury. The idea of going out to grab him was the right one initially, but a bit of bad luck is going to cost Fantasy owners that roster spot. It seems like Howard and Gasol might end up returning before Hill does. (9 percent owned; +7 percent)

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Player News
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. 


Jrue Holiday cleared for contact ahead of camp
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was able to participate in full-contact offseason drills last week, the first time he has done so since undergoing season-ending surgery last January.

"Getting out playing has been a joy," Holiday told The Times-Picayune. "I've been running and jumping and stuff, but getting my rhythm back on the court is definitely a big thing right now for me."

The Pelicans open training camp Sept. 30, and Holiday is not expected to have any limitations as the team prepares for the start of the season. Holiday averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season prior to the injury.


Kent Bazemore focused on conditioning in recovery
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Newly signed Hawks guard Kent Bazemore did not pick up a basketball until August, preferring to focus on conditioning in his recovery from foot surgery in April.

"I think the injury was definitely a blessing," he told the Daily Press, "because I was able to step away from the game of basketball. I took myself out of my element all summer. I did stuff I'm not used to doing."

Bazemore signed a two-year deal with the Hawks this offseason, and is expected to compete for playing time on the wing immediately, as he is fully recovered from the surgery. 


 
 
 
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