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Waiver Wire: Trouble in Atlanta?

Fantasy Writer
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The loss of Lou Williams last week to a season-ending ligament tear in his knee has created a big hole Atlanta badly needs to fill if it wants to keep its waning playoff hopes alive. Williams wore many hats for the Hawks, working as a backup point guard, crunch-time playmaker or secondary scorer, depending on what the team needed at the time. He had emerged as a strong floor-spacer as well, tossing up five three-pointers per game and hitting 36.7 percent of them.

His absence for the remainder of the season will force a number of players to step up and Fantasy owners seem to be betting heavily that veteran wing Kyle Korver will fill in during Williams' absence. Korver has been the second-most added player in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues over the last week, jumping from 36 percent ownership to 54 percent.

Korver is a superior floor-spacer to Williams, but he lacks many of the other skills that made Williams such a useful option, both for Fantasy owners and the Hawks. Korver averages just 1.7 assists per game on the season, compared to Williams' 3.6, and will likely be asked to do far less play-making than Williams ever was. Korver's limitations as a ball-handler will make it unlikely that he can fill in totally for Williams, so the Hawks will have to shift some of Williams' responsibilities around.

Still, Korver is exceptional at the things he does well, and it would not be a surprise at all to see the Hawks rely on him more heavily for scoring moving forward. Korver has been starting for much of the season, but has seen an increase to 36.9 minutes per game in the three since Williams suffered his injury. That increase comes in spite of being moved out of the starting lineup as of the team's most recent game.

As a shooting specialist, Korver gets most of his touches off screens and in spot-up situations, and he is among the league's leaders in efficiency in both play types. According to MySynergySports.com, 67.7 percent of Korver's possessions ending in either a field-goal attempt, foul drawn or turnover come via spot-ups or coming off screens. His ability to race around screens puts a ton of pressure on defenses, as Eye On Basketball's Zach Harper covered here. His never-ending pursuit of open spots on the floor clears up plenty of room for him to get open looks. He ranks 17th in the NBA in points per possession on spot-ups and 13th off screens. His movement and shooting prowess helps grease the wheels for a Hawks offense that sometimes struggles to find room with its big lineups.

By necessity, Atlanta will try to approximate Williams' production from a number of different sources, and Korver should be just one. Expect the Hawks to lean on Korver's off-ball movement to create space in the offense even more, with Jeff Teague taking on more ball-handling duties. Korver could end up becoming a 30-plus minutes per game player and is worth snagging off the waiver wire -- especially in category-based Fantasy formats, where his three-point shooting will make an even bigger impact.

Most Added Guards

Devin Harris, Hawks: The other part of the "Replacing Lou Williams" equation is likely to be Harris, a veteran point guard who has been a major disappointment thus far in his time in Atlanta. Harris has been playing some better ball recently and looked to be taking a step forward in Williams' absence, scoring 30 points in 50 minutes over two games after Williams suffered the injury. Harris also suffered an injury of his own shortly after, however that is just a minor ankle injury that is expected to cost him only one or two games total. Harris has his best chance to step up in Williams' absence as the backup point guard, though he will need to improve his play in a big way in order to make an impact. Harris is posting a career-low assist rate of just 17.0 percent on the season. His career mark is 29.9 percent. Harris' assist rate has surely been hurt by the presence of Teague and Williams, so we will need to see whether he can step up with his larger role. Harris has little track record this season to fall back on, but Fantasy owners looking for an upside play can look his way, on the chance that he rediscovers his former All-Star form. (48 percent owned; +17 percent)

Shannon Brown, Suns: Brown has seen his Fantasy value fluctuate all season long, which is to be expected for a streaky jump shooter like him. 69.3 percent of Browns' field goal attempts qualify as jump shots according to Basketball-Reference.com, an unnecessarily high number for someone who shoots just 31.5 percent on those attempts. When the shot is falling, Brown can fill up the scoreboard, as he ranked third among Suns' regulars in field-goal attempts per 36 minutes. He has scored in double figures in four games in a row as of Tuesday, which has prompted resurgence in interest in him. Unfortunately, he had been held to just 6.2 points per game in the team's previous five games. Taking a flier on Brown is fine if you are trying to find a quick spark plug. Just don't expect him to earn a permanent spot in your plans. (43 percent owned; +14 percent)

Jarrett Jack, Warriors: Despite being the backup at point guard, Jack has seen his role continue to increase as the season has gone on. Jack averaged just 24.6 minutes per game in the month of November, a number that has crept to 31.1 in 10 January games. Despite the presence of a potential All Star in Stephen Curry, Jack has had no problems finding the floor, and he saw a slight boost in his floor time last week when Curry missed a few games. Jack's spike in ownership was likely due to concerns that Curry's surgically-repaired right ankle was flaring up and would cost him to miss significant time yet again. Unfortunately, Curry sat out just two games, during which Jack averaged 18.0 points and 6.0 assists. Jack is worth owning in most Fantasy formats, but it is not fair to expect his value to improve too much moving forward. (88 percent owned; +10 percent)

