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Waiver Wire: Rocky Mountain sigh

Fantasy Writer
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The move from New York to Denver has been a particularly difficult one for Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, who has gone from being a solid contributor to a total non-factor over the last two-plus seasons. A stint playing in China last season clearly caused him problems and a hip injury has lingered for much of this season, limiting him to just five of the first 39 games.

Chandler is back, however, and he looked healthy and rejuvenated Sunday, scoring 14 points in just 21 minutes. The Nuggets expect him to make a big impact off the bench, but you have to wonder what kind of mark he will make in the box score on a consistent basis, given his role. At his peak, Chandler was an excellent Fantasy option, averaging 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game from the guard position. He also shot 46.1 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from three-point range in his final stint with the Knicks.

Chandler will likely be limited to 25 minutes per game on a deep Nuggets roster and might be asked to take on the opposing team's best offensive player when Andre Iguodala goes to the bench, two factors that could clearly limit his offensive production. Nuggets coach George Karl also told the Denver Post Monday he expected Chandler to need a bit of time to get back up to speed in the Nuggets' fast-paced offense.

"It's hard. Six months of not playing basketball is a long time," Karl said. "I hope it's a couple of weeks. But it might take longer, might take less. But I'm glad he's back. I think he's played well enough in practice to. I know he's playing better than the first time, when we were going every other day and the training camp stuff. He didn't have that bounce he has now. I think he has more confidence and I think his body is in a better place."

Chandler is one of the five most-added players in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues, having jumped from just nine percent to 28 percent ownership in all formats. Fantasy owners looking for a boost are banking on Chandler reaching the potential he showed back in his Knicks days. He is a good buy-low candidate on the waiver wires, but expectations should be tempered as he attempts to work his way back to full strength. If recent history is any indication, Chandler may struggle in the short term.

Most Added Guards

Isaiah Thomas, Kings: I have written plenty about Thomas recently, as his playing time and production have begun to resemble the impressive form we saw in his rookie season. Thomas is back in the starting lineup and has played 30-plus minutes in each of the last three games, as of Tuesday night. The Kings are still very much a mess and their rotations change with little rhyme or reason as Keith Smart struggles in his search for an answer. Those factors should give any Fantasy owner pause when considering adding Thomas, but you can't argue with his recent production. He is averaging 14.8 points and 4.2 assists per game over the last 10 games, while shooting 46.7 percent from the field. Thomas is clearly the most productive of the Kings' point guard options -- at least on the offensive end. As long as he remains a big part of the rotation, Thomas should continue to be a solid Fantasy option. (74 percent owned; +19 percent)

Devin Harris, Hawks: Harris has been in the starting lineup recently, ever since his return from a foot injury earlier in the month. Harris had a huge performance in his first game in the starting lineup, dropping 24 points on just eight field-goal attempts against his former team, the Jazz, last week. His production has predictably tailed off since -- he has just eight points in the last two games combined. Harris is struggling through his least productive season since he was a rookie, averaging just 7.8 points and 2.5 assists per game, and the recently increased role does not seem to be making much of a difference. Harris made his living as a dynamic ball handler who was equally adept at setting up teammates or finding offense for himself. This season, however, he has been reduced largely to a catch-and-shoot role in the Hawks' offense, with 36.7 percent of his possessions ending up with him as a spot-up shooter, according to MySynergySports.com. Fantasy owners hoping to get on the Harris bandwagon ahead of a return to prominence may end up disappointed -- there is little indication that Harris is snapping out of his funk. (32 percent owned; +10 percent)

Eric Bledsoe, Clippers: Bledsoe has seen a little spike in his ownership over the last week, but it's difficult to figure out why. He has played more than 15 minutes just once in three games in that span, though he did score 14 points in 28 minutes against the Grizzlies Monday. Still, we did not learn anything from his performance that we did not already know about Bledsoe. When given the opportunity, he is clearly more than capable of making an impact for Fantasy owners. In 13 games with at least 20 minutes player, Bledsoe is averaging 11.6 points and 3.1 assists per game -- he averages just 6.9 points and 2.4 assists otherwise. The interest in Bledsoe is understandable, given his abilities, and how he has learned to harness them this season. I'm just not sure I would take use a roster spot on a player with such inconsistent production.(38 percent owned; +8 percent)