Most Added Forwards

Al-Farouq Aminu, Hornets: Aminu has been rebounding like a madman of late, averaging 10.3 per game over the last 10 contests. His offense, as always, has remained a work-in-progress, however he has shown some real signs of life of late. With Eric Gordon's return from a knee injury, the Hornets have been playing at a much faster pace, a style that almost certainly helps a player like Aminu thrive. With Gordon on the floor, the Hornets sporting a Pace Factor of 93.9, which would rank seventh in the league. Without Gordon, they are at just 89.9, one of the most sluggish in the league. Aminu does his best work offensive in transition and on offensive rebounds, the only types of plays where he ranks among the 100-most efficient players in the league, according to Synergy. The Hornets have stepped on the accelerator offensively recently, and the result is that Aminu has racked up three straight double-digit scoring games, as of Tuesday. If he can continue to find easy points, Aminu might be worth grabbing in all Fantasy formats, however his track record indicates that patience will be key. (66 percent owned; +21 percent)

Earl Clark, Lakers: Clark had all of the makings of a flash-in-the-pan for the Lakers, ala Antawn Jamison and his short-lived flirtation with Fantasy relevance earlier in the season. However, coach Mike D'Antoni made it clear Monday that Clark was here to stay, at least as far as his spot in the team's starting lineup is concerned. Clark has found his calling as a stretch power forward in Mike D'Antoni's offensive system, and he is averaging 10.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game over the last nine, since becoming a larger fixture in the rotation. Clark's track record does not suggest that this is the type of production we can expect moving forward, however D'Antoni's offense looks to be turning Clark into a contributor. At the very least, it looks like he can be a useful provider of points and rebounds through sheer energy, given the 30-plus minutes he figures to see per game moving forward. (53 percent owned; +17 percent)

Elton Brand, Mavericks: Brand had been all but left for dead from a Fantasy perspective after the first two months of the season, as he averaged just 6.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game through the first 27 games of the season. Brand was more than a step slow on both ends of the court, and looked to be carrying every one of his 800-plus NBA games played with him each time down the court. Something happened at the start of the New Year, however, as Brand has begun to turn the clock back a bit. Over the last 11 games, Brand is averaging 10.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, despite playing just 23.7 minutes per game off the bench. He has been even better recently, reaching double-figures in scoring in five games in a row, as of Tuesday. Brand is a long way from the All-Star form he showed for so many years, but any signs of life are encouraging after the abysmal start. Brand has emerged as the better option next to Dirk Nowitzki, and it would not be a surprise to see his role continue to increase. I think he could be worth starting in the near future. (56 percent owned; +15 percent)

Most Added Centers

Tiago Splitter, Spurs: Splitter has continued his gradual improvement this season, taking on a larger role in the Spurs' offense with almost no drop in his efficiency. His play of late has been especially impressive, as Splitter has essentially become a full-time player for the first time in his career. Over the last 10 games, Splitter has played at least 26 minutes in all but one game, while averaging 28.9 per game. He has become a contributor on both sides of the floor, and is one of Gregg Popovich's most reliable big men. It looks like Splitter is blossoming into the player he has shown flashes of being in the past. Given how shallow the center position is, Splitter's dual eligibility makes him a worthy pick up, where available. (61 percent owned; +13 percent)

Andre Drummond, Pistons: As expected, it took a while for Drummond to get up to speed in the NBA, after an up-and-down freshman season at UCONN. Lately, however, the only thing standing in the way of Drummond being a true Fantasy force has been his coach's insistence on limiting his minutes. In the first 20 games of the season, Drummond averaged 6.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in just 17.6 minutes per game. He has taken consistent steps in his progress in the last 20 games, but has been rewarded at every step with just small increases in playing time. He is averaging 8.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in 22.0 minutes per game in that span, while shooting 64.1 percent from the field. Drummond's inability to sink free throws certainly hurts his chances of seeing significant crunch-time minutes, but the Pistons should probably be more concerned about future development than short-term victories. Drummond is so close to being a big-time Fantasy contributor -- he is averaging over 20 Fantasy points per game over the last month, ranking him in the top-30 among all centers. If he starts seeing 25-30 minutes per game in the second half of the season, he might end up developing into a top-15 center. Smart Fantasy owners will want to squeeze onto his bandwagon before he is taken in every league. (75 percent owned; +5 percent)

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) 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
(1:04 pm ET) 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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