Most Added Forwards

Earl Clark, Lakers: Clark spent the first 149 games of his NBA career struggling to make even a small impact, averaging just 2.9 points per game over parts of four seasons. Up until last week, there was little reason to think that Clark would become an impact Fantasy player, but a rash of injuries have forced the Lakers into playing the soon-to-be 25-year-old big minutes in recent games. The early returns have been promising, as he is averaging 15.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game while playing at least 27 minutes in three games in a row. We are still talking about a terribly small sample size, but Clark might be the exact type of player that Mike D'Antoni's system can turn into a contributor. Pau Gasol will likely return to the starting lineup soon, but it would be a surprise to see the Lakers completely abandon what looks to be a new-found weapon. Clark is worth taking a flier on the waiver wire in deeper Fantasy formats, but don't expect this type of production for the rest of the season. (36 percent owned; +35 percent)

Jared Sullinger, Celtics:Sullinger is starting to show the skills that made him a potential lottery pick before concerns about his health dropped him in the draft. He has scored in double figures in three of the last five games, and is seeing much more consistent playing time. Still, Sullinger's Fantasy upside is limited due to his lack of center eligibility, as he has yet to accrue enough playing time at that spot. His averages for the last 10 games are 8.7 points and 8.7 rebounds, which would be enough to make him a worthy low-end starter as a center. With the depth of the forward position, however, Sullinger is much more difficult to rely on. I think he has room to grow as he continues to gain experience, but his upside might be limited in his current role, so don't expect a big jump in value down the road. (50 percent owned; +28 percent)

Al-Farouq Aminu, Hornets: After a strong start, Aminu's season has taken a strange turn. At one point in December, Aminu fell completely out of the rotation, earning five DNP's in six games. With little notice, however, Aminu has returned to a big role in the Hornets' plans over the last two weeks. Aminu is averaging 28.4 minutes per game over the last five, but it has been tought to make much sense of his production. Aminu had a streak of double-digit rebounding games end at five Tuesday, however he has reached double digits in scoring just twice in that same span. He is averaging 5.4 points and 10.4 rebounds over the last five, while adding 1.0 blocks and 1.6 steals from the small forward position. Aminu's lack of big scoring certainly hurts his value in Fantasy scoring leagues, but his consistent stat-sheet stuffing over the last few weeks makes him an intriguing waiver-wire target in Rotisserie and category-based formats. (45 percent owned; +14 percent)

Most Added Centers

Amir Johnson, Raptors:Johnson has been trending upwards since Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas went down with injuries in December, but he took a huge jump over the last week. Johnson is riding a string of big performances, averaging 17.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game over the last five, while shooting a blistering 63.6 percent from the field. Johnson, who has long been a player who got by more on his energy and hustle than ability, is starting to look like a go-to option offensively for stretches. He is averaging 35.8 minutes per game, and is making an impact on both ends of the floor. Johnson is still doing most of his damage near the rim, shooting 66.7 percent from within nine feet of the rim on the season; league-average for centers is 58.1 percent. While Johnson has multi-position eligibility, his ability to slot in at center puts him in the best position to make an impact for Fantasy owners, as his recent performance would make him a worthy starting center in all formats. Johnson will almost certainly cool down, but he is worth an add in all formats with the way he is playing right now. (80 percent owned; +37 percent)

Tyler Zeller, Cavaliers: Zeller's ownership rate continues to grow, as he jumped up yet again this week with the news that Anderson Varejao will require surgery on his knee and could be out for up to two months. Unfortunately, Zeller's production continues to lag behind his increased role, as he is averaging just 7.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game over the last five games. Fellow front court mate Tristan Thompson has seen a much larger bump in value since Varejao's departure, and Zeller is being left behind. The impulse to try to get in on the ground floor of a young player's first chance at big minutes is the correct one, but Zeller simply does not seem ready to make a big Fantasy impact yet. (50 percent owned; +18 percent)

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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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